Extreme SP


Producer: Charles Smiley

Time Period: 1956- 1997

Locations: Modoc Line, Shasta Line, Donner Pass, Dunsmir, more…

Length: 1 hour 52 minutes

Sources: Many. All are high quality. Digital restoration and they are held to a consistent standard of excellence.

 * Special Note: This program will teach you,  so much about mountain railroading. The technical side of running helpers, tonnage, train length, ruling grades, curvature, safety, and snow removal – then has ever been assembled in a single train video program. You’ve been advised.

The first minute of the show is artistic. An antique clock, an old wig-wag signal, juxtaposed with a modern SP diesel, a detailed graphic of a locomotive control panel, leading into big 12 axle diesels pulling trains across the desert. What does it mean? Something unique to each viewer.


The Charles Smiley Presents are in a class all of their own. From the unusual title, to the ‘ way out there’ introduction, this promises to be far more, then a collection of mind-numbing runbys…… Onward…. to the ….show…..


The Southern Pacific’s Sunset Route is our launching point, at Beaumont Hill. 1994. The grimy locomotives reflect some hard times, after the ICC denied the Santa Fe merger. Double stack traffic along a snow free Sunset Route helped the revenue improve. SP had to lease power to keep up with demand. Tehachapi Loop gets a quick visit.


This program is like a visit to SD40T-2 heaven. A cool locomotive that shows up often. You will see assorted paint schemes. Various states of sooty grime and cosmetic distress. They are worked to the limit and cross the landscape with authority.


SP had been rebuilding. Some locomotives in this brief pacing sequence from Tennessee Pass, for example.


The Modoc Line near the California and Oregon border. It is a rarely filmed line that is called ‘ The Forgotten Corner’ in this feature. Modoc county in northeastern California. Look, SP Cab Forwards operating there, in 1956!


Back to the 1990’s. A trio of SD40T-2 , one DRGW, lead us up the grade into the area.  So exactly where is this branchline, that requires such big locomotives? Out comes the map to show us. The county is the northeastern most in California. Frequent map references will keep us apprised of our location and elevation… we’ll need it.


The maps are numerous. They are all custom made.


Burlington Northern circa 1979 used SP tracks, and pooled with Western Pacific locos, we see: GP30, GP40, GP35 ‘s. BN also has 12 axles. Western Pacific’s, Inside Gateway is also visited.


SP action on the Cascade. High mountain footage old and newer. Many curving rails with mid train helpers. Grade elevation profile maps are frequently referenced and there are some ruling grades at a steep near 2%. SD40T-2 class are seemingly the backbone of the operation.


At Crest, some extremely hot heat exhaust from trio of SD40T-2, all SP, gives a hard pulling westbound.. an almost fire breathing presence. Awesome shot! We chase this dragon, and it encounters a 2.2% ruling grade. Sage Hen summit. This is some great trainchasing. 6856 on the lead and viewed at many angles and locations. what a blast! We finish near Stronghold. The Modoc history lesson is a nice bonus.


We pickup an eastbound that is loaded with wood products. We see the entire train SD40 T-2, SSW GP60 and a UP SD60 on point, pulling 75 cars. At Ambrose, 2 SD40T-2 and an SD45T-2 struggle on the grade. Two Union Pacific helpers are tied on the front GE C36-7 and C30-7 at Likley Loop and really smoke it up! Some vintage film with SD40 and SD45 locomotives.


A caboose ride on a Lakeview local is shown, pulled by a lone GP9. Cool music on this trip. The area is a desolate one.


Mt. Shasta is next. Redding to Black Butte. The familiar Redding bridge is start. Roaring mountain railroading.McCloud Railway is shown. SD38’s that traverse 4% grades.. Onto Weed, CA. and a glimpse of the Central, Oregon & Pacific.


New SD70 locomotives have been added by SP.


Shasta Line from 1991 on digitally enhanced 8mm that looks sharp. Dunsmir is action packed as the trains grind it out. A spectacularly, scenic mountain area.


Cotton Belt GP60’s are right at home, with their larger cousins.A BN C30-7 leads a BN train. EMD demo units, Kodachromes, an old SD9. Some cabooses too.     A wonderful segment.


Donner Pass is synonymous with snow. In this sequence, you view it from an up close and personal viewpoint. Much background is given and the footage is very complete.


Much more than just seeing rotarys throw snow, it describes the entire process, right down to preparing the equipment at Roseville yard. A fantastic and informative trip through Donner Pass. Nicely done. Youngsters would like this and the Shasta piece with its hardcore action dynamics.


Wrapping it up is a collection of many different locomotives and locales, sans narration. Decrepit first generation power and recently purchased locomotives make quite a contrast.


Illustrates the upward climb the SP had made from a low point in its history.


This is a long and involved program. It has shows within the show. the Modoc Line, the Shasta Line and Donner Pass are so complete in scope and presentation, they can stand on their own. After viewing this, and you’ll need to see it more than once. A very in-depth look, at the Southern Pacific mountain operations, has been presented. This Charles Smiley video has, increased my awareness and understanding of the Extreme SP!

Rating 5 Stars

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