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I found a guy locally selling a deceased brothers collection on Craigslist. I picked up a TMCC S-2 switcher NIB for $100 but he had a few other items.

I spotted a ZW-C that he thought was NIB.

I currently have an old ZW, new cord, rollers and breaker, a CW-80 and a Z-1000.

Wondering what those with more knowledge than I think of the ZW-C.

Thanks!
 

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I'd pass on this one. If you really want a Lionel transformer, consider the ZW-L. Also, if it comes with the 135W bricks, they have a lousy circuit breaker.

For the money for a ZW-C and bricks, you could also look at the MTH Z-4000, a much better transformer.
 

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The club had a couple of ZW-Cs. Not sure they ever worked right. We binned them for Z4000s. If you start looking at Z4000s make sure they are not made during the first couple years (late '90s). The date is at the back right corner referenced to the front. The boards can fail on those and replacements are NLA. They changed the design for the ones after that.

Pete
 

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Discussion Starter #6
If you start looking at Z4000s make sure they are not made during the first couple years (late '90s). The date is at the back right corner referenced to the front. The boards can fail on those and replacements are NLA. They changed the design for the ones after that.

Pete
Thanks for the heads up Pete!! :thumbsup:
 

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When our club went to Z4000s we started out with two older ones. When the first one broke I was able to find the problem and fix it. When the second one died, I was not so lucky. Not having any schematics didn't help and I have no connection with MTH so no help there. We sent it to a local MTH service guy and he gave us the bad news. A new board plus his time would come to about 200 bucks. It lasted another year and died again. Thats when we found out replacements were NLA. Both were dated within a few months of the first release of the Z4000s. I think any made after around 2002 should be OK assuming it wasn't abused.

Pete
 

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My ZW-C does the job OK. I put a new chip in the controller unit from Lionel that supposedly helps some compatibility issues when operating with the Legacy system (would randomly act like I pushed the "halt" button previously). I like the idea of it, but the internal gearing for the control handles is pretty flimsy and all plastic. The gears on the left side of mine really like to skip teeth if you move the handle too fast (if you can call it fast). It's serving Christmas duty on my public layout where I rarely have to touch the controls. When I do run trains there I run it in command mode and the handles aren't a problem.

I broke down and splurged on a ZW-L a couple months ago and I've been very happy with it. It's doing Christmas tree duty right now here at home and, knock on wood, I haven't had any issues with it. The control handles seem a lot sturdier than the ZW-C and I love the self contained aspect of it. The separate bricks of the ZW-C aren't awful, but it is a lot of wires to keep organized.
 

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I have a ZW-C that I bought NIB for $250. I figured the PH180's were worth about that much. Turns out I never used it. I took the PH180's out of the box and I use those. But I don't use the head unit.

So if the ZW-C you are looking at comes with the PH180's , as long as you can get it for $250 or less, then why not? If the head unit bricks, no big deal.
 

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I have to go with the consensus and suggest that money is better spent on something newer - although not necessarily the Z-4000.

I have a ZW-C with the better/bigger 180W bricks. It was the transformer I got when I started in the O Gauge hobby in a serious way. The set was always prone to odd issues, mostly related to command functions. However, the bricks I have are true to their name in terms of being solid performers. The plastic electronic/lever unit on the other hand feels flimsy. I still use one of the bricks to power my DCS system.

For a number of years I used a Z-4000 - until I heard from a manufacturer (not Lionel) that its sine wave output actually does adversely affect Lionel and other non-MTH smoke units, which is mostly what I run. I took a deep breath and got a ZW-L and it has performed flawlessly, except that one handle slowly creeps to maximum output whatever I do. Good thing I don't run conventional-only.
 

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For a number of years I used a Z-4000 - until I heard from a manufacturer (not Lionel) that its sine wave output actually does adversely affect Lionel and other non-MTH smoke units, which is mostly what I run.
This is an Old Wives Tale. The only issue with the sine wave is that running in conventional mode, you tend to get somewhat less smoke at a given throttle setting. It doesn't do anything bad to the smoke units. The difference is the same as the difference between any older PW transformer with a pure sine wave and a newer electronic transformer with a chopped wave. We can get into the why's if you like.
 

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This is an Old Wives Tale. The only issue with the sine wave is that running in conventional mode, you tend to get somewhat less smoke at a given throttle setting. It doesn't do anything bad to the smoke units. The difference is the same as the difference between any older PW transformer with a pure sine wave and a newer electronic transformer with a chopped wave. We can get into the why's if you like.
Go ahead and explain, I'd like to hear it. All I can tell you is that with 3rd Rail and Lionel (late Legacy) locos, I got better smoke unit performance from a ZW-L than a Z-4000.
 

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When you are running at half throttle with the pure sine wave transformer, the peak voltage is less than when you're running with a chopped wave transformer. The smoke heater will heat faster and hotter with a chopped wave simply because the heating effect is not linear like it is with a pure sine wave.

This effect disappears with command mode and full throttle on each respective transformer as the output waveform is pretty much the same at that point.

Here's a comparison of the CW-80 at half throttle and full throttle. You'll note that the peak voltage is the same in either case.

CW-80 Half Throttle 2A Load.jpg

CW-80 Full Throttle 2A Load.jpg

Now compare that to the Z4000 waveform at 12V and at 19V settings. Ignore the voltage at the bottom of the screen, it's actually 10 times that reading, probe type was set wrong.

You'll notice at the 12V setting, the peak voltage is around 18 volts, at the 19V setting, the peak voltage is 28 volts.

The fact that the pure sine wave actually varies the peak voltage is why in conventional mode chopped wave transformers tend to generate more smoke. Note that's only for unregulated smoke units, if there's a regulator in the mix, many times the chopped waveform at part throttle will seriously degrade the smoke output.

Z4000 2 Ohm Resistive Load at 12V.jpg

Z4000 2 Ohm Resistive Load at 19V.jpg
 

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The ZW C has several potential weak points. Plastic brackets on the dials and switches that if present need to be replaced are one issue. The old chip on the main board needs to be replaced with a newer version but as far as I can tell they are no longer listed on Lionel’s parts site. The biggest issue is that the main mother board that does the sine wave “chopping” is subject to failure and is also no longer available. Go with the ZW L if you can afford it.
 

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I had a ZW-C with two 180w Powerhouse bricks. My ERR trains would run wild. It eventually it stopped working. Now I use a VW and no more running wild.
 

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The ZW-C is dated. Consider it a casualty of today’s technology treadmill. As others have stated, the ZW-L or Z-4000 are excellent choices for 2019. You’ll thank us later. ;);)
 

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Discussion Starter #20
The ZW-C is dated. Consider it a casualty of today’s technology treadmill. As others have stated, the ZW-L or Z-4000 are excellent choices for 2019. You’ll thank us later. ;);)
Didn't buy it because of all the responses, so I guess I'll Thank You now! :)
 
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