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September 27, 2015 Overhauling My Second Video Camera Locomotive

This E7A will be my second Locomotive carrying a video camera, my first is a Athearn PA-1 shown below.

My Athearn PA-1 camera is battery powered and the battery is charged from rail power.  The battery is a low capacity 9 volt Nickel-Metal Hydride cell.  When the locomotive is being pushed around my layout the track power puts glitches in the video.  To remedy the glitch problem I decided to build a second camera locomotive with all the components completely isolated from track power.

I started out using a Proto 2000 E8 Dummy.  I mounted all the equipment to the Proto frame.


My second camera is powered by two very high capacity 6000ma Lithium batteries, plenty of power for the camera and the 4 super bright warm white 30,000mcd LEDs mounted behind the windshield.  The headlight is also a super bright LED but powered from the pusher DCC decoder providing a total of 150,000mcd of light for the camera.

The camera on-off and LED lighting are individually controlled from the DCC decoder in the pusher. 

While the totally isolated camera works glitch free the Proto E8A frame wouldn't run without constant derailing.  I had several other Proto E7s,8s & 9s that also derail too often.  After gauging the wheels dozens of times as well as replacing all the axles it appeared to be a problem with the Proto E series truck design.  I have several other Proto 2000 six wheel truck locomotives that never derail, PAs and SDs.  With a bit of re-engineering and elbow grease I re-trucked the E8 frame with PA trucks, problem solved.

The next problem arose from my constant handling of the camera locomotive, the Proto shells aren't made for constant removal or handling, I needed a more durable E series shell.  I have several Cary and Hobbytown cast metal E7A shells but decided against using a metal shell because the wireless camera would then need an external antenna, I needed a durable plastic shell.  I spotted an old "for parts or restoration" Model Power E7A on eBay, another problem solved for $9.

The shell is made from a thick very durable plastic, fills the bill perfectly. 

I had enlarged the lower headlight in my PA-1 to accommodate the camera but I liked the front door option on the Proto shell so I went to work on the new shell. 

The Model Power shell now has a door that opens and closes almost exactly like a Proto door.

With the door closed it looks just like the rest of my E7As and with the door open the camera works great.

I bought a two cell Lithium battery charging card and installed a three pin micro connector on the bottom rear of the frame.  I made 4 foot long cable to go between the charging board and the E7A to charge the batteries when they need charging.  Before this overhaul I had to pull the shell and remove the batteries to charge them.  A single charge gives me between 24 to 30 hours of operation. 

I'll cover the Pusher Project next.

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