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Main board issue on Tower 55 ES44DC?Help save this beauty, please!

gordon s

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Hi Guys


Having a really bad day, so hoping you'll be able to assist.


Bought this beautiful machine a few years back and it's been in storage for most of that time.  It's a Tower 55 ES44DC.  Tower 55 was an experiment by Overland to produce plastic bodied locos to the level of quality of their brass locos.  For one reason or another, they ran into problems and stopped making them a few years back.  Overland have washed their hands of them and so spares are difficult to find.




Took it out for a test run to check everything this morning and the lights were intermittent, so took the body off.  There must have been dry solder joints, as when I lifted the body to unplug the lighting, it pulled the connector right off the board.  That I could cope with, but to make matters worse, it has delaminated the minute solder pads on two of the four connections….:-(






There are four connections going to the board via the connector, but the centre two do not have tracks, so may well be fed via plated through connections from inner layers.  Two options that I can see.  Get an electronics expert to check the board and establish take off points for the lighting or somehow fit a second decoder just for the lights.  Personally I have no idea if that is possible or not as it's a sound board.  The main decoder connection is via an inline socket with just the orange and grey wires from the motor going to the board.  There are two solder tags from the motor soldered to this board, but I think these are mechanical connections.  The pick ups come via two two pin connectors, one either end.




Any ideas how to fix this issue?


The decoder works fine, the drive is fine and the sound is great.


The lighting when it worked had flashing lights connected to the horn/bell as well as headlights etc.


The last issue is that when I was taking pics of the loco before all this happened, I noticed a lamp moulding had gone.  This slips over the LED for the front lights.  I have no idea where it has gone or even if it was there when I bought it.  The chances of finding it are basically on a par with winning the Euro millions..:-(


Any ideas how it can be replaced?




So there you have it.  An expensive loco, which right now is almost scrap.  Can it be resurrected or is it a sale for spares?

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There should be metal in the two delaminated pads, particularly if they come through from a different layer. Some flux and solder should build those pads back up, allowing you to either re-attach the connector or to modify it to a different connection scheme.


As for the ditch light housing, It may be possible to find an aftermarket one or you could just fabricate a small box out of plasticard.



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Thanks Rob, I have no idea how that's happened.  I'll check it out...

It can sometimes happen if the forum decides to hang at the very moment you post. Not much you can do about it, other as you have use the report button to highlight it to the admin and we can delete the duplicates, as I have now done.



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Tried to 'generate' new solder pads where the pads had delaminated and failed miserably.  Just for the record, I have been soldering for years and worked for numerous pcb related companies so have a good understanding of those skills and practices.


The plug that goes into the circuit board has all the usual wires that control the lights cut off and the connection is via the four pin plug that has come adrift.  How likely is it that those cut off wires would still control the lights or am I clutching at straws?


That takes me to adding a second decoder just to control the lights, but that throws up numerous questions.  How do I connect it?  How do I programme it once in situ?  How does the programming track and system deal with two decoders on the same loco?


Thanks for the link to Walthers for ditch lights, but they are out of stock and delivery unknown.  Do the Tower 55 ones look like an industry standard or are they custom tooled?

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If there is room you could put a function decoder in for the lights.  It would connect to the feeds from the track and to the lights.

Briefly - 

Initial setup could be done by leaving it on address 3 with the loco on a different address. after set up change it to the same as the loco. 

How difficult that is depends on which DCC system you have.



Another alternative if you don't mind the cost could be to replace the board but that could be in the region of £75 - 80.


Soundtraxx make replacement boards but not for Tower/Overland so you would have to look at an AT1000 

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Gordon, the lights are controlled from the decoder, so good chance you'd be able to find the corresponding output pin there. Clean up the male connector (or source a new one) then solder wires to the connector and connect the other end near the decoder instead. Find out which wire has what led connected, I noticed 2 pads appear to still be in situ, so that's a quick soldering job ;)



Sound great, but I'll need some help. Which component is the decoder? I thought the whole board was a decoder and all the components made up that decoder. How do I identify the output pin you talk about? There are four wires. One I assume is a common return and the other three are functions. I have no idea which one does which, so you'll have to talk me through the process. I have a meter, so can buzz things through, but the real problem is that there is further board up in the roof of the loco body, so those wires go to another pcb that may have dozens of permutations before they get to the led's.


I'm going to need loads more information as I understand electro mechanics but my knowledge of pure electronics is more limited.

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Gordon said

Thanks for the link to Walthers for ditch lights, but they are out of stock and delivery unknown. Do the Tower 55 ones look like an industry standard or are they custom tooled?


Gordon - might it be worth contacting one of the guys on here who does 3d printing on their own machine to make you up a set of these?  Just a thought

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Have you tried contacting Overland to see if they can provide a wiring diagram - would make easier to to work out where to solder the light wires to

Searches on the web re Tower 55 would suggest that Overland created a wonderful model, but no longer provide support of this range. Real shame as they are very good indeed. Judging by the web responses, the chances of getting a wiring diagram are probably zero.

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I'm not totally sure if this is just the fascia but attached to some square section plastic it might form the basis of a solution, Make two and they will match!



If you haven't been successful soldering the loose connector to the board, and don't fancy soldering to the decoder board, can you work out where the wires on the detached loom go to? If they go to the lights it would make adding a function decoder less complex. Were there any lighting functions other than head, tail and ditchlights?


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Thanks for all your help guys.  I've been doing a bit more detective work myself...


OK, here's a close up of top surface of the board.  I've tried to generate a solder blob on the centre two pads with no success.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I scraped the top surface and nothing has come to light.




I've now buzzed out the outer two pads and they go to the pick up connector and then to the track, which would suggest they are a power feed, perhaps to another decoder.  I mentioned a board in the roof of the loco, so let's come back to that in a minute.


Here's the back of the same board and as you can see there is no sign of contact through the board whatsoever.  There's no sign of holes or any feed on the top surface and nothing obvious on the bottom.




If the outer two are power feeds, then it may follow the middle two are dummies and not connected and the inner two pads are for mechanical strength.  Why they've used a four way connector when only two are needed is anyones guess.  Perhaps the four way is a standard and it kept inventory down.


I mentioned before a PCB in the roof.  If the outer feeds are just power, I wonder if this device is a slave decoder.  Even though there are four wires going to it, I'm guessing it doesn't follow they're all needed.  The part number on the roof mounted board can just be seen with a Digitrax FN12 number.




Now a few leaps of faith and hopefully I won't blow anything up.  The power feeds I can follow, but surely there needs to be some control circuitry to switch the lights on and off and select ditch lights etc.


'Scuse my ignorance, but I assume those commands are coded signals down the power lines?  They can't be anything else, can they?


If that is the case and I hook up the two outers to the power, the lights should come on and I should be able to control them.  In that case I could superglue the connector back and solder the two outers.  


Job done….:-)


Does that make sense or have I missed anything?



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OK, took a flyer.  Soldered back the connector and hooked up the power.  Success!...


…at least I thought so.  I have lights on at the front? (not cab end) only and they stay on all the time and don't change with direction.  Could this be a CV issue? 

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Whoopee! Reprogrammed the loco from scratch and we have lights!


Thanks for all your suggestions. I appreciate it's difficult at a distance, but just knowing someone is listening helps your own thought process and nine times out of ten, it's always a process of elimination one step at a time.


Now I can go to bed with a clear head!

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