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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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


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…


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


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


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.


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


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


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


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.


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.


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


Vignettes of the Baltimore and Ohio, Volume 4

Vignettes of the Baltimore and Ohio, Volume 4



Clear Block Productions

Producer: Todd Miller

Timeframe : 1955- 1965

Locations: Cumberland, Grafton, Sand Patch, Meyersdale

Source: William P. Price

Length: 52 minutes

Released: 2004


This Volume 4 focus is on the West End. Locomotives contained are; later steam and a plethora of diesel action. Second generation diesels are now present, in the form of GP30 and GP35 power. Multiple B&O paint schemes on the blue locomotives. C&O engines appear post 1964 merger.


Once again. This show has all color film. Everything was nicely shot by Wm. Price. Live sound from multiple sources that adds interest.


Clear Block is light on extras. No maps are contained within the program. A disappointment, as this was on Volume 3. No chapter menu included either.


Everything bounces around quickly! Diesel to steam. Early diesel to later power. An EM-1 smokes heavy, as it starts uphill with a coal trail.


Helpers can be steam or diesel.


Call it the luck of the draw. Price was trackside, when the short-lived sunburst paint scheme, was being used. Brand new, Jersey Central, Electromotive diesels enroute from the LaGrange factory.


Newer GP30 units, in factory Sunburst paint. These are nearly impossible to find on vintage film. Let alone in any quantity. Plentiful here!


Steam appears randomly throughout this program. Like a close sports game. You will not want to take your eyes off the screen. Might miss something!

vlcsnap-2018-12-15-22h45m54s789The ubiquitous F7 was once so common. Those were one of the very replacements that vanquished the steam engine. Now, they too are relegated to museums and vintage films.


It almost looks funny now. To see GP9s working, on a mainline coal train. It has been many years since that was a daily occurrence.


This Vignettes show could be the most fun one that I have seen yet! No annoying flaws. Great amount of action. This F3 set is seen at Cumberland, Maryland.


Full of cool surprises. Tons of scarce items to see. Note the wagontop caboose.



Model Railroaders can view period frieght equipment, as well. The various locomotive paint schemes will keep them busy.


Simplified blue, with the large B&O letters and a capitol dome herald. This was to be the final paint scheme.


Consider there are some other fine Baltimore & Ohio titles, in the marketplace. They are weighted in favor of passenger operations. This show has a great focus on freight trains! If you are looking for vintage freight action. Here is the hot ticket.


This is a good show that the family should find worthwhile. Live audio is a draw for children and any railfan.


Wae still have the usual lack of post production attention. It is original, unrestored film. Whatever the reason. This collection appears better overall, than earlier volumes in this series.


Vignettes of the Baltimore & Ohio, Volume 4.

Fun by the Ton!

Rating 4 Stars.

Vignettes of the Baltimore and Ohio,Volume One

Vignettes of the Baltimore and Ohio, Volume One


Clear Block Productions

Producer: Todd Miller

Length: 56 minutes

Timeframe: 1950’s

Locations: Columbus, Toledo, rural Ohio, Grafton WV, and more.

Source: Karl Walters

Obviously, the intial offering for Baltimore & Ohio Vignettes. Featuring the films of Karl Walters. Vintage 1950’s era. Mostly steam footage. All color. Silent film, augmented with, a surprisingly lively, music background.

Highly detailed narrative on this release. Paul Geiger is a familiar sounding voice on Clear Block programs. He is on the dry side. Direct delivery as the script is read…


Original cinematography has good camerawork. Film is not restored. Appears to all have been shot on 8mm. So there is not a high level of clarity.


Post production is sorely lacking in the visual department! First half of the show contains random red/ yellow flares. Color balance issues throughout the show.  Some other quality control issues. Basically, not anything done from original film condition.


There are no maps. No chapter menus. You get this basic show. However, a hidden 14 chapters. Viewers can jump in at a given point.


It is an early style of train video. Back when viewers were satisfied to just see some real vintage film! Often, one had to mail order via the magazine ads. The old days.


Keep in mind this old style premise. You will get what you get! However, there is tbe benefit of acquiring rare steam film here. In full color.


Karl Walters was apparently domiciled near Columbus, Ohio. Much of this show is shot in rural Ohio. Secondary lines is what I am thinking. Those were abundant in the 1950’s. Pre-interstate days.


Fairly amazing for the area. Behemoth EM-1 frequent the lines. Who would have guessed? They were displaced by new technology diesels, out on the mainlines. End result was the big steam was assigned East.

Imagine, a single F7 diesel could not replace an EM-1. Only rated at 1500 hp. Yet, an F7 unit, when strung in multiples… Unlimited horsepower in sets!


There are plenty of passenger trains still operating. Blue and gray heaven.

vlcsnap-2018-12-14-22h35m40s825An ultra rare EMD EA unit #51, leads a passenger train at Harper’s Ferry, WV. This carbody is on display at the B&O museum in Baltimore.


Everything is identified in detail. Those who like all of that information will love this narrative.


Karl travelled around a bit. Grafton, West Virginia. He made it over to Pennsylvania.


This is a show that I would not rewatch much. Prefer to hear steam operating versus musical background. Also, that 8mm unrestored gets hard on the eyesight!


Not all that bad. Not great either. OK for an early release. Has it’s video flaws. Vignettes seem to often be flawed.


I could grind it harder. I do not recommend it for kids or family. Hardcore railfans only. If you  can really appreciate the rarity and need this one.

I will be a little generous.

Rating 3 Stars

Vignettes of the Baltimore and Ohio, Volume 3

Vignettes of the Baltimore and Ohio, Volume 3


Clear Block Productions

Producer: Todd Miller

Length: 60 minutes

Timeframe: 1942– 1957 approximately

Locations: Sand Patch Grade area , McConnellsville, Falls Cut, Wills Creek, Cumberland, Grafton,WV. MD Salmanaca, NY.

Sources: William P. Price, (color).Garret Wertz, Charles W. Houser Sr  ( black & white film)

Multiple Audio Sources: see film credits

Year: 1998

Clear Block has a four volume series on old Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Centered around ‘Steam Era’ B&O. A stone classic amoung the original Eastern railroads. These are certainly of interest to many.

B&O was one of the railroads that kept operating steam locomotives right through most of the 1950s. This was fortunate to cinematographers. Color movie film became a viable option. Large steapower on mountain grades was in daily service.


Vignettes of the Baltimore and Ohio, Volume 3. Features a breathtaking collection of mountain steam operations. Viewers will witness B&O put on an awesome display of steam power!


Filmed during the transition era. Diesels were beginning to replace steam. Some of the early diesels appear.Those engines have now passed into history, as well.
Keep in mind. This program was created in an earlier time. The VHS tape tape era. It retains that overall, primitive build. Maps for example.


They are most welcome. Geographical orientation always adds enjoyment. Understanding the layout of an area. Learning about any given challenges a line contains. Maps help solidy all of that information.


Narration is interspered throughout the show. Relevant info is conveyed in a rather dry, matter of fact style. Again, these were earlier productions.Visually. Do not expect modern restoration style viewing. It is more hardcore style. Think of it like music collectors. As they dig deeper for music. Greater rarities or older concerts. Sources become rougher.

So one adapts their standards. The pleasures are still available. Consider the technologies of the time. Not all train videos have the benefit, of a Charles Smiley or John Pechulis, restoration process either. The real world…


Action starts in black and white. The year is 1942. We are in Salmanaca, New York. The segment is about ten minutesg. Reminds me. No chapters or chapter menu. The audio is about average in this portion.


The BIG SURPRISE in much of this program.Is the sound!! WOW!!!!


This locomotive is first heard. Pounding hard, as it lugs the heavy freight train upward. As it nears, the sound becomes louder. The black enginge looms ever larger…LOUDER!!


Checkout the grin! Engineer on 5662 is loving life, aboard his shiny engine. All good and he is in charge, of an important train. Over 60 years ago.My favorite sequence in this show!!


Play this DVD on your main TV. Check the mountain grades. Hear those big steamers come to life. Outstanding!

Always read how steam era photographers, had left the trackside after diesels took over. Nothing was left to see. I experienced similar with third generation diesels and standardized trains. Nothing left to see. This video nails the steam fans viewpoint

vlcsnap-2018-12-14-11h03m51s426Even more fascinating. Hear the rare combinations of steam and diesels working together! If you have experienced ears. Identify Alcos or EMDs, paired with the steam engines.

This sounds like advanced style sound equipment used for the time, in many instances. Sometimes it matches exactly to the footage. Absolute must see film!

vlcsnap-2018-12-14-11h16m27s073There is a major flaw on my DVD.
A Clear Block Productions flaw.
It was present in a similar fashion on their C&O release, a few years ago. I had them check it, at that time. It was in the master. They acted not concerned. That response, has caused me not to inquire this time. The top of the picture has a constant distortion. Similiar, to what could be found in some old VHS tapes.
My best guess is something occurred when it was transferred to digital.
Still a watchable show. Just some slop from the production house. There, you have been told. Cavaet emptor.

The program is action packed! Wall to wall action. Sans narration for much of the time. Live sound in this quality. Brilliant decision making. No narrative wanted. Let’s stand trackside in the 1950’s. See and hear these locomotives work. Amazing audio, in much of the second half of the program!

Vignettes of the Baltimore and Ohio, Volume 3 is quite a collection of rare steam era film. The audio portion makes it a definite must have. The video flaw is a big bummer. Film quality varies as well. Unrestored is accurate.

Clear Block just does not consistently, have the higher standards, of some competitors. So this program gets downgraded somewhat.


Geared more towards the experienced railfan. That person who can live with a major flaw in an established label release.

However, that being said. Despite the obvious production shortcomings. Anyone should be able to appreciate, the often magnificent display of smoke and sound , given by the B&O parade.

It is a very fine combination. Fun for all ages. Who would not like to see and hear big steam engines raise and shake the earth? Sometimes almost going to drive right into your family room. This has those soundbar moments!

I am giving this Vol.3  a considered overall rating of 4 stars. The rare factor elevates it a little higher.

Vignettes of the CNJ Volume 2

Vignettes of the CNJ Volume 2cvr

Clear Block Productions

Length: 56 minutes

Time Period: 1960’s

Locations: System

Sources: Steve Bonscher, Ralph Mallamace, William P. Price, Charles and Ken Bealer

MSRP: 30.00

This release is the second volume of three CNJ Vignettes by Clear Block.

A wide ranging film collection of Jersey Central in the 1960’s. Leased units and connecting roads keep the interest level high. CNJ was not a pretty railroad. Drab paint and often in industrial settings. The focus is on the various locomotives in service.

ay2The 5 film sources all appear to be on original, unrestored 8mm stock. The good news is all color films. The quality is about what you would expect for old footage. Range is from fair to  good. Composition is generally acceptable.

ru tower elizabethportMuch attention has been given to accurate sounds of the assorted power.

1Narrative is fine for an older production. Locations are often referred to by tower. Train designations are frequent, ex: AY2. There are numerous map references. Consider, these maps are from a different age. They look primitive, but apt description is useful.

6904Jersey Central was owned by B&O. Late 60’s paint scheme looks like B&O. Reading was a sister railroad to CNJ. Leased units from Norfolk and Western are common.All of those railroads had some intriguing lash-ups of mixed units. Lehigh Valley makes a few cameo appearances. A few scenes of a Canadian Pacific steamer on excursion service, albeit not good quality.   Lehigh and Hudson River also is briefly visited.


gp40 1968The multi track mainline is prominently featured. Locations include:Jersey City, Communipaw, Elizabethport, Elizabeth, Aldene, Cranford, Plainfield, Middlesex, and Bound Brook. Additionally, Passaic Drawbridge, Brills Transfer, Bayway, Rahway, Phillipsburg, and Bethlehem are visited.

fmtm      The Fairbanks-Morse Trainmasters were awesome looking diesel locomotives.

ruAlco RS3 types are very common in this era. RU Tower offers plenty of action.

f3ru                                               An F3 leads a freight past RU Tower.

CNJ locomotives from: Fairbanks Morse, EMD, Alco and Baldwin.

lhrAlthough the viewing isn’t the best, Todd Miller has produced an interesting program.

lhr oa1Vignettes of the Jersey Central Volume 2 showcases one of those hard to find railroads.Railfans will find this to be a good overview of this railroad. All of the varied equipment seen operating, adds to a rare view of CNJ in the 1960’s.

Rating: 3 Stars