A cold car for St. Williams

It’s been a while since I shot a video on my layout, but after last weekend’s trip to Caledonia and Lowbanks I felt inspired so I grabbed video camera, lights, and tripods and headed to the basement.

In this video, a CNR freight extra pauses at the St. Williams train station, then spots a pre-iced CNR eight-hatch refrigerator car on the team track so the local co-op can load it with produce. With the work accomplished, the train continues on its journey to Port Rowan:

(You may also watch this directly on YouTube, where you may be able to enjoy it in larger formats)

I wanted to play around with cut-aways and other editing tricks, rather than shoot a static “set up the camera here and watch the train roll by” presentation. It’s been a quarter century since I’ve had to do any of this, so the edits are sloppy – rusty skills have made my timing atrocious

The exercise made me appreciate even more the skills of professional videographers and editors like my friend Barry Silverthorn at TrainMasters TV.

The thing about what Barry does is that people will watch his videos and think they’re great – but not necessarily know why they think they’re great. The devil is in the details: the timing of the switches from shot to shot, the care in framing the scene in the lens, the fine adjustments to lighting and sound. Compared to his work, this is pretty crude – but still more visually interesting than the single-camera POV.

This approach to video does take more time – I shot 49 segments, and used almost all of them to edit together into this eight-minute story – but I think the result is worth the extra effort.

And the “story” is the real challenge: I’m re-learning how to use visuals to tell a richer story – not just about the trains, but the environment in which they operate, too. I’ve tried to do that here. You can be the judge…

4 thoughts on “A cold car for St. Williams

  1. The one thing I noticed is that I never saw the brakeman. Adding a brakeman when you make the cuts and throw the switch would add just a touch to the scene and video. Otherwise it looks like a safety made drop into the siding by the crew.

    • Hi Craig:
      Yes, you’re right – I could’ve added a brakeman (as I have in previous videos). I could’ve done a lot of things. But I was focussed on other things while shooting the segments for this video.
      If you shoot some video of your own layout, you’ll quickly appreciate just how many balls one has to juggle simultaneously to tell a decent story. It’s easy to forget things – about as easy as it is to point out what others have forgotten. 😉
      As I noted in my post, this exercise boosted my appreciation of the work of guys like Barry. He really enriches our hobby with his ability to tell compelling stories.

      • Trevor,
        I hope my post didn’t seem condescending, that was not my intention at all. In fact I thought it was a great video. I’m no video expert nor claim to be one! My posting was more a long the lines of the story telling. Where you trying to tell the story of the crew making the drop, or the train intruding on everyday life of St. Williams? Did you think about creating a storyboard prior to shooting the film? Would that enrich your experience of trying to tell a story?

  2. It’s not until you watch a video that you notice things you could have done.
    To think how long it takes to produce a short 10 minute video, then it is certainly a lot of work. However, just watching it, and the relaxed pace of your train running, certainly makes it worth it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please prove you're not a nasty spamming robot thingy * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.