The iPhone begins earning its keep.

I recently upgraded from a BlackBerry to an iPhone.

Here's a complete anachronism: A Blackpool Balloon tram in 1960s livery slowing for a street crossing as a Leyland National bus in London United livery scoots away. Both are static models, the tram by Corgi and the bus by EFE. The corner Chinese takeway is a recent Hornby Skaledale product and the latest addition to my collection of OO scale UK structures.

That was a bit of a big deal, readers, for a man who keeps several rotary phones around the house as (non-connected) nostalgia pieces, who rues the loss of named telephone exchanges, who instinctively distrusted the idea of a keyless telephone. Yes, that man finally joined the cult and downed the Kool Aid. And it’s an iPhone 4 no less (one might as well jump in head first).

The verdict: I wish I had done so sooner. But why do I mention that here, on a blog about tramways? This morning I started to experiment with the new phone’s camera, hovering over some of my models in the wee hours like an anorak possessed.

Oh, as a phone it works well enough: It dials numbers and rings when people call me and the sound quality is good. I also can listen to music and check several email accounts and monitor the weather and scroll through Tweets from people all over the world. Yes, but now I also know I can take reasonably sharp pictures of scale models with impossibly tiny details.

This alone justifes the purchase and puts my new device head and shoulders above the BlackBerry it replaced after less than one year of service.

You can almost hear the motor ticking as if you were on the street watching this Leyland National Mk2 breeze past a movie theatre on an Arriva Wales route 2 service. The model is by EFE, the building is the much sought after Essoldo Cinema by Hornby. My only frustration with this picture is that the light has distorted the bus livery, turning its Arriva teal into a pleasing but incorrect shade of blue.

These are early efforts and there remains plenty of room to refine the technique. It’s also painfully obvious that I’ll need to dust off the buildings and vehicles better for future photo sessions.

Still, the results are, if I may say so, impressive indeed. I can only imagine what I’d be able to do once the layout is in some state of completion.

Readers may recall my previous posts on the N Scale Rochester Subway project. These photos are not of that layout, but of another project which has quietly been moving around in the background: A OO scale British tram layout. So far it’s just track and buildings sitting on a board, nothing soldered or nailed or glued. Indeed, the photos seen here show not my lone motorised Corgi car but several static tram models and buses from Corgi and EFE. I have a few plastic Balloon tram kits in various stages of assembly, and I ultimately hope to purchase a few more motorised Corgis.

I rather like this moody shot of a Leeds Horsfield tram approaching the tram station on my little layout, out of sight just to the right. One can almost imagine standing alongside a suburban tram tram route in postwar Leeds -- except for the Blackpool tram in the background and the bookcases looming in the distance. The tram is another EFE product.

Of course, it’s difficult to achieve completely believable realism when you can see the grain of the closet door looming where the sky should be, the street surface is spray painted particle board, the tracks lack ballast, when trolley poles and bow collectors reach vainly skyward for nonexistent wires and there are clearly no people on the vehicles or in the streets.

Right. And did I mention the dust? That iPhone is almost too sharp for its own good.

Still, it was rather fun and the quality of the images encourages me to do more work on getting this project up to more photogenic (and operational) standards.

Then maybe we can fool around with the iPhone’s video camera.


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