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


Vignettes of the Chesapeake and Ohio

Vignettes of the Chesapeake and Ohiocover

Clear Block Productions

Length: 55 minutes

Tine Period:1952 to 1972

Locations: West Virginia and Ohio…

Sources: Vic Ketcham, Joe Slanser, Karl Walters.

Producer: Todd Miller

MSRP: 30.00

Vintage Chesapeake and Ohio, is one of those hard to find railroads. The public roads in West Virginia were tough, and few cinematographers traveled there. Even the later years are not plentiful. While there is limited C&O film in the market, there are no full shows. Clear Block has three main sources for this release. Additional film sources were also used, including Producer Todd Miller.

The late, Mr. Miller takes a whirlwind tour of C&O. Concentrating on Ohio and West Virginia. This fast paced program does delve a little deeper at some key points. Meadow River Lumber is one visit, with Shays and a Heisler.

co e8 train 46 maumee riverC&O Train 46 approaches the Maumee River swing bridge behind an E8.

co gp35 gp30 1964 marionNew EMD GP35 engines bracket a GP30 at Marion in 1964.

goldwater 1964 marion js

Barry Goldwater Campaign Special enters Marion, Ohio. Complete with a classic platform observation car. Public address speakers and a campaign sign adorn the rear. Year- 1964.

Appears to have been a direct video to digital transfer. There are some flaws and roughness. Many times, a squiggle is visible, at the very top of the picture. An inquiry to Clear Block informed me, the defect is present in the master. Not a deal breaker to me, just be aware.

f7fp7setLearned numerous facts about C&O power. Here, F7ABA set combines with FP7 engines. The FP7 were usually assigned to freight service. They were ‘protection’ for the E8 fleet.

co 7506 sd18 columbusUncommon SD18 models at Columbus. C&O 7506 rides on traded-in Alco RSD-5 trucks.

The film quality ranges from fair, to good- very good overall. Appears as 8mm all- color, in original condition. The color balance looks good for the most part. However, there are sections where the balance becomes marginal. No train sounds in this show.

Todd Miller has credits for script and narration. An informative script and a good narrative. This release is an older one, there are no maps or graphics. There is quite a bit of musical background. He points out the uncommon and the usual locomotives as the show progresses. Very good at: locations, cinematographers, years and special highlights.

co 3790C&O 3790 is a new GP40 and leads GP30 3034, and GP9 6017 at yard speed.

co 3034 gp30

co 6017 gp7

A multitude of runbys showcase C&O power throughout. Alternative shots from aboard passenger cars and brief loco cab are included, but these are the bulk of camera skake.

co 2704 lima    Steam is the first order of business and begins in 1952. Glimpses of New York Central, Virginian plus Norfolk & Western steamers too.

vgn fmFairbanks Morse was chosen for it’s strong specs for heavy train pulling. Hardcore steam men. Virginian would not give diesels the status of having numbers painted on the body!

vgn 906 sideVirginian 906 is akin to the C&O Allegheny class. Here is a pan shot of this huge engine which is idle at Princeton, WV.

Virginian has a feature that offers: steam, diesel, electric and an unusual motor car.

co 377 colombus 1960Columbus, Ohio celebrated 110 Years of Railroading in 1960. Ten Wheeler: C&O 377 makes a dramatic entrance! Vic Ketchum filmed the event and rode a special. Interesting.

co L1 hudsonClass L-1 Hudson in streamlined attire. The L-1, will make a case for the New York Central Dreyfuss Hudson as the best looking streamlined Hudson. Kudos for inclusion of the L-1.

coal kickbackCoal dock maritime facility. Detailed segment of the process. Fascinating footage to see.

co 3850 tower

co 90253Plenty of cabooses in a variety of paint and types. Model railroaders take note on this one. Atlas Trainman style with the odd blank door end. One never knows what may be seen in a video. Some freight cars are seen, as they pass on a few trains. Watch for a Shelby Mustang next to a farm tractor on an auto rack.

Vignettes of Chesapeake & Ohio has the rare film factor going for it. The story is well told. Film issues are why the rating isn’t higher. Composition such as lighting, shaky camerawork and source tape problems, are all present. Yet, it is a good show of this hard to find road.

Recommended, this release does cover classic C&O.

Rating: 3 Stars

Baltimore and Ohio

Baltimore and Ohiocvr

Sunday River Productions

Length: 72 minutes

Time Period: 1940’s- 1950’s

Locations: Garrett, Defiance, Willard..

Source: Guy and Betty Brant

MSRP: 39.95

Steam in the East Series

B&O steam was still operating between Garrett, IN. and Willard, OH. towards the end of the steam era. The T3 Mountain was built by the railroad and this story features this class. They originally had forty of these. More were constructed, this was a workhouse engine on the line.

Additional steam types are present in the show. Mikados, Consolidations, Pacifics, Santa Fe types and articulated EM-1 engines can be found. Occasional 1st generation diesels as well. Even former Boston & Maine Mountain locomotives. A comparison to Chesapeake & Ohio steam with some C&O footage is within this release.

smokeA multitude of runbys. A wide variety of freight trains. Passenger examples have named and numbered assignments. Some worthwhile freight car views.

The CincinnatianThe Cincinnatian gets extended coverage. Streamlined steam was rare on B&O.

parkersburgA sidetrip to Parkersburg. This provides a handful of shots.  A two level operation there.

Color film that appears to be 16mm. Has dubbed train sounds. On screen location and train designation graphics. Chapter menu is included and was added for the current DVD. An older release, there are no maps. Narrative offers many locations.

Narration by original producer, Alva Morrison. Good information on various steam power. He covers some B&O history too. Various sequences are train sounds only. Remastered and re-edited in 2007. Some of the edit transitions are rather jarring and break the rhythm. The program feels a little dated overall. However, the film enhancement has the trains looking good.

dhwThe cameraman was out in the winter. Double headers often were a Mountain- Mikado.

trainsA dramatic scene which demonstrates the cinematographers flair.

Cinematography is nicely done on the whole. There is miscellaneous minor camera shake. More occurrences than wanted. Considering the scarcity of the color B&O steam footage, it isn’t a deal breaker. Composition is generally fine.

coal dockA fantrip has railfans occupying a yard and with unrestricted access on the tracks.

bo 5564 santa fe

bo 4629 Q4BThe Q4B was a modern Mikado at this time. B&O 4629.

em1The EM1 was one of the smallest 2-8-8-4 locomotives of that wheel arrangement. Authentic EM-1 recordings were used.

em1 passThe Cadillac with the open doors seems to be Guy’s car. A sense of size to the big EM-1  shown here.

cabThis caboose is leading a reverse move with a steam crane. The train is going to a derailment.

Baltimore and Ohio is an action packed program. A bountiful supply of steam that should satisfy most viewers. There is much more to see. One for the family to appreciate.

Rating: 4 Stars

Chessie & Seaboard Hall of Fame

Chessie & Seaboard Hall of FameCover d142

Charles Smiley Presents

Length: 2 Hours + Previews

Time Period: 1950’s- 1990’s

Locations: Systemwide

Sources: Robert Zook, Jack Kuiphoff, Will Whittaker, Ed Kaspriske, Nelson Rath

MSRP: 29.50

A double feature and loaded with rarities. CSX heritage is thoroughly covered in this latest  release from Charles Smiley Presents. A Hall of Fame series that contains total vintage, all color film. Freight and passenger operations are seen in a wide array of trains.


Chessie System and predecessor railroads : B&O, C&O and WM. These are the main subjects in the first half of the program. Interurban fans get a treat with a brief visit on Potomac Edison. Circa 1950’s era C&O showcases a Brill car operating in Appalachia.

scl2021_sd45Seaboard System and these components: SCL, L&N, and Family Lines members. There are numerous rarities to be savored within Seaboard. The majority of this collection is hard to find material.

ln4099_waldoLouisville and Nashville 4099 leads a mixed lash-up, with a Seaboard Coast Line unit. This EMD locomotive is a GP-38-2, built in 1972. Plenty of trains travel past the camera at Waldo, Florida in the 1970’s. This show provides more L&N, another tough to find film subject.

RF&P receives an extended chapter. This road is another that has been a scarce video find.

wm3580_3577_nw2910_gp35Western Maryland GP35 units 3580, 3577 and NW 2910 are one of many WM trains.

nw2910_wm_gp35Additional Locomotives from: NW, NS, SOU, PC, SP, EL, Conrail, IC and Monon are included. Norfolk & Western 2910 was the lone GP35 from Nickel Plate Road.

Charles Smiley is a consistent producer who maintains high production standards. He gives much value with every release. Every detail is equally important. All of the many elements that combine to create an enjoyable and informative experience, are smoothly presented.

This show is 100% vintage film. Quality is very good to excellent. Digital restoration and enhancement gives the best possible picture. Audio is excellent and matched to the train.

scl_mapThis map displays Seaboard Coast Line. As the story develops, connecting railroads are added to the map. Specific areas are highlighted, and closer views are used as needed.

Chessie 4439The 1970’s are great for seeing Chessie System engines with excellent paint. Most of the second generation locomotive fleet is pretty clean at the time.

Graphics are a key element. Custom made maps are frequently referenced. Locations, years and statistics are included.

Charles is a great narrator. A wealth of historical information is discussed. Fascinating ‘what- if ‘ scenarios offer even more perspective. The nicely balanced presentation has viewers enjoying straight trainwatching sequences as well.

Chessie System

Fascinating , a cornucopia of colorful trains with main action in the 1960’s thru 1980’s.


co9050_brillThe Brill car is ridden and operated in the Appalachians. A must see has the 9050 riding on a creaking turntable!

co_e8Passenger trains from all three predecessors are included.

bo3722B&O 3722 is a GP40 built in 1969. Western Maryland tracks at Williamsport, MD.

wm_williamsport_helpersAlco FA units with a trailing RS3 are the helper set. These tracks are a bike trail today.

co7511_1975C&O 7511 in 1975. The large roster of Chessie and CSX had unrepainted power roaming the rails for years, such as this SD40 with the C&O For Progress nose herald.

csx4121_gp30B&O GP30 with the CSXT renumbering. Esthetically, these were much better than ugly patch jobs on other railroad mergers. Original paint schemes were fun to find on CSX.

co3257_cabooseChessie aficionados will be satisfied with this show. This review can only give a small sample of the numerous trains.

Seaboard System

The Seaboard Coast Line is prominently featured with a treasure trove of SCL footage. Early Seaboard Railroad is shown. Louisville & Nashville is another film rarity. Family Lines has plenty of coverage. Clinchfield Railroad even makes some cameo appearances. After the satisfying chapters of those railroads, Seaboard System is seen, before and early CSX era. This Seaboard half of the release is worth the price of admission. Viewers will benefit with intelligent background knowledge, and a plethora of trains.

seaboard_e8Charles is extremely thorough when he produces a program. Both shows reach back into the 1950’s with relevant footage of uncommon scenes. Various passenger trains operating to be shown, but this is one of the surprises!

scl1753_u36bSCL 1753 is a GE U36B. There is a good variety of power, paint and cabooses

ln2744_u23bL&N is a major component of Family Lines. A revelation is the L&N route mileage.

ln8142Explanation of Family Lines puts that group in perspective.

sbd1391_gp30Seaboard System is the final incarnation before CSX merger.

ln6131Cabooses are plentiful and an intriguing package of 1970’s – 1980 era.


Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac

rfp145The RF&P bridge line is reviewed, before the line was absorbed. Yet, another hard to find railroad.

csx118_f7CSX F7A 118 is one of several later era scenes. The show progresses into the CSX Racetrack livery.


scl_cabooseChessie Seaboard Hall of Fame is a big winner. Railfans and model railroaders will find this a goldmine. The rare factor alone makes this a must have program.

Once again, Charles Smiley has set the bar for vintage railroad shows.

Rating: 5 Stars

Articulateds in Appalachia

Articulateds in Appalachia   cvr

Sunday River Productions

Length: 35 minutes

Time Period: 1950’s

Locations: Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia

Sources: Fred McLeod, Guy Brandt, Archie Julian

Producer: Alva Morrison

MSRP: 29.95

Steam in the East Series

Articulated steam engines were some of the most powerful ever built. Three Eastern railroads that ran powerhouse steam are the main attractions. Baltimore & Ohio, which includes additional classes of steam locos. Chesapeake & Ohio is the rare find for vintage steam. Norfolk & Western had a great roster, and has an assortment of locomotives.

The show has opening scenes from Sunday River’s Baltimore & Ohio Steam program.

Alva Morrison performing the narration. Informative when he speaks. There is a good amount of space left to listen to the steam engines at work.


All of the films are quick scenes and generally runbys. Locations are many and we jump around from place to place. No maps, but on screen graphics or narration are referenced.

This program has a different soundtrack for the first two chapters. Those contain synced train sounds and narration. The Battle for Blue Ridge has narration, train sounds and musical soundtrack. The brief narratives interspersed  throughout. Some extended sequences just have the trains for audio. Overall, a balanced presentation.

The original show is dated from 1991. A digital remaster was performed in 2007. This review is of the remaster version. Alva Morrison produced the initial release.


Films are in color, plus black and white. The remastered quality is excellent. In particular, the black and white segments have a sepia toned hue. They have had some special processing that is unique and attractive looking. Both 16mm and 8mm collection, from multiple sources.

Baltimore and Ohio


B&O President class 4-6-2 Pacific class engines on named passenger trains. Washingtonian and Cincinnatian are two examples.

articulated locomoive malletBaltimore and Ohio EM-1.

3B&O 2-8-8-4 Yellowstone class. EM-1 locomotive at Willard, Ohio. Custom audio recordings were synced to the engines.


Additionally, are single boiler types, on various freight traffic.

The high action B&O chapter is excellent.

Chesapeake and Ohio

alle                                                        Allegheny. Summit on the C&O.

1604                                       C&O 1604 is the lone preserved Allegheny type.

1646C&O 2-6-6-6 Allegheny. Perhaps, the most powerful steam locomotive in the world.

sportsman One for the historical societies. C&O 4-6-2 streamlined Hudson at Williamsburg, VA.

This chapter of C&O steam, is the rare one.

Norfolk and Western

norfolk and western j classThe Battle for Blue Ridge is a film by Archie Julian. Presented as a two part show. Norfolk & Western in the steam era. The expectation for Y and J classes are met. Surprising, are segments of smaller power in 1950’s branchline service. The music is dated.

y6 malletThe big articulated Y6 has wheel slipping, as it shoves coal hoppers upgrade.

norfolk and western railroad steam turbine                                          Cameo by the Jawn Henry, in helper service.

abimxAbington Branch with a classic mixed train. This little film has a nice selection of NW.

cabsArticulateds in Appalachia is an enjoyable steam show. The whole family can watch this nicely done program. Thumbs up on the remaster. Running time is, a rather short 35 minutes. What is shown is all fine, interesting film. The Chesapeake and Ohio film is in the very rare category. Steam fans will appreciate this quality collection.

Rating: 4 Stars