** IMPORTANT MESSAGE **
I am a retired Electronic Design Engineer and are fully capable of designing a video camera into a model railway truck but the market is so small that the cost of the components alone in small quantities would be several hundreds of pounds making them out of reach for most modellers.
So what is the solution? As many people have suspected the trick is to use a video device which is mass produced for another purpose which can be adapted for a model railway Camera Truck (Camtruck). The devices examined were Spy Pens and Spy Key Fobs. The suppliers of these devices mostly don't know what is in them and can't answer technical questions so the only solution is to buy them and take them apart. Most of the devices I purchased were of very poor quality both in picture quality and construction. These were rejected. Those that had a good video quality were taken apart which is difficult because they were never intended to be taken apart. They are glued or cold welded and extracting the electronics often destroyed the circuits. I soon learned to buy the spy devices in pairs so if the 1st was damaged I could perform an autopsy to determine how to take the 2nd apart safely. Most of the electronic modules could not be modified to either fit in a truck or rotate the camera to point in the required direction. Those that passed all the suitability tests were purchased in larger numbers for production.
This process of buying and examining spy devices cost me over a £1000 and many frustrating months of work.
But the design of these spy devices constantly changes so what was once a suitable device soon became useless! To overcome the problem of consistent quality I communicated directly with the manufactures who were all in China. This was difficult on two levels, one the language (I don't speak Chinese) and second most were not interested in such small quantities. Eventually I found a suppler who could not only speak and write English but was prepared to make small modifications to my requirements and very importantly, supplying them as an unmounted module. This worked for a while by adding my relatively small quantities on to the larger batches he was making for other Chinese manufactures of Spy devices. Modern electronic assembly uses a process of robotic placement that is only economic in large quantities of thousands or tens of thousands.
But then the Chinese economy went into decline and his customers weren't buying so he could not add my small quantities onto larger batches. My quantities are small. I have only sold 205 Camtrucks in three years and I don't think the market will ever be in the thousands!
But there is hope. He is designing a new spy device for a new customer which he says will suit my purpose. A working prototype is a few weeks away.
I hope this has explained why the supply of Camtrucks is so spasmodic. Also the price! They are hand made and take many hours each to construct and test.
I have a pre-order list for N and 00 Camtrucks and I will do everything I can to honour this commitment.
Bruce Piggott (Retired -- sort of ?)
Branor Systems is a small Electronic Development company that specialises in Model Making accessories.
email address for all enquiries: email@example.com
What are Model Railway Camera Trucks (Camtrucks)?
A retired Electronic Engineer, after 50 years of working in development, built a model railway in N gauge. He then thought it would be good if a tiny video camera could be fitted into a truck such that a movie could be made from the viewpoint of the engine driver. In other words, he could take a ride on his model railway.
After many months of research and a lot of his savings a prototype was made. The results from this were fascinating. He thought they would sell -- they did!
There have been various version in both N and 00 Gauge as the unreliable supply of electronic components came and went. Eventually a reliable and high quality source of components was found that were tailored to the requirements of both mechanics and electronics. A 00 gauge version is now available and availability can be found on the Pictures page of this website. This is both 720P HD and 120 degree wide angle. View Demo here
An N gauge version, because of the smaller size, was much harder to obtain but eventually the manufacturer agreed to modify, at some cost, a mass produced component to fit an N gauge truck. Three prototype have now been constructed and are in test mode. A large batch of components has now arrived and production is has started. This is also 720P HD with a 120 degree wide angle lens.
View Demo here. If you have spent a long time making a detailed model railway, you owe yourself a ride on your creation.
View the "Pictures" page for more details and how to order.
Our Main Services
Manufacture of Model Railway Camera Trucks. Solid state video cameras built into 00 and N gauge wagons.
Other optical devices for model makers.
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