There has been a lot of discussion in the Model Railroading community about the quality, or lack of, in the models being built in China.  The issue is not with the visual aspects but with the operational drive train components.  Specifically gears that crack and render the model inoperational.  There is also concern that the manufactures and importers are not doing enough to cure these problems.  

This past weekend I attended a local swap meet where I procured one of the Southern PS-4 Pacific’s sold through the Franklin Mint.  This is a model of the locomotive that is in the Smithsonian.  While I do remember these being advertised in the Hobby related magazines I do not remember their costs.

The five color paint scheme applied to the model is a bit gaudy.  It’s heavily applied and mutes some of the details but the model has significant heft.  When I first picked it up what impressed me was that unlike many plastic models this locomotive is quite heavy and solid feeling.  The boiler and tender are both heavy cast metal.
(Click on any image for a larger version)
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Upon returning to our shops we found that the tender is drilled out possibly in anticipation of installing sound.  The screws holding the frame to the tender shell are under the trucks which means that in order to get to them, the trucks themselves must be removed.  Sounds like a bit of work but there is one good design point to this.

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The truck mounting screw is under the center axle meaning that if it gets loose it can never drop completely out of the truck.  Hence you will never lose that truck mounting screw.

Removing the boiler is similar to a brass locomotive.  One screw at the back of the cab then unscrew the front truck mounting screw.  We found that the boiler was stuck to the chassis but by inserting a small bladed screwdriver between the bottom of the boiler and the top of the steam saddle where it meets the boiler and twisting severely, we were able to separate the components.   Once the front of the boiler is lifted clear of the saddle it has to move forward to disengage from a tab holding the rear of the frame to the cab.  Upon inspection we found that apparently the paint had not been completely dry when our model was assembled at the factory and the chassis and boiler had fused together which made it difficult for them to be separated.  The boiler and cab are very heavy.
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Upon removing the boiler we noted the relatively large can motor attached to the gearbox via a flexible coupling.  What really impressed me, hence the title of this blog, is that ALL the gears in the box are BRASS.  No potential for broken plastic gears here.  WOW!!! 

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After inspecting all the components we replenished the gears and all the moving components with the proper lubricants.  Our inspection did uncover one negative flaw.  The wheel gauge of the lead and trailing trucks was a bit narrow.  This showed up when running the locomotive through our scratchbuilt unforgiving code 70 turnouts.

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We appreciated the design of the drawbar providing what appears to be a very positive electrical and mechanical connection between the locomotive and the heavy tender.

During a bench test with the locomotive blocked up, the motor pulled .2 amps throughout the voltage and RPM ranges.  We felt that was quite good and contributed that to a good quality motor.

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In operation the locomotive does produce a bit more noise than those with plastic or nylon gears but it was not objectionable and we contributed some of that noise to the heavy weight.  That noise and the heft of this model brought back pleasant memories of the first Lionel locomotive I received at the age of 4.  

Remember that first Lionel locomotive you received?  The heavy metal cast one that you had difficulty in lifting and that your father had to put on the track?  This is an HO version of that concept.  This is the sort of model that can be handed down for a few generations and unless it is abused will continue to operate well into the future.  In my opinion this is the way that all of the operating mechanisms in our locomotives should be made if we expect them to last.


Duly impressed, we now return to the shops.

CWRailman

 
 
Ol’ Harold received a new Pentax Q10, 12.4 mp digital mirrorless camera for Christmas.  Among it’s many features, the small size of this camera allows the photographer to get into some really tight spots and get quality shots that may be impossible to achieve with a larger camera. 
(Click on image to get a larger version.)
PictureNakomis General Store
The Nakomis General store was built by Ol’ Harold from a HSM/Classic Miniatures Silver Plume Store kit.   It has a rather complete detailed interior including merchandise, clerk and patrons.  Unfortunately due to the position this structure occupies on the railroad that detail cannot be seen by the naked eye.  In fact it was almost forgotten until this image was captured.

PictureNakomis General Store Shoot Setup
Here is the setup Ol’ Harold used to capture the Nakomis General Store Detail.  First the two story station in Nakomis, near the tracks, had to be partially dismantled.  This necessitated removing some wiring and a few trees.  A temporary backdrop was put into position behind the store to block out undesirable background distractions.  Next the Pentax Q10 was worked into position.  A series of test shots were taken and did not produce the anticipated images so a mirror was placed behind the camera.  In this manner Ol’ Harold was able to see the LCD screen on the back of the camera and make the necessary adjustments to properly compose the photograph.  This arrangement would not be possible with a larger camera.

Note the distance of about 6.5 inches between the front of the lens and the structure.  Such configurations usually result is very shallow depth of field but the small sensor size, not to be confused with the number of pixels, of this camera provides a good depth of field even when the camera is that close to the subject.   In general, cameras with small sensors provide greater depth of field than cameras with large sensors which is why, though I have a small arsenal of Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) Cameras with larger sensors, I have been experimenting with the Pentax Q series of mirrorless cameras.  See our 07/07/2014 Blog titled “Welcome a Little “Q” Into Our Family” and 07/16/2014 Blog titled “The Pentax Q10 Goes on a Railroad Photo Excursion” for a bit more information on the Q series cameras.
   

While Ol’ Harold is getting familiar with his new Pentax Q10 (I can’t wait to see what he generates once he finds the Q10’s “special effects” features) check out his recently produced Gallery of Fall River Line images many of which were produced years ago but never published. 

In addition to the Fall River Line, visit the new NB&FHRwy Gallery of images.  Master wheel knocker Greg Rich is responsible for this fine railroad as well as the photography.  While the FRL which is now celebrating it’s 37th year in operation, represents shortline railroading in the Fall of 1927, the NB&FHRwy represents a similar concept in the Fall of 1928.  At the beginning of each Gallery the respective owners have provided a brief explanation of what they are trying to achieve through their presentations.

Both of these Galleries as well as one for the Scottsdale Model Railroad Historical Society were produced using Adobe Lightroom 2.  While this is not the most current version of that software we chose Version 2 because it was reasonably priced, it was relatively easy to learn and most importantly it operates efficiently on our Windows XP powered computers.  The WEB module component of this software facilitated easy and quick structuring and uploading of these Galleries.

With apologies to Ansel Adams we now return to the shops

CWRailman
 
 
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Back in the 1970’s I was a member of the Lake Shore Model Railroad club in Chicago.  I drew the attention of veteran member Paul Matushek who appreciated the work I was doing in assembling and operating Ambroid, LaBelle, Central Valley, Silver Streak and other wood craftsman kits of the time.  That interest prompted Paul to gift me three 1930’s era kits manufactured by Earl Francis complete with trucks that required assembly.   Paul had been in the hobby since the late 1930’s and every year for the clubs annual open house he would operate a train featuring a consist of one or two cars from each decade starting in the 1930’s.  That train would usually be pulled by one of his 1950 era vintage locomotives.

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I have never seen any information published about Earl Francis or his company but please note the date on the bottom of the instruction sheet.  These kits were manufactured prior to WWll.  Obviously the writer of these instructions was a man of few words.  The absence of comprehensive written kit instructions was to continue well into the late 1950’s. 


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Some modelers take issue with a bit of fuzz on the wood included in current kits.  Note the amount of fuzz on these components.  Obviously not up to the standards of raw materials produced by Northeastern, Kappler or Camino.  A lot of sanding and sealing was required to make these pieces usable.

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The body of the car is a solid block of wood.  Unless they are missing from the kit, I do not see any sheathing for the car ends.  I have seen one of these kits for sale and also noted the absence of end sheathing in that kit.  

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The Reefer roof hatches were built up from these card stock prints. And some folks complain about the lack of detail in the castings provided in kits manufactured in the 1950-1960 era.  

There is no actual or implied scribing on the preprinted car sides.  Such preprinted car sides continued well into the 1970’s.  Check out our build of a
Gorre and Daphetid box car using preprinted car sides from the NMRA Bulletin.

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Before the availability of kits, any railroad enthusiast wanting to build a model was responsible for  accumulating, cutting and shaping their own wood and metal materials.  In many cases this meant buying large quantities of raw materials.  The concept of a “kit” provided the hobbyist with just enough raw materials and some very basic instructions to build a model that represented the prototype in not much more than shape and color.  The kit concept provided a means for those who lived in confined quarters such as small apartments or military service to participate in the hobby.  The kits were basic however they provided just enough visual information that implied a particular prototype.  You could differentiate a reefer from a box car etc. but not much more detail was available at the time.  In addition to apartment dwellers, kits became popular with those who did not have access to a basement or garage full of precision machinery to fabricate parts of their own.  Such kits were status quo for the time period and rivet counters were not yet born.

To say the least the hobby of scale model railroading has come a long way but seeing one of these vintage kits is a great way to look back and be reminded from which we came.  Maybe seeing what was available to modelers in the past provides us with a better appreciation of where we are currently in the hobby.  Such relics give us a view into the lengths early scale model railroaders went to enjoy this great hobby with the limited funds and resources available to them at that time.  

If you are looking for information, plans, instructions or maybe catalog shots of HO scale vintage model railroad kits and some RTR models you have to check out HOSeeker’s WEB site.   It is a virtual library encompassing the history of HO scale models.

With great memories of Paul Matushek it’s time we get back to the shops,

CWRailman

For additional information on the Earl Francis company see this Yahoo forum message from Mr Ray Wetzel.

 
 
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The topic of how those elaborate Pullman style passenger cars were painted is one that is discussed from time to time with a lot of speculation.  In her 1893 vintage book titled “The Town of Pullman” by Mrs. Duane Doty the author gives a glimpse into life in the town of Pullman as well as many of the processes used in their car building shops.  On page 145 of her book Mrs. Doty explains the process of painting a Pullman passenger car along with the required time periods between processes.  Note the Electro Plating process described on page 61. 

I became familiar with this book in the 1960’s when I was doing research for a paper I did on the town of Pullman.  While I had previously acquired a hard copy, now you can download a free electronic copy of this book by clicking on this li
nk  The Town of Pullman .

When you get to the site, click on the gear looking icon near the top right and select your format of choice which probably will be a PDF file.

Another source of information on the building of Pullman cars is "The Story of the Pullman Car by Joseph Husband" published in 1917.  There are numerous photo’s in this book showing the shop interiors.  While the book covers various aspect of Pullman, in Chapter VIII which starts on page 123 Husband discusses how the cars themselves were built.  This book can also be downloaded from Google books.

By the way, some time ago I was participant in a conversation on Malls in the US.  If you check out the first chapter in this book Doty explains the Arcade building that stood in the town of Pullman.  I believe the Pullman Arcade may have been the first fully enclosed Shopping Mall ever built in the US.  The three story Arcade was completed in 1882 and contained shops, lawyers offices, a bank and get this, a 1000 seat theater.  Sound familiar?  It was demolished in 1926 which is about the time when the Illinois Central Railroad was relocating and elevating their roadbed through that area.  The Arcade building would have stood about where the garden now is between the IC tracks and the Florence Hotel probably closer to where the IC tracks are now and it may have been in the way of the track relocation which hastened it’s demolition.   For more information see this Pullman Arcade Building site.

Now back to the shops,

CWRailman

 
 
Among the numerous projects to come out of the California Western Locomotive and Car Repair Shops in 2013 were a remotored Mantua’s General 4-4-0, a remotored Bachman Jupiter 4-4-0, a remotored Rivarossi ATSF 4-4-0 and a Pocher 4-4-0.  Based on the number of guests to our WEB site who reviewed those projects and continue to do so we can safely say that those projects were the most popular to have ever come out of our shops. 

After those projects were shown on this WEB site we received numerous emails asking whether these techniques could be applied to various brass locomotives of similar configuration.  We assumed they could work however before offering any absolute advice we like to confirm the information we hand out so not to be misleading anyone.  So….. between our other commitments, we started to search for a reasonably priced brass 4-4-0 to which we would apply the same techniques.  Well, it appears that brass 4-4-0 locomotives representative of the 1880 era are relatively popular and during the time periods we conducted our search we were not able to come up with a “reasonably priced” model in good condition.  We came close to a acquiring a few, some local and some on the Internet but it always seemed that someone else wanted them a bit more than we did.  While we searched for an operational 4-4-0, what we finally procured from an Ebay seller was a somewhat rough, non functioning PFM/United V&T 4-4-0.
 

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Here is how the model was shipped. Securely packed in a USPS box and well protected.  The listing had noted that there was no original box.

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Note the metal shavings near the wheel. We believe this was caused by the universal coupling on the end of the input shaft to the worm, scraping up against the metal weight.  Drivers were noticeably dirty.  How did electrons ever get through that coating of goop.

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With the chassis removed this shows the metal shavings which have collected directly over the worm.  As noted, it appears that the set screw holding the brass metal coupling on the end of the input shaft had been rubbing up against the end of the boiler weight under the cab but how the shavings traveled forward to the area above the worm is a mystery.

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The insulated draw bar pin on the tender had broken off so someone installed it loosely from the top.  In that position it rubbed against the flexible tubing.  This will require repair.  When we see such crude attempts at repair we often wonder “what were they thinking”?  Note the upper corner of the tender is missing as is one of the tender steps.  We also noted that the smoke stack was off center and the wind deflector at the top of the stack was bent.

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Upon disassembly we inspected every part and made some notes of what needs to be replaced or repaired.  We then inserted a paper towel into one of the plastic pencil cases we had purchased during a back to school close out sale for ten cents, and inserted all the parts from the locomotive.  In this condition it will be stored till we complete several other projects currently in our shops.  

While we were initially disappointed by the condition of our purchase, upon contacting the seller they made it right by offering us a partial rebate.  We now look forward to the day we can start work on this locomotive and it leaves our shops in running condition.  


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One pleasant surprise came when we tested the original open frame motor.  As expected when we applied electrons it did not start however by turning the amateur a few times by hand we got it freed up and it ran.  We polished up, removed the oxidation, from the motor’s commutator and then doused the motor shaft at front and rear bearing with liberal amounts of LaBelle 108 oil and were pleasantly surprised that with lubrication the motor would start turning at .2 amps and 2 volts.  After a few seconds of running we applied more power and the motor ran up to 10 volts without ANY noise or vibration.  That was more than a little amazing as motors of this type and age seldom start below .4 amps and usually about 4 volts.  We will keep this motor for those hard core open frame motor enthusiasts who will settle for nothing less, or more.

Now where is that V&T Book?

CWRailman

 
 
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I have just returned from a memorial service and it is with deep regret that I report the passing of Harold Shelton shown on the right in this picture.  (Sorry I do not have a better photo of Harold.  This was taken during an operating session.)  Harold was a Texas boy who met and married his wife Anne.  They lived and worked in Arizona and raised a family that consisted of one daughter and one son.  Harold was a craftsman in whatever he did from restoring vintage Model A automobiles to concourse conditions to building his model railroad to later building large scale radio controlled airplanes.

Though Harold never applied for the NMRA’s Master Modelers certificate, to those who were fortunate enough to see the Black Canyon his work was well above that required for that certificate.  Harold had single handedly built one of the best model railroads in the country but was rather modest in discussing his accomplishment.  He never flaunted his work or bragged about his skills. He took the time to demonstrate his modeling technique and mentored numerous students of the hobby who showed an interest in learning.  In fact, I doubt Harold really understood how good he or his model railroad were. 

I first met Harold in 2000.  My initial visit to the Black Canyon Railroad resulted in much the same jaw dropping awe inspired reaction that most knowledgeable modelers show when seeing it for the first time.  From that point on I enjoyed standing in position where I could see that first reaction from others upon seeing the railroad.  It was always the same and I joked with Harold that he should install a catch mat to keep the saliva escaping from open mouths off the indoor out door carpeting that covered the floor.  In our humble opinion the Black Canyon was one of the best individual built home model railroads we have ever seen and it was all done by Harold himself. 

Harold’s main interest in the hobby was building structures and some of Harold’s structures were built to a higher quality of fit and finish than those showcased by the kit manufactures themselves.  But unlike other modelers who excel in one aspect of the hobby or another, that was not the extent of Harold’s skills.  He also did all the custom quality painting of his locomotives and rolling stock.  Besides the numerous high quality structures built from kits or scratch built, Harold assembled hundreds of freight and passenger cars including the entire line of Ambroid cars and some Westwood passenger car kits.  His scenery was very good and representative of the terrain the Black Canyon traversed. Most importantly this Texas boy made all visitors to the Black Canyon feel welcome.  There is a link on our Home page to a media presentation we did many years ago of Harold’s Black Canyon Railroad.  Near the end of the video we list some of the major characteristics that Harold had employed in building the Black Canyon.  Here are several that we did not mention but I found interesting:

Unlike some model railroads that have strips of wire attached to the side of the rail to feed power to the rail, the Black Canyon had feeder wires that were disguised as small rail spikes.  They were actually the exact same size as the code 70 spikes shot from a Kadee spiker.  I spent a lot of time scrutinizing the roadbed trying to pick out which were feeder wires and which were spikes.  

Speaking of spikes, every single tie had four spikes holding the rail.  When did you last see that on hand laid track?  In addition to the spikes the rail had also been glued down with heat activated Pliobond.

The track looked seamless.  It was difficult to find a joint or an electrical break.  Harold had used plastic he shaped to the exact profile of the rail as insulators and they were measured in thousands of an inch and not fractions of an inch as on some model railroads.  He then painted these along with the rail so it would look seamless.

Turnouts were built to very tight tolerances.  This later caused a problem when the railroad was converted from DC to DCC as the back side of the drivers on long wheelbase locomotives would just graze the opposing point tip and short out.  While this was such a momentary short that it never mattered in DC Harold found that DCC was much less forgiving.

Harold had not built the Black Canyon for operation however when he asked me to design an operating scenario, I found the railroad quite suitable for operations and was able to devise an operating scenario that made use of the two main yards and thirty plus industries on the railroad, interchange at both ends of the railroad as well as one interchange point about mid way. 

When his wife got sick Harold and Anne relocated which forced the sale of the Black Canyon Railroad.  Unfortunately the Black Canyon was purchased by an individual who lacked the skills and know how to put it back together.  The railroad has been dismantled and from what I have heard only some of the structures were rescued.  Thankfully we believe Harold never knew of this travesty.

Harold will be missed by his religious community as well as the those of us from his various modeling and automotive communities.  In his final years Harold built a few structures for the  Scottsdale Model Railroad Historical Society and under the supervision of Richard Petrina these have been incorporated into their new model railroad which features high quality workmanship inspired by Harold Shelton. 

In tribute to Harold Shelton we humbly return to the shops,

CWRailman


 
 
Not one motor for $5 but 5 motors for $5.  We recently took delivery of  five motors which were purchased for $4.99 plus $1.98 shipping for the entire group from this Ebay Seller
(Click on any image for a larger version)
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At such prices, I did not have high expectations however a member of our Yahoo based Remotoring and Repowering Group had ordered a few and gave them a favorable report so we placed an order.

 The motor measures approximately 15mm x 20mm x 28 mm with shafts of 17mm long at one end and 9mm at the other end. There are no mounting holes in this motor.  There is one small hole drilled in the motor case but it is not threaded. 


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In addition note the unusual placement of the motor terminals as indicated by the screw driver blade.  The plastic shield of these terminals actually adds about 2mm to the width of the motor at that point.

The motor started with no load at 2 volts.  When mounted to our mule chassis and coupled up to the United 40:1 gearbox, the motor started at 3 volts.  By comparison the Nichibo motor that we have used in numerous projects starts at 1.25 volts and starts the drivers in our test mule at 2 volts.  These results suggest that this motor produces less torque than the Nichibo.  This motor does have a rather long output shaft.  It may be a bit weak on startup however it may be suitable for repowering the PFM/United Climax, the PFM/United Heisler or the PFM/United Vulcan Duplex all of which needed a long output shaft.  While it would be a tight fit that would require a bit of filing of the plastic part of the motor housing it may also be suitable for the PFM Benson Shay.  Check out our projects page to see these remotoring projects. 


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Click on this last image or this link to see a brief video of this motor in operation at various voltages.

By the way, some enterprising entrepreneur is already reselling these motors at $3.95 each plus shipping.

Now back to the shops.

CWRailman


 
 
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Over a period of years we have presented some motors we felt were adaptable to repowering locomotives.  One important factor has been how it operates at slow speeds which translates into how slowly the locomotive will start from a dead stop.  Another consideration has been costs.  Here is a motor we recently found being sold by an Ebay seller. 
http://www.ebay.com/itm/291272764522?_trksid=p2060778.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT
We ordered three of these motors and after testing them we have now placed an order for six additional motors.  Click on this link to see a brief video of this motor strapped to our test mule and running through it’s paces at various speeds.  The dual shaft design will be useful to those repowering small diesels, or wishing to place a flywheel on the back side.  I believe this motor will produce satisfactory performance in most locomotives up to the USRA light Mikado’s.  

While the seller provides some basic information on this 15mm x 20mm x 32mm, 9,200rpm flat can, dual shaft motor, one feature I wish to focus on is the long 14mm shafts which make this a really good candidate for repowering the PFM/United line of geared locomotives such as their Climax, Shay and Vulcan Duplex loco’s.

Check out the video to see it in operation
 
Now back to the shops,
CWRailman

 
 
In our last blog we introduced the Pentax Q which we had procured as a previously owned unit.  It was introduced as the latest addition to our line of Pentax cameras.  Since then we had a unique opportunity to trade up and we are now the proud owners of a new Pentax Q10.  The Q10 is slightly larger then the original Q and while it has the same electronics as the original Q, it features the latest in camera firmware which processes the images into the jpg files it spits out.  

Today I paid a visit to the Scottsdale Model Railroad Society located in the McCormick Ranch Train Park in Scottsdale Arizona.  I took the opportunity of this visit to their new facility to do a bit of photographing with the Pentax Q10 while the members continued with their construction activities.  The following is a sampling of the 36 images I shot during my brief visit.  All images were taken under the clubs existing lighting with the camera in Aperture Priority Mode, aperture set at f8.0 and the camera choosing the appropriate shutter speed.  In addition all shots were taken using the self timer with the camera either on a small 6” tripod I carry for such situations or with it placed directly on the railroad. 


(Click on each image to get a larger version)

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These images were taken by placing the camera in such a position that could not be seen by the viewing public.  This is one of the benefits to using such a small camera. 

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Due to the very tight quarters I placed the Q10 on the small tripod.


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The Scottsdale club features many high quality structures however due to the positioning of many it is difficult to get a good image without having some distraction in the back ground.

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These three nearly identical images demonstrate some of the in camera filters and special effects available in the Q10.

The first is obviously sans all color representing a Black and White image representative of the era during which this loco operated.


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This image used the camera’s bright color mode and auto white balance control.


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This image shows one of the Q10’s special effects which imparts a artistic rendering reminiscent of an oil painting. 

For those of you who might like to view the full size 5mp file, here is a link to that image. 


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Here is a similar shot taken at a lower angle.  Note all the garbage in the background.


If you are ever in the Phoenix, Scottsdale area plan a trip to the McCormick Stillman Railroad Park   It is one of the best railroad theme parks in the US and you will not be disappointed.  While there stop in and check out the HO scale model railroad that is being built by my friends in the Scottsdale Model Railroad Society.   While the park is open 363 days out of the year, the 100 plus degree summer months are NOT the best time to visit the park.

Now back to the shops.

CWRailman

 
 
I have been a dedicated user of Pentax camera’s since 1975.  Unlike Canon or Nikon the Pentax line of camera’s are not readily available through big box stores such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy so unless you are a photo enthusiast such as myself who frequents well stocked camera stores such as Central Camera in Chicago or B&H in New York or read photography related periodicals and WEB sites you may not be familiar with this line.

When I transitioned from film to the digital media I continued with Pentax because they advertised that I could use all of my existing Pentax lenses with the new digital camera.  From that first Pentax digital SLR up to the most current model those old lenses are, with some limitations, usable.  The same cannot be said of all the other manufactures.

My first Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) Pentax camera now resides with a new owner however that second camera as well as two of the current models continue to churn out great images for us.
(Click on image for a larger version)

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Our family of Pentax Camera’s starting with the rear row from left to right:
Pentax K-110, 6.1 megapixels released in May 2006
Pentax K-5, 16.3 megapixels released in September 2010
Pentax K-5lls, 16.3 megapixels released in September 2012
Front Center Pentax Q, 12.3 megapixels released in June 2011

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From a very early age I have been intrigued by small functional cameras such as this metal Crystar camera which was not much larger than a matchbox and was sold in the souvenir stores located in most tourist traps in the 1950’s.  I pestered my parents and somehow, probably just to shut me up, they let me get one.  We later found out that getting the film developed was an almost insurmountable challenge and placed an intolerable drain on the meager family finances so that camera disappeared but I never forgot it.  Recently I discovered the Pentax Q and became equally intrigued by it’s size and capabilities.  While it is not the current model available in this line of Pentax camera’s, this Pentax Q, is the most recent addition to our family of Pentax camera’s.  (The latest version of the Q available from Pentax is the Q7 released in June 2013 which replaced the Q10 released in September 2012.) 

The Q is an interchangeable lens, Magnesium alloy bodied, mirrorless camera and despite it’s small size, it offers many of the features and high quality build that are found on the larger DSLR camera’s including High Definition video.  In fact it has several features not available in the larger cameras.  I have discovered that among photo aficionados, the Pentax Q has a dedicated, almost cult like, following.  Check out this enthusiastic video review of the first Pentax Q and if you do not want to watch the entire video, at least watch the first few minutes then the last three minutes.

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What I find intriguing about the Q is the ability to set the self timer and drop this small camera into areas that you could not normally see such as the one shown here, then trip the shutter to capture the image.  The process I use for taking shots with the Q, including all the camera settings, is the same as I described in using the Kodak Z915 camera featured on our Photographing Model Trains Page.    

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Here is an image shot with the Q using the 01 fixed focal length prime lens.  The camera was in a position similar to that shown above. Note the low point of view.  Such shots are possible due to the small 40.5mm diameter lens sitting almost directly on top of the rail.  

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That puts the center of the lens about 7.5’ HO scale above the top of the surface it is sitting on which in this case is the rail.  Those of you who read Ben King’s articles in the 1960’s issue of model railroad related magazines may remember that his hand built camera had a similar perspective.

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By comparison, this image demonstrates the relationship between an HO scale figure and the lens on my Pentax K-5.


Like the Kodak Z915 that I demonstrated on the CWRailman Photographing Models Page, this little camera can take some decent shots with good depth of field.  It is also capable of shooting HD quality video.  Here is one of our first attempts to shoot video using this camera and was done in B&W which would have been common during our 1928 era. Low quality fast loading version or a bit higher quality slower loading version. The video was produced in full HD using Microsoft Movie Maker but then, to allow quicker downloading to your puter, the quality of both versions has been lowered.  The focusing issues are a result of my inexperience in operating the camera, not some shortcoming of the camera.  I promise to improve in that area.
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As they become available on the used market, I believe anyone looking for a small camera they can fit into a pocket for day trips, or as a backup to a larger full size DSLR, or just a camera to have fun and “unleash a feeling of playfulness of experimentation of creativity” then the Pentax Q series should be considered.  While the current Q7 is selling for around $346, the original Pentax Q such as ours, with the fixed focal length prime lens or one with the standard zoom lens, can be purchased from sellers on Ebay or Craig’s List for between $100 and $135 with previously owned Q10’s selling for around $140-170.  It’s a lot of fun, especially for those of us who may have had experiences as children with the Japanese built Crystar metal camera’s. However, unlike the Crystar, shooting with the Q will not put a significant dent in the family budget

For
more information on the Pentax Q download the manual for this or any of the Pentax line of cameras.
 

OH!!  One more thing, though I doubt I will ever attempt to do so, with the use of an adapter, I can use all my old full size Pentax lenses on the Q.

Now back to the shops or, maybe out for a little fun with the Q.


CWRailman