Alternative AC power for Lionel

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by 60103, Nov 20, 2007.

  1. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Mar 25, 2002
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    FAQ - How To Convert UK Power For Lionel Trains (was Alternative AC power for Lionel)

    I'm trying to help a fellow on another forum. He's in Britain and bought a Lionel train set (Hogwarts) with a CW80 transformer.
    Of course, this will not work with their 220V 50hz power supply. It's possible that even with a step-down transformer it might do nasty things.
    The Lionel dealer over there offered him a transformer for GBP 125 (about $250) and he's not happy. Lionel in Michigan wasn't much help either.

    So, are there any other possibilities? Has anyone tried a Marklin AC transformer on Lionel?
  2. spankybird

    spankybird OTTS Founder

    May 13, 2005
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    I think he is going to find that he will need to do a step down transformer with a battery as a filter and then an AC 60 Hz convertor.

    Not only is he facing the voltage difference and also has to convert 50 Hz to 60 Hz. :oops: This is one of the biggest drawbacks of new engines with PC boards in them. :eek:
  3. Brutus

    Brutus Member

    Nov 9, 2007
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    My online buddy John Baker is trying to do this. He found another fellow from England who sent him instructions. Apparently they have to change the power to DC (removes sine wave), then convert the DC to 60Hz AC at 110/120 volts. I'll email him and see if he can forward the instructions to me and I can get them to you?
  4. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Mar 25, 2002
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    This seems like more of a nightmare than I imagined! wall1
  5. Brutus

    Brutus Member

    Nov 9, 2007
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    This comes from Nick on the CTT Forum, sent to John Baker - thanks guys! I take no credit for this whatsoever!

    The Cause

    You may not be aware but in the U.K. (and most of Europe and Australia) our domestic mains power supply is generated with a frequency of 50Hz (also known as Cycles). Measured in hertz (cycles per second), rate of repetition of changes from
    positive to negative. 50 times a second U.K. and 60 times a second U.S.A.
    It appears that a lot of items use the frequency for timing purposes which with
    60 Hz is easy (60 seconds to 1 minute etc.) thus manufactures can cut down
    on the number of chips used in circuits or software has not been written to check for
    power frequency.

    In the U.S.A. domestic mains power is generated with a frequency of 60Hz.
    This is what causes the CW-80 problems as the electronics for the whistle
    and bell are designed to operate with 60Hz. Operating at 50Hz cause the
    circuits to malfunction.
    However in our case we found that the Trainsounds system in the loco tender
    also contains electronics that malfunction at 50Hz so replacing the CW-80
    with another power supply had no effect on this problem.

    An Important point is that transformers do not alter frequency so when we use
    a 240v-110v step-down transformer the frequency stays at 50Hz.
    In industry the piece of equipment needed to change 50Hz to 60Hz is known
    as a frequency converter these are quiet large and very expensive..

    The solution

    In recent years small units called Inverters have gained popularity for their
    ability to change 12V DC to AC mains voltage. These are used for running
    mains equipment in a car or motor home or from a battery on camping

    At first these unit’s had a modified sine wave which was OK for
    most needs but caused problems with clocks, TV’s and delicate electronics.
    These modified sine wave units are the lowest priced but are not really
    suitable for our application.

    The next generation of inverters are Pure sine wave which produce power
    of the same quality or better then the mains supply.

    Obviously these Inverters are available in U.K. and U.S.A. market versions.

    i.e. 240v 50Hz for U.K. and 110v 60Hz for U.S.A. We require the U.S. market version.
    As we are dealing with delicate electronics the Pure Sine Wave type must be

    In order to power the inverter we need a 12 volt DC power source. You
    could use a car battery but this is some what inconvenient and cumbersome.
    A better solution is to use a 240v AC to 12v DC power supply. In order
    to power an 300 Watt Inverter you will need around 25 amps of DC power.

    In essence here is what happens to change U.K. 50Hz to U.S.A. 60Hz.

    240v 50Hz AC U.K. Mains input to 12v DC output - 12v DC input to 110v 60Hz AC U.S.A. Mains output.

    This may sound rather complex but its achieved by using two items of equipment
    that are now available at reasonable cost.

    You will need the Following

    Amperor APP-300P 12 volt 25 Amp power supply £40 aprox.
    Amperor Europe Ltd,
    Thornhouse Business centre, 30 Ballot Rd. Irvine,
    Ayrshire, Scotland, KA12 0HW. Tel:01294 272400
    (note: the mains power lead is not include, costs about £3 extra)

    Aims Power PWRI30012S 300 Watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter $120 aprox.
    110v 60Hz
    Inverters R Us
    8787 E. Mountain View Dr
    Ste. 1097
    Scottsdale AZ 85258, U.S.A.
    Tel: 480-219-1796
    Tel: 800-925-0364
    Fax: 480-323-2298
    Other sources of inverters and power supply can be found from a web search.
    Best to email or phone to make sure of shipping cost etc.

    (I have updated this section to the latest thinking. It was found that the earth bonding
    plug solution to earthing the inverter caused problems with TMCC if the bonding
    plug contained a surge protection system or diode)
    Ok, now you have both items here’s how to connect them.
    In order to connect these two items simply remove the crocodile clips from the
    Red and Black cables supplied with the inverter with some cable cutters.
    You can then ether strip a little insulation back and connect the wires direct to the
    Inverters input terminals Negative black, Positive Red (Or crimp some terminals
    to the cable ends to make them a little easier to connect. Try Maplin 6.4mm
    Insulated spades ML90X or Halfords.)
    Once the inverter is connected to the wires connect the black cable (negative) to the black (negative) terminal on the back of the Amperor power supply. Connect the
    Red (positive) cable to the Red (positive) terminal on the back of the Amperor Power

    You may notice a earth connection on the back of the inverter. This needs to be connected to the black negative connection on the inverter with a little connecting wire with a spade connector at each end. (I used a piece of earth cable from Wickes) This uses the negative earth principle as you have in modern cars. The negative connection on the amperor power supply is connected to
    the mains earth internally. The only thing to double check is if the middle earth pin on the 110V AC outlets on the front of the inverter are internally connected to the earth pin on the back of the inverter use a continuity tester or multi meter to check this.
    As a final check when you have everything connected test the continuity from the 110V AC outlet earth to the earth pin on the UK plug on the amperor power supply.
    If all is correct you should have continuity.

    That’s it, now switch on the Amperor Power supply and using the black control
    knob on the back alter the voltage (shown on the lower row of LEDs) till it
    Reads around 13.8v. This simulates a fully charged car battery.

    Now plug your USA spec train transformer (i.e. Lionel Powerhouse or CW-80 etc.)
    Into the US wall socket outlet on the front of the inverter. Next switch the inverter on.
    There you go your train transformer is now operating on 110v 60Hz just as it would
    in the States.
    If the inverter or amperor power supply “trip out†during power up switch off.
    Turn the black control knob so that it’s at it’s minimum voltage setting and switch the amperor unit and the inverter back on. Then gradually turn the knob to increase the voltage until you get to 13.8V. Everything should now operate correctly.
    This problem has only come to light with some of the latest pure sine inverters which contain equipment protection to avoid surges and spikes.


    The CW-80 and Trainsounds will work correctly. TMCC operating problems
    that have caused some locos to be unusable in the U.K. are corrected.
    US spec Transformers and motors will also run cooler due to the correct frequency.
    High tech electronic features work as designed.

    You can plug in up to 300 watts of USA equipment into the inverter. If you need
    more power you could purchase another set or buy a more powerful inverter.
    However if you bought a 600 watt inverter you would need a 50 amp DC
    supply to power it. Just bare that in mind.

    I hope this helps you to enjoy running trains.

    This solution would not have been possible without club members help and advice,
    also the very patient Rob Lewis of Tennents Trains. And several Industrial
    frequency converter manufactures. To all these people I offer my thanks.
    Special thanks to Chris for the update on the earthing and the equipment
    protection issue on the latest inverter models..
  6. Brutus

    Brutus Member

    Nov 9, 2007
    Likes Received:
    PS - Maybe you should change the name of this thread to something like FAQ - How To Convert UK Power For Lionel Trains. I'll bet there will be a lot of Dads and Toy Train fans in the UK looking for this info in about a month!
  7. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Mar 25, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Thanks for the information. I'll pass it on. I've changed the title, too.
    I don't know how happy he'll be about the answer.