How do you power your model trains? It doesn’t come in the form of a one-for-all solution. You need to carefully measure your options and pick the ideal model train transformer.
A power pack is usually supplied with the set. However, these can provide a few amps of power only. This means you can normally only run your locomotive and a couple of other elements in your layout.
As you design more elaborate layouts, you require more power!
These packed power supplies can act as your secondary power source, however, you need something that provides constant voltage. This is where a model train transformer comes in!
What Does a Model Train Transformer Do?
A model train transformer provides a safe voltage of electricity to run your train layout. A low voltage is typically used on train sets. This is why you can put your hands on the tracks without feeling the electricity.
Transformers are usually connected with devices called controllers. Controllers are fed with electricity but power the track only when you rotate the throttle. You can control the amount of electricity by shifting the throttle to the right.
How Does a Train Transformer work?
Your train requires power to operate. A transformer creates an easy link between the output wires (controllers) to the track. Your set should have a power clip. Each track of your layout is held together by a fishplate. This enables electricity to move from one rail to the other.
The rails have a positive side and a negative side. Always know how to differentiate between the two to avoid short circuits. Once your train is on track, the electricity moves along the rails. This entices the wheels to turn.
You can use the controller to reverse the flow of electricity. This will cause the wheels to turn in the opposite direction. So with the use of the controller, you can cause your device to move forward or backward.
Much like real railways, you can change the route of the locomotive by using points. You can change this manually or power it to change automatically. If you fit the coaches properly, the locomotive can haul the entire train instead of itself.
Are Model Train Transformers AC or DC?
Model train transformers can be both AC or DC. In fact, it can fall into three categories.
Alternative Current (AC) is the go-to power for most O gauge trains. This applies to both three-rail systems as well as two-rail ones. Only the smaller scale two-rail models can accommodate this. For three-rail systems, the outer rail remains grounded while the middle one stays hot.
On the other hand, Direct Current (DC) is used by most two-rail track systems. Two-rail track systems have one positive rail and one negative one. You can change the direction of the route by reversing the polarity.
Finally, model trains can be run by digital command control systems (DCC). You can use digital information to power the electric input. DCC is not typically found in start sets. Common systems use an AC power supply and the locomotive is run by impulses. This system requires a constant source of power.
How Many Volts is a Model Train Transformer?
All model trains run on electric power. Power goes out from the transformer and into the tracks through the rails. This, in turn, induces electricity into the metal wheels. This allows the locomotive to pull the train around your layout. Model trains typically run between 10 to 18 volts.
Model train tracks mimic real railway tracks. There are two metal rails on the sleepers which are a fair distance apart. This is where the wheels sit. There are a few good model train transformer manufacturers. Lionel and Bachmann are a couple.
Bachmann is a common name in the model railroading industry. The company emerged in the year 1833. They were known for their extensive and luxurious hand-crafted products. They have upheld this reputation to this day.
Bachmann transformers sport a heavy-duty design. They are compatible with most AC-power locomotives. These transformers are ideal for AC train sets, especially medium-sized layouts. The features vary depending on the model.However, the quality remains the same.
Choosing the power supply is only the tip of the iceberg. Model trains either run on AC batteries or DC ones. However, what matters is how you control it. Bachmann Transformers allows you to control the voltage and pulses with ease. The simplicity of the process explains why these models are high in demand.
A seasoned model railroader will tell you power is the key to a strong layout. Trains and scenery elevate it. Lionel Transformers know it too. That’s why the company designs track lines that can construct numerous layouts. The company produces robust transformers and strong control systems too.
Lionel produces locomotives run by DC for the longest time. These locomotives could not accommodate AC transformers as they would heat up. As a result, there was a high risk of it combusting and becoming damaged.
Lionel produces numerous transformers. However, the 1.8 Amp Accessory Transformer is an excellent pick. These phased transformers can be combined to add more power. You can even divide it into smaller power districts.
While working with model train transformers, it’s important to assess the load you place on them. Take a look at your layout. Although the locomotive requires the most power, lights and accessories do too.
The train will draw as many amps as it needs while it’s running. Without a constant power source, you won’t be able to witness it run a full mile. Make the most of your layout and transformer by utilizing the command control!
Also, like all electronic products, make sure you have a circuit breaker. You don’t want to permanently damage the power supply. Or the trains. As models become more sophisticated over time, safety is more important than ever.
Peter has been building model trains for longer than he can remember. An avid fan of HO and O scale this blog is a creative outlet to allow him to dive further into other scales and aspects of the model train community and hobby.
3 thoughts on “Model Train Transformers”
Hi Peter! So glad I came across your blog. You seem like the expert to ask:) I would like to purchase a model train starter set for my husband. He is a graphic artist and a fan of complicated Legos, model planes and trains. However he has not owned his own trains as of yet. What would be your recommendation for a good starter train set that is not overly simplistic and enough of a challenge to get him on the right track (Heheh) Thanks so much in advance!
I’d take a look at something like the Bachmann RailChief. They’re a great brand, the scale or size is the most popular and this one wont break your bank to start with! Take a look and go from there!
Thanks so much!