Today’s Illinois Central: South Volume 2

Today’s Illinois Central: South Volume 2cvr


Length: One hour 39 minutes

Time Period: 1996

Locations: Fulton, KY to New Orleans

MSRP: 29.95

A continuation of a grand tour of Illinois Central. This volume covers the southern portion of Illinois Central Railroad. Pentrex has another volume for the northern half. Both shows are professionally produced. South contains 552 route miles. This is the downsized, core version of Illinois Central.

Volume 2 utilizes the same formula as the prior show. There is improved videography here. Better composition and smoother lens work. Perhaps, minor differences to the average viewer. Worth a mention for those who care, or may just want to try a single show. There are a number of interesting sidebars of local character as we are down South.

3131 gp40Picking up where we left off on Volume 1. The program begins at Fulton, Kentucky. Again a quick geography lesson is presented. Basic maps give perspective to the route, and division points. An intelligent way to setup the remainder of the film.

wc handyAt Tutwiler, Mississippi. The camera rolls around to see local sights. Some of this is out of the ordinary and even off-topic. Apparently, the crew became bored in these remote locations. Turns out the many sidebars and historical elements create some interest.

At least the mural relates a train related story. W.C. Handy was a famous musician. In 1903 waited for a train here and heard sounds from an unknown musician. The idea stuck with Handy and is what became Blues music. Famous Blues great, Sonny Boy Williamson is buried down the road. This scene is a nice interlude.

woodchip loaderOne for the model railroaders. A woodchip loader operation is discussed.

amtrak 59                                           Amtrak trains frequent the show.

hazelhurstPulpwood cars are loaded further down the route. A variety of trains and traffic move on these busy rails.

meet           The Chemical Coast does a large amount of revenue for the railroad.

three                  Hotshot intermodal trains move between Chicago and New Orleans.

fredThere are a handful of scenes with a caboose. A FRED is more representative of 1996.

The story ends at New Orleans. Ride a ferryboat and learn even more railroad history to the very end.

Today’s Illinois Central: South Volume 2. An interesting narrative elevates this volume above the first one. Combined with better videography, make this the one to have.

Rating: 4 Stars


Today’s Illinois Central: North Volume 1

Today’s Illinois Central: North Volume 1 cover


Length: 99 minutes

Time Period: 1996

Locations: Chicago to Fulton, KY.

MSRP: 29.95


The reconfigured Illinois Central receives the Pentrex treatment before merger. The year is 1996. A tour down the line, from Chicago to Fulton, KY. Many different trains are viewed in this operations oriented video. Much action is documented on this busy ICRR. Volume 1 focuses on the northern half of the railroad. Volume 2 covers the southern half to New Orleans .

duquoinCompared to Santa Fe: Countdown to Merger, this production is very similar. To cut a fine line, the camerawork is superior on the Santa Fe show. Watch both and compare the shows. Compared to the 2nd volume of these Illinois Central shows, this 1st volume is somewhat less in the videography. It just doesn’t look as smooth as their best shows. Still, rates well  in most all other facets of production.

ic 1000 sd70IC unit number 1000 is an Electromotive SD70 model. The newest power on the railroad.


Narration seems to drag behind the action quite noticeably. The information given is excellent. It is a pacing issue. Example such as, Notice the rare locomotive, when the train has already left the viewscreen. Attention is given to official IC train designations. Although that info could wait. Every train move is covered. Intersecting lines add interest. Union Pacific, Conrail, Norfolk Southern, CSX, and Burlington Northern. Amtrak as well.


amtrakAmtrak train 391 is one of many Amtrak passenger trains seen operating on the line.


Graphics identify the train symbols and more. Maps display the route. Good work.

cp mapChampaign District. Experienced Illinois Central fans will notice these locations are all classic IC hotspots. Narrator notes the crossings with other railroads. Champaign is a busy location.

bnsf sd70mac coal trainCentrailia is considered a great hotspot, with BNSF and Norfolk Southern there.

gp11 typeThe GP11 type is the workhorse for locals.These are updated with dash 2 electrical systems.

Discussion of locomotive types and numbering system. Details about the power roster. Rebuilding programs and origins of Paducah rebuilds provide insight about the still diverse roster. GP11, GP40, SD20, SD40-2, SD70, SW14. Also: SD28, SD40, GP10, GP38.

ic caboose

Today’s Illinois Central North Volume 1. A solid documentary of 1996 rail action. The major issue is a less interesting era. Not as bad as later years for railfanning, but not too exciting. Nice to see a cleaner looking IC versus the rag tag fleet of ICG. But wait, the ICG had way more variety. Fans of Illinois Central will find a good release. Even if it this volume isn’t the best one. Check the companion Today’s Illinois Central South Volume 2.

Rating: 3 1/2  Stars



Pacing! 25 Years Along the High Iron

Pacing! 25 Years Along the High IronPacing-

Diverging Clear

Length: 3 1/2 Hours

Time Period: 1986- 2013

Locations: Illinois farmlands

Source: Dunn, Jensen, McPherson, Redmond

Producer: Mary McPherson

MSRP: 25.00

This new release by Diverging Clear should be subtitled: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. A 2 disc set. One is dedicated to 25 years of steam. The 2nd is 25 years of Diesel.

cn 5432Canadian National on former Illinois Central rails in 2013.

The show is action driven. Constant movement of the locomotives on the screen.

mpEach disc features 25 trains. There is a Chapter Menu. The volume level of the loading and menu portion is way too loud. It needs to balance with the program. The sound level will blow one put of the room.

sou 2638The Good: A nice assortment of Steam and Diesel. You would think the Steam would win a pacing show hands down. The drivers, the stack talk and the steam whistles are a formidable array. However, the Diesel portion is equally interesting. Theses are almost all rare. That is in the sense that the everyday operations of the late 1980’s and some 1990’s are not widely available in a pacing format.

4501Southern 4501 has one of the best whistles in the set. Great tone and it sounds ‘wet’.


Most DCP shows do contain pacing sequences. Many of those presented are in the form of extended chase scenes.  Depending on individual taste, you can watch it or hit the ‘next’ button to skip ahead.

The Bad: Steam has some excessive wind noise. The type that has the potential to damage audio speakers.This is unfortunate. Skipped a few scenes that started out with loud pop and crackle noises. Having a raised volume is just plain fun with steam engines. Diesels is far better and the noise only occasionally is an issue.

csxcsx 2531

The Ugly: Diesels has those familiar old VHS cassette tape issues that are common. Work has been done to color correct. The source tapes can be a nasty challenge for anyone. Like many other train videos, the scarcity of the subject material can be the deciding factor.

ns 2595

Steam is loaded with the usual performers from the time period. NW 611, UP 3985, NKP 765 and 567, Soo 1003 plus L&N 152 are some. Black Hills Central, Ohio Central, and Northern Pacific are the ones not beat do death everywhere.

261 2000Milwaukee Road has a few appearances. In 2000, the wind noise isn’t annoying or present.


Frisco 1522 is too common on this show. Variety in the form of actual vintage whistles used. Kurt Jensen does the very minimal narrative. Good plan, the locomotives are well suited to task. Each scene displays informative graphics.


Today’s technology should have rendered the wind noise inert. Just doesn’t belong on a year 2014 production. Various options could have improved the sound, including assorted substitutions.

crcnw 5097

That being said, This program does offer the chance to see 50 trains being paced in one set. The diesel variety seems to have a great mix of period lash-ups. The Heritage Series parallels the roadnames on this set. A few exceptions at the end. Ohio Central F units and modern BNSF ‘whatever they are’ set to music.

mpup 87

The producer has stated this release is a response to railfan requests. The bottom line for all viewers amounts to your choice. If you seek this footage- here it is. Can be adequate for pacing,as long as you consider it’s shortcomings. If you are hesitant to shell out. Similar and same action is available in many DCP programs.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

The Illinois Central 1990- The Heritage Series

The Illinois Central cover1990: Single Tracking The Mainline of Mid-America

Diverging Clear Productions

Length: 72 minutes + extended bonus + previews

Time Period: 1990

Locations: Centralia, Carbondale, Cobden, Effingham, Bluford…and more

Source: George Redmond

Producer: Mary McPherson

MSRP: 20.00

Here is a brand new 2014 Heritage Series from Diverging Clear Productions. This is their avenue for older, video sourced railroading in the 1980’s to 1990’s. Uncommon shows.

Illinois Central is a railroad that frequents Diverging Clear Productions. It’s close proximity to this producer yields an abundance of source material. Similar to the earlier Illinois Central Gulf in the Heritage Series. This represents an additional opportunity to visit a past version of Illinois Central action. The year 1990 and a downsized, black and white powered IC.

8310By this time, the former expanded Illinois Central Gulf was downsized. Newly created regionals like Chicago Central were operating spun off sections of the ICG. Another new element in this updated ICRR. was a project to single track the Illinois mainline. For those who railfanned the double tracked line for decades, an odd sight to behold.

map 1The Illinois Central was a rare railroad. A North to South traffic orientation, versus the common East – West pattern. DCP again employs this clever map solution.

8743Repainted into a new version of the black, green diamond scheme. the locomotive roster  achieved a uniform look. Compared to the plethora of ICG’s rolling museum of predecessor colors. The road looked cohesive, if somewhat less interesting.

carbondaleThe new logo appeared to resemble the AT&T image. Large numerals on the engine hoods seemed sized for steam tenders. The green diamond was in use on Chicago Central & Pacific. Yet, in multiple unit lash-ups, the power of the green diamond was retained.


coal 1

icgAnother observation of train watching circa 1990. The freight cars still wore some 1970 and 1980 paint schemes. This show contains an assortment of: non graffiti, covered grain cars From old gray Illinois Central to orange IC and ICG. Various boxcars are seen.

2011Narrative includes background on Paducah rebuilds. The SD20 model was unique.

George Redmond was trackside in 1990. He is the videographer for this and other Heritage Series shows. The camerawork is steady and the shots are well composed. The quality is good. Age has effected the original tapes. The producer has color corrected as much as possible. This 2014 release has the best quality of IC related Heritage Series shows.

While the title and year highlight the single tracking of the mainline. Many scenes do contain both tracks. Some were still in service or recently retired. Mary has included a few still photos that she took of the transition. ‘

amtrak city of new orleans                                 Amtrak, The City Of New Orleans arrives at Centrailia.

Arranged in chronological order. The program features action along the mainline in Southern Illinois. Mary narrates and gives relevant information. The show flows along smoothly. Natural audio is predominant. A handful of trains are chased. There is some pacing too.

3024                                                           This program is action packed!

frankA special extended bonus feature is worth a look. Tour of ICRR 4-8-2 2500. A former ICRR engineer gives the display engine a detailed tour and explanation in about 30 minutes. He covers everything on this steam engine. Interesting.

cabooseThe Illinois Central 1990. Gives viewers exactly what they expect. If you seek more variety, the Back in Black release has predecessor liveries. Both are similar. This one is a continuation of the previous program. This newer show looks better.

Rating: 3 Stars

Pullman Rail Journeys – Rebirth of an American Legend

Pullman Rail Journeys – Rebirth of an American Legend cover

Diverging Clear Productions

2014 Release

Length: 53 minutes + preview section

Time Period: 2014 with some vintage film.

Locations: Chicago – New Orleans roundtrip

Sources: Mary R. McPherson, Kurt I. Jensen, George Redmond


Here is a new take on an old favorite. Most railfans are aware of classic train era Pullman service. Operating their renowned cars on such famous passenger trains as: The 20th Century Limited, Broadway Limited, Panama Limited and the Super Chief. This was luxury level travel, aboard the finest trains in the country. The experience was an integral part of the journey.

amtrak city of new orleans locomotive                      What does this historic aspect have to do with a 2014 Amtrak train?

So happens that our producer Mary McPherson, is also a real life Amtrak conductor. Her regular assignment is on The City of New Orleans. Another train that is rich in history. Viewers will take a roundtrip on this train. However, we will travel in style, aboard a 70 year old, updated and refurbished, genuine Pullman car. While the Amtrak cars are nice, this trip is unique.

Those familiar with Diverging Clear Productions have witnessed an evolution in their programs. Improvements in equipment, and overall production are a welcome sight in the train video market. If you have seen some of the earlier releases, you are in for a nice surprise. The level of professionalism has been on the upswing over time. Mary has been on a mission to offering railfans improved releases.

Let’s see what her and her companions have been doing aboard the Pullman…

Kurt Jensen is a familiar voice on DCP programs. The script is well written. An abundance of narrative covers quite a bit of ground. In a classic style, A chapter of Pullman background opens the show, along with some vintage film.The structure of the Pullman crew is informative.

Chicago tail         Fast forward to present day, in Chicago. Amtrak #59 – The City of New Orleans.

20th century limitedThis 1950’s scene appears to be on the New Yprk Central 20th Century Limited.

dinner 2014                                                     Here we are – at dinner, in 2014.

This trip offers interviews that interpolate with Kurt’s narrative. We will hear from a few members of the Pullman team.

moore Jody Moore is one. He is a natural for on-screen work. All of his discussions are clear, and he is just a good listen.

chi night 2The overall cinematography on the 2014 shots is first rate. Solid and smooth. Mary favors night scenes and they are all nicely illuminated. The various scenes are smartly chosen. This is Chicago. Amtrak/ Metra yard.


Editing is smooth. Each chapter has a definite close. In fact, this show is one of the tightest edits that DCP has released.

Musical interludes, natural sounds and even more vintage cuts, are intermingled throughout.

Iowa Pacific is the entity that: collects, restores and operates these cars. They are all painted in the old, Illinois Central passenger scheme. Lettered for the current road. Original,chocolate and orange livery.

hammond la In both directions, some classic train stations are seen. They are beauties.


Rick Hansen discusses specifics of what Pullman crew members actually do on their jobs. All of the Pullman personnel are fine communicators. This is likely a big part of why they are in these positions.

cn 2727 A note of interest. This train traverses the Yazoo District since the 1990’s. A deviation of the original Illinois Central route. Strange for me, to see Canadian National power this far south. A new age indeed.

vaugn ms

The return trip is exactly that. However, their are some surprises. I would have liked even greater detail regarding  – what happened here. It is still good, a little more story needed, for the family viewers benefit.

Also on my want list would be a brief tour of the car interiors.

iowa pacific memphisPullman Railway Journeys – Rebirth of an American Legend. A fine program for the entire family.

For those seeking a train program that is about current railroading, this one is interesting. The hour you spend here, will pass quickly. The hallmark of an enjoyable show.

Mary, you have come a long way. Congratulations!

Viewers, this show is highly recommended.

Rating: 4 Stars