The Pennsy- and More!


Producer: Steve Branfields

Timeframe: 1930s- 1960s

Locations: Pennsylvania- Ohio

Length: 47 minutes

Sources: Blackhawk, Bill Radcliff, Andy Schools

A&R Productions with a 30 year span of film. Pennsylvania Railroad. Bessemer and Lake Erie, which constitutes- the more!

Great collection of: Steam, Diesel and Electric locomotives. The all encompassing program, contains many examples of the vast Pennsy roster.

Each locomotive has a historical review, with the visual presented. Effective and compact method, to deal with a huge roster.


Dubbed audio. I cannot comment on the accuracy of every engine. The presentation works for me.


Almost a chapter menu. A show selector. Choice of: Pennsy or B&LE.

GG-1 electrics, along with it’s earlier class.


No maps or any visual references. This one moves around the state of Pennsylvania. Ends up in Ohio. Some maps would have been welcomed. Held this show back from an even higher rating.


EMD E units in Tucsan Red paint.


House annoucer Ted Daluku performs his usual, professional narrative. An equally, pro written script, makes this one of those traditional, good shows. A&R does it this time out!


A variety of film sources, lead to the variable qualities seen. Majority is good  to very good. A few down to fair, in earliest scenes. The 1930s, so it improves along with the timeline.


Black and white at the beginning. Movement towards color film usage, as time marches on.


Obvious preponderance of color in the later years. Quality remains variable. Check that GP30, with the Pennsy trainphone antenna!

The one constant is a horizontal distortion bar along the bottom of the screen. Look at the screenshots.


Pennsylvania was a true innovator. Their duplex steam designs had mixed results. Nobody would argue the aesthics were unique!


Pennsy steamers looked… The Business!


High steppin’ T-1 power. Fast, powerful and slippery. Pulled early from service.


Steam era to later years…


Horseshoe Curve. The classic hotspot, in any era!


New fangled diesels, proved worthy over the tough Allegheny grades.


TrucTrain was the PRR answer to early intermodal service. Yes, you will see some piggyback train consists.


Passenger trains were often heavy on mail cars. These were often the revenue makers. Before the US Mail contracts were discontinued. Check that Alco PA!


Cabin cars, as a caboose was termed. Those funny looking Trainphone attenana were essential for mountainous communications. They were singular to Pennsylvania.


Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad. Now, that is a line that you don’t often see on a train video! A bonus feature that fits perfectly!

Geographically and in chronological fashion. Heavy coal hauler, that had limited passenger service.


Pennsy – and More! The Standard Railroad of the World.

A daunting task to cover this railroad. Sheer volume of the locomotive roster. Multiply by 30 years. Again three eras. Steam. Steam to Diesel. Diesel. Do not forget Electrics.

A&R really did an excellent job here! Well organized. Decent soundtrack. Fine film collection. Good narration. All in a program that is suitable for the entire family.

As diverse as Pennsylvania Railroad actually was in equipment. Besides the daily challenge of operating over mountainous territory. A microcosm of United States railroad history, is present within this program.

A solid out of the box experience, from the house at A&R Productions. Comprehensive and succinct!

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars



Conrail Hot Spots West

Conrail West Cover.indd

Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1996

Locations: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio

Length: 2 hours

Source: Pentrex

Hotspots are where high concentrations of trains can be viewed. Sometimes, a busy section of a mainline.

They are often, trackage crossings. Multiplying opportunities to see trains. Intersecting lines that offer increased variety.

It doesn’t take a mathematician, to realize the benefits for railfans at such locations!


This show covers: Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Eighteen hotspots are visited.

All the screenshots are not exactly matched to the review progression. The realities of a coherent article and illustrative flow.

Pentrex in house productions maintain high standards of excellence. Everything done correctly. One of the few reliable producers. Frequently, a matter of the subject chosen. Quality is usually a given.


The unburned fuel is putting on an awesome display, on this General Electric unit!


Maps are in an abundant supply! Notice, how this enables a smooth flow to the procedings.

A professionally written script. Again, works to keep the program casually rolling along. Balanced with ambient sounds.


David Drui is the ever present narrator. Broadcast grade announcer. On many of their older releases. That guy!


Ashtabula, Ohio is the jumping off point. Notice there are additional tracks to provide access to the opposing rails. Just the beginning…

ATVR Bonus..Who pays for the Crossing trackage installation? A. Original Railroad. B. Newer Railroad.


Answer. B. The newer line is responsible.

The northern Conrail line is featured first. Running compass, East to West. Let’s look at some on the Chicago line first.


Toledo has a Vickers hot spot. Conrail has plenty of action here. CSX is a main crossover partner. Union Pacific, Chicago & North Western, Grand Trunk with CN and CV units all pass through.


Indiana has Elkhart, with a CR freight yard. Jake’s Restaurant for railfans. A New York Central museum. Complete with a steam engine on display.


South Bend offers up freight trains. Transporting cargo or empties, to the massive Chicago classification yards. Clearing Yard and Proviso Yard, for example.


The above Chicago & North Western SD 40-2,Operation Lifesaver diesel, is doing that task. On it’s path to Proviso Yard, with a mixed freight.


Hammond is the end of the Chicago line, for this hot spot West tour. Heavy traffic, as one would expect, just outside of Chicago.


Pentrex has on screen designations for many of the trains. Narrator does explain the fairly simple codes. After a time, most viewers will be able to decipher many Conrail codes.

Amtrak shown, just for variety.


Southern Conrail line next, for the remainder of the long program.


Our eastbound return begins at St Elmo, Illinois. Conclusion will be in Alliance, Ohio. Many hot spots visited on the sojourn.

vlcsnap-2019-02-12-15h44m02s092Pentrex fact. An EMD wide cab is no wider than a standard cab. It is the nose!


Effingham, features Illinois Central at the crossing. A well known spot for years. Nice passenger station there. active Amtrak stop, as well. The Illini is the Amtrak train.

This Union Pacific led train is actually another Conrail move. Looks can be deceiving in this modern era. One almost needs a scorecard to keep on top of the action. Pentrex takes care of it in this show.


Haley Tower at Terre Haute, IN. An old railroad town. The towerman was busy this morning. Plenty of Conrail and CSX trains.


Marion still must be the grandaddy of the Ohio hot spots! CSX and Norfolk Southern are still active here. The original tower and station, are still here. Yes, this place still has it going on. Although the tower is no longer in service.


Quadruple diamonds. Action all the time. What’s not to like at Marion?


Alliance, OH. is the final spot. Cleveland and Ft. Wayne lines are there.

Eighteen hot spots in this program. Pentrex had their favorite West. My pick would be Marion, Ohio. Although Elkhart ran a close second! What is your favorite Conrail West hot spot?


Conrail Hot Spots West. End to end, trains filled by, big blue and more. A great Pentrex show. This is one of those, that you will be replaying.

A fun one with: assorted locales, views and of course, the many trains. Conrail Quality.

Rating: 5 Stars

Burlington Northern E-Units

Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1990s

Location: Chicago to Aurora

Length: One hour

Source: Pentrex

Pentrex takes a grand tour of the BN Racetrack! The triple track mainline, serving Chicago. Featuring the venerable E9A locomotives. A fast paced and interesting visit, is on tap.


Professional in all aspects of production. Expert Videography is just the start. A slick edit that is intelligently cut. Really keeps what could have been a repetitive drag, into a highly engaging program.


Excellent narration by one of the best house professionals. Smoothly delivered. A finely tuned, script.

*ATVR bonus FYI. Two E9s together, are usually mechanical issues. Breakdowns, diagnostics or shakedown runs.


A chapter menu is included. As is, a simple map. This is all at is required. The BN terrirory is approximately a 30 mile westbound, straight shot exiting Union Station. Station stops. Nothing to it.


The action begins as it obviously should. At Chicago Union Station. Cavernous and dark. What a difference when the train emerges into the sunlight!


Moving outwards towards the western suburban destinations. Fine audio. As one would expect from Pentrex. Well balanced.


Eventually reaching the obvious conclusion at Aurora, Illinois.


The placement of transporting into the cabs of the E unit at random times.


BN # 9914 is the locomotive with the camera. This elevates and maintains a higher interest level of viewing.


A number of stops are visited.  Famous Brookfield Zoo is mentioned. Special architecture at the Brookfield station. No taverns are visited at any stops. Oh well… You can’t have everything.


FYI- Not mentioned in this show. A little ATVR reader bonus. Congress Park had a large trackside building, back in the 1950s. West Hinsdale once had a large, old wooden station. Burlington Route era. Seek still photos of these, for more. Also… All the various BN E units were upgraded to E9, during rebuilds.


Beautiful, Stone Avenue Station was always a personal favorite. LaGrange is the town.

They missed the LaGrange Road station. That one is located at the center of town. Similar to the other brick designs.


Highlands, in Hinsdale was another favorite station. Great architecture!


At Western Avenue. Locomotive 9907 gives a perfect view of the 1970 Cascade Green (hockey stick) paint scheme. Same firm that designed the Great Northern (Big Sky Blue) circa 1967.

Naperville is pretty far out. High growth city. That famous curve, has been previously filmed, as in the old (CB&Q) days. Not included in this show.


A few freights sneak into the show! As it should be. They appear between those dinky sets, as well.


The Engineer needs to reverse his position on the train. Take the cab controls on top of this car. Continue inbound, to traverse the BN trackage into Union Station.


Burlington Northern E-Units. An extremely well done program. Good for family viewing. Good rewatch value. A winner!

Rating: 5 Stars

The Boston & Maine: Years of Transition- Vol. 1


Producer: A&R

Timeframe: 1988-89

Locations: Deerfield Yard, Montague, Lowell, more

Length: 1 hr 40 min

Source: Rolly Osmun

Here is some hard to find, Boston & Maine. Shown over 2 years. Guilford paint covers most of the power. Chronologically proceeding. The blue scheme survivors of predecessor B&M will diminish.


The videograpgher does a fine job, of recording the action. The original tapes have been well preserved. A good looking program. Considering it was a video source.

Note: There is a small, horizontal video distortion. Runs along the bottom of thr picture. Visible, although I do not consider it a deal breaker. Take a look. YMMV.


Live audio seems to have been microphone recorded simultaneously. Wind noise is present sometimes. Most scenes are fine.


The narrator sounds flat, as well. I do not enjoy critical analysis here. Sorry. It is what is. The script is already fairly lame. This choice isn’t helping matters. Everything ties together to create a final product…


Has a few introductory map screens to outline the program. Nothing offered, after this very fast intro. Would have been far better, to have mid- program reference points.

Vocal location, for the remainder. Marginal effectiveness. Schenectady Airport? Are we in New York now?

Maps are helpful! Include more maps. No chapter menu is included.


The narration is only offering; location and train designation. This sounds fine while you are reading this now. Try it over the full length of the show.


It becomes tedious and fairly boring. Too simplistic to have much entertainment or educational value. A glaring weak spot. Given the golden opportunity of an extended length show.


In fairness, small tidbits are given. A Conrail train interchange, for example.

Broad subjects such as the Guilford takeover. Guilford’s used locomotive acquisitions. These would have been a far more  interesting narrative.


The end result, is a rather flat and dry, running presentation. Sure, the trains are here. Good quality in fact. It quickly becomes too repetitive.


Especially, as there is little other relief. To offset the dull grey paint, and equally unexciting, late 1980s freight consists. Not a caboose in sight either!


That all being stated. This is a review remember. It is not all bad news.


The somewhat slow paced presentation. Yes, it could have moved along somewhat faster. Many sequences were dragging….


The actual footage was nicely shot. Some handheld shakiness, at times. Overall though, it is a good view. The major, saving grace. Huge, in fact.


Smart composition. Not crossing gate laziness, that one encounters in the video era, all too frequently. He doesn’t suffer from chasing one train, for too long either. So there is some balance.


Although, the editor should have made many of the scenes shorter. Created a livelier show, in that process.


There are blue units to be found. Small quantities. Only single scenes on a few.

Let us look at the sum total. Add it up.

Boston and Maine: Years in Transition- Vol. 1

Videography is the strong suit. Audio and ambient sound, is largely fine. Good foundation for the studio to work magic.

Production side of this program…

Script is weak. They do not even mention the ex: Santa Fe SD-26 locomotives. Zero call-outs on any locomotive type, either. Again, missed opportunity to add interest.

IF I did miss an identification. Perhaps, an ex: Norfolk and Western SD45. Maybe, I fell asleep for a minute!

Editing: Generally smooth, but too long, at too many scenes. Drags the show. You may reach for the fast forward button. Move that train! Leave the train. Yawn… Pacing…pacing…good pacing.. Not here!


Some good points. Some negatives. Rates it right in the middle. Sort of…

However, only for those, with a serious interest in the subject! This is a hard to find railroad.

A very watchable, but slow moving show. Flat narrative, added to it…had me wanting to reach for the fast forward button. The good is in there. Production has an amateur vibe.

Boston and (Too Much) Maine: Years in Transistion- Vol. 1

Lucky for these men. Not much available. Where is the all the cool; Minuteman and dress blue, film hiding in the real world? What will you take?

B&M with the big stupid G. Here you go!

Rating: 3 Stars

Classic Chicago & North Western Volume 3


Producer: C. Vision

Timeframe: Late 1970s

Locations: Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota

Length: 1 hour 36 minutes

Source: Fred Crissey

Continuation of Fred Crissey’s films from the late 1970’s. A smorsgasboard of locations. Across 3 midwestern states. CNW freight trains operate on ex: Rock Island, Chicago Great Western and Minneapolis & St. Louis trackage.


This third volume was shot in Iowa, Missouri and Minnesota. Dawn to dark.


These are silent reels. Basic narration and musical overlays. There are zero live train sounds. Still, the show is very worthwhile, to the right people. I mean railfans.


Graphics denote locations along the bottom of the screen. Unfortunately, no maps to make any sense, of these small towns. Rendering the graphics nearly useless. There is a chapter menu.


Fred is a capable Cinematographer. Improved editing, would make his hard work appear finer, in the finished product. The way it turns out in this program. Good composition, about half the time.


Too far away- too often. Across farm fields. While chasing trains. Semi-obstructed views at other times. Editing much of this out. Viewers would never have missed most. There are too many. Not long, but frequent.


The dramatic bridge views are fine. A few shaky grab shots. Could have trimmed those too. Plenty of quality, is left to watch.


Railfans who already are familiar with CNW, may be best suited for this series. The collection of period films should be satisfactory. Lack of ambient train sounds, not a deal breaker. Given the specific subject matter at hand.

Good narration. Simple style. Locations and some engine types. A few more details. Could have used additional information. It is sufficient, at a minimal level.

What was known as the Spine Line from St. Paul, Minnesota to Kansas City, Missouri.


The yellow and green was an attractive paint scheme. The low hood units wore it well. A surprise Falcon Service SD40-2 leads an empty coal train.


A variety of EMD locomotives operated. SD45 units always looked strange on CNW. The lack of dynamic brake blisters, left the long hood looking bare. Plus the odd nose bell.


Some foreign power is also seen, occasionally.

vlcsnap-2019-02-08-04h50m52s325Say- Yes to Chicken wire! The F- units in daily service, are worth the price of admission!


There are: F7A, F3A and F7B units, that are active. Still leading many trains!


Some F-7s are chased,  leading on freight over former M&St.L , plus Chicago Great Western tracks. A way too long of a chase for sure.


Fred does enjoy a train chase. I do somewhat… only to a point. They vary. Would have much more, preferred to see the caboose on each train.


A caboose was generally required on the end. You would never know it. They are almost never seen in this show.


C Vision has a basically satisfying program.

The main act- first generation locomotives.

Electromotive of LaGrange.

Get your green and yellow, F unit groove on!

Rating: 3 Stars