Re: Determining car dimensions from photographs.

midrly <midrly@...>

The May, 1996 Railroad Model Craftsman has the article "Plans from pictures" by James Tangney, It's an essential read to understand the process, regardless of whether you are using a computer programme or manual methods. Not only does it cover the (easy) math involved, but also has some hints as to derive true dimensions from such things as shadowed rivets in photos. He uses track gauge and coupler height from rails as two standards from which to obtain relative measurements.

Steve Lucas.

--- In STMFC@..., Nelson Moyer wrote:

Rob's photo/line method is especially useful using Google SketchUp, which calculates length of lines in prospective drawings from a single known dimension. I used it to determine the dimensions of pin-connected through truss bridge from a three-quarter view photo using track gauge as the known dimension.


On Jan 12, 2013, at 9:19 PM, "Rob Kirkham" wrote:

I can't recall a particular article outlining the process of obtaining
dimensions from a photo, but here is what I do:

- start with photos that are as square to the object to be measured as
possible (anything not at a 90 degree angle to the lens is going to involve
more complex math - not my hobby)
- find an object shown in the photo that has a known dimension
- precisely measure its visible dimensions - so for example, imagine a
broadside of a boxcar. Assume you know the wheel diameter is 33" When you
measure the wheel diameter in the photo you find it is 1/4".
- the ratio between the 33" wheel and its 1/4" size in the photo gives you a
- So (assuming everything else in the photo is to the same scale), a 1" long
object in the photo is 132" long in real life; i.e. 33" divided by 1/4".
- Looking at it another way, if 1" on the photo = 132 real inches, multiple
any measurement on the photo by 132 to get the proto dimension.

Most photos are not precisely square. Reality is that each 33" wheel on the
real car may show in the photo as slightly larger or smaller than the
others - so for example, one might be .235" diameter, another .24", the one
you first measured .25" and the fourth .255". Each serves as the basis to
convert other measurements on the drawing. so, for example,

1st wheel is .235" in the photo; that equals 33" in real life, so 1 inch on
the photo is equal to 33" divided by .235, or 140.43;
2nd wheel is .24" in the photo; that equals 33" in real life, so 1 inch on
the photo is equal to 33" divided by .24, or 137.5;
3rd wheel is .25" in the photo; that equals 33" in real life, so 1 inch on
the photo is equal to 33" divided by .25, or 132;
4th wheel is .255" in the photo; that equals 33" in real life, so 1 inch on
the photo is equal to 33" divided by .255, or 129.4;

(Assuming I didn't create a typo)

What you might deduce from the different wheel dimensions taken from the
photo is that the factor based on a wheel that is closest to the feature you
are measuring is going to provide a better basis for your conversion than a
factor based on a wheel that is further away.

For long measurements (e.g. side sill length), you might do well to average
the factors converted for each wheel and use the average factor.

When I scale a model from photos, I open an excel spread sheet and start to
put in scale factors from known objects. I will then use each of those
factors (in a separate column) to calculate dimensions for everything in the

Sometimes dimensions using one factor jump out at you. So the width of the
side sill with each factor may come out at 9 3/8", 9 13/16", 10" and 10
7/16". I'd use the 10" dimension. Other times you have to make a best
guess as none of the conversions results in a sensible dimension.

Another tip - I import the drawing into a drawing program, enlarge it to
400% or more, and draw lines over top of the photo, following the shapes of
the parts I am going to measure. My software includes a scale so I can
measure the length of the lines I draw. By enlarging the photo, I draw more
accurate lines and get more precise measurements off of it.

At some point you'll also start to think about how many decimal places you
care about. I always do over-kill and then round, but with a bit of thought
I'm sure I could save myself the trouble.

Rob Kirkham

From: "Scott" repairman87@...>
Sent: Saturday, January 12, 2013 8:02 PM
To: STMFC@...>
Subject: [STMFC] Determining car dimensions from photographs.

Hello everybody hope your new year is going well.

I saw in one of the historical society magazineshad an article on
determining car dimensions from photographs.

It included the various math needed to figure out sizes from photographs.
I thought I had bookmarked it but I guess not.

I understand I can get overall outside dimensions from the ORER but need
to figure out all the detail stuff.

Anybody remember seeing it or know the mathmatical equations to use?

Thank you,

Scott McDonald


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