Full Version: iCar from Minuteman Scale Models
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I've discovered yet another use for my iPhone - on car videos. This is pretty cool.

I found out about this car on the Model Rail Radio mailing list and podcast last year. Jason Reis from Des Moines, Iowa gave a sneak peak last autumn and I pestered him about it until Minuteman Scale Models finally released the design late last year. I went up to Trainfest in Milwaukee WI in November. Motrak models had a sample on display and was taking orders - so I ordered! Thanks Jeff! It finally arrived early this month.

It's a clever design that holds the iPhone (iPhone 4 or 4S will fit) on it's edge - an adjustable mirror then reflects down-track views into the camera on the back of the phone. The kit is laser cut and was pretty straight-forward to assemble, though I had to study the drawings a bit more than expected due to some unusual shapes related to the phone cradle being at an angle to the centerline of the car. It came with trucks, wheels and couplers - a nice addition. The kit was $27.95 - the manufactuers site is: <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.minutemanscalemodels.com/product_p/87-10.htm">http://www.minutemanscalemodels.com/product_p/87-10.htm</a><!-- m -->.

This will probably replace my homemade carrier that I'd made to hold the phone for a level application (<!-- l --><a class="postlink-local" href="http://www.the-gauge.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=541">viewtopic.php?f=25&t=541</a><!-- l -->). The phone not being inline with the track will introduce some error to the level indication, but not much.

My first video from the car and some photos:
<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://goodman312.zenfolio.com/p605670246">http://goodman312.zenfolio.com/p605670246</a><!-- m -->
<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jl31IdwrH8s&list=UUuy8QJAsn4szEkIxh7jJ-aQ&index=1&feature=plcp">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jl31Idwr ... ature=plcp</a><!-- m -->

[Image: p880319898-3.jpg]

Edits: added price and website links and some additional assembly information.
What was the price?
Tyson Rayles Wrote:What was the price?

That would have been helpful information! It was 27.95. I've updated the original post with that information and the manufacturers website and some other information. Thanks Tyson.
Can you imagine this car in N scale???? Nope :o
Remember the Lionel railscope?
Micro-Mark and other companies sell a camera kit (camera, transmitter, reciever and battery clip) for under $100 with full color and sound. It's small enough to use in N scale but you need to use a second car for the battery (N scale only). You can plug it into a TV for a live pic or plug into a recorder (VCR/DVD or whatever) if you want. They also have a kit to convert the car so you can use track power if you have DCC. I've used it for about 5 years now at the museum and it works great. Also frees up your phone for dumb uses like making phone calls! Icon_lol
That's a very cool idea. I may have to build something similar for my droid phone.
Tyson Rayles Wrote:Micro-Mark and other companies sell a camera kit (camera, transmitter, reciever and battery clip) for under $100 with full color and sound. It's small enough to use in N scale but you need to use a second car for the battery (N scale only). You can plug it into a TV for a live pic or plug into a recorder (VCR/DVD or whatever) if you want.
Hi Tyson,
If you want video of your layout (and don't already have an iPhone), an iPhone + this car is certainly not a very economical way to go about accomplishing that end! Plus, you don't get the live feed that you are describing - which is cool. I see three niches for the iPhone / iCar combination:
  • - Those that already have the the iPhone and are get all excited when they find another way to apply to apply it to their hobby (i.e., me).
    - As a tool to video document other's layouts that also don't have an in-place video system - or don't have a way to record in a format that is easy to share more widely. I'll take this car next time I go on a layout tour and see if the owner will allow me to get the "on track" view.
    - A quicker way to get video published (you can publish directly to YouTube), if that is the intent. However, a side effect of the iCar's approach to getting the light to the phone's camera is the mirror - everything is reversed in the video. It can be easily corrected in a video editor, but that slows down the publish process. The video I linked above was sent straight from the phone without correction

One side benefit of using this for recording is the audio component - I've picked out a couple of bad pieces of trackwork that I didn't know about based on the sounds of the car traveling over it.

EZDays Wrote:Can you imagine this car in N scale???? Nope :o

Yes, I can - but it doesn't turn out well! lol
Hi all,

I had the opportunity to record the layout of the Columbus HO Model Railroad club this past weekend. This club has been around for more than fifty years, with the current layout about 40 years old.

End to end, the layout takes about 20-25 minutes to traverse, depending on how much time you spend waiting on clear signals. I'm the guy in the ball cap - forgive the occasional mugging; something about having a camera pointing at me makes me do it... Smile

Video is about 21 minutes - enjoy!

<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8KmNafxiNk&feature=youtu.be">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8KmNafx ... e=youtu.be</a><!-- m -->

A couple of side comments -
  • - The iCar was remarkably stable, and being within the NMRA template, had no clearance problems.
    - I have a 16GB phone, with the number of apps, audio and photos already on the camera, it was good for about 40 minutes of Hi Def video. Not bad.
    - Memory ran out on the return trip in which I had the camera on the front of the train - good view, but I haven't posted it. That said, I like the behind the train view. Adding four or five lower cars (gondolas / flats) would improve the experience. Live and learn!
Another video from the same site with the iCar at the head end. An interesting contrast to the tail end of the previous video. My wife likes the former, I prefer the latter...Smile

<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCEeaM1gm5k">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCEeaM1gm5k</a><!-- m -->
That was fun! Thanks for the ride!
Thanks Ralph.

One more to share of a very nicely done layout that I went to this past weekend for an op session, and to do some more video recording at the owners request (he's a friend). Other than a couple scenes that I ruined by experimenting with the focal depth, this came out nice.

Includes both front of train and mid train views (with the latter being behind a gondola and flat for a better view). Both the owner and I agreed that the latter would be even better moved further up in the train for better view of motive power.


<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://youtu.be/VMUCKyocX-4">http://youtu.be/VMUCKyocX-4</a><!-- m -->
Last weekend when I recorded the UP layout, I screwed up two scenes by having the iPhone focus far too close. Had to throw those away. You can see some of the experimentation going on in the first scene with the camera mid-train (the train with the blue pipes two car lengths ahead).

That experience got me curious about *where* to place the focus, so I set up a test on my shelf layout. I'll be curious to see whether the findings hold up when applied to a full sized layout. Take a look and let me know your thoughts.

<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdbLyTNCTwM">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdbLyTNCTwM</a><!-- m -->
Hello folks,

Thought you would enjoy an external walk around of the iCar (as opposed to only on-track views), along with some comments and ideas I've formed in the time I've been using it. There's also a photo gallery of the assembly in the first post that captures some of the things I mention in this video. Enjoy.

<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReFIzkKlTV8">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReFIzkKlTV8</a><!-- m -->