Steam Over Tennessee Pass

Steam Over Tennessee Pass cover


Length: 90 minutes

Time Period: 1997

Locations: Royal Gorge, Soldier Summit, Glenwood Canyon

MSRP: 29.95


UP 844 stars in what is now an older excursion video. A three day trip is featured here. Takes place in Colorado during 1997. Denver to Salt Lake City is the route.

Steve Lee is one of the engineers present. He ran the railroad steam program. A trio of Electromotive E8 locomotives run behind the big Northern. Matching passenger cars form a long train. This was rare track age for a passenger special.

summit tp

Pentrex employed five camera crews for the trip. The choice of multiple shots results in high quality viewing. The full narrative is informative, though not very engaging. Live sound rounds out the audio. Some very simple maps are useful to envision the route. On-screen graphics contain additional location information.

map day 2

Basic maps lack detail. They do illustrate the lines traveled.

royal gorge

Day 1 begins at Denver Union Station. Favorable weather conditions.

red cliff

Day 2 has the best of the scenic locations. Leaving Colorado Springs the train journeys towards Royal Gorge. Salida to Tennessee Pass are on the agenda. Minturn is another renowned area.


Day 3 is Grand Jct, to Salt Lake City. Soldier Summit is the highlight, as the train crosses Utah.


Effective intermingling of onboard train camera gives a feel of riding this special.

too far

One shortcoming is too much distance on some scenic shots. In fairness, the scope of the geography sometimes precludes this. There are too many far views of the train.

The glut of 844 centered shows can make the locations a deciding factor to purchase. Colorado has some spectacular scenery. Fans of 844 should be satisfied with this program.

Rating: 4 Stars


Union Pacific’s Mighty Turbines

Union Pacific’s Mighty Turbinescover


Length: 45 minutes

Time Period: 1938- 1960’s

Locations: Echo Canyon, Green River, Cheyenne, Ogden and more…

Sources: Allan Krieg, Anthony DeRosa, Jack Whitmeyer

MSRP: 29.95

All classes of UP Turbines, including prototypes and experimental versions are neatly assembled in this program. Union Pacific Historical Society has a production credit.  It has the advantage of complete coverage, versus Turbines 8500 on the Wasatch, which was done by Video Rails.

The story begins with a 1938 factory movie and progresses chronologically. As with other early black and whites from that era, one screening is probably enough. It runs for nine minutes of this shorter release. This film is just fair.

up4Color plus black and white film are the Pentrex chapters. Excellent quality that covers the history of these Gas Turbine Electrics. A homebuilt Union Pacific built experimental coal powered turbine is included. Visuals are targeted to the locomotives.

Actual sound recordings are an opportunity to hear the Big Blows at work. Some train sound only scenes let viewers hear the unique power, as the locos operate.

Basic maps, graphics, and chapter menu are here. In particular, a fact sheet of each production run is a fine inclusion. The narration contains much information. Quite thorough.

up verandaThe Veranda types get good coverage. as do the other turbines.

turbine ogden utUh-Oh ! This locomotive ignites some fuel while being started at Ogden, Utah.

up2                                    The last series were at 8500 horsepower.

Union Pacific has a colorful livery. Comparatively, the black and white segments seem unexciting.

This program will convey a basic knowledge of these exclusive locomotives. Recommend Turbines of the Wasatch for those who want more. Full color footage is approximately 30 minutes. Anyone with interest should be satisfied.

Rating: 4 Stars

Union Pacific Turbines of the Wasatch

Union Pacific 8500 Turbines of the Wasatchpentrex

Pentrex / Video Rails

Length: 57 minutes

Time Period: 1960’s

Locations: Ogden, Weaver Canyon, Echo, Wasatch UT, Evanston, Green River WY

Sources: Ralph Gochnour, Ed Stimpson

MSRP: 29.95

Union Pacific Turbine locomotives were a unique fleet that were only operated by that railroad. Pentrex has the former Video Rails release in their product line. The show is tightly focused on 8500hp Super Turbines. Ogden- Green River subdivision is where these engines are seen. Fast paced narration and vintage film result in an informative program.

Jim Knight has a clear and energetic narrative. Script is good, with much information on these locos. Audio does contain turbine sounds, although some non- narrated portions could have been included, to hear the train sounds exclusively. A couple of crude maps and chapter menu are within.

up8aNicked named as Super Fleet by Union Pacific, the more common name is Big Blows.

27Picture quality is good overall, though it can dip to fair at times. This collection appears to be 8mm- Super 8. Unrestored, with some minor color balance issues. Camerawork is mostly good, at times there are shaky scenes. There are too many times with the train backlit. Fortunately, most of the footage is decent. The bulk of film ends up chasing a handful of turbine powered freights. The general basis is crossing the sub from Ogden, Utah to Green River, Wyoming. This follows the normal territory served by the turbines.

UP59 TurbineUP Turbine 59 is an earlier production model. These General Electric built Gas Turbine Electrics were rated at 4800 horsepower for the First Generation.

up13spsd45Union Pacific 13 is rated as an 8500hp unit. Leading 3 Southern Pacific SD45 engines, this train is chased and paced.  Model railroaders would have a field day with the undulating trackside street and other elements visible on  this sequence.

up sp echo canyon utahTrailing Southern Pacific EMD units are visible on one of many curves through the valley.

union pacific turbine 8Super Turbine number 8 is heading to Green River. This 2nd generation version had the 8500 horsepower rating.

up25506 caboose safety sloganUnion Pacific 25506 is an early , Safety Slogan caboose. Safety Is Everybody’s Business.

There are cleaner films containing UP Turbines in the marketplace. Expected to hear more actual train sound. Another limitation is the extended time on the chases. Little in the way of freight cars or cabooses. It is nearly all locomotive footage. Views do vary, but as the show progresses it becomes repetitive. Still, for those who seek an hour of Super Turbines, here it is.

Railfans and model railroaders should find this a good program to watch the 8500 hp locos at work. The presentation is good, consider the picture is older material which has not been updated to modern expectations.

Rating: 3 Stars

New York Central Collection

New York Central Collectioncvr


3 shows on one DVD

Lengrth: 1 hour 47 minutes

Time Period: 1920’s- 1960’s

Locations: Systemwide

Sources: New York Central, many others

MSRP: 29.95

Pentrex has compiled three vintage New York Central shows on a single DVD. All of these are from the 1950’s, prime era for the railroad. There is a promotional show for the public. An employee film. Third is a 1955 television broadcast from Grand Central Terminal. Each film will be reviewed separately now.

The Water Level Route

Bill Warrick hosts this NYC documentary. Begins in the 1920’s and into the 1960’s. Steam is the star of the show. Diesel and some Electrics, as well. Passenger and freight service. Innovative Flexivans and loading of one, are seen in color. Films are both: b&w, and color. Much to see in this one hour.


Train sounds and period type music. At times, sounds like a Laurel and Hardy movie. Lively narration and a fun atmosphere. Plenty of history is conveyed. Many steam engine classes are represented.

dreyClassic Dreyfus streamlined Hudson. Extended coverage of the J3 class Hudsons. The 20th Century Limited receives enough of the storyline to be another main feature.

nailThe big Niagara seems to be overpowered, for this mail train.

1The railroad continues until merger with Pennsylvania. A few glimpses of Penn Central and Conrail conclude this program.


He uses many excerpts from various New York Central produced films. Systemwide scope, although focused on: major stations, division points, classification yards, and mainline action.

Water Level Route is a compilation style program. He gets a huge amount of steam power into the film. Quality varies from the different years. Overall, this one is very good.

Within the Oval

detAn early 1950’s employee film , as presented by the railroad. All color and runs for 30 minutes. While many of this era’s company produced films can be somewhat corny, this one is much better than average. Many views of steam and diesel. Passenger and freight. A small amount of electric and waterfront activities. Heavy industry, home building, factories and competing transportation modes are all seen. People and the many varied jobs they perform are reviewed.

e7aMany fantastic shots of transitional era locomotives.

rpoInside a Railway Post Office car. Mail sacks were picked up and dropped along the route. Often, even while the train was moving from town to town. New York Central and many others, ran entire trains dedicated to US Mail. The RPO cars were also common on passenger trains of the time. Baggage cars were used to move large volumes between cities.

United States Post Office Department railway clerks were issued, and wore a sidearm. No train robberies with armed employees aboard !

autoAutomobile carriage was a completely different mindset.

This is an outstanding show for it’s time. Very clean picture on this show.

The 20th Century Limited on TV

Omnibus was a prestigious television show. This episode from January, 1955. New York Central 20th Century Limited was featured. They also wanted to show a modern railroad terminal at work. We see a live network broadcast from Grand Central Terminal. Alistair Cooke was the host. David P. Morgan, editor from Trains magazine, was also present. About 30 minutes long, in black and white. Pentrex has added a brief introduction.


The Limited was delayed, and David P. Morgan had to fill the time, on his own!

Shown are the crew of 46, serving on this elite train. Various personnel around the station. The interlocking area and dispatcher get good screen time. Interesting to see parts of Grand Central Station at work. Originally intended as a look at the station. Would have liked to see the whole train depart.  Interesting period piece. A single viewing is good enough.


The Collection:

There are the three shows all featuring New York Central. Within the Oval is the best of the lot. The Water Level Route is a good one. The TV show is analogous to a throw in for the group.

New York Central fans will enjoy having this set on a single DVD. A chapter menu permits immediate access to each of the films. Good family viewing. A nice one to have at home.

Rating: 4 Stars

Alaska Volume 3: Giants in the Dark

Alaska Volume 3: Giants in the Darkcover


Length: One hour

Locations: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Seward, Whittier…

Time Period: 1994

Source: Patrick A. Hunstiger

Producer: Patrick A. Hunstiger

MSRP: 29.95

The Alaska Railroad in winter. Daylight is in limited supply. On the Anchorage division, 100 trains daily, drops to 25 for the duration. The weather has made the lines more difficult to operate upon. Extreme cold is hazardous to men and machine. An unusual show offers a world of railroading, that is often running in darkness.

Speaking of challenges. The cinematographer has braved -30 degree temperatures. Filming trains in mostly darkness, lights must illuminate those scenes. Note this filmmaker has many of the credits. Narration and script too. His shadow is all over this production. Keep a sharp eye out, you may literally see his shadow cast, a few times.

Narration is minimal. Radio traffic between the dispatchers and train crews, liven things up. On- screen graphics carry much information. Automated track detectors are heard. Live environmental audio sometimes has the airhorn reverberating in the mountains.


This release is balance nicely. Plenty of daylight moves that include wonderful scenery. The soundtrack is complementary to the imagery. A smooth playing show.

Chapters showcase various freight extras and passenger moves. There are map references. They are primitive maps. However, the use of highlighting points on each route do suffice. The individual routes are interesting. All the moves will provide good repeat viewings.

mp183          Anchorage to Fairbanks. Milepost 183. Unit coal train.

wasAs this train moves past Wasilla, note the Pizza Hut and McDonalds are in the background.

husky1There are some differences in passenger operations. Close inspection has: the man, woman carrying a baby, and the family husky. Looks like the husky has ridden this train before. See for yourself. Try that on your suburban commuter  railroad!


Approaching a tunnel. Great scenery is viewed from the passenger coaches.

bridge                                                                        Bridge

girdwood                               Train arrives at Girdwood. Lights above are for skiers.

wc59Besides not freezing to death, the camera still had to function in the extreme cold.


The crews do have some equipment problems; with a locomotive, and rolling stock. Radio traffic has it covered.


Alaska Volume 3 is a unique program. All of the radio communications, result in a good sense of how this road operates. Railfans and model railroaders, will find this a worthy release to own. Packs plenty into a one hour show.

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars