Midwest Collection

Midwest Collection

John Szwajkart

Format: DVD

Length: 63 minutes

Time Period: mid 1950’s

Locations: Chicago, Bensenville, Fond Du Lac, Milwaukee

Source: John Szwajkart, Ron Roberts

The Midwest Collection has three main sections of 1950’s steam powered trains. Soo Line, Milwaukee Road plus Chicago& Northwestern. A bonus 1960’s Diesel Power section, has C&NW also, Milwaukee Road in north suburban Chicago. The bonus diesels were filmed by Ron Roberts.

As a part of The Vintage 8’s collection by John Szwajkart, this is program #C6. Movies from the 1950’s is the tagline.

This show has no chapter menu. The chapters are accessible with your remote control’s ‘next’ button. Consider these as unlabeled chapters.

There is no narration. In fact, the show is a silent movie. One sound is present, the projector noise is heard. Pretty unusual in the 21st Century, but not the first time it’s been done. This is not my cup of tea in this modern era. Some narration, would be a major improvement.

This producer is a veteran railfan and knows his trains. Descriptions of steam era roundhouses, diesel led steam lash-ups, chase sequences, passenger scenes etc.. A narrative could be an enjoyable addition to the original films.

On screen graphics do inform the viewer of: years. locations and sometimes locomotive info. This is all in a very minimalist presentation. It is a bare bones program, no extras.

Image quality is generally good. The range drops to fair at times, though briefly.

A small amount of what resembles a home movie shows a few family people at The Laker. Another shows a Dad with a baby girl exiting a switcher.

Soo Line is at North Fond Du Lac in 1954. There is much steam action. The storage lines of steam engines are long. Some Soo Line F7’s foretell the future. Nice shots at the roundhouse. What a difference in the steam era facilities. Soo 2719 makes it’s last fan trip.

The year is 1955. Action at Bensenville and Milwaukee. A traffic increase has Milwaukee Road bringing steam back into service. Milwaukee Road #204 passes with a freight. Next, a cab ride on a 4-8-4 Milwaukee Road steam locomotive. 204 backs light, into the Bensenville yard. We do need some narration! Multiple views of 214, at the yard and pulling a freight. Again, in the cab of 214? The film bounces around and here is #221, at the yard.

More steam is viewed at Bensenville Yard. Seen here are #400 and 481!

A  trio of Milwaukee 4-6-0 engines are in reverse and pulling freight. This might be in Milwaukee.

Chicago & Northwestern is viewed in Chicago. 615 pulls  commuter cars out, and backs in, light. 537 departs and we ride a coach. The Northwest Line features a pace of a passenger train. It is a streamlined 4-6-2. on the front. 2906 departs, Des Plaines possibly. 617 is the other 4-6-2 stramliner steam engine. Most of the coaches are pullman green. Some yellow/ green coaches are mixed into some consists. Wow, Bi-level cars behind a commuter steamer!

657 is on a turntable and in a moment, so are we! Cab ride? Why not! Must be the weekend, here are the commuter trains..parked.

West Line is the next CNW chapter. Chevron striped diesels in the background. 1155 backs up and forward on another track. Light doubleheader storms pst. Must be Proviso Yard. As huge as it ever was.Now, westbound commuter trains. A GP7 pulls some steamers.

The Last Fan Trip. 614 with old green coaches and 2 bilevels. This consist is a contradiction of terms. Unbelievable today, and almost a silly looking excursion train.

Restored 1385 appears with a GP50 mixed train, and a little more.

Ron Roberts Diesel Films. Chevron striped GP7/ 9 locos. CNW has boxcar red cabooses. Original paint scheme on some F units, and the common yellow/ green F7 livery. Rare and brief sequences. Followed by some Milwaukee Road and EJ&E, but nothing special..

All old steam footage can be considered as rare film. Color film on smaller, regional lines is even scarcer to find. Though Chicago was always a mecca for trains, the famous Class Ones received the most attention. Why bother to shoot CNW, Milw. and Soo? This was when Pennsylvania, New York Central and Santa Fe were readily available. With this in mind, it is fortunate to have this collection.

If this type of film calls your name, you know who you are. The show will satisfy you. It is interesting to see these classic trains. Too bad about the lack of good audio.

The movie projector whirring noise soundtrack is the weak element. The vintage films are pretty good. Color footage is rare and interesting. A definite, hardcore railfan production.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

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