Donner – Stacks In The High Sierras

Donner – Stacks In The High Sieeras

7idea Productions

Format: DVD

Length: 2 Hours

Time period: 2010

Locations: Donner Pass: Roseville, CA. to Sparks, NV.

There are multiple railroad videos about Donner Pass. A famous and scenic area, with much history, it has had a high interest level among railfans. The presentation here is of contemporary Union Pacific operations . So, we expect modern video and audio standards. Previous Donner Pass editions have contained spectacular  sequences of trains and the severe weather. How does this show measure up vs. previous releases?

The imagery is high-definition clear. The audio is natural sound, also clear. There are some maps, and some on-screen location sub- titles. They use some station sign shots to also mark locations. The basics for a quality train video are all present.

Intangibles are what make for the outstanding programs. A sense of artistry, the knack for capturing the essence of an area or route, What makes it special? What makes is tick?

In modern times, many people have the ability to get some equipment, rent a 4X4, and it’s off to the tracks. They can capture trains at crossings, stations, trackside and get that done. With a sharp eye, it can look pretty good.

The thing is, with areas of high scenic and historical interest, there is much more.

There lies the flaw in much of this program. While it has pro quality elements, it lacks artistry on the same level. Anyone who doesn’t care much about the route’s area, and just wants to see 2010 UP trains rollby, won’t mind. If I am spending money for a show called Donner … that’s what I expect. I want to get a bunch of shots highlighting the locale.

Too many tight trackside shots that don’t show the scene, just the train. Balance is a tough one to get right. That’s why it can lack so often.

Red Mountain Lookout (closed in 1934) is an interesting segment. This does capture the scenery, which dwarfs the trains. Good history here too. West Norden snowsheds, also a better segment. Some other good shots are just too few, for two hours.

The narration is fine. He does a good job of calling out the trains, and details about them. I would have liked more attention given to locomotive types. They are third generation, with some renumbered former SP units, the odd CNW locomotive ,and a handful of Amtrak. These modern behemoths are often single unit pushers!

While the program looks and sounds fine from a quality standpoint, it lacks the other desired elements.  In fact, with less interesting trains nowadays, it may have been more effective to get out there in a blizzard.

The shots get repetitive, UP locos tight to a mountain, on a grade, on a curve, perfect weather … Yawn.

So now we finally get to the snow.. January 2010. This portion is better then the summer. The atmosphere has changed, this is more like it! That UP spreader train is cool. There are some good shots to be seen, of trains in the snow.  This subject has been covered much more effectively in other Donner Pass shows .

Let’s see… I have 3 stars for a good train video, that means it has to be interesting…Right? Sorry, it’s not. Although it does contain some moments, they are too few. That long and tedious summer portion, really buries this show.

This is the worst Donner title I have ever seen.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

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