Although in terms of appearance the ZW-L was to be reminiscent of the old ZW, it would include technology that would make it Lionel's most advanced transformer suitable for use with not only its older (conventional style) locomotives, but also its most sophisticated state of the art 3-rail equipment. In fact, the new ZW-L while larger and heavier does resemble the ZW in many respects. The transformer's case is molded of black phenolic resin. It has the four (4) levers ( one large and one small lever on each side). It also has the bell and whistle features for use with the large levers, the green power indicator lamp, and the red overload indicator lamp. In addition, on the back are the familar two rows of binding posts for the four (4) output channels A-D.
So what's new, well to start off with most noteably there are four (4) lighted meters sitting atop the transformer (2 voltage meters and 2 amperage meters). Lionel describes in their Operator's Manual how these meters can be used to read the voltage and amperage levels on all four of the transformer's channels. There is also a Power On/Off Switch on the front of the transformer and on the back there are three (3) small switches: a Command/Conventional Switch, a Program/Run Switch and a 1 Channel/4Channel Switch. Also on the back in the bottom right corner there is a Command Base Binding Post which the operator can use to connect the communication wire from his/her Legacy or TMCC Command Base to the transformer as an alternative to the outside rail. Above the rows of binding posts for Channels A-D there is a resetable Circuit Breaker for each of the four (4) channels. Inside the transformer housing there is a temperature controlled cooling fan which if you listen closely for it, you will hear it cycle on and off as it is needed.
Yesterday afternoon I set up the ZW-L, and now it alone powers the MARS's two electrical districts except for some accessories such as yard lights and my MTH Water Tower that I want to operate with just 10 Volts. I use the A-U Channel to provide track power to District 1 and the D-U Channel to power District 2. Those two channels I set at 18 Volts each and the corresponding B-U and C-U Channels I have set at 12 Volts each to provide power for the signal relays in my two power districts. They work well.
After setting the transformer up, I ran trains for a couple of hours using Train Master Command Control (TMCC) and was pleased with the transformer's performance. It seemed to me that my trains responded well to this new power source. I do not know how to validate my observations, but I think I noticed a difference in the start up speed and the smoothness of operation, particularly of the older TMCC locomotives I put on the track such as the NYC RS11 #8010, PRR Consolidation #1111 and B&O EM-1 #7616. My Vision Line and Legacy locomotives ran flawlessly. I don't know what more I could ask for. I periodically read on the 3-rail forums expressions of consternation due to problems encountered with some of the newer products being brought to market. It is my take that yes, there have been some quality control issues to include some of the high end products. But I remind myself, especially in the case of these new cutting edge products that there are bound to occasionally and sometimes more frequently be unanticipated problems that will arise and be bugs that will have to be worked out. In my view, the fact remains that at least in some of these cases we are looking at the very latest in cutting edge 3-rail developments. It wasn't long ago that many of us probably would not have imagined that we would see swinging bells atop our locomotives or steam(smoke) coming out of locomotive whistles or even four chuffs per driver revolution. It is all good stuff, and I am just pleased that I can experience some of these new developments in 3-rail O gauge technology. I'm thinking, the new ZW-L qualifies as one of these most welcomed developments.
Well that is enough for now. Over the next few weeks and months I will continue to provide updates regarding my experiences with my new ZW-L's operation/performance.