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· Registered
10 Posts
Discussion Starter · #21 ·
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.

Yep. That seems to be the popular answer (understandably). Another of the issues I have is that few of wifi boards available on the market are narrow enough to go in a steam engine. The alternative is to place it in the tender but that means trailing wires, which I'm keen to avoid. I'm concentrating on the diesels, currently, for this reason, and because it is a simpler solution to make the camera 'track' the track. If and when I get my camera up and running I hope to be able to finance a 'universal' solution.

· Registered
2,783 Posts
Hi Traincam,

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
Correct. So that it doesn't stick out any more than any regular item of rolling stock. So you can run it anywhere a normal train would go.

  • 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.
In order to ensure a reliable constant supply, it would need to be an on-board battery. In my previous 'playings' in this space, a 9V battery sitting in a Bachmann OBA wagon with the camera was fine.

  • 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.
I may have been asking too much here. I think 2K would be fine. It just has to be better than the 640x480 that many cams still use!

  • 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.
Sound is a non-negotiable requirement for me. I want to be able to create cab-video videos, complete with the DCC sound of the loco being driven.

  • 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.
'In cab' is not a primary requirement for me. I would be happy to get my requirements in a package that fitted a wagon first rather than to have no package at all.
'In cab' may also have issues with sound in sound-fitted locos - reverb etc within the loco body.

Many thanks for your feedback. It looks like I'm on the right track (so to speak...)!
Not a problem. If you need feedback/help/advice or a test bed, happy to help - just PM me.


· In depth idiot
8,800 Posts
... 'anticipating' the curve...
Good concept if it can be made both to work smoothly and - most importantly in my opinion - to recentre accurately to 'straight ahead view' on tangent track. The challenge with recentering is the relatively low force available for the movement, and elimination of as much slack in the mechanism as possible. If this proves an obstacle, then I'd go for simple rigid mount and forego the neat idea of 'anticipation'.

...I didn't understand your bit about 'select from designs, etc, though.
What I meant by that, was that making a selection from suitable vehicle designs in which to install the camera would be required. Much as 'SRman' has rather better expressed:
...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...

· Registered
1 Posts

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.

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 ?


Full disclosure, I'm with Choo Choo Vision, but happy to share a few thoughts from my experiences that may help you on your journey to create a Model Train Camera.....

I did initially look at drone cameras when developing the Choo Choo Vision cameras. The drone video quality can be pretty amazing, but the hardware required to receive live video was a roadblock. And, if you are running 3-4 cameras for an operation session, the receiver hardware doesn't scale well. Most of the small cube / spy cameras on the market use RTSP and only are viewable by a proprietary phone application. So WiFi IP cameras seemed to be the best solution. i.e. Raspberry and ESP32-CAMs.

I concur with you... not wanting to use an SD card. How do you remove the memory card when the camera is mounted inside an engine? The video needs to live-stream back to a mobile device or computer without needing a bunch of receiver units and a video mixer/multiplexer -- too complicated and too much cost.

Regarding your requirement #2 -- Yes, it is possible to power the camera from track power. A Lipo battery can function as a keep-alive while the camera's primary power source is DCC or DC. Track power can run the camera and simultaneously charge the battery. When you hit a dead-spot (wheel/rail contact loss), the battery takes over. Depending upon your voltage and current requirements, there are some LiPo charging / power circuits boards on the market that will manage the power for you. Due to size constraints for N and HO, I ended up developing custom circuitry (6 months of my life). If you tell me your voltage and current requirements, I can suggest an off-the-shelf LiPo charger.

Sound is a tough problem to solve over WiFi. The raw WiFi video stream consumes so much bandwidth, leaving very little bandwidth for sound. If you add sound to the video, then you will need to compress the video stream to RTSP (or similar) to lower the bandwidth requirement. It then needs to be decompressed on the receiving end (via a media player). The resulting video latency from compression may not be acceptable. I decided to forgo sound for now and stream raw video without encoding. It's low latency, and viewable on any web browser on a PC or mobile phone.

I have found that the driver's view was important to most folks. As you said, you can push a go-pro around on a flat car, but must folks desire to be in the cab (or at least at window height). You can find lenses (a.k.a camera modules) for the Raspberry and ESP-CAMs that are on a long ribbon cable. This will allow you to place the lens in the cab window and put the camera farther back inside the engine.

Here's a link to an example of a Raspberry camera developed by the folks at Silicon Valley Lines.. SVL CabCam They provide a good overview on how to build a Raspberry camera system.


· Registered
10 Posts
Discussion Starter · #25 ·
Thanks, Tom. Lots of useful information, there. And from the enemy! 😁 I appreciate you openness.

Since writing the original post (is that what OP stands for?), I may have found the solution I have been looking for. At the moment, I am waiting for the Chinese New Year to finish, so I can discuss (I mean improve) their app. I don't want to say too much at the moment, as I have had several 'false dawns' over the last couple of years.

I did have a solution for powering a camera and charging the battery from the rails but I found I got a lot of interference on the video, so I had kinda ditched that for the time being. Also, because of the wifi board I was using, I had to put in extra circuitry, as the wifi board switched off, when changing over from rails to battery supply. So, it made the solution a bit clunky.

If and when I get the current solution working I will have another go a supplying power from the rails. I did have another look at your website about this and your solution mentions only dcc. Does that mean it doesn't work on dc? Mine does but (obviously) not when the train is stationary but, as long as the battery is charged a little that was ok. Anyway, as I said, it's something i may come back to. If i do come back to it, i may take you up on your kind offer of suggesting a lipo charger.

I do now have a solution for 'in-cab' viewing but I haven't tried it out in anger yet. Assuming I get the answers I want from China soon, I will be putting this altogether in the next month.

I'll keep you posted.
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