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With so much time on my hands during the pandemic, I finally got motivated to cleaning out (or selling on eBay) large amounts of vintage items that accumulated over the years in the basement. That included many types of magazines going back several decades. Before throwing a journal away, I would thumb through the table of contents. In one of the magazines I unexpectedly came across an article titled "The Lionel Railscope." That led me to two more magazine pieces.

In the January 1991 issue of Popular Science magazine, towards the back pages, there was an advertisement titled "Video Breakthrough for Sale" touting a cutting-edge solid-state video camera for only $69.95. The name of the seller was not given. Only a telephone number to call.

Popular Science January 1991 Page 95

Bill Brown, an amateur television enthusiast, was excited to see this. Charged Coupled Devices (CCDs) were just starting to replace vidicon tubes in TV cameras used in business security and hobbyist applications. A price of $70 for such a camera was a great deal! Bill called the 800 telephone number and was surprised that the person answering the phone was from Lionel Trains, Inc. in Mt. Clemens, MI. Lionel was selling off its supply of Railscopes which first came out around 1988.  Obviously, they had more cameras on hand than Railscope engine sales!  Bill received the camera and wrote a technical article about it in the April 1991 issue of the now-defunct Amateur Television Quarterly. A pdf of the full article is attached below. Here is the spec sheet that came with the camera.

Lionel Railscope Specs

Hugh Maher, a model rocket enthusiast, saw Bill's article and thought the Railscope would be ideal to fit into his North Coast Phantom 4000HD which has a maximum altitude of 3500 feet. Hugh wrote an article, provided below, about all the trials and tribulations of getting Railscope to work in a rocket. But it finally was successful!  It's not clear how high Railscope went into very-low space, but I doubt that it got anywhere close to 3500' considering the extra payload weight and battery. BTW, North Coast is still in business selling rockets as is the engine maker, Estes.

I'm providing all of this detailed technical information about Railscope for posterity, just in case someone ever needs to fix or restore one.


Last edited by Bruce Brown
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I remember the display at York when it was released - VERY gritty B&W, and soon after came all the complaints of what a battery hog it was. When K-Line finally did theirs, it was somewhat better (color and track powered). Now, there are some after-market companies that have everyone beat.

Personally, I still prefer to get down at eye level on my layout and watch 'em fly by .

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