Prescott railroad featured on new train cam

By Sarah Nigbor
Posted 4/17/24

PRESCOTT – For a Perham, Minn., man, trains have a mystical draw that can’t really be explained. He loves everything about them, even the sound of them rumbling past his home in the …

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Prescott railroad featured on new train cam


PRESCOTT – For a Perham, Minn., man, trains have a mystical draw that can’t really be explained. He loves everything about them, even the sound of them rumbling past his home in the night.

“Trains just have an allure that I can’t really figure it out. It’s the most amazing thing,” said Rich Luth. “I have talked to so many people about it. It just amazes me. Some people find them to be bothersome. I live right on the train tracks (in Perham). My bedroom is right at the back of my house. I find them to be rather soothing to be honest with you, unless there is a train driver that is really heavy-handed with the horn. Sometimes that will wake me up. I don’t even notice them sometimes. Some are pretty quiet. You can’t hear them. There is just something magical about the hearing the power of the train.”

Luth’s love of trains has led him to Prescott and other railroad towns throughout Minnesota where he has stationed his rail cams, which are viewable on his Otter Tail Channel on YouTube. The mission of his venture is to install cameras along the Northern Transcon Railroad and its subdivisions to not only entertain viewers who love trains as much as he does, but to serve as a replacement for the loss of ATCS.

What is ATCS? It’s a system of railroad equipment designed to ensure safety by monitoring locomotive and train locations, providing analysis and reporting, automating instructions issued to a train crews authorizing specific train movements, detecting blind spots and other hazards. 

Luth explained ATCS as a radio signal released by a train as it goes by, which could be picked up by radio and converted to a display showing where a train is going, the track it’s on, etc. However, the Federal Communications Commission made radio operators change radio frequencies and they can no longer pick up the ATCS signals.

“Originally, I was approached because I am a ham radio operator and I live right on the train lines,” Luth said. “Most of my property is BNSF property.”

For years he monitored train locations using ATCS, so when the FCC made its rule change, he was upset. He decided to put up a camera in April 2018. The rest is history.

“I found out very quickly that there’s a lot of train fans out there, so I put up another (in Wadena, Minn. in September 2021),” Luth said.

He has since added cameras in Richville, Brainerd, Detroit Lakes, St. Cloud, Staples, and Little Falls, Minn. Prescott’s, which was installed last week on the Scab’s Place deck pointing toward the lift bridge, is the latest. Luth has 16 live cameras on his Otter Tail channel and one livestream on Rumble.

“The neat thing about Prescott, is that it is a PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) cam,” Luth said. “It can move around 360 degrees. It can show the marina, both bridges, the entrance. We’re not stuck in that position. When something goes through, we can follow whatever goes through. It’s not just an IP cam that’s pointing in one direction at all times.”

Luth said he relies on viewers to do what he does. Once a top videographer for motorsports in Minnesota, an auto accident a couple years ago forced him to give up filming. He now focuses on his train cams.

“Viewers help with almost everything that we do. We keep a log of all of the trains that go by all our cams. There is a log on Prescott that just started today,” Luth said Wednesday, April 10. “What type of train, engine number, type of cargo, number of cars, we count how many axles.”

 The Prescott train log can be viewed at

“We kind of do this for safety’s sake,” Luth said. “That is what the train fans like. We also have a database where I put a link on the log and you can click on that link and find out where the train was manufactured and when. I’ve been working on that database since 2018 and it has almost 20,000 entries. On our chats we have a bot that helps us (a night bot), and it knows the weather in every single county in the US.”

Luth works with a network of 10-15 viewers that help him keep the logs. His latest expansion into Prescott was due to viewer suggestions. He is also looking to install a train cam in Hastings.

“I’m looking for someone that has a good view in the Hastings area,” Luth said. “I contacted Al at Scab’s Place. One of the nice things about what we do is we don’t charge a sponsor fee. I pay for the equipment and installation.”

Luth’s channel has between 12,000 and 13,000 subscribers. He believes if businesses are kind enough to loan him electricity and internet to run his cameras, he can advertise their logo for free.  

“The camera is like running three 80-watt lightbulbs,” Luth said. “The payoff is well worth it for them because they’re getting a minimum of 90,000 views a month.”

Luth loves Prescott because it’s so picturesque. Since making the Prescott cam live one week ago, he’s had at minimum 10 viewers on at one time.

“As people get to know where the camera is, that number is only going to grow,” Luth said. “I didn’t have the proper adaptor for the microphone. That will get hooked up soon. When they can hear that train going over the bridge, people are just going to flock to it.”

Luth is always looking to expand his train cam network and is actively seeking appropriate locations for additional installations. If interested in providing information about a potential location, email him at The Prescott train cam and others can be viewed by visiting

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