Rock Island: The Rockets Defy Discontinuance

 cvrRock Island: The Rockets Defy Discontinuance

Green Frog Productions

Length: 63 minutes

Time Period: 1970’s

Locations: Chicago area, Bureau Jct. and more.

Source: Roger M. Koenig


The Rock Island passenger trains of the 1970’s are the story. American railroad passenger service had peaked during the 1950’s. Air travel, automobiles and the interstate highway system, had changed the way we traveled. Consolidation to Amtrak was the national solution to ever declining ridership on the rails.


Rock Island chose to continue operating their passenger trains. Named trains such as The Quad Cities Rocket, still served from Chicago LaSalle Street Station. That structure’s deterioration had mirrored the state of the railroad. Both well past their prime.

peorian end                       The Peorian was down to 2 cars, just prior to discontinuance.

Roger Koenig filmed much of the Rock Island. Using Super 8mm color, with sound he recorded the final years of those trains. The collection of his films is focused on those last Rockets and local Rock commuter service in Chicago area. Metra takes over the locals.

quad cities 78                                                     Quad Cities Rocket in 1978.

These recent Green Frog releases offer on/off narration. Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound. Chapter search function that allows easy access to favorite scenes. It will play Widescreen. Nice features to have on this DVD. Green Frog has it in a sturdy, plastic case.

1977 peorianImage and these original films are problematic, on this release. Many variations in lighting within individual scenes. Other times the camera jerks around. As far as riding some passenger trains, the rough track is the culprit. Pacing scenes vary. Other shots where the composition is lacking. Overall, a noticeable percentage has camera or film issues. Looks like most of the Koenig’s best films have already appeared, in earlier volumes.

The audio is lively. The natural sound was recorded via camera microphone.

Peter Youngblood narrates a well written script. Informative concerning the happenings on the Rock Island at the time. A few times he erroneously identifies the 1920 era coaches as gray ones. Actually, they were dark green. Otherwise, the locations, trains and years are looked after consistently. The extra information about the railroad maintains interest. The actual trains do get somewhat repetitive. Such is the case, with passenger based programs.

lasalleThe first third of this show is at LaSalle Street Station. Many commuter moves behind a plethora of old and recent equipment. For those who never saw this in the era, quite a treat.

e7e8A rolling museum. The E7/ E8 locomotives with a consist of 1930’s era passenger cars on a daily commuter train in 1977. Plenty of variety at LaSalle Station. Best chapter is here.

2f40Contrast that with two new F40 engines pulling modern double deckers on the same day.

652a                                 The Bicentennial E8 leads The Quad Cities Rocket.

Bureau Jct. is the alternate main location. The openness of the country area allows better photography of the trains.

metra 112 79This cameraman did get out in all kinds of weather. Hardy Chicagoans will often brave below zero temperatures vs. staying indoors for months, waiting for a nice day. Look at all of the frozen scenes. Many move to warmer climates!

cabFreight trains make a few cameo appearances. This is a passenger train show.

Rock Island: The Rockets Defy Discontinuance. The program does exactly as advertised. See the last couple of years for Rock Island passenger service. Actual film collection is a step down from previous volumes. Looks like an assortment of outtakes. However, the professional production elevates the overall show. Good for what it is. Just a little rougher to watch. Rock fans should enjoy this. Others will find a good, if somewhat flawed show.

Rating: 3 Stars


A 1960’s Train Travelogue

A 1960’s Train Traveloguecvr

C Vision Productions

Length: 65 minutes

Time Period: 1960’s

Locations: Marinette, Charleston, Naperville, Ontario, Wisconsin and more..

Sources: Joe Siedl,. Lynn Longley

MSRP: 29.95

C Vision surprises us, with another new source of upper midwest vintage railroading. This cinematographer also traveled to Canada. There are some hard to find lines and locomotives. Mid 1960’s timeframe is highly desirable. Filmed in color, on Super 8mm.

soo neenahJoe Siedl is the main cinematographer for this program. He had an Argus camera. Filmed alot around Marinette, Wisconsin. CNW and SOO are prominent. Canada has a big chunk of the program. Canadian Pacific, CN and Ontario Northland. Seaboard Coast Line is a highlight. Burlington Route is another feature. A few GG1 electrics too.

1535CNW 1535 is a GP7, with a Fairbanks Morse Baby Trainmaster.

Don Grant narrates the show. Music background is used to fill the rest. There is an off switch for the music. The keyboard player is pretty good. Improved overall music versus older releases. Basic narration is good with: locomotive call-outs, locations and some more. I have added a little extra information, for my readers.

soo gp35 gp30 stevens point 2                  Soo Line GP35 with a GP30 are at Steven’s Point, Wisconsin.

Camera appears to be handheld. For the most part, it is steady. A few scenes have some shakes or possible film jumps. Nothing to worry about. Colors look good. Film looks original, unrestored. Composition is well done. Graphics for locations.

Chicago and North Western is loaded with freight and passenger trains. Many locomotive types. CNW fans should be satisfied.


cnw f7 4052A peshtigoCNW 4052A at Peshtigo, WI. This is not an F3. Rather, an F9AM. A rebuild from original FT series, built in 1945. The 4050 series are tricky, with some being F3 before rebuilding. I had to look it up. Otherwise, what a sweet scene!

cnw 901 rs27Here is CNW 901 in 1966. Misidentified as an Alco C425. It is a rare Alco RS27. This occurs more commonly then you may realize on many train videos. Not worth bothering, except this engine has an interesting history. Purchased new in 1962. Traded in with the other 3 RS27’s after only 4 years for C425 models. Alco leased it and sold it to Precision National. Leased to Canadian Pacific. Sold to GBW in 1976. On to WC in 1987. Minnesota Commercial in 1992. Interesting…back to the show.

cp alco fa fbCanadian Pacific Alco FA/ FB combo. It is a maroon and gray CP seen in this era.

dh17What amounts to small segments: Green Bay and Western, LS&I. Milwaukee Road and Great Northern. A cameo on Delaware and Hudson. Former Santa Fe PA17 heads The Laurentian.


Joe was stationed at Charleston, SC. Circa 1968. Worth the price of admission for this chapter. A hard to find supply of Seaboard Coast Line. A fine variety of vintage diesels.

scl 585 e7   SCL 565 is an E7A. Seen at Charleston station. Also, are rare E6 and common E8 units.

scl 2006Could have filled the page with cool shots of Seaboard Coast Line activity. SD45 displays flags because it is running extra.

scl  959The GP9, GP18 lash-up includes some interim looking paint schemes.

cbqA bunch of Chicago, Burlington and Quincy at Naperville, Ill. Even in the 60’s this was a known hotspot. Triple track mainline all the way into Chicago. The freights were to Clyde Yard. Passenger action is plentiful. All stainless passenger trains look great. Chinese red and gray on the freights is a bonafide classic. The GP20 on the lead, was a hot mainline locomotive in 1966!

cbq 4960At Baraboo, Wisconsin. The circus train with it’s very colorful consisit of classic circus wagons. These wagons are loaded on flatcars. The loading methods used by the circus industry, helped develop early piggyback transportation. In this scene, Burlington Route 4960. a 2-8-0 Light Mikado hauls the train.

pbxOntario Northland Polar Bear Express. Joe caught some rare ON freight as well. Must see.

soo fp7aA classic scene of the mid-1960’s. A single four axle EMD locomotive with a freight train. This Soo Line FP7 is a classic.

Lynn Longley’s bonus section at the end doesn’t match the quality of the main show. It will not be factored into the rating. A few minutes of 1950’s Milwaukee Road. Poor to fair at best.

scl 2007 rearNot much in the way of cabooses in this show. We shall close with a passing SD45 leading 4 F units from the SCL yard. The high horsepower units were strong entries in the headlong race for more power. Mixed in with this unusual lash-up of 1950’s era covered wagons. The F unit engines that defeated steam. A modern second generation model that would replace the earlier diesels. Atlantic Coast Line merged with Seaboard Air Line. All pass into history.

A 1960’s Train Travelogue. Here is a worthy assortment of circa 1966-67 railroading. The rarities make it one that railfans may need. It plays well and the nonstop action passes the time quickly. Overall, a nice release to add into a collection.

Rating: 4 Stars

Today’s Illinois Central: South Volume 2

Today’s Illinois Central: South Volume 2cvr


Length: One hour 39 minutes

Time Period: 1996

Locations: Fulton, KY to New Orleans

MSRP: 29.95

A continuation of a grand tour of Illinois Central. This volume covers the southern portion of Illinois Central Railroad. Pentrex has another volume for the northern half. Both shows are professionally produced. South contains 552 route miles. This is the downsized, core version of Illinois Central.

Volume 2 utilizes the same formula as the prior show. There is improved videography here. Better composition and smoother lens work. Perhaps, minor differences to the average viewer. Worth a mention for those who care, or may just want to try a single show. There are a number of interesting sidebars of local character as we are down South.

3131 gp40Picking up where we left off on Volume 1. The program begins at Fulton, Kentucky. Again a quick geography lesson is presented. Basic maps give perspective to the route, and division points. An intelligent way to setup the remainder of the film.

wc handyAt Tutwiler, Mississippi. The camera rolls around to see local sights. Some of this is out of the ordinary and even off-topic. Apparently, the crew became bored in these remote locations. Turns out the many sidebars and historical elements create some interest.

At least the mural relates a train related story. W.C. Handy was a famous musician. In 1903 waited for a train here and heard sounds from an unknown musician. The idea stuck with Handy and is what became Blues music. Famous Blues great, Sonny Boy Williamson is buried down the road. This scene is a nice interlude.

woodchip loaderOne for the model railroaders. A woodchip loader operation is discussed.

amtrak 59                                           Amtrak trains frequent the show.

hazelhurstPulpwood cars are loaded further down the route. A variety of trains and traffic move on these busy rails.

meet           The Chemical Coast does a large amount of revenue for the railroad.

three                  Hotshot intermodal trains move between Chicago and New Orleans.

fredThere are a handful of scenes with a caboose. A FRED is more representative of 1996.

The story ends at New Orleans. Ride a ferryboat and learn even more railroad history to the very end.

Today’s Illinois Central: South Volume 2. An interesting narrative elevates this volume above the first one. Combined with better videography, make this the one to have.

Rating: 4 Stars

Today’s Illinois Central: North Volume 1

Today’s Illinois Central: North Volume 1 cover


Length: 99 minutes

Time Period: 1996

Locations: Chicago to Fulton, KY.

MSRP: 29.95


The reconfigured Illinois Central receives the Pentrex treatment before merger. The year is 1996. A tour down the line, from Chicago to Fulton, KY. Many different trains are viewed in this operations oriented video. Much action is documented on this busy ICRR. Volume 1 focuses on the northern half of the railroad. Volume 2 covers the southern half to New Orleans .

duquoinCompared to Santa Fe: Countdown to Merger, this production is very similar. To cut a fine line, the camerawork is superior on the Santa Fe show. Watch both and compare the shows. Compared to the 2nd volume of these Illinois Central shows, this 1st volume is somewhat less in the videography. It just doesn’t look as smooth as their best shows. Still, rates well  in most all other facets of production.

ic 1000 sd70IC unit number 1000 is an Electromotive SD70 model. The newest power on the railroad.


Narration seems to drag behind the action quite noticeably. The information given is excellent. It is a pacing issue. Example such as, Notice the rare locomotive, when the train has already left the viewscreen. Attention is given to official IC train designations. Although that info could wait. Every train move is covered. Intersecting lines add interest. Union Pacific, Conrail, Norfolk Southern, CSX, and Burlington Northern. Amtrak as well.


amtrakAmtrak train 391 is one of many Amtrak passenger trains seen operating on the line.


Graphics identify the train symbols and more. Maps display the route. Good work.

cp mapChampaign District. Experienced Illinois Central fans will notice these locations are all classic IC hotspots. Narrator notes the crossings with other railroads. Champaign is a busy location.

bnsf sd70mac coal trainCentrailia is considered a great hotspot, with BNSF and Norfolk Southern there.

gp11 typeThe GP11 type is the workhorse for locals.These are updated with dash 2 electrical systems.

Discussion of locomotive types and numbering system. Details about the power roster. Rebuilding programs and origins of Paducah rebuilds provide insight about the still diverse roster. GP11, GP40, SD20, SD40-2, SD70, SW14. Also: SD28, SD40, GP10, GP38.

ic caboose

Today’s Illinois Central North Volume 1. A solid documentary of 1996 rail action. The major issue is a less interesting era. Not as bad as later years for railfanning, but not too exciting. Nice to see a cleaner looking IC versus the rag tag fleet of ICG. But wait, the ICG had way more variety. Fans of Illinois Central will find a good release. Even if it this volume isn’t the best one. Check the companion Today’s Illinois Central South Volume 2.

Rating: 3 1/2  Stars



A Tribute to the Wisconsin Central Volume 1

A Tribute to the Wisconsin Central Volume 1wc1

C Vision Productions

Length: 97 minutes

Time Period: early 1990’s to 2001

Locations: Chicago to Slinger

Sources: Marshall and William Beecher, Jr.

MSRP: 29.95

Follow the Wisconsin Central from Chicago to Slinger, WI. The 2 Beecher brothers have railroad access. This enables some uncommon viewpoints. They visit inside an operating interlocking tower. Scenes shot from opposing direction locomotives. See many SD45 engines pulling freight trains. Plenty of action in this well paced show.

ding             EMD SD45 locomotives are the prime power on Wisconsin Central.

C Vision has a sparse narrative. Don Grant does a fine job. The train designations are frequent. Locations are on-screen or mentioned. Seems there could be more information via narration. Natural audio and that sometimes includes radio chatter. Editing is smooth. The narration has an off/ off choice. Way  too many instances of ringing crossing bells is the other issue. Otherwise, the show plays fine.

There is added interest of Wisconsin & Southern, plus Wisconsin & Calumet. Foreign locomotives include: Norfolk Southern, CP Rail, Conrail and Southern Pacific. Metra and Amtrak as well.

ihb lagrange         Action begins in Chicago. This WC move is on Indiana Harbor Belt at LaGrange.

tower B12                 Marshall visits inside tower B12, shortly before it was closed down.

boxVideography ranges from excellent to good.  There are also, ‘artsy’ compositions. Flowers, tree branches and such. I’m sure these were cool at the time. Some still work. However, hindsight reveals these are mostly pre-graffiti era freight cars. Clear views stand the test of time better. It is enjoyable to see so many freight cars in the show, gp30Certain concentrations of activity highlighted, such as around suburban Milwaukee. Grays Lake and a few rural towns, offer multiple trains or some switching. A battered GP30 moves some cars. Note the Alco trucks. These were from trade in locomotives in the 1960’s. Soo Line had some of these. This info is an example of what is not in the narration. Hence, the ‘sparse narrative’. Consider it an operations style video. What you see, is what you get.

slingerReverse angle displays the flared radiator grilles on the SD45. This is at Slinger, Wisconsin.

A Tribute to the Wisconsin Central Volume 1. This 2010 release delivers a briskly paced program. There are many trains, with extra variety by the other railroads mentioned. Plenty of graceful camerawork for the vast majority of scenes. All of the action results in a good show.

Rating: 3 1/2  Stars