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ACSG Carolinas Division - Lionel Ambassador Program
Atlantic Coast S Gaugers - ACSG

Carolinas Division
"Promoting S Gauge along the East Coast"

Carolinas Division - Lionel Ambassador Program

July 2015 - Performance differences using new transformers with older American Flyer equipment

After many years of running American Flyer (AF) equipment, ranging from Gilbert era to the newest Legacy models, it's time I look at track power. While there seems to be a great deal of information regarding running the newer equipment on the chop sine wave, there did not seem to be a lot of information regarding running older equipment on these same waves.

There are significant differences in the new Lionel Legacy engines using the old AF style transformers compared to the new transformers such as the Lionel CW80. These differences, including smoke unit performance, have been well documented in articles and videos on the internet. At the Lionel warehouse sale last November, Mike Reagan gave a crash course on this. I purchased a few CW80's and the performance is very noticeable on the newer equipment.

However, there doesn't seem to be much information on the performance differences using the new transformers with the older AF equipment. With many clubs and individuals using the older 30B and ZW's, I wanted to run a large test for comparison purposes. Tested were an original 332 Northern, a 326 (large motor), a Hudson, Pacific, and a smoke-in-tender unit. Also tested were 1990's era Lionel AF units including two Alco powered A units, AB combination units with and without the Railsounds B unit, and a few GP units. For the test comparisons, an AF 30B and CW80 were used. These comparison tests were throughout the power operating range of both transformers on my 12x8 layout.

The results were very interesting. The older AF engines seemed more responsive at the lower power ranges with the CW than the 30B. The Railsounds B unit functioned without issue using the CW's bell and whistle buttons so there was no need for the "add-on" control buttons. There did not appear to be any remarkable difference in the pulling performance of the older engines using the CW.

On the smoke unit performance, the older 30B did produce a thicker smoke with more volume in the mid-range power only. All other older AF steam units produced good smoke with the CW, but there seemed to be a bit more volume with the 30B. The only other item of significant difference was that the horn on the 332 was engaged the entire time when using the CW80. The button functions on the transformers had no effect on the sounds produced. I'm no electronics expert by any means but feel this problem could be easily resolved by someone more knowledgeable on the electronics.

In my internet research, there are also several articles on incidents where voltage spikes from the older style AF transformers occurred causing damage to the sensitive electronics in the newer Legacy equipment. Have not had this happen personally and hope it never does!

Based on the test runs, there is not really any significant difference on performance using the CW80 on older equipment, other than the smoke volume. However, with significant difference in performance using the CW80 on the Legacy equipment, I'm switching over to the newer style transformers with the exception of one track simply for nostalgia.

For those of us running older and newer equipment at train shows and on personal layouts, it would seem, in my opinion, a good idea to make the change.

Happy running!!!

Robbie Maier


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