Our Social Media Team thought it might be a good idea to provide Railcam members with a “behind the scenes” insight into what actually happens during a typical Railcam installation, so our intrepid reporter Jamie was dispatched to York South (Holgate Junction) where the two most recent additions to Railcam’s growing portfolio of main line cameras were being installed on October 30th.
Railcam often receives questions about installations, ranging from what kit is involved, through camera funding, to what effect the cameras might have on the host’s broadband connection; so hopefully this article will fill in some of the blanks.
Following the initial enquiry from John, the site owner at York South on October 15th, the Railcam machine swung into action to assess the suitability of the site and to discuss the details of the installation with the site owner. Topics such as the speed of the broadband connection, the availability of mains power in the proximity of the suggested camera location and the routing of the network cable between the house and the trackside were fully discussed and through a series of emails the proposed configuration was fine-tuned and agreed.
A social media admins check list, warm hat, coffe and mince pie!
Cameras are usually selected to suit the field of view, local lighting conditions and the frequency of passing traffic. At York South, the option was available to install a single Pan, Tilt, Zoom (PTZ) camera and to remotely adjust the viewing direction to suit the traffic of the moment. However, the field of view at York, together with the quality of the internet connection enabled Railcam to offer a two-camera solution providing simultaneous coverage of both the UP and the DOWN traffic approaching and leaving the location.
The cameras themselves are just a small part of the “shopping list” for a typical Railcam installation so amongst the key items on the installation check list are:
Prior to the actual installation visit, several days are spent in the workshop where the site-specific camera mountings are designed and assembled and the cameras and microphones are pre-configured and tested. The workbench has facilities to replicate the network connections expected at the installation site, so the camera addressing and stills snapshot transfer can be pre-configured to save valuable on-site time.
Inside the camera back box, where the 'magic happens'.
Weather resistance is a key contributor to reliable camera operation, so the cameras are fitted to a waterproof box to protect the network, power and microphone kit from the elements.
The Big Day
Having warmed up a bit of social media interest in the run-up to the big day through hashtag #RailcamInstall, the installation team set off for York…
Phil (Railcam username phil_o99) set off at 5am from South Cheshire, the car full to the brim with kit and tools; social media administrator Jamie (username CSK) took the train from South Derbyshire.
What it looks like at 06:40 at Langley Mill. Festive breakfast, in early November!
Jamie’s Journey started at 5am to make the 06:36 Northern departure off Langley Mill; change at Chesterfield to Cross Country’s 07:02 departure for York. A 1.6 mile walk to site via Sainsbury’s for a festive breakfast of a turkey, pigs in blankets and cranberry sauce sandwich - Cross Country trolley service doesn’t carry Sandwiches on the 07:02 until it reaches Newcastle!
Main components for the install, pre configured off site by Phil.
On Jamie’s arrival at the camera site, Phil was already laying out the prepared equipment and the tools for each stage of the job. A quick introductory chat with our host was interrupted by a knock on the door; a delivery for Railcam UK containing a couple of wonderful hot drink flasks for our install team from our camera supplier DVS Ltd. Before long we had a nice hot cup of tea to keep us warm. It’s those touches that make all the difference, especially for a social media man whose work mostly includes being sat behind a desk with a hot cuppa never far away.
DVS Ltd keeping us warm.
On to the install…..
The first task was to mount the two cameras; the final locations selected for optimal viewpoint whilst considering the robustness of the rear fencing. Fortunately, the well fitted concrete fence posts provided the best possible camera platforms. Everyone’s favourite job followed; running endless amounts of cables! Data cable first had to be run from the property to the shed, where the Railcam Power over Ethernet (PoE) switch was to be installed. A flexible internal grade cable was provided from the BT Hub/router to the front door frame where a small junction box housed the transition from interior to exterior grade cable. The external cable was then installed along the base of the house wall and down into the flower bed where it was buried in a shallow trench around the perimeter of the building to the side fence where it resurfaced to be tacked along the fence rails for its onward journey to the back fence and shed.
Cameras & Cables, what it's all about.
The cables from the cameras were similarly routed; first along the fence rails and buried where they needed to cross any gates or footways, finally passing through a small aperture in the back of the shed to the proposed position of the Railcam network switch.
Tidy cable work from Phil.
Phil’s next job was to trim, terminate and test all the cables and while that was happening Jamie donned some gloves and armed with shears and secateurs went to work on the vegetation which obstructed the view to the north (all done on private land and with the owners’ permission). A tea break (thanks again DVS Ltd) was swiftly followed by the fixing of the small pre-assembled backboard housing the TP-Link 5-port switch and its power supply to the inside of the shed. The incoming cables from the BT Hub and the cameras were then neatly tied together, connected to the switch and the power switched on. The trusty Railcam Laptop was fired up and the final stage of the installation began.
Cheers DVS Ltd, A nice warm cuppa it what social media man Jamie is used to back at Railcam HQ.
As usual, Phil had done a superb job and the cameras both burst into life at the first attempt and as the light was beginning to fade the initial camera adjustments (angle of view and rotation to set the horizon horizontal) were applied. Then with the assistance of Adrian (Railcam username Preston) the connection was put through to the Railcam streaming servers and the cameras placed in test mode for final adjustment from off-site.
Jamie had to leave site to catch his trains home (and a beer at York station) - a 15 minute late Cross Country Voyager back to Sheffield, followed by a further 15 minutes late Northern 158 (full and standing), and Jamie was back home a mere 12 hours after leaving.
Phil tidied up and packed away the tools and test equipment and confirmed that John was happy with the camera positions and the quality of the work carried out during the day.
Since the day of installation, Railcam has made further adjustments to the focal length of the camera lenses and that will continue for the next few weeks until the remaining vegetation has been cut back both to the north and to the south of the camera locations. There will be a further engineering visit to the site before Christmas when the final direction of the cameras will be adjusted to take account of the more open aspect delivered by the removal of the shrubbery.
Jamie’s comments on the day:
“Having only been to one previous install, back when we installed Crewe Cams, this was certainly an eye opener for me as to what detail our install teams all over the UK go to when installing a camera, neat and tidy workmanship with great attention to detail, with upmost respect given to the hosts property. We never leave a site unless the host is happy with the way we have left things."
In the few days the cameras have been available to our supporters, the reaction has been nothing but positive, comments including,
“A big thank you to John an excellent location well done to all involved”
“Wow looks great, can not wait, well done great job xxxxx”
“Wow. More cameras to look at at lunch time at work ????.. Thanks guys for everything you do at Railcam”
“I been waiting for a York South cam since York north arrived.. Finally it’s here! Great stuff!”
“Well done, guys, another winner!”
A view from behind the lens.
We would like to thank out host John for inviting us to install the cameras and his wonderful hospitality during the entire install process, from initial contact to completion and beyond.
We would also like to thank everyone who took time to post, like and share during the social media coverage of #RailcamInstall including our main supplier DVS Ltd and camera manufacturer HikVision, we have now been using HikVision cameras exclusively for our installs and can boast in excess of 60 location all across the UK at both mainline and heritage locations.