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Old 10-26-2019, 03:59 PM   #1
Don F
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Lionel transformer wiring

Which post is the line, and which is neutral on this Lionel transformer? I have two, and they both need new chords. Thanks.
Transformer 001.jpg

Transformer 002.jpg
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Old 10-26-2019, 05:00 PM   #2
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There isn't a hot or neutral on postwar transformers. The original plugs were not keyed. The lack of a key allowed a plug to be reversed in the AC socket.

The lack of a plug key allowed multiple transformers to be "phased". That is, two transformer variable outputs can be set to the same AC phase by orienting the plugs. This is important when two transformers control two isolated sections of track and a train's pickup's span both sections.

It is not a safety issue as the transformer's winding completely isolate the house AC from the transformer's outputs.

Last edited by teledoc; 10-27-2019 at 12:34 AM..
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Old 10-26-2019, 05:44 PM   #3
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The only time you will have a line or "ungrounded conductor' and a neutral or "grounded conductor" terminal on a simple appliance is when it has an on off switch such as a lamp. In that case the ungrounded conductor is always switched.

A simple example would be a lamp where the connections were reversed. Even with the lamp switched off the base of the threaded portion of the bulb would be "hot." and inadvertently touching it while you changed the bulb would shock you.

The same problem would occur if the lamp wiring were correct but the outlet had 'reversed polarity.' The small slot on the outlet is hot (ungrounded conductor) and the wide slot the neutral.

As pointed out the only time you need to observe this with transformers is when you need two units in phase with one another for simultaneous operation. Most postwar transformers will not have polarized plugs.
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Old 10-26-2019, 06:28 PM   #4
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Thanks guys. I have another question: if I wire both transformers the same when adding new chords, will that make them in phase, or will that have to be done by testing and reversing polarity at the outlet with the plug if using the two in tandem?
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Old 10-26-2019, 07:05 PM   #5
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As mentioned before they need to be plugged in the same way. If you use polar plugs and connect them up the same way, you should be OK.
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Old 10-27-2019, 10:00 AM   #6
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As mentioned before they need to be plugged in the same way. If you use polar plugs and connect them up the same way, you should be OK.
That should be true if it's the same model transformer. For different models it will be the luck of the draw.

Also, different AC outlets may be wired correctly (e.g., wide plug is neutral, narrow is hot) but may be out-of-phase. That's due to the two-phase AC supply coming into a home's breaker box.

You can always file down the wider post on a polarized plug. That will make it "future safe" should you need to replace or upgrade a transformer later on. It seems black, non-polarized plugs are far and few between.

Or just buy a Lionel replacement cord from one of the many train parts suppliers. They usually about $5 but then there's shipping that can double that cost. So I would buy it along with other parts or maintenance needs (e.g., motor brushes, lamps, etc.) in one order.
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Old 10-27-2019, 10:12 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Millstonemike View Post
That should be true if it's the same model transformer. For different models it will be the luck of the draw.

Also, different AC outlets may be wired correctly (e.g., wide plug is neutral, narrow is hot) but may be out-of-phase. That's due to the two-phase AC supply coming into a home's breaker box.
While that is entirely true, typically my two transformers either plug into the same duplex outlet or a switched extension as you might use for computers. Most (not always) outlets in one room will be on the same circuit and therefore the same phase.

If your going to replace the cords anyway, a simple solution is to make temporary connections to your second transformer and test it for proper phase with the first transformer. If need be simply reverse the connections for a permanent hookup. The polarized plugs will now be in phase most of the time (always if from the same duplex outlet).
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Old 10-27-2019, 10:20 AM   #8
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You do not have to use both transformers on one line you could just block it and with a few switches create some zones. To block just pull the center pin and wire around it and add a switch. By running one zone at a time the transformer will work a smaller area.

It is just another option.
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