Phasing a Lionel PWC ZW Controller and 2 PW transformers!
This is my second attempt at an instructional page and would
love to hear some comments back! With that said let's get onto the
To phase the transformers you will need...
Two or more transformers
At least a 16 gauge wire for each transformer
An AC strip that will accommodate multiple transformers
being plugged in
A 18V light with leads or an AC Multi Meter
Either a paint pen or colored nail polish, enamel paint or
other marking device
So what is phasing transformers and why would we need
to do this? Well simply put phasing transformers is making the AC
outputs of the each transformer being in sync or on the same positive and negative going cycle at the same time. If they were not then when a
train leaving a block and entering a block controlled by the two non-phased
transformers you will get a pretty good spark as well as a over current draw
because the voltage between the 2 blocks
or separately powered loops could be fairly high depending on the
transformer settings. It is also possible to damage some of today's
modern electronics or circuit boards. It is effectively creating somewhat of
a short circuit if a car would straddle the two out of phase blocks that
would allow current flow either by way of the chassis or pickup rollers on opposite
here to see a rough example of transformer waveforms out of phase. 2 blocks with in phase transformers set at the
same voltage will be seamless as the train moves from one to the other.
Click here to see a
rough example of transformer waveforms in phase. I used separate pages
to get a better resolution.
You may want to check your wall outlet first for a proper
setup. The reason I bring this up is because if the transformers would be
plugged into 2 different outlets they must both be wired the same to work
correctly and for
safety purposes. This can be done with a simple and
inexpensive checker sold at most home improvement stores. If the
checker reads a problem contact a qualified
licensed electrician. Also
and this is important! If you are using more than 1 outlet that is on a
different circuit, make sure that they are fed off the same phase coming into
the house. If they are not you can get out of phase results even with
correct wiring when using 2 newer transformers with polarized plugs. Most
house service is made up of 2 phases and a neutral and it would make life a lot
easier if all circuits originated off a one of the two hot lines. Once
again I stress that you should leave any wiring to a license electrician.
Newer homes will have outlets with 3 prong receptacles
with a wider neutral opening. This wider opening will accommodate the
wide prong on the PWC ZW Controller. If your plugs do not have the 3
prong wider neutral you'll need an adapter. I must stress here once
there are local codes that must be followed and all home electrical question
should be asked to a qualified licensed electrician.
The first thing I do when using the modern controllers such
as the PWC ZW Controller is to mark the neutral prong of the plug with fingernail
polish or other marking pens. That would be the wider prong on the
plug. This plug can only go into the receptacle one way and should not
be forced into it in the incorrect manner. Older transformers normally
do not have
the larger prong.
example of a "polarized" and "non-polarized" plug.
are the same!
This will be my reference for all other transformers. Now
take a peice of 16 gauge wire and connect one of the "U" terminals
of the PWC ZW Controller to a "U" terminal on your PW ZW. This creates
a common buss.
Now with the handles down or off plug in both
transformers. Connect you light bulb or meter across the "A"
terminal of each transformer. Bring both "A" handles up to
|Setting each ZW for about
If the meter reads high, on my
meter about 10v, or the bulbs glow bright
your transformers are not in phase.
how bright the bulbs burn and the meter deflection.
If the voltage reading is low,
about 2v, or
the bulb glows dim they are in phase.
how dim the bulbs burn and the minimal deflection on the meter.
If they are out of phase and the
lights burn bright or the meter reading is high then the
solution is very simple. Take the plug from the old PW ZW which does
not have a wider prong and simply turn it around in the outlet. Recheck the bulb or meter and now the readings should be low or very little
illumination. The little bit of reading on the meter or glow is due to the
outputs not being perfectly set at the same level. Pull the plug and take the fingernail polish or marker
and mark the prong that was in the wider opening on the receptacle.
Sorry about the color, that's all my wife had.
This will now correspond to the wider prong on the new PWC ZW.
Follow the same procedure using the PWC ZW
Controller and any other transformers. There a few exceptions but most PW transformers with a
common "U" buss will work. When all the transformers are
phased and plugged into the outlets the marking should all follow the same
|All of the marked
prongs are in the same receptacle position.
If you are phasing two postwar
transformers only and they both have small prongs then choose one to be the
reference and check and mark any other PW transformers to it. If you
do eventually get a newer transformer with a polarized plug you would then
need to check all phasing to it as it will have to become the reference
transformer because it's plug cannot be turned in the outlet.
Like I said earlier, keeping all the transformers
phased is very important to avoid possible problems with new electronics and
voltage issues. Transformers that will be used to power accessories
that will share the common of the layout will also need to be phase for
proper operation. These would include switches and
isolated rail track sections for triggering accessories. This is a
very simple issue that with a few minutes of your time can prevent
frustration in the future!
Email me with some feedback @ Marty@MartyE.com