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Transformer Whistle Control Issues

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  • Member since
    January 2023
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Transformer Whistle Control Issues
Posted by El Fixes Things on Sunday, January 22, 2023 3:56 PM

So, I had this issue develop on my LW, had no idea what the heck was causing it... just re-corded a 1042 and it's doing the exact same thing.

Here's the deal- the transformer can run a train just fine, no issues. When I try to sound the whistle, however, I run into issues- the whistle comes on as I press the button, but then it cuts out once the button is fully depressed.
I know there's two "phases" to the whistle activation- a little extra juice is fed during the depressing of the whistle button, but not needed once the button is fully depressed. So my intuition was "aha, one of the contacts must be dirty or there's a broken wire, and that's why it cuts out once the button is pressed all the way".

Except, when I examined everything... the contacts were all clean, the contact fingers are fine, and there's no broken wires. And I figure the rectifier disc can't be the issue, or else I'd be getting absolutely no whistle whatsoever.

I've been dying to use my LW but no whistle is a dealbreaker. The 1042 displaying the same fault was the last straw for me! I haven't got a clue what's causing this behavior, never had it before except on these two transformers. Any and all help is much appreciated.

-Ellie

  • Member since
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  • From: Hopewell, NY
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Posted by ADCX Rob on Sunday, January 22, 2023 4:33 PM

You've left out a lot of information, but with what you provided, it's not the transformer, it's your whistle.

Rob

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Posted by El Fixes Things on Sunday, January 22, 2023 5:01 PM

I seem to remember trying more than one whistle and getting the same result. I'm also 99% sure that the particular tender I was testing with this evening has worked fine with other transformers that can operate a whistle.

What do you mean by 'left out a lot of information', what information are you looking for? 
In the case of the LW, the center rail was wired to the variable post "U" and the outer rail to the common post "A". On the 1042 the setup was likewise, except I tried both A-U and B-U.
The tender is one I have serviced before- iirc I replaced any bad wiring, cleaned, lubed it, and made sure the relay was working correctly. I will add the tender was stationary for my tests, no engine on the track. Behavior was the same with my LW whether I was running a train, or just trying to activate the whistle tender with nothing else on the track.
I will further note, the whistle works fine if you only half-press the whistle button down. It will remain on for as long as the button is held partially down- but if you press it all the way to the end of its travel, the whistle stops.
I'm frankly not sure what else there is to say. Both transformers were plugged into normal North American 120v 60hz alternating current line voltage, everything nice and clean inside. neither appeared to have been tampered with in the past, and I have not rewired or modified either aside from replacing the cord on the 1042.

-Ellie

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Posted by pennytrains on Sunday, January 22, 2023 5:52 PM

Try using the "U" for the outside rails.  I'm probably wrong but I always thought the "X" or "U" posts were the common grounds.

Big Smile  Same me, different spelling!  Big Smile

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Posted by El Fixes Things on Sunday, January 22, 2023 6:02 PM

Becky, I did too- but it seems not to have been the case. Lionel transformers with multiple throttles, like the KW and ZW, use U for common... but most if not all single throttle transformers have it the other way around, where U is the variable post. On a few of my older tranformers, as well as the 1033, you get different variable voltage ranges from A-U and B-U. On my LW and TW, there is only one variable voltage range possible (to my knowledge, feel free to call me on that one). A is the common for both these transformers. Why the heck Lionel didn't standardize the letter used for the common post, I can't say, but it can be a pain for sure.

All that said... I'm not sure that a postwar whistle relay cares which polarity the DC is, I think it only comes into play with modern stuff. It would cause issues if you were using an insulated track section to operate an accessory, though.

-Ellie

Edit: I did a quick check, it seems like the first version of the TW does have a 'B' post that would allow you to have a second variable voltage range. Silly I didn't remember that... because it's the version I have. Go figure...

  • Member since
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  • From: Hopewell, NY
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Posted by ADCX Rob on Sunday, January 22, 2023 6:19 PM

El Fixes Things
What do you mean by 'left out a lot of information',...?

A Lot of the stuff you are now bringing up - tender era/model, behaviour with other transformers, train consist, test procedure, tender maint/lube, do other whistles/horns work with these transformers...

El Fixes Things
I will add the tender was stationary for my tests, no engine on the track.

This is the problem. Optimum whistle performace with Lionel transformers with built-in whistle controls is obtained with the train on the track and usually moving. There has to be enough of a load on the whistle circuit to draw the critical DC "lift" and "hold" current through the rectifier, if the load is too small, it goes through the shunt.

El Fixes Things

I will further note, the whistle works fine if you only half-press the whistle button down. It will remain on for as long as the button is held partially down- but if you press it all the way to the end of its travel, the whistle stops.

This re-inforces the above.

Rob

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Posted by El Fixes Things on Sunday, January 22, 2023 9:19 PM

It slipped my mind I hadn't stated it, but the tender is a postwar whistle tender, one of several I own that have been cleaned, given a brush & brush spring swap, and lubricated- everything has been oiled within the last 6-8 months or so, and has a good track record in recent history of working just fine with other transformers.

I was frustrated and at a loss, so I decided to drop a line and see what people might come up with. The first thing on my mind wasn't "I should try this, that, and that other thing", and more "I have a known working tender on the track, and it's not doing what it should- maybe I should see if anyone on the forum has had this same issue before, and how they fixed it". 
For the record, the tender I had on the track this evening is a 2046w, the tender paired to my 646.

My best memory as far as the LW, is that it used to work great- but at some point when running trains, it started having this issue, and that's around when I stopped using it- it's no fun to operate trains with a transformer that has a whistle controller you can't use. I purchased it late june of 2022, serviced it, and enjoyed it for a little while before I started having issues.

I was doing my own research this evening as well, and a thought came to me- since nichrome wire can't be soldered, it's entirely possible that one or both connections between the resistance wire and the rest of the "holding" circuit could have become loose, causing an open circuit. It feels like a long shot, but also like the most likely thing I can think of. It could have looked like the wire was properly connected, when in fact the connection wasn't good.

I'll just have to do some testing, and see what I can come up with. It would be delightful if the current draw was the issue, so fingers crossed I guess.

-Ellie

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    January 2023
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Posted by El Fixes Things on Wednesday, January 25, 2023 11:11 PM

Should give an update:

Feeling slightly sheepish- it was the current draw! I will say, that the LW seems to require or at least strongly prefer the current draw of a motor. It appears like just an E-Unit isn't always enough when something's in neutral, which doesn't seem quite right to me. But the 1042 seems to be working as intended. I discovered my 233W needed some attention, a surprise since I serviced it last summer and wasn't expecting it to need fresh oil so soon. Good to know for future reference, and easy to resolve. I also found that the relay needed some adjusting, a little trial and error and now it works flawlessly. I may go through all my tenders again, with what I've learned, and see if I can improve them at all. I know my 2353 dummy has had a sticky relay lately, so that's also on the list.

Thanks for the help all... perhaps next time I'll take the extra 15 minutes to find my service manual when something doesn't add up. 

-Ellie

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