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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,



I hope I am posting this in the right place. Please move, if not.



For the last two years, I have been working on an integrated, on-board camera to give a ‘driver’s view’ of the track. Before I start production, I would like to gather views on what I have done and what could be improved. A bit of background, first:



The usual solution to a track view, is to buy a ‘GoPro’ or cheap camera and place it, either on the top of a locomotive or, more usually, to place the camera on a flatbed truck and push it round the track. Also, most of the solutions require that the user records the video on the camera itself, remove a micro memory card and transfer the memory card to a computer for viewing. The former seems ugly to me and the latter is inconvenient. My solution to these points is to build the camera in to the locomotive itself, keeping it as discreet as possible; and allow the user to view and record directly, in real-time, to their smart phone/tablet. As far as I know, it is the first fully integral camera for oo or larger. The product I intend to sell is the built-in camera AND the locomotive TOGETHER (though selling a ‘kit’ is an option).



Its features:

High quality camera - 2560 x 1920 pixel resolution on a 5mp camera. This is more than twice the quality of some cameras and many times the quality of most cameras.

Self-contained - no ugly wires or external cameras. This is very important to me, as I want the loco to be as original as possible.

Integrated - the camera is very discreetly built in to the bogey of the locomotive. It’s hard to see, unless you are looking for it.

Small - the camera casing is 5.5mm in diameter.

Track following - the camera looks where the train is going. As the camera is attached to the bogey, the camera is following the orientation of the bogey, unlike other cameras that are fixed to the body and so do not ‘anticipate’ the bends. It means that it’s more like standing on the train, and naturally looking at what is coming up ahead.

Holdover battery - the video continues, even if power is removed. The camera is both rail and battery powered. Each backs up the other.

No external charging required - the battery is charged from the track. I have seen solutions where the entire truck is picked up and plugged in to a USB power source to charge the battery.

Analogue or digital - no changes required. The circuitry has been designed, so that it will operate on DC or DCC without hardware changes.

Watch the video in real-time on your smart device - android and ios. No need to manually transfer files from the camera to the computer; or buy a separate receiver, which then plugs in to a television. Most of us have mobile phones or tablets. It could also be displayed on a monitor or TV.

Built-in Wi-Fi – The train acts as an access point or ‘Hot Spot’, so the smart device connects directly to the train. As there is no need for a separate Wi-Fi hub, which is perfect for exhibitions.

Record the video or take a photo on your smart device. The app records video and photos very simply. You can also view them through the smart device.

Simple app and setup.

No memory card required.

So (finally), to the point of the post. I would like to carry out a short survey on what you would like to see in the product and what is (and isn't) important.



  • Is the locomotive with an integrated, discreet camera and real-time feed something that you are interested in?
  • For the integrated camera:
  • Assuming you are interested, do you want a camera that you can install yourself (requiring modifications to the locomotive body) or do you want to buy an ‘off-the-shelf’ solution?
  • Assuming off-the-shelf, should the locomotive itself be inexpensive, to keep costs down, as it is ‘only the train with the camera’; or be more expensive, as you want it to be a ‘feature’? Please give examples of which models you would like to contain the camera.
  • What would you use the video/photos for?
  • Of the numbered features above, which are the five most important?
  • Any other comments or thoughts?

Thank you very much for your time to complete this and apologies for the length of the post.

I have attached photos and a link to video from the train and a few photos of the train itself for thoughts.

Plant Cat Window Felidae Wood
Train Toy Vehicle Wood Rolling
Train Wheel Vehicle Motor vehicle Automotive lighting
Train Vehicle Toy Motor vehicle Wheel
Train Vehicle Toy Rolling stock Railroad car
Hood Grille Line Material property Automotive lighting

 

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Whilst I am not aware of any OO scale locos with built in cameras, Roco have produced several models which do. I have two of them. Their features are pretty much the same as yours with the following differences;
  • The Roco image size is tiny - 320x240 - i think.
  • The camera in the Roco locos is in the cab.
Here's a video I made some years ago from one of them:

What I like about the Roco:
  • The driver's eye view through the cab window. This is noticeable as you pass other trains.
  • The very low lag in video delivery. I was controlling the loco in that video from downstairs!

What I don't like about the Roco:
* The small size and poor low light performance.

Would I buy one?
Hard question. I already have a large collection of locos and have drifted up into the sound fitted, highly detailed end of the market.
I might buy one integrated camera set up for evaluation so I can work out what it will and won't fit into.

What would I use it for? Driving the train. I haven't got round to trying out Roco's Z21 iPad app with integrated video yet. I am hoping that it might be something like the second half of this video (From 2:30 onwards) which I captured on a DSLR ...

Note that the Roco camera loks do NOT capture sound - which is a pity.

My ideal electronic gizmo would combine the speed measurement from the Piko car, sound from the decoder and the video camera.

David
 
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For me. the camera would have to be in the cab, so possibly I'd get one to fit myself, sound would be good.
Your video seemed much smoother than the Roco cab cam, which I'd been toying with the idea of getting one, the only reason I haven't so far is that they are too modern for my layout.
Regards
Alan
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Whilst I am not aware of any OO scale locos with built in cameras, Roco have produced several models which do. I have two of them. Their features are pretty much the same as yours with the following differences;
  • The Roco image size is tiny - 320x240 - i think.
  • The camera in the Roco locos is in the cab.
What I like about the Roco:
  • The driver's eye view through the cab window. This is noticeable as you pass other trains.
  • The very low lag in video delivery. I was controlling the loco in that video from downstairs!

What I don't like about the Roco:
* The small size and poor low light performance.

Would I buy one?
Hard question. I already have a large collection of locos and have drifted up into the sound fitted, highly detailed end of the market.
I might buy one integrated camera set up for evaluation so I can work out what it will and won't fit into.

What would I use it for? Driving the train. I haven't got round to trying out Roco's Z21 iPad app with integrated video yet. I am hoping that it might be something like the second half of this video

Note that the Roco camera loks do NOT capture sound - which is a pity.

My ideal electronic gizmo would combine the speed measurement from the Piko car, sound from the decoder and the video camera.

David
David,

Thanks for that information, it's really useful. I'd like to dig a bit deeper in to parts of it, if I may.

I'm not aware that Roco is still selling camera views from the cab. I know that they were a few years ago but I haven't come across anywhere that is selling it now. If you know where it is being sold, I'd like to have a closer look. In any case, I'm not trying to compete with Roco, as they are waaaaaay cleverer than me (and they are a lot more expensive)! Again, what I seem to see is phone control on the train? Happy to be corrected.

I COMPLETELY agree about the cab view of the track, however.... I haven't come up with a way, yet, (though I am working on it at the moment) to give that cab view, whilst looking at the track and not the wall, as the train goes round a bend. The other issue (in my opinion) with the cab view is what shows in your video: ie that a lot of the picture is masked by the cab itself. I get that, from the driver's view, this is what they see, and that is great, but, from a bystander's point of view, isn't a lot of the scenery obscured? Does the picture quality suffer because it is behind the window? My camera doesn't have anything in front of it. I don't know what the 'right' answer is.

I don't have sound either. Would this be a deal breaker?

Would you buy the camera if it were in 'kit' form. It would mean the buyer altering the body of the loco, if you wanted it to be discreet.

Thanks for your feedback, they are much appreciated. My points and questions are NOT meant to be a criticism of other products or trying to 'big up' my camera: I really am trying to learn from the best.

Connal
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
For me. the camera would have to be in the cab, so possibly I'd get one to fit myself, sound would be good.
Your video seemed much smoother than the Roco cab cam, which I'd been toying with the idea of getting one, the only reason I haven't so far is that they are too modern for my layout.
Regards
Alan
Alan,

Thanks for the feedback. Sounds like you wouldn't be interested in an 'off-the-shelf' version but a 'kit', if that were possible. As I asked David, would you be prepared to alter the body of one of your locos to make the camera 'invisible'? If the choice were a fixed camera in the cab (looking at the walls, when going round a bend) or a 'track-following' camera outside the cab, which would you choose?

Sound is a problem at the moment. What I would like, is to have the option of sound, as I can imagine a scenario where you wouldn't want sound, if there are people moving around and talking (say, at an exhibition) but, I suppose it could always be muted if it were built in.

I've worked very hard at the quality of the camera and, without spending a zillion pounds on a camera sensor and lens, I think that the quality is the best it can be, at least for the time being. I'm always looking to improve, though.

Thanks again,

Connal
 

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Roco do not have camera locos in their current range. As I remember it, there were three different loco types - the DB E-103, the OBB 1116 Taurus. Both of these highly detailed models and sound equipped. The third loco type was a DB ICE-1 with the camera stuck on the front like a cyclops - very much a train set model. Gaugemaster had one running in their store.

The price premium for the video was about £100 over the non video version and as sound is usually about £100, you were looking at a big hike in price over a 'standard' model. I don't know how well they sold but I got my second one discounted to the 'sound' version price - ie free video. I suspect the dealer wanted to clear his shelf.

In the second video, the phone is displaying the output from the Piko measurement car. I was controlling the train from the adjacent ECoS controller.

During lockdown I have built a shelf layout in my study and it is controlled by a Roco Z21. This is a plain 'box'. Roco publishes a control app for iPhone and Android. I use the Android version and find it works very well. The video integration is a bit limited. There is also an app for the iPad but I don't have one of those - yet. For camera loks the video feed is integrated with the driving screen.

Not having sound is not a deal breaker but would be nice to have if intending to stream video...

I would be interested in a 'kit' only version to see what I could fit it into.

Whilst I haven't tried the Z21 iPad app with integrated video, at the moment that is the endpoint I would like to reach with more locos than just the Roco. Although my grandchildren are still too young to be appreciate or be let loose on my layouts, one day they will be and having more than two video loks may be necessary to keep the peace ;).

David
 

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Some years ago, a friend of mine brought a 'cube cam' around. It was powered by a 9V battery and had a wireless link to a receiver station would could be connected to a camcorder. I was able to drive trains by looking at the camcorder view screen. And what a fabulous experience it was!
The camera and the 9V battery fitted in a Hornby OBA wagon which was pushed around the layout on the front of a train.
The downside was that it didn't have a sound recording capability (although at that time I had DCC, but hadn't yet ventured into DCC sound) and the wireless was susceptible to interference.
I'd be interested in a modern equivalent of this: wirelessly linked to my phone, including sound recording. Slotting memory cards in the camera doesn't really do it for me.
 

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I wouldn't be too concerned about whether or not the camera captured sound (which, in my case, would just be the train rattling its way along the track) but I would want to have a much better image than the one captured by the Roco device. I would also suggest that having the camera in a wagon or something that can be pushed by a locomotive rather than inside a locomotive would give it a much larger market.

If I were to get such an on-train camera, it would have to be one that I fit myself, or something to be pushed along, as my layout is vintage three rail Dublo......
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for your thoughts on this. I spent some time talking to guys at my local club, in Hawick, and they have given me some great feedback and possibly a way forward on a couple of key items.

I've long appreciated the cab vs bogey view issue and someone yesterday has given me what may be a possible solution on how to do both. At the same time, it gives me a possible way of offering this as a kit, which, I think, ticks all the boxes.

In addition, in terms of which loco(s) I would choose to put a camera into, they suggested the 'Flying Banana', aka 'The New Measurement Train'. This seems like a good solution, at least for modern era layouts, as it is not regional and doesn't have a hundred different liveries (though more than one?). I spent some time googling last night and, while there are still new locos available, it looks like Hornby has stopped producing them (though they are still producing the coaches - I don't understand why).

Does anyone know if there is an equivalent train for earlier eras?
 

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Thanks for your thoughts on this. I spent some time talking to guys at my local club, in Hawick, and they have given me some great feedback and possibly a way forward on a couple of key items.
Any chance of letting us know what those suggestions were ?

Previously, I came across the Micro-Mark #83740 but it doesn't seem to be available any more.
 

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...Does anyone know if there is an equivalent train for earlier eras?
Before there was much in the way of instrumentation to 'read' the track's conformance to whatever the applicable standards were, there were 'inspection saloons': a dedicated coach with a picture window end, and behind it a big comfortable armchair or three for the permanent way engineers to sit in, inspect the track, and make notes as the vehicle was pushed along by a steam loco.

But never mind that for now. The view I would want is 'driver's eye height' and tracking the curves. The ideal vehicle for this is one of the centre motor with shaft drive to both bogies type, as it has all the virtues required: reliable current collection, stability and smooth running throughout the speed range, potentially offers the curve tracking and eye height mount (selectfrom the designs , readily disguised as a 'legitimate' model if the user requires this.
 

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Going back to the OP, my requirements for a camera suitable for model railways are:

  • Camera must fit within the OO loading gauge when mounted on a wagon
  • Camera must be able to take power from a rechargeable battery and the rails - but not at the same time. Reason for this is that wheel/rail contact loss causes video dropouts. A trackside camera can use rail power as it has no wheel/rail contact issues
  • Video resolution of at least 2K - these days, there's no excuse for anything less
  • A camera with a microphone so that I can record DCC sound
  • A camera that uses wifi to stream back to a device such as a mobile phone, its own receiver/mixer or a computer. The objective here is that the receiving 'device' must be able to display a live stream 'drivers eye view'
  • Said 'device' must be able to stream to a standard format video file so that content can be cut/pasted into a movie using appropriate editing software

I came across this: Wireless Live Camera systems on model trains & railroads which meets my requirements except that I don't know if it records sound.

From my perspective, there are far too many 'key fob' cameras around which have crappy user interfaces and don't have a live wifi feed.

Maybe our drone friends can advise us ?
 

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Thank you for the Link, an interesting read from several points of view. I popped them an email question about sound recordings, as there is only the one, vague, reference to sound - " to sit at the level crossing as your chosen train comes thundering through". I expect that they will not be there today, but will add their response when it arrives.

J
 

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I also contacted them and asked about sound.
This is one of the key limitations of most 'cameras' I have come across.
Time for technology to update itself - we want vision AND sound, NOT silent movies!
 

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Time for technology to update itself - we want vision AND sound, NOT silent movies!
The technology exists, just not in a package suitable for our needs. All we want is the digital tech which delivers live sport with low latency and synchronised sound in a package small enough to fit in a Siphon G or similar. I suspect that all the components required are available separately. The challenge is to bring them together into a single package which works.

David
 
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This is what I have been using, but it does rely on either removing the storage card or attaching the camera to a computer to upload the files. It can be viewed live on a mobile phone. It is only HD resolution, though, but would be small enough to install in a rail vehicle or locomotive if desired.

I would like a better solution too, but if a locomotive or coach was to be marketed, there would have to be a range of options offered to allow matching the vehicle to the layout location and time period. Therefore, to my mind, a kit of parts to be installed in a suitable vehicle on the purchaser's layout might be a better solution.

 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Before there was much in the way of instrumentation to 'read' the track's conformance to whatever the applicable standards were, there were 'inspection saloons': a dedicated coach with a picture window end, and behind it a big comfortable armchair or three for the permanent way engineers to sit in, inspect the track, and make notes as the vehicle was pushed along by a steam loco.

But never mind that for now. The view I would want is 'driver's eye height' and tracking the curves. The ideal vehicle for this is one of the centre motor with shaft drive to both bogies type, as it has all the virtues required: reliable current collection, stability and smooth running throughout the speed range, potentially offers the curve tracking and eye height mount (selectfrom the designs , readily disguised as a 'legitimate' model if the user requires this.
Hi, I'm working on something along those lines. The latest iteration of the train cam is that it is connected to the front bogie of a 125 but with a thingie (stop me if I get too technical for you) that I designed, which 'exaggerates' the direction of the camera. so, when the bogie is straight, the camera is straight; when the bogie is at, say 20 degrees, the camera is at 25 degrees (not actual numbers, just for illustration), so that it is 'anticipating' the curve. It is connected to the bogie but it fits in the driver's window to give the driver's eye height. This seems to be a requirement that pretty much everyone has.

I didn't understand your bit about 'select from designs, etc, though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Any chance of letting us know what those suggestions were ?

Previously, I came across the Micro-Mark #83740 but it doesn't seem to be available any more.
Their suggestions were that they would like to see the camera in the cab, so it's at driver's level. They liked the idea of the camera following the track. They thought the quality of the camera was ok but I'm still not satisfied. And they all said that they would prefer to buy a kit that they could install themselves and potentially move to another train.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Going back to the OP, my requirements for a camera suitable for model railways are:

  • Camera must fit within the OO loading gauge when mounted on a wagon
  • Camera must be able to take power from a rechargeable battery and the rails - but not at the same time. Reason for this is that wheel/rail contact loss causes video dropouts. A trackside camera can use rail power as it has no wheel/rail contact issues
  • Video resolution of at least 2K - these days, there's no excuse for anything less
  • A camera with a microphone so that I can record DCC sound
  • A camera that uses wifi to stream back to a device such as a mobile phone, its own receiver/mixer or a computer. The objective here is that the receiving 'device' must be able to display a live stream 'drivers eye view'
  • Said 'device' must be able to stream to a standard format video file so that content can be cut/pasted into a movie using appropriate editing software

I came across this: Wireless Live Camera systems on model trains & railroads which meets my requirements except that I don't know if it records sound.

From my perspective, there are far too many 'key fob' cameras around which have crappy user interfaces and don't have a live wifi feed.

Maybe our drone friends can advise us ?
Thanks Graham! This is good stuff and just what I've been looking for.

I'll take your bullets one at a time:

  • I think you mean, here, that it shouldn't stick out anywhere?
  • This is a big sticking point with me at the moment and I have, coincidentally, decided to go the way you suggest. I have been having a lot of problems with dropout of video, when the rechargeable battery gets its supply from the track. I may come back to this later but, for the time being, it will be rechargeable battery only in the train.
  • Another tricky one - at least 2K is what I have been aiming for but without designing my own pcb, camera and smartphone app, I am struggling to get the killer combination of resolution/fps/auto-focus. If the resolution is good enough the frames-per-second video feed is too low for wifi to the smartphone. If the resolution and fps is ok, it's a fixed focus of a few millimetres.
  • Again, a good point. some do have sound but the rest of the solution is terrible. The cameras I have been trying don't have sound.
  • This is a 'must' as far as I am concerned. I don't want to have to remove a micro SD card and plug it in somewhere else. And I want it to deliver a live stream for exhibitions, etc. This is very doable but with the caveats above.
  • Agreed and that is what I am doing.
I too looked at the camera you looked at but I want mine to be, at least, discrete, if not invisible. Hence, putting it is the cab.

Many thanks for your feedback. It looks like I'm on the right track (so to speak...)!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
The technology exists, just not in a package suitable for our needs. All we want is the digital tech which delivers live sport with low latency and synchronised sound in a package small enough to fit in a Siphon G or similar. I suspect that all the components required are available separately. The challenge is to bring them together into a single package which works.

David
David, this is EXACTLY my issue at the moment. I have already had a go a designing my own solution starting from scratch but I got badly burnt. It didn't give me the solution I wanted, cost me a lot of money and I was still left with the headache of how I would legally get it on the market (no one seems to be able to tell me the regulations that need to be cleared). So, I have been trying different combinations of technology, all of which work but.... the quality is not what I want and I wouldn't expect anyone else to pay for.

The search goes on...
 
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