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!

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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?

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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

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The Panhandle Volume One : C&N Division- Penn Central- Conrail- B&O

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Producer: Clear Block

Locations: Columbus, Newark, Ohio

Timeframe: 1970’s- 1991

Length: 60 Minutes

Sources: Paul Geiger, Bob Sherwood

Penn Central and Conrail, are the main railroads featured here. Baltimore and Ohio is also a joint trackage railroad operator, for 35 miles.

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The Panhandle, was an old nickname for what much later, was to become Penn Central territory. Between Pittsburgh, Columbus, St. Louis and Chicago.

This show covers the portion from Columbus to Newark. In depth historical information, is given via the narrative. Later series, Panhandle Volumes cover additional portions, of the involved routes.

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An older show in the Clear Block catalog. Dates back to the VHS tape era of commercial release. Unrestored and definitely showing it’s age.

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Film quality is fair overall. Plenty of scenes need color correction. Here again, a distortion bar!! This show has it at the bottom of the screen. Some Clear Block shows include these distortions.

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Although Penn Central paint dominates the program. Early Conrail patch jobs appear. As do, these former Erie Lackawanna SD45 units.

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Viewers are watching silent films, with narration and musical background. Only a 1991 update offers any live train sound. Not a badly put together show. It does have it’s share of serious flaws.

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Primitive maps, by more modern standards. Better to have, these simple maps versus nothing. They do the job.

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Bob Sherwood does the busy narration. Descriptive of nearly every scene. That encompasses a very large quantity of rather brief scenes!

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Amtrak takes a significant chunk of time. Centered around the Columbus Union Terminal. The old one is closed. This runs past it’s welcome. Feels like filler. Watching Amtrak trains back into and around the station area. Yawn…

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At this time, demolition is near or in progress, for many structures. This would be the rarity of the program.

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Some limited cab ride sequences appear. They are quick glimpses.

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Paul Geiger was a Towerman on the Penn Central. Some of those unique viewpoints are seen in this show. Tower views, yard access and wreck scene. Likely, including the locomotive cabs for those views.

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The Mail Train. In various incarnations. America’s mail once moved mostly by rail. Remember Air Mail?

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Majority of the program is trackside filmed action. ATVR tidbit… Southern Pacific units were run through power.

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B&O, C&O diesels provide additional variety. Trackage rights territory.

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Sharp eyes will observe the obvious Baltimore and Ohio architecture.

Interesting to note. Baltimore and Ohio lineside structures. Pennsylvania signals. A unique combination reflecting the dual operation of The Panhandle. See the narrative.

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A 1991 update brings the program to a close. Further demolition of the once dominant rail system is shown. Downsized to single track and double track operation. Removed yard. An interesting, if unwanted conclusion.

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This early works from Clear Block is very outdated now. It is badly in need of a remaster. As the featured railroads are available in much better quality elsewhere. It would really only be for hardcore railfans or completists.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

Today’s Illinois Central: South Volume 2

Today’s Illinois Central: South Volume 2cvr

Pentrex

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

Pentrex

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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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