The view from the cab (or the cupola)

 photo 4205-Copetown2016-01_zpssttbwlqf.jpg
(CNR T-3-a 2-10-2 number 4205 leads a coal train on company service on the S Scale Workshop layout. The photo is actually a screen capture of a video, shot with a small but powerful camera mounted on a flat car)

I’m always on the lookout for new ways to view my hobby, and to capture and share the effort with others. I’ve taken a lot of photos of my layout – and even some video – using a variety of image capturing hardware.

Now, thanks to a conversation with my friend David Clubine, I’m able to capture the view from the cab in video, too.

 photo ReplayXD-Copetown2016_zpspi53rt9n.jpg
(Is it a circus cannon? The Prime X from Replay XD, mounted on an S Helper Service flat car and ready to capture on-track video of the S Scale Workshop modular layout. The plow-shape lets the camera capture more of the layout, and less of the ceiling…)

As the members of the S Scale Workshop prepared to exhibit their Free-mo style modular layout at this year’s Copetown Train Show, we were looking for a way to share our effort with a wider audience. Someone had suggested we should some trackside video and I thought that would be a novel way to see the layout. But what to use?

One of our members suggested an iCar – a laser-cut car that holds an iPhone and allows one to aim the camera down the track. But they’re not available in 1:64, and I was looking for something that would shoot better quality video. A GoPro was also considered – but while they’re small as cameras go, they can be quite large.

Then David suggested the cameras made by Replay XD. David runs a company that serves and supports professional racing teams, and he uses the Replay XD to capture high definition video of the cars in action. It’s small yet rugged, and its “lipstick” shape doesn’t compromise a race car’s aerodynamics.

While we don’t need to worry about drag coefficients in the railway modelling hobby, I realized the small size of this camera might be just the ticket for mounting on a flat car to capture video from the engineer’s perspective. So I ordered one from the California-based company.

At just over 1″ in diameter and under 4″ long, the Replay XD Prime X is smaller than a GoPro, and weighs just 3.5 ounces. But this small camera packs big performance – capturing high definition video and audio, and it’s WiFi enabled so it can be controlled from a smart phone with the Replay XD app. One can start and stop recording, and the camera will stream what it sees. Pretty slick.

 photo ReplayXD-Copetown2016-Meta_zpsimtnosfo.jpg
(With the Replay XD app installed, the iPod Touch is linked to the camera via WiFi and displays what the camera sees – including my friend Stephen Gardiner, who is taking the photo: That’s him to the right of the mainline in the screen of my iPod Touch!)

The camera arrived Friday and I got to work building a suitable mount so I could secure it to the deck of an S Helper Service flat car. (These are great candidates for this as they’re all metal: their weight means they track well and glide smoothly on the rails.) At first, I mounted the camera mount on a piece of 0.060″ thick sheet styrene. I marked out and drilled four holes in the corners, arranged to line up with stake pockets on the flat car, and glued short lengths of .025″ phosphor bronze wire into the holes. This worked well: the camera was easy to mount on the flat car, it stayed put, and I didn’t have to modify the car in any way.

 photo ReplayXD-Mount-Flat_zpsyfdbhwxi.jpg
(A good start: the mount doesn’t flail about, and there’s no damage to the car itself)

I did some testing on my layout but I found that the camera – equipped with a wide-angle lens – captured too much of the ceiling in the layout room. So I went back to the workbench and built a wedge – like the front of a snow plow – so that I could mount the camera pointing down at the track. This worked much better, and is the version shown in the photos of the camera car at work on the S Scale Workshop modular layout.

 photo 4205-Copetown2016-02_zpsvvnslsno.jpg
(The camera car attracted a lot of attention from attendees at the Copetown Train Show. Here, several people grab shots of it as it shoots video of CNR 4205. This image is a screen capture from the video.)

I took the camera car to the Copetown Train Show on Sunday and shot several minutes of high-quality video. The camera and app are easy to use and I’m very pleased with the results.

I’ve posted two videos shot with the Replay XD to the S Scale Workshop blog. Click on each of the photos, below, to visit the Workshop’s blog and watch the videos. I hope you enjoy them.

Cab Ride at Copetown
 photo CabRideAtCopetown-Poster_zpstjirh8c9.jpg

CNR 4205 at Copetown
 photo CNR4205Copetown-Poster_zpsrvvsyefh.jpg

And yes, I plan to press the camera car into service on my Port Rowan layout, and elsewhere. Stay tuned…

(Thanks to Stephen Gardiner for the photos, and David Clubine for the lead on this big little camera!)

10 thoughts on “The view from the cab (or the cupola)

  1. Nice videos, Trevor. Excellent modeling by all involved. Plus, it was fun seeing the patron’s expressions, too.

    • Funny you should say that, Jim…
      I talked to Barry yesterday and we discussed a number of ways this camera could help bring a different perspective to TMTV – and “on-track layout tours” was the least creative of our ideas.
      Stay tuned…
      Cheers!

  2. Great train ride on a great set of modules. The sweeping curves and high number turnout frogs make for a very prototype scene.

    Clearly the members have advanced modeling skills.

  3. I can see why you like that camera. I am wondering if I could use it on HOn30. I don’t know as I don’t have anything to run on yet, but if the cameras keep getting smaller they are bound to make one that us smaller scale modelers can use.

    Hard to say which way I like it best cab view or caboose view, but it is fun to watch the train at that level. It shows something in freemo about how effective trees are to as a view block. I saw your scale cars there as well as your gas electric.

    I suspect that is one of the Steven King’s horror novel worlds where the land ends just a hundred feet away from the track and those huge horrible monsters peer at the poor train crews and passengers. [Grin]

    • Christopher,

      Mark Dance has been using a Looksie camera on his N scale Columbia and Western for a couple of years. HOn3 should be no problem.

      Check it out on YouTube.

      Cheers,
      Rene

      • I will have to take a look at the the videos then. Then I still have to get something built to take videos of. At this point the shelving is nearly done. It is getting started that is so hard as I have none of the skills yet, and at age seventy, energy is often a problems for me. I have not given up, but at this stage even starting will be an advance for me. If I can get the first town built, I start with a fiddle yard, so I could begin operations once that first part is laid down. The plan was to build in stages.

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