If you’ve seen some of the track cam videos over on YouTube and want to make your own but don’t want to go to the expense of equipping your train with a GoPro there are budget alternatives you can try.
Model railway track cam footage — video taken from the perspective of your trains — is hugely popular right now and with good reason.
Just take a look at these clips.
How cool are they?!?
It’s not surprising they’re popular.
But traditionally video’s like the first require a GoPro camera and these aren’t cheap. But there are alternatives.
I’ve previously tried the key chain spy camera type that can be picked up from eBay for under a £10. They’re okay but I’ve have had a series of problems with the ones I’ve tried.
Firstly, the video quality is sometimes of low quality. I don’t know why but I’d plan and record some lovely driver eye-view footage of my trains running around the track and halfway through the footage would become grainy or stop. And you thought trains stopping halfway around a layout was frustrating!
They also seemed fragile, the first one just gave up after a few weeks and I’ve had problems knowing when they’re recording and when they’re not. The controls can be touchy!
They work and there is footage on YouTube from them but there’s another option.
Just recently however a friend tipped me off about a car dashcam unit by the name of ‘SQ9’.
As said, it’s intended for car dash cams but being tiny (approx. 2cm by 2cm by 1.6cm) it’s got huge potential for mounting on a flat wagon and providing first-person footage from around a layout.
It’s a follow up to an earlier model, the SQ8, which my colleague has previously used with great success. There was nothing wrong with the SQ8 but his footage from the SQ9 seems brighter and able to handle internal lighting on his OO layout slightly better.
Features of the SQ9 include:
- Video format for:1280 x 720P and 1920 x 1080 (HD)
- Battery life of to 100 minutes (enough for a tour around most layouts).
- USB and TV out connections.
- Support for storage cards of upto 32Gb.
All of which make it a prime contender for a budget track cam.
As with all such units, the camera stores footage to a Micro SD card and after recording it’s just a case of whipping this out, inserting it into your computer (or transferring via USB) for playback and perhaps uploading to YouTube
I’ve ordered mine and am hoping it’ll turn up once the post returns to normal after Christmas when try it out properly and report back with the recordings that I make with it posted to my YouTube account*. From reports from my friend it needs securing well and with some kind of padding to provide stabilisation of the camera as the train rocks and rolls around the track, I’ll report back once I’ve tried it.
Just a note, if you’re thinking of getting one before then shop around on eBay and the like. Prices seem to vary considerably depending on the seller, from £20 (shipped from the UK) upwards. I saw one chap selling them for £40 when I looked so save yourself some money and search before clicking buy. This link will take you to the seller I ordered mine from at £19.
- I’ve been really poor at creating videos and updating the ModelRailwayEngineer YouTube account recently hence exploring how to make trackcam video. Hopefully, with this camera, I’ll have the motivation to make more and update YouTube more often.
> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.
Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.