Big Steam 844: Western Heritage Tour to California

Big Steam 844: Western Heritage Tour to California

BA Productions

Format: DVD

Length: 1 hour 5 minutes

Time Period: April- May 2009

Locations: Truckee, Donner Pass, Roseville, Feather River Canyon, Keddie Wye

Source: BA Productions

MSRP: 29.95

Union Pacific 844 is a fan favorite. Flagship of the Fleet, as noted on the DVD case, is an accurate description. The Union Pacific personnel sure convey their pride in working on the 844. The Western Heritage Tour of 2009, is the event presented here. BA Productions had 3 additional camera crews to record the action. Filmed in high definition for maximum viewing pleasure.

A narrator is present on this show. There are railroad employees with their commentary. Even some railfans talk about it, at trackside. Some various music backgrounds are intertwined within the show. A map outlines the journey. Sparks, NV.,Truckee to Roseville, and onwards to Feather River Canyon. There are also, the points in-between. Nevada, California and Utah were the states with the 8 city itinerary.

There is a chapter main menu and some previews on this disc. The mostly translucent BA logo is displayed throughout this show. It does not intrude upon the screen, it is just there.

The locomotive is examined in a high level of detail. Interior cab views give a nice look at the controls. Engineer Steve Lee has to put some physical effort to operate the steam era controls. A few stats: 23000 gallons of water, 6000 gallons of fuel oil, and a weight of 454 tons. Those main drivers are 80 inches. This was built in 1944. It was the last steam engine built for Union Pacific. The 4-8-4 is a Northern class locomotive. It has never been retired. In 1960, this locomotive was changed to promotional purposes and saved from the scrapper’s torch.

We time travel back to a 1999 excursion. Two double-headed steamers pulled a failed diesel helper out of the 2 mile long tunnel 41. Later, the 844 locomotive had a mechanical failure and was out of service, pending rebuilding.

Watching the engineer and fireman work in the cab is intriguing. They work as team, as if in a partnership with this massive steam locomotive.

BA shows have outstanding balance to the programs. There are many elements that go into a fine show like this. We have much energy, from the people and the train. Sometimes the audio fades to silence, except the train sounds, or some relaxing music. Likewise, with the cinematography. The many various views look at the train. Additional views in the locomotive cab, and from the train, give us a comprehensive experience. An enticing use of combinations.

It is quite mesmerizing to see and hear the train as it traverse along the route, through some very scenic areas. An occasional graphic will keep us advised of a location. That steam whistle reverberates in the mountains, and sounds wonderful!

Leaving Truckee the 844 and two heritage painted MAC diesels go through the Donner Pass region. Snow is still present at the higher elevations. Fantastic sights of: train, tunnels, snowsheds and gorgeous scenic vistas. A very memorable chapter in this show.

This is top shelf production, all across the board. It could easily be shown on television. It has a smooth feel, in common with high quality PBS style shows.  Yet, it is a much different type of show, than more traditional 844 train video programs.

The people do make an important difference. Listening to much of their commentary is as engaging as watching the wealth of great train footage. Individual stories and hearing how they are working at mutual goals, help us to understand what makes the UP steam program a success. Steve Lee is the lead spokesman. UP has a number of men that are equally as interesting to hear in the show. Any viewer will gain from this knowledgeable team.

Big Steam 844 is in a class by itself. The classic steam engine as seen, in a contemporary film.  An artistic and intelligent program. In a word, splendid!

Rating: 5 Stars

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