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The Randall Museum in San Francisco hosts a large HO-scale model model railroad. Created by the Golden Gate Model Railroad Club starting in 1961, the layout was donated to the Museum in 2015. Since then I have started automatizing trains running on the layout. I am also the model railroad maintainer. This blog describes various updates on the Randall project and I maintain a separate blog for all my electronics not directly related to Randall.

2022-06-11 - Mountain Camera for Train-Vision

Category Randall

I got a new camera for the Train Vision Project. The current ones I’m using are refurb Edimax IC-3116W 720p cams I had around from 2015. They work well however they are quite bulky.

The new one I’m trying is a small TP-Link Tapo C110. It’s a 1080p no-frills camera which I run at 720p. I particularly choose these since they have official RTSP support, which in layman terms means the laptop can grab the video feed from the camera directly over the local wifi without involving a remote server. The camera is fairly small and light and setting it up with the TP-Link Tapo phone app was a breeze.

In the Train Vision project, one thing I wanted was to have a view from the top of the mountain and one from the Lodi area -- two areas where visitors cannot readily see the tracks right now. I do have the Edimax cams setup next to the visitor area as a placeholder but these don’t add a lot of value since these are areas the visitors can already trivially watch. The point is to highlight parts of the layout out of view from visitors, and that’s where having a smaller lighter camera that I can blend in with the scenery comes in.

I’m experimenting with a view from the top of the mountain:

Here’s the view from up there:

The camera is about the size of an HO building and, if I like the view, I will likely camouflage it by either painting it to match the rock color, or place some kind of structure on it.

View on the Train Vision screen -- the new camera is the lower right quadrant with the yellow border showing the UP Passenger train stopped at the Summit station:

I think that view should work nicely. I like the angle that captures the Summit but also the track going up and the one in the valley. We should be able to catch the operator trains when they go up the mountain and by Summit too.

Right now the camera is positioned on a ledge on the top of the mountain, held in place with double-side tape. Once I decide that’s the final position, I will likely create a better platform support for it that is secured to the benchwork and I need to integrate it in the scenery. I’m thinking the first approach would be to paint it with the rock color, and then maybe put some trees / vegetation around it to blend it with the mountain top.

The only drawback on that little TP-Link Tapo C110 camera is that it does not have an ethernet wired port. That’s something I really like about the Edimax IC-3116W 720p cams -- I can use wifi to set them up, and once I like the location I can do the boring work of pulling an ethernet cable. Using wired ethernet frees a lot of bandwidth on the 2.4 GHz wifi -- it otherwise gets trivially saturated with the constant camera traffic. I also find the camera view latency to be better somehow, although I think that’s merely subjective.

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