Riding the Rails with the PiZero2W

Table of contents

RoadTest: Raspberry Pi Zero 2W

Author: colporteur

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Development Boards & Tools

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: PiZero W has the same footprint as the PiZero2W but with the quad-core processing power. The quad-cores I expect were what made it possible to stream video.

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Recommend vendor provide as part of the kit, adapter for the USB and HDMI. PiZero's use different connectors than standard Pi's, An individual not having cables to support the USB and HDMI I think would be an expected problem.

Detailed Review:

The simple project to generate the evaluation data for this RoadTest was to pair a Raspberry Pi Zero 2W with a camera, assemble it on a HO scale model railroad car with a power source and stream or record video of the train in motion.

The project was completed successfully with the hardware provided. The PiZero2W can support full video streaming with the new libcamera software stack in the bullseye operating system. I had hoped to include another short video but my posts generate error messages that my profile doesn't have sufficient capacity. I have reported the problem and went with static pictures to break up the text.

The Raspberry Pi Documentation Camera suggests using the legacy Raspicam software stack on a Raspberry Pi Zero and not the new libcamera. The legacy software performs better on the old hardware. Well, that message can be revised. The sporty PiZero2W, with its quad-cores under the hood, didn’t have a problem producing and streaming the video.

The project started with five blogs but was expanded to six in order to separate introduction details for the PiZero2W and model train.
Riding-the-Rails with a Raspberry Pi Zero 2W: Application
Riding-the-Rails with a Raspberry Pi Zero 2W: Introduction Model Train Stuff
Riding-the-Rails with a Raspberry Pi Zero 2W: Introduction Pi Stuff
Riding The Rails with Raspberry Pi Zero 2W: Operating System Install & Configuration
Riding The Rails with Raspberry Pi Zero 2W: Camera
Riding The Rails with Raspberry Pi Zero 2W: Prototype

The modeling of the rail car prototypes to carry the camera system was done by model railroaders since that is not a hobby the author wishes to get involved in. The assembly of the electronics, configuration of the operating system, installation and configuration of camera software and final assembly was done by the author.

Model railroaders are all about making models authentic. In this example they modified some hardware to cover as much of the camera hardware system as possible, trying to make it look like train loads. The camera itself was the only component not hidden inside a train housing.

My thanks to the E14Community for responding to my discussion post on powering the PiZero2W. I made a forum post, Exploring alternate methods for providing DC power to Raspberry Pi and the community responded. Space limitations made it impossible to use the power connector on the Pi so an alternate method of supplying power was needed.

Two changes were introduced into the project scope. A servo motor to move the camera was added and a button to support a python script to power down the PiZero2W was developed. The two devices were wired to GPIO pins along with power from a battery source.

The equipment supplied didn't contain two adapters (shown in white) that enable USB-A to micro-B connections and large HDMI to medium HDMI transition. I was fortunate to have these adapters from a previous PiZero use. I recommend these be provided with the kit. The adapters improve the chances of being able to use peripherals that have standard connection types when using the kit out of the box.

In reviewing my blog posts, I failed to mention in the Introduction to Pi Stuff that the kit supplied heat sinks with adhesive backing. The silver heat sink with fins can be seen in the picture above.

Another component not on the list was the 40 pin header. Anyone ordering the kit, who wishes to use the header will need to supply their own header pins. This project only required five pins fitted to a six-pin connector. The extra pin was used in order to provide some alignment keying on the connector.

Since this project was battery powered the supplied power supply was only used during setup and configuration. I found no issues with the power supply.

I would recommend this kit to potential buyers. The PiZero2W is beefed up with quad-cores sufficiently to run the new camera software.

My thanks to the vendor and RoadTest Community for selecting my application. The Riding the Rails project using the PiZero2W was a success. The model railroad community has plans to take the camera system prototype on the road with them to the next train show.

  • I think this is a very creative idea. I had a bit of nostalgia about the model train I had when I was about 10 years old. It was one of the things that inspired my interest in all things electrical/electronic. Thanks for participating.