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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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Eventually reaching the obvious conclusion at Aurora, Illinois.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

Rating: 5 Stars

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Vignettes of the Burlington Northern, Volume 3

vignettes-of-the-burlington-northern-volume-3-dvd-2

Producer: Clear Block

Timeframe: 1950’s- 1970’s

Locations: Washington, Montana

Sources: Ken Bealer, William P. Price

Length: 60 minutes

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Burlington Northern Volume 3. The 1970’s BN. Contains introduction pre-merger film of: CB&Q, GN and NP. On paper, this one appears to be a big winner for Hill lines enthisiausiats.

Keep in mind. Clear Block Productions have proven to be inconsistent to me. They always talk a great game. Read on.

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Program opens strong with some, hard to find vintage Burlington Route. End credits list William P. Price as a film source. I would bet, this was his film.

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Great Northern is present, as well. A good shot here. Weak overall, inclusion for GN material.

This pre-merger section is the worthwhile portion of the video. Lack of a descriptive narration keeps it second rate.

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Northern Pacific checks-in. A nice chunk of steam and diesel. Uh-oh. Here we go again! Solar flares (not). Familiar red/ yellow flaring , as seen in previous B&O Vignettes. Thanks Clear Block! More like Mud block in this case…
Well… That film is pretty old. Things should greatly improve on the newer 1970’s Burlington Northern film. Right?

Narration is very sparse on this show. My guess is the original notes, had little more then, general location and date. Nothing more is usually offered for the rest. Except the source. Ken Bealer. Have seen his name elsewhere. Doesn’t ring a bell. Certainly, not a negative one.

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Truth be told. Another train in the rain.  These scenes appear to be a collection of outtakes. They look like remainders or rejects. They are pretty poor overall. I am extremely dissappointed in this DVD. I can’t believe this is out there, for sale!

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Likely, this program could have been significantly improved, via some basic, post- production work. Contrast, color balance, brightness etc…

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Too many scenes are washed out. Others have way too much sunlight bouncing off the train.

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Oddly enough. This show uses more maps and on-screen graphics! Even a rudimentary chapter menu. As if to try and polish the show up a little bit towards respectability.

The actual train edits are rough around the edges. Quick cuts that seldom allow a viewer to see a boxcar. Often, the edits are jarring. It gets tedious.

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Color balance is generally close to non- existent. Those bright and bold colors, of the 1970’s are shadows, of what they should be on the screen.

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Most of the Vancouver shots are in rain. Too much of that! Sloppy presentation.

Live audio is really good in some scenes. Not enough to save this show.

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Another observation regarding the editing decisions. Boring, same looking Amtrak consists are shown in their entirety. Feels like the filler that it is used for.

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It is the bootleg quality presentation that ruins the enjoyment. Nice train Clear Block! Much of this show is nearly unwatchable!

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I came here for BN freight. Hump yard gives a few box cars, at this distance. Little else for Model Railroaders. Pass on this one.

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1979 was the year that Bealer went in search of still operating F units. One of the best looking scenes is this one. Rare in this show. Not all that great either.

Yakima Valley receives a very brief visit. This one minute looks good. I came for Burlington Northern… Why does this BN often look so crappy?

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No way does this one receive a good recommendation.
If you are interested in a good, informative vintage focused Burlington Northern program. Forget this waste.
I normally do not do this…
However. Clear Block just wasted my money, time and effort. I will save you time, effort and your own money!

Just order the quality Burlington Northern: Charles Smiley Presents- Empire of the North. You may find this one and can be happy. Life is too short.

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Vignettes of the Burlington Northern Volume 3.

Save your money on this dumb, overblown release.

Junk in the Trunk!!
Rating: 2 Stars

Goin’ To Kansas City

Goin’ To Kansas City cover

Pentrex

Length: 95 minutes

Time Period: 2000

Locations: Kansas

MSRP: 29.95

Ride along in the locomotive cab on a BNSF vehicle train. Pentrex has viewers inside a GE Dash 9 C44. Experience what it is like to travel across Southeastern Kansas. Board BNSF train V-OKCMCI at the crew change location in Arkansas City. The 225 mile route covers some of the Arkansas City Sub, complete Douglas Sub, and much of the Emporia Sub to Argentine Yard. See a plethora of trains from the ground as well.

Crew changeDetailed narration will have the viewer informed regarding the train movements. Sharp camerawork and pro audio gives a feeling of being there, with the BNSF crew.

lister                                    Engineer Kevin Lister gets us safely underway.

leboVeteran railfans likely have watched some cab rides before. This show is much more than a typical locomotive mounted in the cab routine. Ever changing viewpoints are the ticket.

rearview                                        Our vehicle train stretches out on a curve.

emporia                                      Basic maps are used to outline the areas traveled.

hougal                                                    Houston to Galesburg.

matfield green Matfield Green is the scenic area in the show. Hills and curving trackage are unexpected on a show from Kansas.

bazarA Phoenix to Willow Springs train creeps by on a long passing siding, at Bazar.

conductorConductor Brandon is the man in charge. Here, he communicates with the dispatcher.

z wspaltMeets are plentiful. Train Z- WSPALT is another of the many Willow Springs moves.

ottawa             Post merger BNSF has a variety of paint schemes on the locomotives.

all bnEmporia subdivision is very busy. This container freight is fronted by a now rare lash-up of solid Burlington Northern, Cascade Green power.

Goin’ to Kansas City is an outstanding show by Pentrex. It is highly recommended. Most railfans should find this program enjoyable. Older children might find it interesting. This is one of the best from Pentrex.

Rating: 5 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

Extreme Trains: Overnight Traveler

Overnight Traveler- Extreme Trains

History Channel

Format:  2 DVD set

 Length: 44 minutes

Locations for episode: Chicago to Seattle.

Source: Extreme Trains- Season One

Host: Matt Bown

Updated and illustrated review.

Here is a single episode from the series called, Extreme Trains. Matt Bown hosted various shows in this set on railroading. A good collection of programs that are fine for beginners. Additional information that sometimes, can keep veteran railfans interested as well.

This is the story of the Amtrak Empire Builder. The modern version of a former Great Northern, premier passenger train. Viewers will experience the trip from, Chicago to destination at Seattle.

215Comprehensive  look at the contemporary era Amtrak passenger train. Coverage that features: equipment, employees, and the journey.

chicago union station tower                                           Chicago Union Station tower view.

james hillA fast-moving and varied presentation.  Historical aspects and modern operation are both well researched. This is very informative and fascinating journey, over a classic train trip. Rich in history with some great scenic vistas! A sidetrip to Steamtown for good measure.

MonocoqueCompare the 4250 horsepower of a single Genesis, to the 1500 hp of a 1950’s EMD F7A.

Mono diagramMatt kicks off the show with a segment on the power for the Empire Builder. Two General Electric Genesis locomotives. The design is called a Monocoque. A single, lightweight shell that mounts to the chassis. The shell is akin to a load bearing aircraft fuselage. Check one of the diagrams shown.

loco pit matt eddieAt the Chicago Amtrak facility. Matt walks with an Inspector, underneath the eleven cars in the inspection pit. Safety is first and foremost. An overview of the preparation for the soon to be outbound train is complete.

conductorThe conductor is ready for an on time departure from Union Station in Chicago.

cabA cab ride contains a discussion on speed and safety features on the locomotive.

snowAnother fun sequence is Matt on a snowmobile, on the original (abandoned) Cascade Tunnel line. The early switchbacks are discussed with some more history of building the line.

cascade tunnelA feature on the 8 mile long Cascade Tunnel is a highlight.

lights

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A nicely done program. Good for the whole family. Quite different from the majority of standard train videos. Matt is a lively and hands on type of host. The many tasks that he tries do convey the hard work and care of Amtrak employees.

Rating: 4 Stars