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The Evolution Of The Cost-Effective TrainCam

timothy posted more than 11 years ago | from the freud-plus-cameras dept.

Toys 324

David Graham writes: "Recently, I incorporated a wireless camera into an HO scale 74' passenger car to make a TrainCam, and this is the story of its construction. Lacking space to build a set in my rented single room, I built a simple 18" radius track on the carpet, going through the frame of my bed. On it, I added a short Amtrak train and watched it go in decidedly boring little circles. Not long after I started running the train, it derailed and clearly demonstrated why carpets are not the best place for model trains to be. Meanwhile, upstairs in his room, one of my house-mates had just bought a small wireless camera, battery pack, and receiver for a little over C$100 and was demonstrating its ability to broadcast conversations and images from as far as 200 feet away back to his computer screen, with the help of a TV capture card. It wasn't long before I started coveting the little camera and I soon bought myself one. It was not for the purpose of listening to my friends' conversations so much as it was to record the train as it chugged around the uneven little track on my floor." For the whole story on the project, read on below.

It took me a few seconds to set up the little camera and immediately, my comically slow little trains which, when travelling at maximum speed, could easily be passed by a heavily-burdened pedestrian, began to look almost life-like. On my television screen I saw Amtrak engine 231 chugging toward me as I have so often at St-Albans station in northern Vermont. Following it were two streamlined phase III passenger cars and each, in turn, went around the corner as if on a real track.

Around the same time, I was able to move my track onto a 3'x5' desk, using blue-tack adhesive as a temporary track-bed.

The camera idea was working well. I felt like I was standing beside the tracks and the noise of the miniature train cars rumbling along the desk through the camera's microphone sounded nearly realistic, but there was something missing.

When I was in grade 3, the last train came to my home-town, a simple 20 car freight train hauling a giant transformer. I went to watch with my father as it waited for clearance to leave the station. Beyond the station, the tracks had already been lifted and sold to be reprocessed as razor blades. Standing on the platform looking intently at the train paid off, though, when every youngster's dream came true and the engineer invited me up into the engine while he waited, showing me all the controls and explaining how he needed someone to come up by car to tell him he could leave because we were out of radio range. Looking out the front of the train, I could see the tracks ahead and the elaborate set-up of switches, bells, signal lights, and level crossing signals.

I wanted to recreate that feeling with my simple model train and inexpensive wireless camera. It became my obsession to build a self-contained traincam that could record the tracks as it came and went, possibly even towed by one engine, recording another, giving a movie feeling. But I wanted to do something unique - I wanted to do it so I could publish basic steps for building one, and I wanted to make the whole thing as inexpensive as possible.

My first step was to figure out what rail-car to convert into my traincam. I decided that a dummy engine base with its large truck protruding would be ideal. The truck would allow the camera to better follow the angle of the track rather than the angle of the car. But the camera was too big. The eye itself is slightly wider than the car, and it had a base, battery box, and transmitter to contend with as well. Using a hacksaw and a variety of other tools not usually associated with delicate electronics, I disassembled the camera and extracted its motherboard, transmitter, and eye without damaging any of the wires or circuits. Using my favourite adhesive - blue-tack - (second, perhaps, to duct tape), I attached the camera eye to the front truck of the dummy engine, put the motherboard in the middle, supported it with two hair-elastics, and attached the transmitter to the rear truck. The camera's power source was a battery pack nearly three times the width of the track which had 4 AA batteries and a small circuit board. The power was sent to the camera via wires separated with a plug, and the wires added up to more than 6 feet in length.

Unperturbed, I took an old caboose, took part of the top off, and stuffed it full of wires. Next, I used a flatbed which had been part of my older brother's set at my grandparents' place when we were young and, again using blue-tack, attached the oversized battery pack to its surface.

But all this led to a problem. If you've ever driven a car with a trailer, you know that reversing with a trailer is far more difficult than reversing without a trailer. If you add a second trailer, the vehicle becomes four times as hard to steer in reverse, and if you add a third trailer, the car becomes 16 times harder to reverse. On a train track, the problem is reduced by the metal guides which the cars are forced to follow, but any abrupt movement by an engine pushing three unbalanced cars attached together by stiff wires is very likely to cause a derailment. So the camera could only be pulled, and I found myself spending a good deal of time watching where I had been rather than where I was going, defeating the purpose of the entire exercise - namely to feel like I was watching out the front of a train.

To solve the problem I would need to do what I had originally set out to do - build the entire camera system into no more than one rail-car, and there had to be one more condition: the car could not exceed the length of an 85 foot car, in order to ensure that it could be run on nearly any HO gauge set-up. It also could not exceed the height of an auto-carrier excess-height car (anything less would not have been possible with the size of the transmitter) so it could run on any track with reasonable tunnel and bridge heights. The answer was a 74' Northern Pacific observation passenger car, made by Athearn, because that company's cars' covers detach from the base, giving me more room to work.

There was still one more problem, though. The battery pack was too big to fit in anything short of a garden train, and it had a circuit board inside it, whose purpose I had not yet determined. My first thought was to put four AA batteries inside the car and attach them to a plug of the same type as that on the camera, but the circuit board stopped me.

Using a voltagemeter, it became apparent that the circuit board was a voltage multiplier, which increased the batteries' 6 volts to 24 volts. This gave me five options:

  1. build my own circuit board with the same function
  2. use a second car and fill it with 16 AA batteries
  3. use 2 12V remote-control batteries
  4. disassemble the battery pack and use its circuit board
  5. run the camera off the track's power

Option 1 - building my own circuit board - was out of the question. I had neither the necessary experience nor the know-how to build my own voltage multiplier.

Option 2 - using a second car to hold loads of batteries - had some appeal to it; a model rail-car weighing that much would not derail if it was rammed by a real one, but the cost of 16 batteries and the extra space needed seemed prohibitive. Besides, I explicitly wanted to limit this project to a single car.

Option 3 - using two small 12-volt remote-control batteries - was a good idea. The logic seemed OK to me. I knew that two 12V batteries would cost me about $14 to replace and that they would have a shorter life-span than multiple AA batteries, but they were tiny and left lots of extra room in the car for the motherboard, wiring, camera, and transmitter.

Option 4 - disassembling the existing battery pack for its circuit board - was also a good idea, but I was concerned that I might damage the board while extracting it.

Option 5 - running the camera off of track power - sounded like the best idea. With nickel metal hydride or lithium ion rechargeable batteries (the type used in laptops), I thought that I could possibly keep enough charge to run the camera when the tracks were off, and have it constantly recharge when the tracks were on. But the problem lay in the fact that the camera ran at 24V and the track ran at between (-15V) and 15V, a circuitry nightmare for someone without the knowledge to build a simple multiplier.

I settled on option 3, which involved purchasing two small 12-volt batteries, and, believing I had solved all my design problems, took the cover off my observation car and began adding the camera, its motherboard, and transmitter. The camera fit nicely at one end of the car, but the motherboard and transmitter were too tall and could not be left like that. Realising that the car would probably be heavy enough with the camera, I took the ballast weights out of the bottom of the car, and the motherboard fit very well into to centre, where the base is lower than elsewhere. The transmitter also fit, though it exceeded the height of an auto-carrier excess-height car by a fraction of an inch. Everything up until this point was being held down with blue-tack.

Putting the motherboard in the centre allowed a tiny selector switch on it to be accessible from the side holding the camera. The switch allowed for choosing which channel the camera would use within the 2.4GHz band, and in turn would allow 4 different cameras of this type to operate in the same area at the same time.

In order to use the top of the car, I had to cut most of an inch off the front of the cover to allow room for the camera, and cut off the observation window and a strip of plastic most of the way to the opposite end of the car from the camera, where the motherboard and transmitter would be allowed to protrude, as well as a large un-train-like power switch. For power, I used a single AA battery holder cut in half and glued to the base with the two halves separated to be a little bit longer than it was originally intended. Then I added the two 12V batteries, put the cover on the car, and turned on the switch.

On my television screen was a nice view of the tracks looking forward from my traincam. I attached an engine to the back of it and turned the engine on, pushing the camera. It worked perfectly. My very own traincam was going happily around my miniature, undecorated set-up. I was excited.

I mentioned earlier that 12V batteries would probably have a shorter life span than multiple AA batteries, and as it happens, I was right. As the camera approached the end of its first lap, the television screen went fuzzy and then turned to blue. The batteries had lasted a total journey of nearly 14 feet in 15 seconds. My heart sank. My traincam would not make it around the first bend of any respectable set-up before running out of juice, so it was back to my list of options.

The logical thing to do with the failure of the 12V batteries was to go with option 4: disassemble my existing battery pack and remove its circuit board. That sounded nice in theory, but the inside of the traincam had very little room left, certainly not enough room to hold four AA batteries let alone a small circuit board and additional wires associated with another board.

In spite of myself, I disassembled the battery pack, carefully removing the circuit board with a large pair of pliers in a manner reminiscent of the way junk-yards recover engines from discarded vehicles. Having extracted the board, I cut the wire leaving the battery pack at the plug and I finally had my power solution -- with one problem. I still had to fit 4 AA batteries in the confined space of a one-inch wide train car with the added challenge of making them easy to replace without having to disassemble anything. In the true spirit of ruthless destructiveness, I carefully cut away a huge section of the frame and was able to fit four batteries between the camera and the motherboard, using the cut-away piece of frame as a battery cover. I then cut the wires to the glued-down base of the 12V battery holder and rewired the train to have an extra circuit board in its place, capable of multiplying 6V to 24V.

Having tested all the wires before reassembling the case, I was confident that the camera would work flawlessly and, using model cement, I glued the cover onto the base, covering all the circuitry and leaving only the batteries exposed. Using blue-tack, I attached the removed section of cover over the batteries and was amused by the yellow stripe on the side of the car being no longer quite so straight.

On to the next step: the test.

I turned the camera on, expecting to see the track show up on my television screen.

Instead, a visible spark, and a blue screen lacking only the familiar message "Fatal error" greeted me.

Removing the cover with the glue half-dried was an experience in itself, and when I finally did manage to get the traincam open, I found that the circuit board from the battery pack's negative wire, which I hadn't insulated, had made contact with the camera's motherboard, resulting in a short circuit and an unwelcome interruption in service. With a little electrical tape for the short circuit and all other exposed wires, it was time to add more glue and test the camera once again.

I attached the camera to a U.S. Army engine and turned the transformer on. The camera car very smoothly allowed itself to be pushed rapidly around the track. Holding my breath, I turned the camera on and let it go around the track once again. On my television screen I saw the tracks zip by, and the batteries even lasted for a while.

The next morning I turned the camera on, and it had no life. Some quick tests with the voltagemeter revealed that something had drained my batteries during the night. I'd have to disassemble it and figure out what was draining the batteries in my sleep.

I decided I would use the opportunity to add lighting to the camera. In the dark, such as in a tunnel or simply in an unlit room, there was no image. With the help of a lighting kit, which consists of 2 small lightbulbs and some wires, I affixed a light bulb on either side of the camera lens.

This created a new problem, however, as the camera was too big for the lights. I would have to disassemble the camera head, too, and that meant cutting, stripping, and reattaching some extremely fine wires. Meanwhile my battery draining problem was forgotten.

I removed the screws holding the wheel truck in place under the camera and fed the wires for one of the lights down through the tiny hole. One of my lights, I decided, would be track powered. The other light would be attached to the battery pack and come on when the camera came on. The two lights are clearly visible in the front of the traincam. On-board batteries power the one to the left, and the one seen to the right is powered by the tracks. The one powered by the batteries is dimmer than the one powered by the tracks as it is being connected to the camera's electrical system before the multiplier, resulting in a lower voltage -- and better power conservation to power the all-important camera.

With the now reduced camera with its exposed circuitry sitting in a bed of blue-tack near the front of the traincam, I was finally able to fit the lights in place, using still more blue-tack, on either side of the camera, behind the front ledge of the lens so that they would not overpower an image the camera tried to capture. Seeing that the camera and lights were all exposed to the elements, I began to glue back the front inch or so of the shell which I'd cut off to make room for the original design. This provided a shelter for the camera and lights in the event of a derailment (which could be catastrophic on my desk, as trains derailing have the annoying habit of plunging 2 feet to horrible destruction on the floor) and a way of focusing the light from the two lightbulbs forward, illuminating the view for the camera in the event that ambient light would not be strong enough.

The track-powered light worked flawlessly. It was about time something on this camera did. In a dark room, the track-powered light at full power was strong enough to read by from more than a foot away.

The other light, the one attached to the internal circuitry of the camera, still posed a problem. The only wires that were not insulated, and so didn't involve a complete disassembly, were the connectors where the batteries made contact with the voltage multiplier. But that left a problem: as long as the batteries were plugged in, the light would be on. It would make my existing power-drainage problem a walk in the park by comparison.

My power-drainage problem? I had forgotten about that! Forgetting about the problem of the light draining the battery pack, I set back about my original task of fixing the power drainage. It wasn't long before I put 2 and 3 together and was pretty sure I'd come up with 5. My battery pack went straight to the multiplier, the multiplier then sent power to the switch and from there to the camera's motherboard. That meant there was only one place that could be drawing power: the multiplier.

I carefully removed the multiplier and all the wires from the guts of the traincam, and with wires hanging everywhere and blue-tack getting stuck to everything, I thoroughly examined the multiplier. What, I thought, could I do about this problem, without completely rebuilding the system?

It was simple. There was a tiny wire on the multiplier I'd previously ignored, and attached to it was a small switch. Obviously, that switch was not just an on-off switch for the camera: when on, the multiplier was draining power even if there was no draw on it.

With this piece of information I was able to kill two birds with one stone. I attached one of the battery-powered light's wires to the switch, and moved the switch to somewhere where I could reach it outside of the jumble of wires inside the traincam's shell. Using electrical tape and blue-tack, I affixed it to the transmitter antenna.

With that solution in place, I installed fresh batteries, put all the innards back into the train's open hole, sealed it up with electrical tape, and tested it.

Now the natural assumption here is that it worked, and it wouldn't be a bad assumption. But it would be only half right.

I turned on the switch attached to the voltage multiplier, and the light on one side of the camera came on. That was a good start. I took a deep breath, and turned the camera switch on.

The audio static on my TV set disappeared, and I waited expectantly for the video static to do the same. I had sound but no sight. What good was a train camera that had sound but no sight?

I removed the battery section's cover, removed the battery pack, and unceremoniously squeezed all the fine wires I'd earlier stripped and spliced to get the camera out of its shell. Then I put the battery pack back in and the cover on.

This time, it worked. Properly. The lights cast a glow on the track in front of it sufficient to give a night feeling to the image, the image showed up on the screen, the audio came over the speaker, and just to be sure, the traincam promptly derailed.

The problem turned out to be a weight imbalance. The end of the traincam with the batteries was heavy enough to pave a road, but the other half of the car, which held only the switch, the transmitter, and some wires, was too light and could easily be imbalanced and leave the track. With the help of a pair of container weights and some more electrical tape, I was able to easily remedy this last problem by strapping the weights under the car and holding them there with the tape. At long last, I had a traincam that worked. A comparable traincam on-line would have cost a minimum of US$360, approximately $550 Canadian, and would still have required a train car to mount it in and some assembly. Purchasing a traincam built into a railcar cost even more.

This cost-effective self-contained traincam was completed for an estimated cost of C$170 (approximately US$115) and uses the following components:

(Prices are approximate and in Canadian currency)
* X-10 Wireless 2.4GHz wireless camera receiver (model VR31A) (attached to VCR)
* X-10 Wireless 2.4GHz wireless camera and components (model XC10A) (camera, motherboard, transmitter)
* X-10 Wireless camera battery pack components (model ZB10A) (voltage multiplier) (all camera components C$118)
* Athearn Northern Pacific 74' observation car (C$20)
* Small screw-on electric switch (C$2)
* 4 AA batteries (C$7)
* 2 small lights (C$5)
* Container weights (C$5)
* 2 AA battery holders with 9V battery style plugs (C$5)
* 2 9V battery style wires and plugs (C$2)
* Electrical tape (C$1)
* Model cement (C$2)
* Blue-tack (C$3)
* Wires (scavenged from 6' of wire attached to camera) (C$0)


Copyright (c) 2002 by David Graham. All rights reserved. David Graham has a passion for model trains and computers. He can be found at http://cs-club.org/~canada/. Slashdot welcomes reader-submitted features and reviews. Thanks to cdlu for this one.

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What a Post! (3, Funny)

NetNinja (469346) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803123)

Now this has to be the biggest Slashdot Post I have seen to date!

Re:What a Post! (4, Funny)

Whatever Fits (262060) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803382)

Now this has to be the biggest Slashdot Post I have seen to date!
Obviously you haven't read anything by John Katz!

Re:What a Post! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803444)

They just wanted to enlighen us about a great new business-model!

1: Write free software.
2: ?
3: Use a TrainCam.
4: Profit!

Re:What a Post! (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803448)

So someone tipped you off to filter Jon Katz before you ever saw one of his "Features?"

-Peter

IN SOVIET RUSSIA (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803126)

the train cams you!

not a fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803129)

this is not a fp, move along

Wow, add success (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803133)

And someone has found a use for those things on the popup adds, maybe because he saw them a few too many times.

umm pictures? (5, Insightful)

McFly69 (603543) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803136)

Does he have any pictures? Its nice and all to describe it, but pictures... damit we need pictures!!

Hello? McFly? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803217)

Sorry, just had to say that.

From the cry for help dept. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803139)

Wow, and I thought I didn't get out much....

Re:From the cry for help dept. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803207)

Yeah seriously, I want to throw "C++ for dummies" and a woman at this guy.

Wow (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803144)

10 pages to say "I strapped a wireless cam on a toy train"?

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803348)

Hey, it's better than "I decorated a computer."

Re:Wow (1, Flamebait)

Lev13than (581686) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803432)

10 pages to say "I strapped a wireless cam on a toy train"?

For an encore, maybe he'll tell us about the time he made a diorama using pre-packaged Star Wars characters, still in their display box.

How to overcome the /. effect... (4, Funny)

ath0mic (519762) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803145)

... post your website ON /.

HEY, WHERE ARE ALL THE -1 POSTS? THEY'RE ALL AT 0 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803378)

hmm (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803157)

wtf?

WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803162)

Yawn, change the channel Marge.

Hack me if you can! ahah :P (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803167)


ssh -l shoveit acme.secont.org (password: morte)

What, no pictures? (2)

AJWM (19027) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803168)

Man, what a tease.

PIX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803248)

just follow the links. here's david smooching his girlfriend [pkl.net] for example! no traincam pix though.

Re:PIX (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803363)

This guy has a girlfriend?!

Stop the world, I need to get off.

To the people who make my bread: (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803170)

What's your problem? I'm just assembling the world's greatest sandwich with your crustless bread (perhaps the best invention since sliced bread) and I read this tiny notice at the top telling me that the 'Iron' making up part of the labelling of your product does not actually refer to any additional iron in the bread or, in a nutshell, any extra health benefits coming from your bread over average bread, but instead to some sort of fitness program one could engage in.

This doesn't quite beat the line of shit the X-Ray Specs and Sea Monkey manufacturers fed me way back when in the comic books, but it's earned a worthy mention.

While you're at it, why stop there? Why not make a "No-Cavity"-brand soft drink that advocates brushing your teeth on the side of the can or establish a "Fatfree"-brand fast food joint that recommends skipping the other two meals for the day? True, it's got two grams of dietary fiber per serving, which beats my former brand by one gram, but I had a bowl of mini-wheats this morning so I've already got my shit together.

And next week... (2, Funny)

nizo (81281) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803175)

Next up he will post live camara shots of grass growing in his backyard! I can't wait!!!

Re:And next week... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803222)

Really, this guy needs to get out more often.

Re:And next week... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803306)

Nah he'll post 10 pages about how he set his camcoder to time-lapse mode (!) so we can see the grass growing at high speed. No pictures or video though.

Re:And next week... (1)

tiwason (187819) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803346)

From the sounds of it, he is in snow country...

that grass growing cam will be pretty boring...

Re:And next week... (2, Funny)

Bighund (121968) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803374)

That's already been done: http://www.iowafarmer.com/corncam/corn.html

X-10!! (5, Funny)

NineNine (235196) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803177)

I can see it now... X-10 popups that instead of having pictures of a scantily dressed woman, now have pictures of a model train set. "NOW! Get your X-10 camera to ...uhhh... well, get a live feed from the point of view of your toy trains... AND spy on naked women!!"

Very touching story... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803184)

I am not sure if the connections between model railroading and computing have ever been well discussed or explored. I myself became interested in computing when I was 12 out of a desire to control and automate a train set. I suspect there are many other similar relationships between the two.

Re:Very touching story... (1)

Bighund (121968) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803280)

It's actually pretty amazing what has been accomplished with "Digital Command Control" (DCC) in this hobby in the past few years. Try Googling "DCC MODEL RAILROAD"

Re:Very touching story... (3, Informative)

cide1 (126814) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803373)

Im an O-Gauger myself, and am quite partial to Lionel's Trainmaster Command Control system. I view the differance as akin to Solaris vs. Linux. DCC is an open standard, many differant companies make many differant product. TMCC has one main manufacturer , although many companies incorporate it, has somewhat open standards , but one has the advantage of one stop place for support. Plus, efforts to bring DCC to 3 rail, AC powered trains failed pretty badly.

Re:Very touching story... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803406)

This was back in the early 70's, when the only thing available was a new 6502 on a micro controller board with 1k of memory and a hex keypad...there were no digital control systems for trainsets then.

Re:Very touching story... (5, Informative)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803487)

The connections go wayback. Read Steven Levy's book Hackers about the origins of the hackers at MIT from the Tech Model Eailroad Club. Chapter here [symonds.net]

"Cost effective" (4, Funny)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803185)

I'm not sure that the term "cost effective" applies to a project with a future revenue stream of ... zero.

Re:"Cost effective" (2, Funny)

nytes (231372) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803384)

Hey, it worked for the dot-coms.

This is a STORY? (1, Insightful)

realmolo (574068) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803191)

I mean, whoop-de-fucking-doo. He put a camera on his toy choo choo train. Which goes around his room. Who cares? Now if if he had naked girls in his room (which I guarantee he doesn't) it might be fun. I can see the URL now... http://www.tittytrain.com By the way, that domain name is available. ;)

Re:This is a STORY? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803316)

I dunno about that there's definitely some distinctly non train related action going on in some of the photos..

http://pkl.net/~cdlu/photos/Laura_David_kissing.jp g [pkl.net]

(all photos availble here)

http://pkl.net/~cdlu/photos/ [pkl.net]

I don't get it. (5, Funny)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803196)

I am not sure whether the author likes trains or not. Could someone clarify for me please?

Anyhow, nicely written article. Some may argue this isn't news for nerds, but my goodness, if it isn't, then what the heck is this news for?

Re:I don't get it. (4, Funny)

sulli (195030) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803303)

Yes. Model trains are certainly a nerdy pursuit, and (having raced my own as a kid) I can certify that they can be much fun.

What we need, though, is wrecks. Trains going around in circles are boring. However, trains crashing into each other at 79mph (scale) are not. Particularly if cars, pedestrians, houses, etc. can also be made to fly around the room with vigor.

This is ridiculous. (3, Insightful)

cybermace5 (446439) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803200)

I can't believe Slashdot was assaulted with this.

Timothy, you posted the ENTIRE run-on account, of some guy fumbling with little toys.

It's not even like a model railroad club, with beautifully detailed mountains, towns, and tunnels did this. It's a guy with no clue ripping apart toys and sticking them together with rubber bands, and running a train around on his desk.

This is not cool, it's dumb.

Re:This is ridiculous. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803239)

A whole shitload of text about something inane? If you've seen his website [cs-club.org] , you'd understand.

Re:This is ridiculous. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803241)

It's not dumb, it's retarded and depressing.

Re:This is ridiculous. (3, Insightful)

nicsterrr (529317) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803279)

I have a suggestion for you.. If you aren't interested in a story, don't follow the link and don't read it. It's very easy. I presume that noone is holding a gun to your head forcing you to read every slashdot story that comes up..

Enough with these cool projects already! (0, Offtopic)

ekrout (139379) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803212)

I'm still trying to finish up my very own personal hobbit hole [stormbear.com] !

How did you get hairy feet? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803256)

I tried putting rogaine on my feet but it didn't work...

Re:How did you get hairy feet? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803281)

>> I tried putting rogaine on my feet but it didn't work...

Learn to jerk off with them.

Hobby Nerds Rejoice (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803215)



In a related story, I wiped my own ass.

Re:Hobby Nerds Rejoice (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803359)

yes,, yes,, you are getting quite good at it. Now it's time for you to learn to use the toilet paper instead of just your hand.

Photos (5, Informative)

Cave Dweller (470644) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803224)

There are some photos here [pkl.net] and here [cs-club.org]

Re:Photos (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803288)

What is she doing here [cs-club.org] ? Why is she smiling like that and what is she holding on to? Enquiring minds want to know. She's cute, though.

Re:Photos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803411)

That is your idea of cute?! Scuse me while I go cough up my lunch...

Re:Photos (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803292)

yowza [cs-club.org]

like a cold shower

Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, men have named you... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803431)

That's a MAN, baby!

Does this fulfill the mission? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803234)

News for nerds? Hmph... maybe. Stuff that matters? Absolutely NOT.

I'm off to dig up a story on black holes colliding, Internet taxation, a new kernel release (2.2.x, mind you), or toy trains fitted with camer... er...

Time (1)

mallfouf (585018) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803235)

You definitly have a lot of free time in your hands. :) Post some pics. I might try it at home.

Re:Time (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803385)

Please god no. Save your life while you can.

TrainCam, whats next? (1)

MC68040 (462186) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803237)

What's next? Make an AI for the train? And then what... Let it start blogging all the horribile things it sees from it's place on the floor?

Imagine, the world beeing taken over by blogging, camming, trains!
Oh wait... Well it was kinda neat anyway. /040

Northern pacific car? (5, Funny)

gully42 (212724) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803238)

Good idea, if it had been Amtrack, it would take three extra hours to get out of the station, and
then derail on straight track.

-Nick
Rio Grande: The Action Road.

2.01 GPA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803240)

Lacking space to build a set in my rented single room...

No wonder it takes some people 7 years to get through a 4 year degree...FOCUS MAN!

I'm almost finished... (5, Funny)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803242)

...with my 20 page manifesto about the time I put a GI Joe in my Batmobile.

Stay tuned!

I'd like to see some traincam pics (1)

georgeha (43752) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803243)

perhaps of a schoolbus stalled on the tracks?

What to do with your trains: Just camera's? (3, Interesting)

dagg (153577) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803252)

It's a really cool idea to turn your childhood toy into a house-roving camera. That's really cool. Here's another idea that someone just happened to mention to me just last night:
Why not replace the train cars with plastic containers? Why not make the train tracks a little wider? Why not make it possible for the train engine to pick out a specific plastic container and bring it to you (assuming you are somewhere along its track) ?
That would be a really geeky/lazy butt thing to do. You could just sit on your couch and request via remote control for your train to bring you things.

The formula (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803262)

1. Strap on wireless cam to train
2. Copy website on slashdot
3. ????
4. Profit!!

I bet your H.I.S.S. tank has one too. (0, Troll)

mkelley (411060) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803263)

What are you, 10?

While this might seem cool, it's not. I'm sure trains can be a hobby, but only if you're 10, retired, or an actual train conductor. If you're over 15 and not one of the three above, then you need help.

Great description (1)

fuzzy1 (128925) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803271)

I will use this as an example for some of my Girl
Scouts who want to know how to do things.

Thanks
rcb

NEED PICTURES NEED PICTURES NEED PICTURES!!!!!!!!! (0, Redundant)

NDPTAL85 (260093) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803273)

This post ........ .......needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures needs pictures!!!!!!
Oh yeah, some shots of the trains would help.
And some pictures. K PLZ THX!!

Re:NEED PICTURES NEED PICTURES NEED PICTURES!!!!!! (0, Troll)

strictnein (318940) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803386)

here you go!

http://www.cs-club.org/~canada/cdlu-rr/David_Sca ry .jpg

Ahhhhhhhh!

No god! Please! Send the monster away!

MR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803274)

I propose we nickname this guy "Master Rambler". Besides taking 10 pages to say "I strapped a cam to a toy train", his web page is totally formatless. Here's a quote:

Formatting has been lost and I haven't found need to fix it.

I have!

Other Ideas (4, Interesting)

4of12 (97621) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803275)


  1. How about wall mounting brackets for the track so the train can run at a higher level?
  2. Miniature cable car hanging camera for virtual "flying"?
  3. Pet mounted cams to see what Rover's getting into these days. Probably very exciting when he's chasing cars...

The formula (1, Funny)

arpit (193641) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803277)

1. Strap on cam to train
2. Copy site on slashdot
3. ????
4. Profit!

Re:The formula (0)

Modern Fix (631127) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803314)

Did we need a dual post of this?

In case the server melts (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803285)

The Evolution Of The Cost-Effective TrainCam
Posted by timothy on Tuesday December 03, @01:10PM
from the freud-plus-cameras dept.
David Graham writes: "Recently, I incorporated a wireless camera into an HO scale 74' passenger car to make a TrainCam, and this is the story of its construction. Lacking space to build a set in my rented single room, I built a simple 18" radius track on the carpet, going through the frame of my bed. On it, I added a short Amtrak train and watched it go in decidedly boring little circles. Not long after I started running the train, it derailed and clearly demonstrated why carpets are not the best place for model trains to be. Meanwhile, upstairs in his room, one of my house-mates had just bought a small wireless camera, battery pack, and receiver for a little over C$100 and was demonstrating its ability to broadcast conversations and images from as far as 200 feet away back to his computer screen, with the help of a TV capture card. It wasn't long before I started coveting the little camera and I soon bought myself one. It was not for the purpose of listening to my friends' conversations so much as it was to record the train as it chugged around the uneven little track on my floor." For the whole story on the project, read on below.

It took me a few seconds to set up the little camera and immediately, my comically slow little trains which, when travelling at maximum speed, could easily be passed by a heavily-burdened pedestrian, began to look almost life-like. On my television screen I saw Amtrak engine 231 chugging toward me as I have so often at St-Albans station in northern Vermont. Following it were two streamlined phase III passenger cars and each, in turn, went around the corner as if on a real track.

Around the same time, I was able to move my track onto a 3'x5' desk, using blue-tack adhesive as a temporary track-bed.

The camera idea was working well. I felt like I was standing beside the tracks and the noise of the miniature train cars rumbling along the desk through the camera's microphone sounded nearly realistic, but there was something missing.

When I was in grade 3, the last train came to my home-town, a simple 20 car freight train hauling a giant transformer. I went to watch with my father as it waited for clearance to leave the station. Beyond the station, the tracks had already been lifted and sold to be reprocessed as razor blades. Standing on the platform looking intently at the train paid off, though, when every youngster's dream came true and the engineer invited me up into the engine while he waited, showing me all the controls and explaining how he needed someone to come up by car to tell him he could leave because we were out of radio range. Looking out the front of the train, I could see the tracks ahead and the elaborate set-up of switches, bells, signal lights, and level crossing signals.

I wanted to recreate that feeling with my simple model train and inexpensive wireless camera. It became my obsession to build a self-contained traincam that could record the tracks as it came and went, possibly even towed by one engine, recording another, giving a movie feeling. But I wanted to do something unique - I wanted to do it so I could publish basic steps for building one, and I wanted to make the whole thing as inexpensive as possible.

My first step was to figure out what rail-car to convert into my traincam. I decided that a dummy engine base with its large truck protruding would be ideal. The truck would allow the camera to better follow the angle of the track rather than the angle of the car. But the camera was too big. The eye itself is slightly wider than the car, and it had a base, battery box, and transmitter to contend with as well. Using a hacksaw and a variety of other tools not usually associated with delicate electronics, I disassembled the camera and extracted its motherboard, transmitter, and eye without damaging any of the wires or circuits. Using my favourite adhesive - blue-tack - (second, perhaps, to duct tape), I attached the camera eye to the front truck of the dummy engine, put the motherboard in the middle, supported it with two hair-elastics, and attached the transmitter to the rear truck. The camera's power source was a battery pack nearly three times the width of the track which had 4 AA batteries and a small circuit board. The power was sent to the camera via wires separated with a plug, and the wires added up to more than 6 feet in length.

Unperturbed, I took an old caboose, took part of the top off, and stuffed it full of wires. Next, I used a flatbed which had been part of my older brother's set at my grandparents' place when we were young and, again using blue-tack, attached the oversized battery pack to its surface.

But all this led to a problem. If you've ever driven a car with a trailer, you know that reversing with a trailer is far more difficult than reversing without a trailer. If you add a second trailer, the vehicle becomes four times as hard to steer in reverse, and if you add a third trailer, the car becomes 16 times harder to reverse. On a train track, the problem is reduced by the metal guides which the cars are forced to follow, but any abrupt movement by an engine pushing three unbalanced cars attached together by stiff wires is very likely to cause a derailment. So the camera could only be pulled, and I found myself spending a good deal of time watching where I had been rather than where I was going, defeating the purpose of the entire exercise - namely to feel like I was watching out the front of a train.

To solve the problem I would need to do what I had originally set out to do - build the entire camera system into no more than one rail-car, and there had to be one more condition: the car could not exceed the length of an 85 foot car, in order to ensure that it could be run on nearly any HO gauge set-up. It also could not exceed the height of an auto-carrier excess-height car (anything less would not have been possible with the size of the transmitter) so it could run on any track with reasonable tunnel and bridge heights. The answer was a 74' Northern Pacific observation passenger car, made by Athearn, because that company's cars' covers detach from the base, giving me more room to work.

There was still one more problem, though. The battery pack was too big to fit in anything short of a garden train, and it had a circuit board inside it, whose purpose I had not yet determined. My first thought was to put four AA batteries inside the car and attach them to a plug of the same type as that on the camera, but the circuit board stopped me.

Using a voltagemeter, it became apparent that the circuit board was a voltage multiplier, which increased the batteries' 6 volts to 24 volts. This gave me five options:

build my own circuit board with the same function

use a second car and fill it with 16 AA batteries

use 2 12V remote-control batteries

disassemble the battery pack and use its circuit board

run the camera off the track's power

Option 1 - building my own circuit board - was out of the question. I had neither the necessary experience nor the know-how to build my own voltage multiplier.

Option 2 - using a second car to hold loads of batteries - had some appeal to it; a model rail-car weighing that much would not derail if it was rammed by a real one, but the cost of 16 batteries and the extra space needed seemed prohibitive. Besides, I explicitly wanted to limit this project to a single car.

Option 3 - using two small 12-volt remote-control batteries - was a good idea. The logic seemed OK to me. I knew that two 12V batteries would cost me about $14 to replace and that they would have a shorter life-span than multiple AA batteries, but they were tiny and left lots of extra room in the car for the motherboard, wiring, camera, and transmitter.

Option 4 - disassembling the existing battery pack for its circuit board - was also a good idea, but I was concerned that I might damage the board while extracting it.

Option 5 - running the camera off of track power - sounded like the best idea. With nickel metal hydride or lithium ion rechargeable batteries (the type used in laptops), I thought that I could possibly keep enough charge to run the camera when the tracks were off, and have it constantly recharge when the tracks were on. But the problem lay in the fact that the camera ran at 24V and the track ran at between (-15V) and 15V, a circuitry nightmare for someone without the knowledge to build a simple multiplier.

I settled on option 3, which involved purchasing two small 12-volt batteries, and, believing I had solved all my design problems, took the cover off my observation car and began adding the camera, its motherboard, and transmitter. The camera fit nicely at one end of the car, but the motherboard and transmitter were too tall and could not be left like that. Realising that the car would probably be heavy enough with the camera, I took the ballast weights out of the bottom of the car, and the motherboard fit very well into to centre, where the base is lower than elsewhere. The transmitter also fit, though it exceeded the height of an auto-carrier excess-height car by a fraction of an inch. Everything up until this point was being held down with blue-tack.

Putting the motherboard in the centre allowed a tiny selector switch on it to be accessible from the side holding the camera. The switch allowed for choosing which channel the camera would use within the 2.4GHz band, and in turn would allow 4 different cameras of this type to operate in the same area at the same time.

In order to use the top of the car, I had to cut most of an inch off the front of the cover to allow room for the camera, and cut off the observation window and a strip of plastic most of the way to the opposite end of the car from the camera, where the motherboard and transmitter would be allowed to protrude, as well as a large un-train-like power switch. For power, I used a single AA battery holder cut in half and glued to the base with the two halves separated to be a little bit longer than it was originally intended. Then I added the two 12V batteries, put the cover on the car, and turned on the switch.

On my television screen was a nice view of the tracks looking forward from my traincam. I attached an engine to the back of it and turned the engine on, pushing the camera. It worked perfectly. My very own traincam was going happily around my miniature, undecorated set-up. I was excited.

I mentioned earlier that 12V batteries would probably have a shorter life span than multiple AA batteries, and as it happens, I was right. As the camera approached the end of its first lap, the television screen went fuzzy and then turned to blue. The batteries had lasted a total journey of nearly 14 feet in 15 seconds. My heart sank. My traincam would not make it around the first bend of any respectable set-up before running out of juice, so it was back to my list of options.

The logical thing to do with the failure of the 12V batteries was to go with option 4: disassemble my existing battery pack and remove its circuit board. That sounded nice in theory, but the inside of the traincam had very little room left, certainly not enough room to hold four AA batteries let alone a small circuit board and additional wires associated with another board.

In spite of myself, I disassembled the battery pack, carefully removing the circuit board with a large pair of pliers in a manner reminiscent of the way junk-yards recover engines from discarded vehicles. Having extracted the board, I cut the wire leaving the battery pack at the plug and I finally had my power solution -- with one problem. I still had to fit 4 AA batteries in the confined space of a one-inch wide train car with the added challenge of making them easy to replace without having to disassemble anything. In the true spirit of ruthless destructiveness, I carefully cut away a huge section of the frame and was able to fit four batteries between the camera and the motherboard, using the cut-away piece of frame as a battery cover. I then cut the wires to the glued-down base of the 12V battery holder and rewired the train to have an extra circuit board in its place, capable of multiplying 6V to 24V.

Having tested all the wires before reassembling the case, I was confident that the camera would work flawlessly and, using model cement, I glued the cover onto the base, covering all the circuitry and leaving only the batteries exposed. Using blue-tack, I attached the removed section of cover over the batteries and was amused by the yellow stripe on the side of the car being no longer quite so straight.

On to the next step: the test.

I turned the camera on, expecting to see the track show up on my television screen.

Instead, a visible spark, and a blue screen lacking only the familiar message "Fatal error" greeted me.

Removing the cover with the glue half-dried was an experience in itself, and when I finally did manage to get the traincam open, I found that the circuit board from the battery pack's negative wire, which I hadn't insulated, had made contact with the camera's motherboard, resulting in a short circuit and an unwelcome interruption in service. With a little electrical tape for the short circuit and all other exposed wires, it was time to add more glue and test the camera once again.

I attached the camera to a U.S. Army engine and turned the transformer on. The camera car very smoothly allowed itself to be pushed rapidly around the track. Holding my breath, I turned the camera on and let it go around the track once again. On my television screen I saw the tracks zip by, and the batteries even lasted for a while.

The next morning I turned the camera on, and it had no life. Some quick tests with the voltagemeter revealed that something had drained my batteries during the night. I'd have to disassemble it and figure out what was draining the batteries in my sleep.

I decided I would use the opportunity to add lighting to the camera. In the dark, such as in a tunnel or simply in an unlit room, there was no image. With the help of a lighting kit, which consists of 2 small lightbulbs and some wires, I affixed a light bulb on either side of the camera lens.

This created a new problem, however, as the camera was too big for the lights. I would have to disassemble the camera head, too, and that meant cutting, stripping, and reattaching some extremely fine wires. Meanwhile my battery draining problem was forgotten.

I removed the screws holding the wheel truck in place under the camera and fed the wires for one of the lights down through the tiny hole. One of my lights, I decided, would be track powered. The other light would be attached to the battery pack and come on when the camera came on. The two lights are clearly visible in the front of the traincam. On-board batteries power the one to the left, and the one seen to the right is powered by the tracks. The one powered by the batteries is dimmer than the one powered by the tracks as it is being connected to the camera's electrical system before the multiplier, resulting in a lower voltage -- and better power conservation to power the all-important camera.

With the now reduced camera with its exposed circuitry sitting in a bed of blue-tack near the front of the traincam, I was finally able to fit the lights in place, using still more blue-tack, on either side of the camera, behind the front ledge of the lens so that they would not overpower an image the camera tried to capture. Seeing that the camera and lights were all exposed to the elements, I began to glue back the front inch or so of the shell which I'd cut off to make room for the original design. This provided a shelter for the camera and lights in the event of a derailment (which could be catastrophic on my desk, as trains derailing have the annoying habit of plunging 2 feet to horrible destruction on the floor) and a way of focusing the light from the two lightbulbs forward, illuminating the view for the camera in the event that ambient light would not be strong enough.

The track-powered light worked flawlessly. It was about time something on this camera did. In a dark room, the track-powered light at full power was strong enough to read by from more than a foot away.

The other light, the one attached to the internal circuitry of the camera, still posed a problem. The only wires that were not insulated, and so didn't involve a complete disassembly, were the connectors where the batteries made contact with the voltage multiplier. But that left a problem: as long as the batteries were plugged in, the light would be on. It would make my existing power-drainage problem a walk in the park by comparison.

My power-drainage problem? I had forgotten about that! Forgetting about the problem of the light draining the battery pack, I set back about my original task of fixing the power drainage. It wasn't long before I put 2 and 3 together and was pretty sure I'd come up with 5. My battery pack went straight to the multiplier, the multiplier then sent power to the switch and from there to the camera's motherboard. That meant there was only one place that could be drawing power: the multiplier.

I carefully removed the multiplier and all the wires from the guts of the traincam, and with wires hanging everywhere and blue-tack getting stuck to everything, I thoroughly examined the multiplier. What, I thought, could I do about this problem, without completely rebuilding the system?

It was simple. There was a tiny wire on the multiplier I'd previously ignored, and attached to it was a small switch. Obviously, that switch was not just an on-off switch for the camera: when on, the multiplier was draining power even if there was no draw on it.

With this piece of information I was able to kill two birds with one stone. I attached one of the battery-powered light's wires to the switch, and moved the switch to somewhere where I could reach it outside of the jumble of wires inside the traincam's shell. Using electrical tape and blue-tack, I affixed it to the transmitter antenna.

With that solution in place, I installed fresh batteries, put all the innards back into the train's open hole, sealed it up with electrical tape, and tested it.

Now the natural assumption here is that it worked, and it wouldn't be a bad assumption. But it would be only half right.

I turned on the switch attached to the voltage multiplier, and the light on one side of the camera came on. That was a good start. I took a deep breath, and turned the camera switch on.

The audio static on my TV set disappeared, and I waited expectantly for the video static to do the same. I had sound but no sight. What good was a train camera that had sound but no sight?

I removed the battery section's cover, removed the battery pack, and unceremoniously squeezed all the fine wires I'd earlier stripped and spliced to get the camera out of its shell. Then I put the battery pack back in and the cover on.

This time, it worked. Properly. The lights cast a glow on the track in front of it sufficient to give a night feeling to the image, the image showed up on the screen, the audio came over the speaker, and just to be sure, the traincam promptly derailed.

The problem turned out to be a weight imbalance. The end of the traincam with the batteries was heavy enough to pave a road, but the other half of the car, which held only the switch, the transmitter, and some wires, was too light and could easily be imbalanced and leave the track. With the help of a pair of container weights and some more electrical tape, I was able to easily remedy this last problem by strapping the weights under the car and holding them there with the tape. At long last, I had a traincam that worked. A comparable traincam on-line would have cost a minimum of US$360, approximately $550 Canadian, and would still have required a train car to mount it in and some assembly. Purchasing a traincam built into a railcar cost even more.

This cost-effective self-contained traincam was completed for an estimated cost of C$170 (approximately US$115) and uses the following components:

(Prices are approximate and in Canadian currency)
* X-10 Wireless 2.4GHz wireless camera receiver (model VR31A) (attached to VCR)
* X-10 Wireless 2.4GHz wireless camera and components (model XC10A) (camera, motherboard, transmitter)
* X-10 Wireless camera battery pack components (model ZB10A) (voltage multiplier) (all camera components C$118)
* Athearn Northern Pacific 74' observation car (C$20)
* Small screw-on electric switch (C$2)
* 4 AA batteries (C$7)
* 2 small lights (C$5)
* Container weights (C$5)
* 2 AA battery holders with 9V battery style plugs (C$5)
* 2 9V battery style wires and plugs (C$2)
* Electrical tape (C$1)
* Model cement (C$2)
* Blue-tack (C$3)
* Wires (scavenged from 6' of wire attached to camera) (C$0)

Copyright (c) 2002 by David Graham. All rights reserved. David Graham has a passion for model trains and computers. He can be found at http://cs-club.org/~canada/. Slashdot welcomes reader-submitted features and reviews. Thanks to cdlu for this one.

bah (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803287)

http://www.choochoocam.com

TO LONG, DIDN'T READ (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803293)

what

Watch out! (4, Funny)

Superfreaker (581067) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803299)

Those zany Canadians are back at it again with their crazy shenanigans!

What's really amazing... (5, Funny)

Cap'n Canuck (622106) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803313)

A comparable traincam on-line would have cost a minimum of US$360, approximately $550 Canadian, and would still have required a train car to mount it in and some assembly. Purchasing a traincam built into a railcar cost even more.

It sounds like there are products out there that already do exactly what this guy's camera does. And they probably do things a lot better (i.e. take power from the rails, offer a "swivel" camera so you can take pictures front, back, or side) - but you get what you pay for. As interesting as this is, I don't see how he did things any better. To me, it's just a miniature version of Junkyard Wars, except:
- he's not competing against anyone else
- there's no prize
- there's no time limit
- he did the basic equivalent of destroying a perfectly working car in order to construct a motorcyle that weighs twice as much, and only runs in one gear
- he doesn't get to meet Cathy Rodgers

Pop-up promoter? Gah! (1, Funny)

Trevalyx (627273) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803321)

Wait, so not only did this guy's housemate actively promote popup ads by purchasing one of those X-10 cams, he did as well and compounded the issue by purchasing more than one?! Oh JOY, let's promote popups and spam and all other manners of obnoxious advertising. But not THAT obnoxious. My browser kills popups. Uh-oh, I'm stealing again, aren't I?
No! Don't take me away! I didn't MEAN to steal! I clicked that option by accident! I haven't had a chance to be anything but a tr-o--o-ool!

indeed, wtf (0, Troll)

jonnyfivealive (611482) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803334)

this story doesnt even deserve a comment...er..uh..crap

Here's where to get one (5, Informative)

smagoun (546733) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803339)

For those of you who want a train camera but don't want to jury-rig something, there are a number of sources:

http://www.nehobby.com/traincam.htm
http://www. rjftrains.com/sales/screenshop/screensh op.htm
http://www.modelvideocam.com/MODELVIDEOCAM /model_r r_camx.html
http://members.aol.com/YORKtrains/kit .htm

They're more expensive than a jury-rig, but welcome to life.

the Crimson Guard cam (2, Funny)

inteller (599544) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803340)

Ya know, with my GI Joe Crimson Guard Twins I can take their little skyhook thingy, attach a camera to them, and slide them down the stairs...that'd be so cool! But mom says I have to be in bed by 8 so I'll post my story about it tomorrow!

Lame-Ass (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803341)

If only we all had this much spare time, and looked as pasty and lame-ass as this wad. What's even worse is his web site, I warn you, do not go to it, there is one pic of a *chick* he claims to have been *dating*, except that last statement is a lie, replace *chick* with *man* and *dating* with *stalking*. Come on folks, where is the news that matters?

Why is this here post. (1)

Night0wl (251522) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803349)

I'm often left rolling my eyes and mumbling "just shut up and let it be" to people who post threads like, "Why?" and, "Why for?" and the like.

But for a chance, It's my turn.

Why is this here? Trains are neat yes... but I don't find it particularly geeky one mans tail of Duct tape and product placement.

Now if it ran linux, or could have Beowulf implications then perhaps I'd see justification, for the bad posts alone.. but? Why? ....

Re:Why is this here post. (2)

strictnein (318940) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803441)

no kidding... this is definitely not "News for Nerds" and it definitely doesn't matter.

The whole article can be summed up in 1 sentence:

"I attached a camera to a train"

This has already been done to many different electronic items and has been posted many times on slashdot (the last one was when a guy put a camera on a really fast RC car. at least that had movies and was somewhat interesting since the car was moving at 30-40mph))

My favorite quote:

Around the same time, I was able to move my track onto a 3'x5' desk, using blue-tack adhesive as a temporary track-bed.

Whew! Talk about exciting!

Re:Why is this here post. (1)

Night0wl (251522) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803498)

WOAH THERE BUDDY! SLOW DOWN!
That's like, putting a window's machine, next to a g4 tower, and then putting a linux machine in the room!

Way to much excitement for me.

Katz? (1)

PD (9577) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803351)

So Jon Katz is playing with little trains and cameras now?

I wondered where that windbag went to...

Slow news day? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803364)

I mean... come on!!! I'd rather watch paint dry than struggle through this article. Plus, we all know that model train fans are closets pervs (What Would Freud Think?)

Re:Slow news day? (1)

easter1916 (452058) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803490)

We all also know that Freud's theories have long been discredited.

Saw this at The Childrens Museum.. (1)

slug0 (631133) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803368)

I saw a train that had a cam hooked up to it at The Childrens Museum in Indianapolis. Its a Christmas exhibit and the train goes through a village and through tunnels. When the kids have there faces looking at the train you see a large head on the screen above. Kinda scarry...maybe not.

In other news: Slashdot Now Offers Free Hosting! (5, Funny)

Greedo (304385) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803407)

For all your hosting needs, Slashdot is now pleased to offer:

- text only hosting (linking to images on external servers permitted).
- HTML markup (limited)
- free message board on each page
- Slashdot-Effect protection (tm)

Optional features include posting your webpage several times a week for maximum exposure, and limited spelling and grammar checking.

Act now, and get a free CowboyNeal.

uhh... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803409)

imagine a beowulf cluster of these trains...

If he has video Icangetit posted at live.curry.com (1)

linuxislandsucks (461335) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803410)

Someone should tell him that if he has video I should be able to get itposted at live.curry.com the owner is an online friend of mine...:)

Ok, I gotta say it... (1, Flamebait)

Quasar1999 (520073) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803423)

Everyone is thinking it, so I gotta say it...

WTF???

Seriously.. Nothing interesting is said in this story... the guy ripped apart an x10 camera and threw it in a model train... I've ripped apart many things, mostly old robot toy type things, and stuffed motors, speakers, microphones, etc in them, but then again so has countless other people... and it's not interesting enough to post to the world... just like this article...

This is actually interesting (5, Insightful)

MagPulse (316) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803429)

It reminds me of beginning programmers. They will sit and talk for an hour about how they wrote the number guessing game in C and it took them a week. It's important for them to do this, because that's the level they're at. When I was at that level and I read expert programming books, I thought it was bizarre that they didn't show every line of source or how to structure the code. Now I realize that all programming texts make assumptions about the reader's ability, and only talk at a certain level.

So cut the guy some slack, even though this was an inappropriate post for the front page. Maybe in five years he'll be working for that company that makes the $350 product with a cam already installed.

Re:This is actually interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803508)

and they might even sell two or three of the units....

Timothy needs to go (2, Insightful)

farnham (160656) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803435)

I'm really tired of timothy's posts. It's clear he's not a geek, nerd, or interestd in news. He just posts things he likes.
there is NOTHING geeky about this project. It's stupid. Perhaps if the submitter had actually done some nifty wiring, or taken the time to make a website including pictures, or made it controllable from the internet. I dunno, i'm grasping on how to make this good.
This just sucks and dosen't even include any links. I thought that was a rule for posting on the front page.
I was hoping they would take his editorial privelages away for the monkey automatons.

It's becoming clear that they keep him around to make the other editors look good.

YUK
(mod me however you like I'm not a troll and i don't post often enough to care about my karma)

Crap, all kinds, cheap, from Slashdot (1, Offtopic)

Animats (122034) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803442)

More and more, I get the impression that Slashdot staff are just hanging on, pretending to work until VA Whatever goes bust. The duplicate stories are bad enough, but this one is the lamest yet. Hello? Earth to Slashdot, get a clue.

What really worries me is that if Slashdot is this fucked up, what's happening with SourceForge? A big chunk of the open source world will be in trouble if SourceForge goes under with little or no notice. SourceForge users should be prepared for it to disappear any moment. Back up any SourceForge project you're involved with; don't rely on their copies.

When you see a company screwing up things they used to do right, that's a strong sign that they're in deep, deep trouble.

irony (2)

viper21 (16860) | more than 11 years ago | (#4803460)

I made a cool kickass train cam.

But the pictures are MINE! ALLL MINE! YOU MUST BUILD YOUR OWN TO ENJOY MY KICKASS TRAIN GOODNESS.

Signed,

The X10 Train Mastermind.

Nature will take care of 'em (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803469)

I'm not too worry about this post....Darwinism should kick in, as I can imagine that ten page manifestos on strapping webcams to trains definitely says something about mating potential. Of course, watch him wind up fathering a supreme race or something.

boring! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4803479)

good grief, could this story be any more boring...10 pages of some dude playing with his toys, big woop!! why was this posted?
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