There are people so obsessed with trains that they’ll travel the world just to spot a rare locomotive. And then there’s Jason Shron, who’s not only built a replica of a passenger train car in his basement, he’s also found a clever way to simulate a train ride by strapping a tiny video camera to his model railway.
If Jason Shron’s name rings a bell, it’s probably because back in 2013 he was all over the news after rebuilding a Canadian VIA Rail passenger coach in the basement of his Toronto home after managing to purchase one that was taken out of service for less than $10,000. Shron disassembled its guts, shipped it back home, and rebuilt the coach’s interior inside a basement mockup recreating every detail from seats, to no spitting signage (smoking was still allowed while this coach was in service), to authentic VIA Rail branding and even blankets.
A motion blurred photo of scenery in one window helped create the illusion that the train was in motion, but it wasn’t terribly convincing. Thanks to the pandemic, Shron came up with a clever way to upgrade his simulated rail travel experience. Being sequestered at home over the past year also gave Shron a lot of time to work on his model railway (he actually owns a company that makes model trains) which is a recreation of a rail line between Toronto, Ontario, and Montreal, Quebec, known as the Kingston Subdivision.
Shron has recreated the route in such incredible detail that he was able to strap a tiny GoPro Session camera to one of his model trains and record the journey leading up to a real-life stop known as Brockville Station. When the footage was edited to look like it was the view outside of a VIA Rail passenger train’s window (complete with simulated reflections on the glass and authentic sound effects of the train and passengers) it’s an incredibly convincing simulation.
This video is just a proof of concept, however. Eventually, Shron plans to install giant screens (either massive LCDs or rear-projected screens) behind the windows of his basement passenger coach with live feeds from his model railroad so that anyone who climbs aboard legitimately feels like they’re rolling along the Kingston Subdivision route. Building and filming a miniature mockup seems like an overly complicated way to create this effect when Shron could just buy a ticket and film a ride along on the real route for maximum authenticity, but this is a man who rebuilt a passenger coach in his basement—he seems to have no interest in taking the easy route.