Coffee Table #3 Design
Note: The links on the left side of this page and the other Model CT-3 pages will take you to detailed information about the new coffee table's design and construction.
A train-mounted miniature color video camera (TrainCam) provides a real-time train engineer's view of the layout. Interestingly, the TrainCam is considered to be an integral part of the layout, not just another piece of rolling stock. This is because there are scenic elements in the layout that cannot be seen by observing the layout directly. For example, there is an underground train station in the main tunnel that can only be seen by the TrainCam.
The TrainCam design evolved over a period of about two years. Three different models were developed during that time, each using a different model camera.
Model 1 Camera
The Model 1 TrainCam used the least expensive camera available at the time, a discontinued first-generation wireless security camera. It was a 1.2 GHz camera with a rather long antenna protruding from its side (see photo below).
The camera left much to be desired; however, it worked well enough to prove that an N-scale TrainCam was feasible. To see how the Model 1 TrainCam was constructed, click here.
Model 2 Camera
The Model 2 TrainCam used a significantly improved 1.2 GHz camera. The camera lens was better, signal quality was better, and the antenna protruded from the top of the camera (see photo below).
Model 3 TrainCam
One problem with the first two TrainCam designs was that the camera was permanently mounted in a fixed position, looking straight ahead. In a layout that is mostly tight turns, this meant that the camera was often looking off into space, rather than at the track ahead. What was needed was a curve-anticipating camera—a camera that could look into the curves.
Unlike the cameras in the Model 1 and Model 2 TrainCams, the camera in the Model 3 TrainCam is mounted on a swiveling platform that is linked to the front trucks. The design of the linkage is such that the camera turns further than the front trucks as the TrainCam negotiates a curve. This means that the camera looks into the curve and has a good view of the track ahead. This is clearly illustrated in the photo below.
It turns out that the Model 3 TrainCam could not have been constructed using a 1.2 GHz camera. The side to side motion of the camera's long antenna would have interfered with the layout's scenery. The Model 3 TrainCam uses a 2.4 GHz camera, which has a very short antenna.
To see how the Model 3 TrainCam was constructed, click here. To see a test video of this new and improved version of the Model 3 TrainCam running on the lower level of track, click here. To see a test video of the TrainCam running on the upper level of track, click here. Note that the layout was still under construction in my workshop when these videos were made.