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Moorgate Station Crossrail excavation works for new station entrance

News Time-Lapse Trends: railways

12 October 2017 Kate

“Time-Lapse Trends” is a video blog series which draws attention to some of the many exciting trends in time-lapse production. We feature a new trend in each instalment, to demonstrate the scope of the medium and the various ways in which it is applied, ranging from the popular to the more obscure.

Another classic subject for time-lapse is the capture of rail-based activity. Whether documenting infrastructural works or travel by train, these elements are popular themes for professionals and hobbyists alike.

Keith Lanpher’s time-lapse (below) of a light rail system in Norfolk, Virginia is an excellent example of how even the simplest of concepts can be represented creatively using the time-lapse medium.

The video shows the small rail system in its full working capacity making its way around the city, using the picturesque night skies and the street lights as they reflect off the side of the train to add a little creative license to the footage.


Alternatively, videos that depict rail journeys from the interior of a train can also be an interesting application for time-lapse.

The ‘Metro Transit Light Rail Minneapolis’, for example, utilises point of view as if to simulate the journey from the front of the train.

When emerging in and out of the tunnel systems, especially, this perspective makes it appear as if the viewer is part of a video game. The accelerated pace allowed for by time-lapse shows an entire circuit in just over a couple of minutes, doubling as a quick virtual tour around Minneapolis, too.

Professional application

As well as an interesting subject for hobbyists, rail time-lapse videos also fulfil a myriad of professional functions.

Time-lapse capture and site monitoring are often used to showcase projects with a high investment of public interest, with videos being an effective and creative medium through which to inform a wide audience.

Capturing rail-based developments can be referred to as a niche sector of work in terms of the particular skill set that is required in order to produce time-lapse of a professional standard.


By way of example, our above time-lapse edit for VolkerRail shows rail improvement works at Bromsgrove Blockade. Accompanied by slides of text narrating the action and communicating the purpose of developments, and the timescales involved, this incredibly detailed video was the result of long-term, uninterrupted capture.

External infrastructural works like this, taking place over an extended period of time, require professional camera systems that are robust and reliable so as to withstand all manner of weather conditions throughout the year. It is also important that the completed video is able to accurately reflect the intricacies of the work involved to a standard suited to VolkerRail’s brand.

Remote access is also an essential part of professional time-lapse application in rail contexts.

Using sophisticated networking, allowing the camera’s settings to be monitored and altered when needed, ensures continued capture of optimum quality throughout all manner of environmental conditions, regardless of the project and its timescales.

Our joint collaboration with Aerial Images, for example, documenting the electrical upgrades at Farnworth Tunnel, would not have been possible without remote access to the camera system. Such professional sequences work to inform online audiences of important developments to the UK’s rail networks, therefore building stronger affiliations between these services and the public that they serve.

So whether in a professional or more amateur capacity, there is plenty of creative, as well as informative, applications of time-lapse showing the wonders of the world’s rail networks.

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