Discovering a new tool

Action on the mainline.

 REPOST: From late October 2011.

Before I departed Cleveland I participated in an operating session on Jerry’s Penn Central layout. Two years ago I shared an experience on this layout. I’ve been lucky to have attended several sessions here and have grown to appreciate the jobs and crew.

On this last visit, I ran a couple of through mainline and local trains. I’ve also worked the yard at a previous session, which can really keep an operator on their toes. Jerry’s layout is not fully sceniced but there are several photogenic spots.

Yard switcher at Moravia.

I was awaiting orders to proceed at the last session and I wished I had brought my camera to snap a few pictures. Then I realized I had a camera as a function of my iPhone. I snapped all of the images featured here and several others. I waited until my work was done and I had a free moment.

Continental Packaging

A feature of the smart phone cameras is the location of the lens. I could position the phone so the lens is about two HO scale feet off of the surface. If that did not look good, then I’d turn the phone 90 degrees and the lens is close to the level of an HO scale box car roof. Turn it 90 more degrees and the lens is about four inches off of the layout surface. I was able to sneak the phone into spaces that a camera would not fit into. Here’s a favorite of mine on the Houston Secondary as it offers a view that isn’t seen when you are running trains. That’s Jerry at the far end.

Houston Secondary trackage

I was surprised at the image quality of the iPhone camera. These images are not good enough for a magazine to publish but they look decent here on the web. I did some tweaking in Photoshop Elements. I adjusted the color and brightness slightly. All of these images are cropped and the size is adjusted for a web presentation to minimize page loading time.

When taking images with a phone, I find it best to stand the phone on a side to snap an image. Room lighting on many model railroads is dim so the auto exposure in the camera will lean towards a longer exposure time. Always ask permission of the layout owner to take images and to set the phone on the layout. A fully sceniced layout is not as easy to photograph like this as you probably should not set the phone on completed scenery. DO NOT set the phone directly across two rails as that may cause a short circuit on the layout and the power may fry your phone. I stood still and braced my elbow on the layout side to take this image.

P&LE and B&O overpass

Smart phone cameras can be used to capture ideas while out on the road. I encountered a Wheeling & Lake Erie freight working the Solon Industrial Park one morning and captured a few images at a grade crossing.

W&LE locos switching the Solon Industrial.

The notes feature is handy to jot down a list or some details. I keep a hobby supply want list on my phone that I can consult when I’m at a hobby shop or at a train show. I don’t lose my phone but I constantly lose or misplace small pads of paper with other lists. If needed, the notes on your phone can also be emailed as necessary. I point this out because I wrote a draft of this paragraph on my phone while I waited for a car to be repaired. These thoughts crossed my mind and I just tapped them into a note on my phone to reuse in this post.

The next time you are inspired on a layout visit or when interacting with the prototype, remember your phone is ready to capture the details to take back home. Think of it as another tool in your hobby tool box. As an added bonus, your wife will love the dog pictures you take!

Susie resting in the sun room.

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One Response to “Discovering a new tool”

  1. Frank says:

    Ah yes. Constantly forget about having a camera (phone) on me.
    The use of using the note pad function is a good idea, I was constantly grouping for
    the piece of paper with the train shopping list.

    Love the excuse photo, of using Suzie quietly sleeping.

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