The Belt Railway of Chicago: Alcos in Action

The Belt Railway of Chicago: Alcos in Action

John Szwajkart

Length: 2 hours 5 minutes

Time Period: 1980’s- 1990’s

Locations: Clearing Yard, Barr Yard, Proviso Yard, South Chicago Yard, points in between..

Source: John Szwajkart

Format: 2 DVD-R

MSRP: 40.00

Alco Century C424 locomotives were quite a sight around Chicago in the 1980’s. The Belt Railway of Chicago was practically running a museum of: Electromotive of LaGrange Division and Alco built power at this time.  The C424 Century diesels. Also: GP7, GP9’s, SW1500, SW7’s, plus the TR cow/ calf combinations . One SW1500 was still in 1976 Bicentennial paint! Highly interesting diesel roster.

Belt Railway is a transfer railroad in Chicago. Their function is to re-classify inbound trains. Belt trains move the large cuts of cars. They will service the major participating railroads. Serve local industries. Belt’s Clearing Yard itself, is a miles long, huge railyard. Thousands of freight cars are sorted there.

The BRC then sent out the transfer and regular turns. Most of the time, a pair of Alcos were the locomotives used on the transfer runs. The locomotives would return with more freight or run light. Sometimes, the switchers would be used. Geeps used in all assorted duties.

All of the diesels were well kept, by the shop forces.


Number 605 rounds the curve at 47th Street in LaGrange.

605cabThis program covers the entire fleet of six Alco Centuries. They are all viewed, in service.


The Century locomotives were utilized in pairs.

204Another feature of interest, is the transfer caboose type on BRC. A great paint scheme was in black, gray and yellow stripe. The BRC logo and white lettering really set it apart. Deluxe, for a transfer line. Very classic looking. They appear here. Also, some plain looking boxcar red, or red primer colored paint, with white lettering.

A basic map is used, with each run highlighted in red. A title page is used for each segment. Brief narration outlines the route to be visited at the start of each chapter.

mopac brc ihbThis is a video directly transferred to DVD. You will see some tape flaws, and hear some audio errors, as if viewing the original tape. The audio errors sound like digital ones. Both discs have these issues, though in small quantities. The imagery is as clear as the source tape. Tighter editing, would result in a stronger show.

Natural audio is the soundtrack. Wind noise on the microphone is common. Birds and auto traffic can be heard. The Alcos distinctive sounds, are very different from the more familiar EMD engines. Not much horn blowing. Usual train sounds: clicks, clacks, groans and squeals. Sometimes, too much of crossing bells. Actually, a fairly quiet show.

A shaky camera is often evident. The slower speeds of these trains mitigate the effect. John is out there, in any weather. Chicago has varying conditions, and is a windy city.

gtcsxOther railroad power includes: CNW, Grand Trunk, Chessie, MoPac, IHB and Union Pacific. Normal freight traffic, as it meets with Belt operations.

The two discs are divided into a pair of presentations. The main show, with the freight runs. The second disc highlights each individual Alco by number. Rather clever formula.

Part One has: South Chicago Turn, Barr Yard Turn and Proviso Yard Transfer as the main chapters. Also, a Return to Clearing chapter.

602Those Alcos are a fun subject for trainwatching. They usually run at slower speeds, as they pull and push their freights. Sometimes, they put on good displays of black smoke. Once termed as, honorary steam locomotives. You will see why, on this show.

477Some additional BRC locomotives in operation are included in this show. GP7 477 is a clean, non dynamic unit, and seen, at Clearing . A Cow and Calf TR set, with the calf on the lead! There are other SW7 and SW1500 switchers, mainly in pairs. Yes, the single Bicentennial SW1500 is found in this video.

proviso turn mopacThe Proviso Turn seen, begins at Argo and travels northbound to CNW’s Proviso Yard. After the quick outline,there are no further references to locations of this move. Here are some basics. Multiple views document the northward route.

BRC passes thru: LaGrange, Bellwood, to Northlake. BRC #600 leads sometimes, with snow on the ground, and a dreary Chicago day. This was shot over a period of time. The weather varies, along with the diesels.

Watch for the white, Chicago Northwestern water tower. That marks Proviso Yard. Nice work, on the coverage of this transfer run!

Part One is well constructed. It provides an enjoyable supply of action. It was always a thrill to see the big Century locos pulling those runs. Having the roads other diesels, rounds out the proceedings nicely. Runs at 74 minutes.

600Part Two has each numbered Alco with it’s own chapter. The substitute power includes that Bicentennial SW1500. This disc contains more heavily smoking Centuries! Organized in reverse, numerical sequence. The Proviso Transfer, being headed by the units is the prime focus. This disc runs at 50 minutes.


An Extra Chapter contains even more action.

600604211The program is a basic amateur train video. At 2 hours, there is much to see. It has the listed shortcomings. The set accomplishes what it advertises. The Belt Railway of Chicago operations are competently covered. A fair production, of an uncommon railroad.

Hardcore railfans will find much to enjoy on Belt Railway of Chicago Alcos in Action. The price seems rather high, considering the overall quality of these old, shaky videos.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

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