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.

front                           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.

tt           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?

nrg2                                 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.

eb                                  The train climbs steep grades with a long consist

afton mountain                        Afton Mountain has 614 upgrade and without diesel assistance.

long           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


Autumn in the Great Gorge

cvrAutumn in the Great Gorge

Sunday River Productions

Length: 37 minutes

Time Period: 1985

Locations: Huntington, Hinton, White Sulfur Springs

Source: n/a, Brian Corbitt

MSRP: 29.95

Steam in the East- NKP 4

Volume 4 of Sunday River’s Nickel Plate Berkshire series. Restored NKP #765 is the star of this show. Featured on a pair of excursions in West Virginia. These are circa 1985 and on C&O rails. This version is a 2010 remaster.

Alva Morrison gives us a fine film of a modern day steam special. Intertwining the locomotive with the: scenery, towns and multiple viewpoints. His narrative contains interesting background of the area and railroading. Soundtrack has train sounds and audio is clear. All of the elements really come together in Part One.

 2cThe first part of the show travels from Huntington, West Virginia to White Sulfur Springs.

1thurmondA sequence passing through Thurmond offers scenes that model railroaders can find inspirational. Forward facing camera is steady, with some classic views. Onboard the passenger cars, various shots of scenery and train. Exteriors are balanced to keep this from just a runby show. Balanced overall. The remaster appears to have also smoothed out some rough edits. Hazy weather is present in Part One.

mapTwo maps are included. While many are familiar with the famous locations, this is handy for locating the smaller towns.

2pmAlva discusses some connecting railroads and how they were affected by Nickel Plate. Fascinating history.

Part Two sojourns from Huntington to Hinton. Weather is overcast for much of this trip.

2                                                  Our train begins to depart.

2b                                           The Berkshire looks right at home.

2kwf                                   Mighty Berk pulls a long consist near Kanawha Falls.

2tailAutumn in the Great Gorge has NKP 765 traversing through the historic Gorge. Classic steam era towns, and mountainous terrain, offer the perfect backdrop for the vintage locomotive. Some sunshine would have rated this release a bit higher.

Part One is nicely balanced. Three cameras used to film this part. Part Two is good, although it has some dismal weather, two cameras and has less impact . Not a long program at 37 minutes, but doesn’t waste time with needless filler either. Makes the most of things, for a mid-eighties done show.

end                                           Both parts have some pacing action.

Overall, the Nickel Plate Berkshire four volume series does a fine job of showcasing these engines.

This show is a good conclusion to the locomotive class, and the railroad that depended on it.

Rating: 3 1/2  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

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

Marion AC Volume 1

Marion AC Volume 1C-2

Clear Block Productions

Length: 122 minutes

Time Period: 1990’s

Locations: Marion, Ohio and vicinty

Sources: Too many to list

MSRP: 30.00

Clear Block has a unique take on the landmark tower and hotspot at Marion, ohio. The railroad structures there are prominently featured. AC Tower is the headliner of this show. Marion Union Station has been restored, and sits right at the main junction. That station is thoroughly discussed and viewed.  Detailed, illustrated history of all the former railroad buildings at Marion is an unexpected historical lesson. So are the model trains, shown to give a vintage perspective.


The centerpieces include plenty of trains. Conrail has the previous Erie Lackawanna position, which includes interlocking operations. CSX nee: C&O, and Norfolk Southern is the third big player in town. Round the clock and shot in all 4 seasons. Some run thru power.


Filmed over a 7 year period. This program takes some of the best from that timespan. The era is the not so exciting 1990’s. Still, the equipment hasn’t been mauled by graffiti punks.


Modern equipment and good camerawork yield fine results overall. The scenes have a pro shot vibe. Sometimes the set-up is too close to the tracks. On the other hand, some other scenes are great, and have artistic flair.

mdThis model railroad scene replicates Marion, as it appeared a few decades earlier.

CSX 2219 Zombie Marion OhioCSX 2219 is a control unit. These are nicknamed as Zombies.


Script and a strong narrative convey a wealth of information. Environmental audio is clear.


Later in the show, is an inside visit to the tower. History and current operations are provided.


There are numerous assorted maps. The history of the Marion trackage in detail. An older release, the maps are basic by today’s expectations. They are sufficient for the task.


As the show progresses, so does the impending fate of AC Tower. You will see a fairly complete record of the relocation and some related meetings etc.. This all appears towards the end of the lengthy show. Smart arrangement as once will be enough of that portion. So, viewers who rewatch the trains, don’t have to skip through the structure epilogue.



This is an interesting show. It’s presentation adds character to the realities of contemporary railfanning. Comprehensive coverage of the Marion, Ohio hotspot. The historical aspects should even interest history buffs and historical societies. The locomotives from 3 Class Ones with 2nd and 3rd generation power are the train highlights. Railfans should find this an enjoyable visit to a premier railroad hotspot.

Model railroaders get their screentime via those operating HO and O scale scenes. Marion Model Railroad Club is located at Marion Union Station.

Marion AC Volume 1 has something for everyone.

Rating: 4 Stars