Introduction to Lionel Power Supplies

Lionel offers several different power supplies to meet your needs as you get started and as you grow your railroad empire. What are the differences between each and what does each do best? This overview should help you see the differences and advantages of each and help you choose the right power supplies for your needs.

1.8 Amp Accessory Transformer (6-32923)

Accessory Power


This power supply is perfect for operating your lights, switch machines and other accessories. Variable AC voltage allows you to easily set the desired voltage output for your accessories. (We recommend 14 V AC for most Lionel accessories.) Phased transformers can be linked together to provide additional amperage or divide larger layouts into manageable power districts.

CW-80 Transformer (6-14198)



This versatile power supply comes with most of our starter sets today. The transformer is capable of putting out 0-18 volts of variable AC to run your trains. You can also set fixed accessory voltage up to 18 V AC. Total amperage of this 80 Watt transformer is about 4.5 amps. This is ample to operate your starter set, or many accessories. For more detailed instructions on installing and using the CW-80, see the Customer Service Instructional Video.

For larger layouts, running multiple locomotives, or older trains and lots of lighted passenger cars, you may find a single CW-80 is not up to the challenge. When you upgrade to a larger supply for your trains, save the CW-80 for accessory power.

180 Watt Powerhouse (6-22983)



The Powerhouse provides 180 Watts of power for your TMCC or LEGACY controlled layout. This is purely a power supply. (There is no means of controlling the trains directly from the Powerhouse.) Check out the command control sections for more information on TMCC and LEGACY.

With 10 Amps of output, this will provide adequate power for most layouts. For large layouts with multiple loops, additional power supplies can be strung together for even more power.

ZW-L (6-37921)



The newest addition to the Lionel power supply line is the ZW-L transformer. Run up to four trains independently in conventional mode, or use it to supply power to your LEGACY or TMCC system. Modern control with a classic design, the ZW-L can supply 620 Watts of power safely with several built-in protection devices. For more on the many details and features of this product, see the Customer Service Product Video.

More Options

This covers all of our current options but for a more comprehensive look at what we’ve released in the recent past, please see this video introduction. [youtube=]

16 thoughts on “Introduction to Lionel Power Supplies

    • For track, the length of your track has little impact on the amount of power you’ll need. Getting the power properly distributed to all of the track is critical to make use of the power you have however. Since you will see some loss of power through each joint in the rail, it is best to supplement your track with a bus wire around the layout. Connect this wire to the track every few feet with smaller feeder wires. See our page on wiring bus wires – If you add more engines, or lighted cars, accessories, etc. then you will want to consider increasing the size of your power supply as all of these will increase demand

  1. Well I am running 100 ft of track with a max of two powered Locos (A-B units) and max 8 lighted passenger cars. Simple oval layout no switches or other accessories requiring transformer power

  2. using a ZW controller with two 180w, on a two track two train lay out. when wiring for direct power for switches ect. Do I use B terminial for direct power for track A; and C for things attached to D?
    Also want to use two CW 80 for running assessories and lighted buildings do these have to be phased and which terminal would I draw the power from

  3. Guess I misstated my question I’m a novice (been away from model rail for 35years). I am already using a ZW on my lay out, any way the question on the hook ups remain

    • I’m not sure I entirely understand your question, so I hope this helps. You can use any of the four posts / throttles to control any of the features you want. Each is capable of putting out the same power. If you are wiring two loops of track and want to use the outside two handles (the big ones) then wire your center rail for these to the A and D posts. You can then use B and C for accessories. The common “U” posts in the top row are your grounds.

      If you do add additional power supplies for accessories, the U posts on those should be phased with the U Posts on the ZW. See phasing transformers: Hope that answered your question!

  4. Thank you ,I didn’t kniow if the B post was slaved to the A because of the ground on A running thru that track ,and D handle would have its ground running thru the other track , all the cross over switchs have blocks between them..

  5. I am currently running a layout with 16 switches connected to track power. I am wondering what the best power supply would be to run all 16 switches under constant voltage?

    • You could use our accessory power supply 6-32923 or even the accessory terminals of a CW-80. Because the switch motors use very little power, and only for a short time, even a large number of switches can be powered by a relatively small power supply without any difficulty.

  6. Hi, for Lionel O 6-32923, which post is red and which one is black (to connect to AC / AC Ground) — they aren’t marked and the manual doesn’t say which is which? Also, how do I know without using a voltmeter, how much on the dial to turn would be 14 volts? I assume full is 18, but no marking on the unit to state volts across the dial other than graphics to illustrate your using more power.

  7. I am thinking of purchasing one of the new Railsounds American Flyer Boxcars, perhaps one steam sound and one diesel sounds. My question is will the sounds work with my older 30B Transformer? Will the bell and whistle or horn work without the buttons on the newer Lionel Tranformers? If not can I purchase one of the less expensive transformers such as the C-80 to work those sound options while still keeping my older American Flyer 30B hooked up? Looking forward to your answer since no one I asked in my model train circle knows the answer.

  8. I picked up a starter set and im using it for a display setup at our store for the holidays. im wondering if theres a better transformer I could use that will hold up to the abuse of running for long periods of time. id really hate to ruin a good train set because I overworked it.

  9. Why can’t you show me how the wires connect to the track? PLEASE THIS SHOULD BE SOMETHING COVERED IN EVERY VIDEO BUT APPARENTLY NO ONE DOES!!!! WHY ISNT THIS A BASIC STEP IN THE HAND BOOK!! Sincerely s a concerned customer

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