You are here:

Model Railroads/Poer to ' long' Lionel track


QUESTION: I have a train layout I have a layout that is 68 feet in length. I have fast track. I have a ZW Lionel transformer. At just less than half way around the track I have significant power loss. Can I run a completely seperate set of wires from the ZW 14 feet around the track to that area from the same terminals on the ZW that I am now using?.The train runs on a shelf in my garage that is 15 inches from the ceiling and has a total length of 68 feet.

ANSWER: Hi David,

Thank you for contacting me about your Lionel train layout.
How old is the ZW transformer? And how many watts does it
put out? And what else are you running off the transformer?
Are you running modern engines post-1990 or older equipment?
Diesels with eight wheel drive or four wheel drive? Is this a TMCC
digital system or conventional transformer power?

Factors leading to trains slowing down are typically caused by
a decrease in amperage, dirty track, loose rail connections and
or locomotive performance. And the lack of electricity getting
power to the rails. IF you're running passenger trains with interior
lights, that will be a "drain" to your power loss.

The best way for power around the layout is divide the layout in
sections. Check the track power with a voltmeter. Set the throttle
to 3/4 full power. See if the voltage going to the track is reduced
or stays the same.

Get back to me with your results. I can walk you through this process
to get the trains running at a constant speed.


John Schaub
802 768 8427

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi John. Thank you so much for the reply. The ZW was supposedly rebuit prior to my purchase some 4 moths ago. I am using fast track and it is all snapped together tightly plus I have a screw in every three sections- so it does not move. I am running a modern 1225 Lionel and a Postwar 681 Lionel. I am pulling a string of 7 lighted passenger cars. I have tried running 'jumpers' from track piece to track piece using 16 ga wire and the correct clips for the fast trac. That had no effect on the power.I have run - only the engine and tender ( with no cars) to the same result. I do not have a voltage meter but suppose that I could purchase one. The track makes basically a 68 foot square and the power loss begins about 22 feet from the ZW and picks back up about 22 feet from the ZW headed back to the transformer ( if that makes sense).

Hi David,

The probability of the ZW being the problem is 50-50. An inexpensive voltmeter can be bought at Home Depot or Lowes. You will need a variable voltage model that reads low-voltage 0-100 volts. Most of them are digital. Buy the best you can afford. The large size models are more durable
and accurate. If you measure the voltage output on the ZW terminal screws for each throttle, that's a start. Disconnect the wires to the track for a
more accurate test. Go from post to post and open each throttle from zero to full. Any deviation could mean a defect in the rheostat. Old Lionel
ZW's can wear out. If there's no change, the next step is the track power. What I said earlier is needed to detect the problem of power loss or not.
Last option, re-wire the entire layout. Starting with a bus-line all the way around the tabletop. Using either 12-14 AWG stranded. Nothing else.
Make one line black or white for your ground. And red for your hot (positive). Then using 16-18 AWG as track feeders. making sure you place the
ground with the ground on your bus line and the hot (positive) to your red line. If you place theses track feeders to the bus-line at intervals of
6-7 feet. That should eliminate  the slowing down of the engines traveling on the railroad. It sounds from your description there's a resistance
issue. from the wrong size wire gauge being used to supply power. Or, as earlier stated, the ZW "might" be part of the problem.

Good luck with the diagnosis.

John Schaub
802 768 8427  

Model Railroads

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


John Schaub


I can answer the following questions: Almost anything about the hobby, except complex electrical questions. Anything about table construction, model kit building, layout scenery, weathering and painting, adding lighting to structures and scenery. I cannot answer questions about the value or appraisal of an item through an e-mail question. The only true method to valuation is having the item in front of me. I will not answer any questions about complex wiring for signals, DCC, or switch motor installations.


Model railroader since childhood. And that's quite a few years ago. My experience includes: Planning, Design, Benchwork Construction, Trackwork, Conceptualizing the placement of the basic scenic shell and future structure placement. Developing a "vision" of what the layout' them will be. Historical research. Model builder. Painter, Detailer and Weathering. Scenery Artisan, Model train room decorator. Freight car builder. Engine detailer. Turned my passion for model railroading to a full time career in 1998. I now design, build and construct model railroads. Focusing my skills on planning and design, model kit building services, scenery and structure installations, painting, weathering and detailing.

Manchester Chamber of Commerce. Rutland Railway Association.

Classic Toy Trains, January 2013

Self-taught Model Railroader turned professional consultant New York Institute of Technology, Communication Arts Degree C.W. Post College, Computer Graphics-Desktop Publishing Certificate Program Molloy College, MacIntosh Computer Studies-Certificate Program

Past/Present Clients
Sorry, I can not reveal their names. I will tell you that my clients range from 5 year olds to 75 year olds. My layout commissions are in private homes, hobby shops, hotel lobbies, libraries, museums and historical societies.

©2016 All rights reserved.