The Wisconsin Central Remembered: Parts 1 and 2

The Wisconsin Central Remembered: Parts 1 and 2

John Szwajkart

Format: 2 DVD set

Length: 2 hours and 20 minutes

Time Period: mid- late 1980’s to 1995

Locations: Chicagoland: LaGrange, Franklin Park, Brookfield, Hohman Ave Tower, Oshkosh, more..

Source: John Szwajkart


John Szwajkart has an extensive 7 part series on the Wisconsin Central. The series begins with pre-WC video of Milwaukee Road and Soo Line. Early WC and some steam powered excursions are included in Parts 1&2. Procession of WC years, in chronological order with the WC. The final volume has Canadian National ownership.

milw353This first two part set; starts at the time which preceded the WCRR. Milwaukee Road and Soo Line are both viewed in separate chapters. This was before Soo Line absorbed the Milwaukee Road. A little bit of the 2 combined roads show us some examples of the Milwaukee bandit paint jobs. The Soo Line livery is the dominating paint, to conclude this introductory phase. Cabooses are still in service, at this time.


The chapter menu and play all are on the main menu. There is no narration. The producer’s reasoning is hear it once and you won’t need a narrative after that. He does provide a very timely set of chapter pages. They convey the basics of what we are about to see. The titles range from: railroad, WC timeline and locations. Material is well organized and the presentation runs coherently.


Although the footage is fine for railfans, it is not pro shot. The main concern is the shaking camera. If a tripod had been used, these John Szwajkart shows would have rated higher. Still, if you want to view these trains, That does get accomplished.

There are a multitude of trains in this double DVD set. A wide assortment of: Milwaukee Road, Soo Line, early WC, repainted WC, pool power and some other railroads make for interesting trainwatching. BNSF, Indiana Harbor Belt and more.

Variety of trains include: General Freight, COFC- double stacks, TOFC- piggybacks, unit coal, transfer runs and some unexciting Metra commuter trains. A circus train too! John lets his camera roll, and there are many scenes with numerous freight cars.


Early Wisconsin Central begins in earnest on the first disc. Many hastily applied WC initials and renumbered locomotives now appear. There are complete WC repaints. SD45’s built by EMD, are a mainstay of WC. They are mixed with unrepainted SD45 class  power from Burlington Northern and Santa Fe. Alas, the era of the caboose has already ended.

The newer railroad allowed steam excursions. Three steam engines are featured on the first disc. Milwaukee Road 261, is featured in 3 chapters. SLSF1522 has a chapter. Soo Line 2719 is yet another steam locomotive.

Frisco 1522 is shown on some freight runs. Fine views of slow running gear movement in the yard. No diesel assistance, just a tankcar behind the tender.

Milwaukee 261 First Run.  At Oshkosh, Wisconsin and on former Soo Line trackage. This track runs in the middle of the street, right through the city. Here is one exceptional scene. The 261 is chugging, loudly, on some street trackage! It has a GP30 and a rainbow of passenger cars. Sounds reverberate off the surrounding buildings.The wheels slip on a curve and the big engine regains a grip. Kind of demonstrates the power and majesty of a large steam engine. The producer, John Szwajkart also says this is a favorite scene of his. The big Northern type is spectacular to view, as it is chased across the countryside. In fact, the 261 film is memorable.

2719Soo Line 2719 gives us a lively show. Chippewa Valley cars are the coaches.

Milwaukee 261: A Final Look. This chapter has the lone 261 with an auxiliary tender pulling a long passenger special.


Disc 2

Each disc has 10 chapters on the menu. Chronological coverage is continued. Wisconsin Central proves to be a successful regional railroad. Pool power is very apparent. Union Pacific, and more are found in the locomotive lash-ups. Keep a sharp eye out for a Missouri Pacific canary repaint on one train. Former ATSF and BN units are still awaiting the full WC regalia.

BNSF relettered units are present now. Indicating a post 1995 timeframe. At Clarendon Hills, on BN trackage, Southern Pacific tunnel motors are mu’ed with an WC SD-45. Another double stack is led by a rainbow of: Cotton Belt, WC, Chicago Northwestern, with an SP kodachrome SD40T-2.  A  few surprises are to be found.

Wisconsin Central is fully entrenched with matching paint on the SD45 fleet.  The clever choice of paint revitalized the 1950’s Soo Line colors. The WC livery was a good one.

These first two parts are seen on amateur shot video. Camera shake and raw audio is common. Hardcore railfans will appreciate the big cache of trains. If you are a newcomer to train videos, this videographer did not carry a tripod. As the years have passed, this footage is now vintage. Serious train people often forgive a shows flaws, in order to see the trains.

Image quality is in the good to very good range. There are some videotape imperfections. The minor tape flaws are common on many older videotapes.Looks to be a direct transfer of tape to DVD format. Not remastered or enhanced. The color balance is good. Sometimes the focus is a little soft as a train passes. Everything is very watchable.

The camera microphone picks up all of the environmental sound. Wind noise, birds, kids a helicopter are all heard. The trains sounds come through, very clearly. Unfortunately, so does all the extraneous noise. Wind noise gets annoying. Too many ‘ding-ding’ crossing bells too.

These first two parts of Wisconsin Central sure do contain a ton of trains. If you can live with the handheld camera, and noisy audio, there is the large supply of WC to enjoy. You can see this railroad, from predecessors and onward, to see it’s own evolution.

Amateur Raw video+raw audio @ $40.00…

Rating: 2 1/2  Stars

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