2 rail vs 3 rail

2 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    October 2022
  • 21 posts
2 rail vs 3 rail
Posted by magnum3 on Sunday, November 6, 2022 4:04 PM

So random question...can you run a two loop layout on 1 transformer. Conventional old Lionel transformer. One being two rail and the other loop 3 rail?  Not sure never ran two rail. Can one transformer with two outputs work?  And or would that just look weird. Should you stay with one or the other. Pros and cons to each. I know people say two rail of course looks more authentic.   only ran 3rail in the day. So this would be new to me. Thanks for all and any feedback. Getting back into hobby. Reason I'm looking into this is I already have two 3 rail engines and eyeing a Cb&q steam I really like, but it's in 2 rail. 

  • Member since
    July 2020
  • 1,406 posts
Posted by pennytrains on Sunday, November 6, 2022 5:02 PM

As long as both use AC you can use most vintage postwar transformers.  The ZW can run up to 4, the KW can power 2 and has fixed voltage taps for accessories.  If a 2 rail loco is DC, you'll need a separate power pack.

As far as track goes, several manufacturers make sectional track with a darkened center rail.  MTH and Atlas come to mind, and Gargraves makes flexible track.  A tougher to find option would be postwar Lionel Super O with it's super thin center rail.

Big Smile  Same me, different spelling!  Big Smile

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: Austin, TX
  • 10,096 posts
Posted by lionelsoni on Tuesday, November 8, 2022 7:53 AM

You can run a two-rail DC locomotive from a transformer by putting a bridge rectifier between the transformer output and the track, but the two-rail track must have no connection in common with any three-rail AC track also powered from the same transformer.  You also have to avoid any connection between the two rails of the two-rail track, such as the metal crossties of tubular track or the axles of the train cars.

Bob Nelson

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community


Get the Classic Toy Trains newsletter delivered to your inbox twice a month