Vignettes of the Western Maryland Volume One


Producer: Clear Block

Timeframe: 1940 – 1975

Locations: System

Length: 1 hour

Sources: Multiple

A large collection of films. Steam to mostly diesel. Preponderance, of color footage. Wide coverage of this railroad.


Todd Miller performs the narrative. Good script that he wrote. It moves geographically across the territory. A well organized show.vlcsnap-2019-01-31-22h14m22s183

Hence, the timeline jumps as the program progresses. A production decision. One could argue the continuity of time. I would make the argument, the sensibility of time progression. No matter. Let’s go!


Maps are used judiciously. Excellent, to have these frequently referenced. This show really moves around.


We will visit Pen Mar Park, circa 1940s. Jump in a locomotive cab, here and there. A tiny amount of interurban service. See the odd loco in Chessie paint.


Film quality hovers around medicore. Some scenes are a bit less. Some later scenes, are a little higher quality. Much of it, looks dull or unbalanced. The collection sure could use restoration.

In the year 2019. These old, unrestored 8mm film collections are wearing thin. Historical value is obvious. Consumer value can be, less beneficial. Seek the best quality films first. Read the reviews.


Cinematics themselves are much better! Good camera skills, by about a dozen men.  Filmed over many years. Nice work.


The commoners can be found in higher quality, in other programs. It is then a question of rarities, or completeness for collectors. They are here.


Audio is surprisingly excellent.  In this case, almost astounding. Considering the general viewing standards. Locomotive sounds are matched to types. Obviously, much effort was put forth. Resulting into an accurate  environmental soundtrack.

vlcsnap-2019-01-31-21h31m19s363Ubiquitous EMD F7 units served WM with long careers. Note the nose logo here.

vlcsnap-2019-01-31-22h11m40s297Alco locomotives are out on the mainlines. RS-3 units, as well.


This program has plenty of variety.


A rare BL- 2 set operates in yard service.


New circus paint, first appeared in 1969. This SD40 trio illustrates the schemes.


Norfolk and Western, along with Reading trains, pass through parts of the WM territory.


Chessie System paint began in 1972. One of the Safety Slogan series.


The now vintage, Northeast caboose was a staple on Western Maryland.

Vignettes of the Western Maryland Volume One. An interesting show. It covers the railroad as advertised. The visuals are weaker than expected. The audio is much stronger than one would expect. Some rare items within. There you have it.

So… Do you need it?



IF Western Maryland cranks your tractor…

Rating: 3 Stars



614: Thunder in the Alleghenies

614: Thunder in the Alleghenies cover

Sunday River Productions

Length: 44 minutes

Time Period: 1980 1985

Locations: Huntington to Hinton, New River Gorge

Source: David Corbitt

MSRP: 34.95

Chesapeake and Ohio ran some awesome steam power. The 614 is the single locomotive that is the star of this show. This engine is operating under actual working conditions.

Coal is the commodity being hauled. Loads out and empty hoppers on the return. Six days a week. Action is in the winter. That is just the first part, of this two part program.

signalsThe big 4-8-2 is called a Greenbriar on the C&O. The same wheel arrangement is called a Northern commonly. The C&O wanted a designation with local meaning.

In the evolution of Chessie steam, this was from the final group. Lima was the builder in 1948. The 614 was therefore, a modern steam engine.


The 614 is a handsome locomotive, from any angle.


Full color footage is accompanied by natural sound. The narrative is by Alva Morrison. Original production date is 1985. The show was updated for DVD 2010. A chapter menu is present. Editing is smooth.

The audio has a microphone hum, when the narrative is present. Train sounds are excellent, and do not have the hum.

Part 1 has very minimal narration. Part 2 has more. Alva does have his usual informative narration. Viewers may wish for additional info overall.

steamThe cinematography is solid. Framing is thought out and there are a multitude of classic images. Various weather conditions affect the endless supply of runbys.

Winter weather was the reality for January, 1985. Some days the weather is dismal, but the train was a working entity. Action is constant. 614 really gets up plenty of steam throughout the show.


On the turntable. Many of the structures recall earlier years of operation.

fwRoss Roland owned the 614. This T version of 614 was for testing. Specialized equipment was used to determine multiple factors in the cost of burning coal in 1985. Could updated steam regain it’s crown as preferred power on the mainlines?


New River Gorge provides some aerial style footage.

Part 2 is centered around Chessie passenger train operations behind 614. The year is 1980. This chapter, film is showing it’s age. Clean appearance, though original condition. Sunshine at last.


The train climbs steep grades with a long consist

afton mountain

Afton Mountain has 614 upgrade and without diesel assistance.


Chessie System had a matching livery on the passenger cars. Class!

thurmond Thurmond, West Virginia. One of the towns that are a wealth of old buildings and vintage feel.

bay window614: Thunder in the Alleghenies does contain a plethora of good cinematography. The dreary winter weather in the main part of the show is a concern. However, this is on C&O. Apparently, bad roads and easier access to neighbor B&O, are some reasons the railroad was infrequently filmed with steam in the 1950’s.

C&O vintage steam is very rare. Sunday River does offer some classic C&O steam, as on Articulateds in Appalachia.

Here is a good opportunity to see an original C&O steam locomotive in regular service. This release is reminiscent of  a time long past.

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’.


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.

csxcsx 2531

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.

ns 2595

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.


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.


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.

crcnw 5097

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.

mpup 87

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

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

Chessie Sand Patch Volume 1

Chessie Sand Patch Volume 1 CSPV1

John Pechulis Media

Format: DVD R

Length: 54 minutes

Time Period: 1978

Locations: Sand Patch Grade, Cumberland, Hyndman, Salisbury Viaduct, Keystone

Source: Jonathan Reck- Super 8MM Soundfilm

MSRP: 30.00

Cumberland to Rockwood. June 1978.

Historic Sand Patch Grade is at the top of any list for American train action. From the steam era to the present day, it has great scenery and classic mountain railroading. Chessie System in the 1970’s had an interesting array of motive power. Pre-merger paint was still easily found on various EMD locomotives. Helper sets are frequently used. Cabooses were still on all freights. Long gone roadnames are a part of the rail scene.


There is some rudimentary map reference. Narration at the beginning few minutes of the show only. Remainder is natural, environmental audio. No chapter menu or chapter function. Original Super 8mm soundfilm. The source film has some minor flaws. Color balance is very good to excellent.  JPM uses state of the art equipment to give the best possible image.grahNarration is done nicely by John Pechulis, but only a couple minutes. It drops off early in the program. On-screen graphics are used to denote locations or trains, the rest of the way. rw

Speaking of narration, it is nice to learn a few things while viewing a train video. In this one, an old Western Maryland depot, a bunch of wrecked grain cars at Yoders for instance. No active train in either scene. Those would be good places for description. Runbys are the bread and butter of productions like this one. Interesting narratives are the icing on the cake.

396keyTrain is chased and shown here at Keystone, Pennsylvania.


A cornucopia of Chessie Sustem and pre-merger paint are to be relished. My wish was to find a C&O GP35 in original paint leading a train. Lucky!

sptwrWestern Maryland GP40, with one of those odd looking GP chopnoses in Chessie livery.

sptchSolid blue, helper assigned locomotives, recall the proud heritage of a true classic railroad.

spt1Good scenes at the tunnel.

4This location has some good diesel lash-ops.



What made this era interesting ?  Variety !



Chessie Sand Patch Volume 1 delivers the goods, as far as trains. The nice array of paint and power, will please buyers. As you can see, the scenery adds to the viewing. Mountain railroading has a unique appeal. Helper locomotives are often used. Nothing beats an engine struggling upgrade in Run 8 !

Two schools of thought on narration. Some producers offer the choice of with or without the announcer. Rating criteria compares as to what else is on the market. Most train videos have narratives. In comparison, this one lacks that basic element.


This is a good overview of action at Sand Patch circa 1978. The 99% live sound with graphics, leaves it to hardcore railfans. Chessie fans will find an enjoyable visit to the area and the era.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars