Today’s Chicago Railroads

TCR-DVD

Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1991

Locations: Many

Length: 2 hours

Do you like variety? Chicago provides the Motherlode! This guided tour, of Chicago and vicinity, will satisfy most any Railfan. Fallen flags, local lines and pre- merger roads. Many old Towers are shown.

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Pentrex maximized their time in the field. Concentrating on classic hotspots. Crossings, Yards, Towers are generally, multi- Railroad locations. Busy mainlines, can provide ample supply. Frequent trains are practically a lock.

All the best of the Pentrex production team results in a smooth and well paced program.

Familiar voice of David Drui performs the informative and balanced narrative.

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There is a detailed, Chapter Menu. A master map, with nearly 2 dozen locations. Many close-up maps, as needed. Highly organized.

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Pentrex states that they only have room to hit the highlights of what they have. Likewise with my review. There is so much more to see!

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As the sign says. To The Trains…

Alco C424 of Chicago Belt Railway.

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Best place to begin the tour. Is the center of the city. That is Union Station. Full visit. visit. Amtrak’s yard is plentiful. Burlington Northern commuters run behind the E9 locomotives, as well.

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State Line Tower is far south. Norfolk Southern and CSX. Illinois – Indiana line.

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Speaking of towers. Van Loon Tower, is located in Indiana. Elgin, Joliet & Eastern with an SD40, in fresh paint. Norfolk Southern intersects here. I-80 is above.

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Blue Island has always been one of the best hotspots. Many roads move through here.

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Chessie System, now CSX, with a long lash-up of light locomotives. Barr Yard is nearby, not visited. Blue Island action.

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Dolton Jct. is very popular now. Easy to access, for railfans. CSX, Conrail and more.

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More.. A grimy Missouri Pacific pair, trundle through Dolton.

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McCook Crossing, features the busy Santa Fe Mainline. Multiple ATSF, trains passby. Willow Springs is next. Pre UPS days there.

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The details of the trackage at McCook. Everyone seemed to exercise trackage rights, on the Indiana Harbor Belt!

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Old, beater CNW geeps are seen here.

Grand Trunk , Chessie, IHB, Amtrak too.

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WICT F units at Edgewood are a rare sight! Wisconsin and Calumet. Later, became part of Wisconsin and Southern. The road was called Wicket, for short.

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A Soo Line switch job receives a detailed chase. A low speed one. Street running at Goose Island. A truncated version is on Street Running by Pentrex.

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The Burlington Northern Racetrack is a must see on any Chicago visit.

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BN executive F units appear at Clyde yard in Cicero. You never know what shows up!

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Hawthorne yard, has Belt Tower . This is visited inside. A former Illinois Central structure. Chicago Central was here. This structure, is gone now.

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Brighton Park has a full – on stop. Rare, a Switchtender with a shanty. A GT transfer caboose, hits the diamonds.

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Illinois Central SW14s on their ex: GM&O trackage. Note the unusual, hip cab roofs.

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CR 5032 is next to get the wave at Brighton.

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Bensenville is now a Soo Line stronghold. The former Milwaukee Road facilities are huge. A freshly painted SD40 powers a hot Soo Sprint train past B-17 tower.

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The engine house and Bensenville yard run right along a public road.

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Grand Trunk near Hayford Junction.

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Hegewisch still has electric interurban service. Chicago South Shore Line.

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Chicago and Northwestern, has a major line in a Westerly direction, from Proviso Yard. Union Pacific run through units are common. Metra is the local commuter service. Proviso Yard, is not seen in this show.

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Chicago Short Line is another rare find.

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Many of the trains, still employ a caboose. The Indiana Harbor Belt used these home built transfer ones for many years.

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Pentrex has knocked it out of the park. A home run! An instant classic. This show will give viewers a high rerun value. There is simply, an astounding amount of various, and interesting trains. Outstanding videography, that hits the mark!

Rating: 5 Stars

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Into the Allegheny Range Volume 1

Allegheny 1 Cover.indd

Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1992-93

Locations: Magnolia Cut-Off, more..

Length: 3 hours

Source: Iron Horse America

A comprehensive tour of the highly scenic 55 miles, from Hancock, West Virginia to Cumberland, Maryland. Spectacular, Magnolia Cutoff is the centerpiece. A longtime railfan favorite!

Iron Horse America, in co-operation with the CSX Railroad. They spent 4 years filming what has become, an extensive 4 volume series on DVD. All the seasons. Any weather conditions.

A Pentrex release. Quality is expected to be of a high standard. The only issue, is a menu that doesn’t illuminate the check boxes properly. Fine otherwise.

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What we have here…

Into the Allegheny Range Volume 1 Hancock, West Virginia. to Cumberland, Maryland.

Former, Baltimore and Ohio trackage. This route follows the Potomac River in a Westerly direction. This line will eventually reach the world famous Sand Patch Grade, in a later volume.

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There is plenty to see in this first release. All seasons. Any weather conditions. A cornucopia of views!

Loaded with all the trimmings! Just the way it should be. We deserve the full treatment.

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Don’t forget some fine maps. Iron Horse provides a large supply. Frequently referenced. Nicely done.

Good narration. A well rounded but not overblown script. Sits in the pocket. Viewers get to listen to the trains.

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On screen graphics with: location, train designation, month and year. Directional, mile marker and more. Is that info for you people? Plenty for me.

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Videography is professional level. Everything is clean. Great composition. An eye for the artistic. Yet not overindulgent. Scenic awareness.

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Audio is equally at a high standard. Levels are balanced. Environments reflected in the ambient sounds. Play this show through a sound bar for maximum enjoyment!

This is a first class presentation. A thinking man’s show. Also, a Railfans treasure.

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Hancock Yard is a humble beginning. Compared to the tour that is ahead. Check the former Seaboard Coast Line GP40.

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Several run throughs, add to the endless parade. Conrail is the most frequently seen.

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The 1992 era trains have plenty of pre-merger paint in their lash-ups. B&O, L&N, Seaboard Coast Line and Chessie, are a few. Above is a Seaboard System, for another.

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Magnolia Cutoff is a large area. Mountain region with four tunnels. Iron Horse covers this extremely well.

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Randolph Tunnel is a super trainwatching location. East and West portals. As are all of the tunnels filmed.

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A MARC F rebuild. Leads a Baltimore Orioles Special, at Randolph Tunnel.

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Stuart Tunnel is a remote one. It has even more high paced action. With 50 mph speeds and a deep rock cut. Even makes a fine Amtrak Capital Limited image. Model Railroaders would love this scene on their pike!

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Stuart Tunnel in a closer view.

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Cross a river. Over a long bridge. Enter Maryland…

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Kessler bridge. Graham Tunnel.

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The Concrete Wall is better than it sounds. Natural lighting varies.

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South Branch Valley Railroad. A Shortline. A Tourist Line. Quick visit.

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Carothers Tunnel. An extra long lash-up. The small town of Paw Paw is nearby. Yes, the town gets a quick visit. No extra fare!

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A show providing plenty of movement. Local historical items are included, as well. The original C&O canal for one.

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Conclusion at Cumberland. Narrator leads into offerings on upcoming releases. The credits mention the use of improved video equipment in the later volumes.

Into The Allegheny Range, Volume 1

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This program is a winner! Excellent all the way around. An action oriented show that will satisfy railfans, model railroaders and most of the family. Something for everyone.

Rating: 5 Stars

Pittsburgh Mainlines

PBMAIN-DVD

Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1999

Locations: Pittsburgh area

Length: 2 hours 16 minutes

Tour the Steel City with: Conrail, CSX, Union Railroad and Amtrak. This is prior to Norfolk Southern. There is a surprising amount of rail action, in Pittsburgh. Memorable settings for the trains, as well.

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A detailed Chapter Menu displays many locations. Conway Yard, Rochester, P&LE Main and Turtle Creek Valley being several.

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Comprehensive coverage of the Pittsburgh metro area. Historical aspects pay tribute to the rich industrial foundation of this city.

Dave Drui with his smooth, pro narration. Balanced, ambient audio soundtrack.

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Conrail does run a herd of trains through this fascinating trackage.

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CSX is on former B&O lines. Plenty of CSX with road and local moves. Bonus, the locals still require a caboose!

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Union Railroad may be unfamiliar. It is the business. Coke, and steel related plant trains are abundant within it’s domain.

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Some complicated trackage is explained with many Pentrex custom maps. Frequently referenced and needed by viewers.

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Scenic vistas abound, as Pennsylvania landscapes are always nearby.

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Port Perry is a stunning location!

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There are still some operational Steel plants. Pentrex visits.

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On-screen graphics with additional information.

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A Model Railroaders paradise, as well. Some scenes ; have more tracks and trains, than a Christmas Lionel dream layout!

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Amtrak has several trains.

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Impressive bridges are a Cornerstone. All of those rivers and valleys must be crossed.

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Tunnels are plentiful. All, a little different.

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Here, coal hoppers are spotted with a tiny switcher. An unusual operation. Singular!

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Here is a glimpse of vintage film. Pentrex certainly sent the extra mile. On more than one occasion, showing historical footage.

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Comparison to the current Pittsburgh.

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CSX- Allegheny Crossing is impessive. Just when you think the old Pennsylvania Railroad bridges rule. Along comes a: B&O or Pittsburgh & Lake Erie construction.

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OK. Who wanted Bessemer & Lake Erie?… Me too! A couple of SD7 engines. Nice pair.

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A former, Chessie System locomotive pokes it’s face out of a tunnel. Even more, than can be reasonably included within the scope of this review. There is plenty to be relished. A packed program.

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One of the last operating Interlocking Towers gets a visit. See the inside…

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Union Railroad has a caboose on every train. Good coverage on this road.

Pittsburgh Mainlines.

One of the top Pentrex shows, with late 1990s railroads. Different mixture of trains, in a variety of settings. Expert videography and production. Historical aspects that are, woven into the program. A great choice for anyone with an interest in trains!

Rating: 5 Stars

 

Rail Trek Volume One: The East

Rail-Trek---The-East-1960s-1970s-Volume-1-DVD-RVQ-RT1

Producer: Ron McElrath

Timeframe: 1960s-70s

Locations: East-South

Length: 140 min

Sources: R. McElrath, W. Sasser

One of three Rail Trek volumes. Eastern version. Wide coverage over 20 railroads. Updated in 2017 by Revelation Video for DVD release.

The new DVD has film repairs listed as: cleanup on splices and edits. Original sources of 8mm and Super 8. These still show limitations. Good to fair picture quality. Green overcast on occasional scenes.

 

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A detailed Chapter Menu is a fine addition. This lengthly program needs this feature. Especially, as it spends too much time on certain subjects. Definite pacing issues.

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A new, update (on- screen graphic) is used to correct previous narration mistakes. Even a bit of additional information.

The show is in full color. Brief segments with some live audio. Mostly a musical background. Same as previous edition.

Fully narrated by Ron McElrath. Same as the VHS series. Above scene from Marion.

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Show is a mixture of lineside and passenger train ride films. Covers a huge range of territories! Waynesboro, if you have trouble reading.

There is more than a basic review can fully get through here. Overview with some of the important parts to know.

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The railroads in the Southern states are hard to find. These alone, make this worth consideration. L&N, C&O, Southern, Auto-Train. Ride upon and view trains. You just don’t find much of anything, in the South on a train DVD.

Good developments, later in this show.

Earlier on, it was dragging badly. Roads that I like too. Just revolving, around and around, on passenger trains.

*Breakdowns are boring. The audience doesn’t care. Stuck like a bug on flypaper. Cut it short! The show is dragging…

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Endlessly looking around on New York Central. Finally, get out of there.

 

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Look! A neighbor, called New Haven. A chilly trip. Out and back, on a branchline

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A huge commuter mover. More than just Jamaica Yard. Long Island Railroad. Receives maybe, a minute! Really? Ugh…

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Only to get fixated, upon the very attractive Delaware and Hudson Alco PA locomotives.  Move it along…

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Norfolk and Western. This one scene is the best looking. Kind of loses it at Kenova. Experiments with shots and most don’t work. Chesapeake and Ohio. He blows most of the shots here miserably…

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Louisville and Nashville. Excellent choice. Rides an oddly named Pan Am train.

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C&O. 2nd chance. Gets it right now!

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Southern. Look South. GP30 looks awesome with a high hood.

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Birmingham. Hot Spot deluxe. A manned swing gate. Frisco here. More trains are seen. Who knew about this? Gate open…

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Take another look… Gate closed. Excellent.

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Florida. Auto Train gets a glimpse. Florida East Coast with a caboose is included within.

Florida has much more.

Pittsburgh in 15 minutes.. A fine chapter!

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Obligatory Amtrak shot. Cooler than most, with Three Rivers stadium!

 

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Pittsburgh and Philadelphia had vibrant trolley systems too. McElrath shows quite an assortment in both cities. I only have space for one. You’ve been told about it.

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Still in Pittsburgh. B&O action all around.

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Pittsburgh & Lake Erie. A train ride there.

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ATVR bonus. The Orange C was a give to ‘Green team’. New York Central. Red P was supposedly Red team. PRR staff. Neither side was satisfied. Everything reverted back to all white lettering. The rare, Orange C sure looked better to me! At Marion.

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In Ohio, things really get moving along. Erie Lackawanna is plentiful.

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Detroit, Toledo & Ironton, shows up for a minute.

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Marion Hot Spot. The ultimate all time?

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Get your good Norfolk and Western here.

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Recent early 1980s steam inclusion. Needless here. Better quality, easily is obtainable elsewhere. Quit when you are ahead.

Matter of fact. All steam on this show doesn’t really fit. Including, the poorly filmed breakdown outing, in the cold. Drags it down. Time waster that should not be here.

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Now, Atlantic Coast Line is a caboose, one rarely sees in service. There are some hard to find ones, bringing up the rear.

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Rail Trek Volume 1 The East The 1960s- 70s.

This show sure gets around. Large amount of railroads. A supply of rarities. Overall, weak on film quality. Needs some additional editing, for time. Create a stronger presentation.  Nice updates on the VHS. You have: the good, the bad and the ugly. A mixed bag. Make your choice.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

 

Vignettes of the Western Maryland Volume 2

Vignettes-of-the-Western-Maryland-Volume-2-DVD-VWM-2

Producer: Clear Block

Timeframe: 1974-75

Locations: Keystone to Cumberland

Length: 58 mins + bonus

Sources: James Gallagher, Todd Miller

Careful! Volume 2 continues with WM. Filmed in 1974/75. Only 58 minutes of film here. There are 24 minutes of tourist line video, from 1985. Western Maryland Scenic.

Appearance wise, things look about the same, as the previous volume. Unrestored 8mm sources. Good to fair range quality. Various color balance issues. Maybe a little worse overall. No chapter menu.

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Cinematics are nothing special. In fact, this man’s style gets annoying at times. Camera shakes.

He can’t seem to decide what to do. In or out, with the zoom. Wavering between capturing the train as a part of the scenery, or filming the train.

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There is a major difference in the approaches. Railfan vs. Artist.

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This entire vintage 8mm color film section, plays under an hour.

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Bonus section is of Tourist Line. Is in much higher video quality, from 1985. That was shot by Todd Miller himself! Looks wonderful in comparison to these old films.

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This review will focus on the advertised. Western Maryland in the 1970s. Miller’s video is a non factor bonus. We did not pay for the tourist video.

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Audio quality is far exceeding the visuals. These are original, on- site recordings. Quite a pleasure to listen to normally aspirated EMD locomotives hard at work!

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A map is used early in the program.

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Model Railroaders will see more freight cars than the average video.

Todd Miller performs a balanced narrative. This one seems to be more detailed versus the first volume. Perhaps more information was chosen for the script.

He is aware of the live audio. Allows enough space for viewers to listen.

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Helmstetter’s Curve is a common one. Similar to Horseshoe Curve, for being a heavily filmed Hot Spot. Nothing unique to see here.

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It is a bit of fun, to hear these F7 diesels rattle as they shove hard on this freight!

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Too many shots, from much too faraway. Putting the train in the scenery. Art for art’s sake type of approach. A non railfan style approach.

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Salisbury Viaduct. Classic crossing. This should be simple. Frame it and shoot the scene. Instead… Jamming that zoom for a second or two, and pulling it back out. Unsure. Unsteady. Not smoothly…

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Expressway to a headache. In and out…

Not just this single scene…

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This show lacks anything rare. Everything is obtainable in higher visual quality elsewhere.

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Two volumes. Take a look. Check the reviews on what is else is available. Do what you want.

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*Epilogue. 1985. Tagged on after the main feature. Originally Allegheny Central. Currently, Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. Steam powered tourist line. Engine 734. Some interesting, then and now comparison scenes. Cumberland Station and yard shown. Excellent bonus.

Vignettes of the Western Maryland Volume Two.

The  show is simply too rough visually, to rate it higher. Point of interest, is the live sound. Film source is overrated, and badly in need of restoration. Hardcore only.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars