The Panhandle Volume One : C&N Division- Penn Central- Conrail- B&O


Producer: Clear Block

Locations: Columbus, Newark, Ohio

Timeframe: 1970’s- 1991

Length: 60 Minutes

Sources: Paul Geiger, Bob Sherwood

Penn Central and Conrail, are the main railroads featured here. Baltimore and Ohio is also a joint trackage railroad operator, for 35 miles.


The Panhandle, was an old nickname for what much later, was to become Penn Central territory. Between Pittsburgh, Columbus, St. Louis and Chicago.

This show covers the portion from Columbus to Newark. In depth historical information, is given via the narrative. Later series, Panhandle Volumes cover additional portions, of the involved routes.


An older show in the Clear Block catalog. Dates back to the VHS tape era of commercial release. Unrestored and definitely showing it’s age.


Film quality is fair overall. Plenty of scenes need color correction. Here again, a distortion bar!! This show has it at the bottom of the screen. Some Clear Block shows include these distortions.


Although Penn Central paint dominates the program. Early Conrail patch jobs appear. As do, these former Erie Lackawanna SD45 units.


Viewers are watching silent films, with narration and musical background. Only a 1991 update offers any live train sound. Not a badly put together show. It does have it’s share of serious flaws.


Primitive maps, by more modern standards. Better to have, these simple maps versus nothing. They do the job.


Bob Sherwood does the busy narration. Descriptive of nearly every scene. That encompasses a very large quantity of rather brief scenes!


Amtrak takes a significant chunk of time. Centered around the Columbus Union Terminal. The old one is closed. This runs past it’s welcome. Feels like filler. Watching Amtrak trains back into and around the station area. Yawn…


At this time, demolition is near or in progress, for many structures. This would be the rarity of the program.


Some limited cab ride sequences appear. They are quick glimpses.


Paul Geiger was a Towerman on the Penn Central. Some of those unique viewpoints are seen in this show. Tower views, yard access and wreck scene. Likely, including the locomotive cabs for those views.


The Mail Train. In various incarnations. America’s mail once moved mostly by rail. Remember Air Mail?


Majority of the program is trackside filmed action. ATVR tidbit… Southern Pacific units were run through power.


B&O, C&O diesels provide additional variety. Trackage rights territory.


Sharp eyes will observe the obvious Baltimore and Ohio architecture.

Interesting to note. Baltimore and Ohio lineside structures. Pennsylvania signals. A unique combination reflecting the dual operation of The Panhandle. See the narrative.


A 1991 update brings the program to a close. Further demolition of the once dominant rail system is shown. Downsized to single track and double track operation. Removed yard. An interesting, if unwanted conclusion.


This early works from Clear Block is very outdated now. It is badly in need of a remaster. As the featured railroads are available in much better quality elsewhere. It would really only be for hardcore railfans or completists.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars


Vignettes of the Baltimore and Ohio, Volume 4

Vignettes of the Baltimore and Ohio, Volume 4



Clear Block Productions

Producer: Todd Miller

Timeframe : 1955- 1965

Locations: Cumberland, Grafton, Sand Patch, Meyersdale

Source: William P. Price

Length: 52 minutes

Released: 2004


This Volume 4 focus is on the West End. Locomotives contained are; later steam and a plethora of diesel action. Second generation diesels are now present, in the form of GP30 and GP35 power. Multiple B&O paint schemes on the blue locomotives. C&O engines appear post 1964 merger.


Once again. This show has all color film. Everything was nicely shot by Wm. Price. Live sound from multiple sources that adds interest.


Clear Block is light on extras. No maps are contained within the program. A disappointment, as this was on Volume 3. No chapter menu included either.


Everything bounces around quickly! Diesel to steam. Early diesel to later power. An EM-1 smokes heavy, as it starts uphill with a coal trail.


Helpers can be steam or diesel.


Call it the luck of the draw. Price was trackside, when the short-lived sunburst paint scheme, was being used. Brand new, Jersey Central, Electromotive diesels enroute from the LaGrange factory.


Newer GP30 units, in factory Sunburst paint. These are nearly impossible to find on vintage film. Let alone in any quantity. Plentiful here!


Steam appears randomly throughout this program. Like a close sports game. You will not want to take your eyes off the screen. Might miss something!

vlcsnap-2018-12-15-22h45m54s789The ubiquitous F7 was once so common. Those were one of the very replacements that vanquished the steam engine. Now, they too are relegated to museums and vintage films.


It almost looks funny now. To see GP9s working, on a mainline coal train. It has been many years since that was a daily occurrence.


This Vignettes show could be the most fun one that I have seen yet! No annoying flaws. Great amount of action. This F3 set is seen at Cumberland, Maryland.


Full of cool surprises. Tons of scarce items to see. Note the wagontop caboose.



Model Railroaders can view period frieght equipment, as well. The various locomotive paint schemes will keep them busy.


Simplified blue, with the large B&O letters and a capitol dome herald. This was to be the final paint scheme.


Consider there are some other fine Baltimore & Ohio titles, in the marketplace. They are weighted in favor of passenger operations. This show has a great focus on freight trains! If you are looking for vintage freight action. Here is the hot ticket.


This is a good show that the family should find worthwhile. Live audio is a draw for children and any railfan.


Wae still have the usual lack of post production attention. It is original, unrestored film. Whatever the reason. This collection appears better overall, than earlier volumes in this series.


Vignettes of the Baltimore & Ohio, Volume 4.

Fun by the Ton!

Rating 4 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

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.


Our train begins to depart.


The Berkshire looks right at home.


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.


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