Hot Spot: Argo


Producer: Midwest Video Productions/ Highball

Timeframe: 1995-1997

Locations: Bedford Park, Argo Yard, Argo Crossing.  Elkhart, South Bend, LaPorte, IN.

Length: 83 minutes

MVP pulled the wool over buyer’s eyes here. Hot Spot: Argo, my foot! The show meanders, all over the place. Filler in front and behind.

This is exactly what drives buyers away, from train videos. Does not deliver on the advertised. Substandard viewing. Issue this junk. Then they whine… Where are the sales?


Where’s Argo? I did not see: Elkhart, South Bend or LaPorte, Indiana in the title. Nothing personal against Indiana.

This show was supposed to be about Hot Spot: Argo. That constitutes, Argo Yard and Argo Crossing. These locations are in Summit, Illinois. A specific targeted area. Inherent, are certain railroads and type of action, at those locations. I paid for THAT.


Alternative. Look I get bunch of time filler… Not enough Argo in the can. Obviously.

What ripoff! No problem. Hose’em down.


We begin at a CSX ramp. This is listed. Feels like filler. This is Bedford Park. A little portion would pass. However, it does takes quite a while, to move away from this ramp. Twenty minutes. That is a big chunk.


Sure. The vintage Belt locos are too cool. Perhaps, the best of show. Off topic, like much of the program. Proves my point actually.

No Chapter Menu, by the way.

Bedford Park CSX ramp. Runs excessive, considering the topic. Again, this is not the Hot Spot: Argo!


Finally. We move. A map. He doesn’t bother to display the CSX ramp. Where we were stalled for so long. Does a good explanation of Indiana Harbor Belt and B&OCTRR, now CSX, trackage mapping. Ownership of IHB.

Which brings us to video quality…


Throwback, would be a kind word. This appears one step above, a 1980’s era shot set of tapes. It is rough end to end.



Hard to watch. Lighting, colors, grain. He mentions some video lines! That is the least of the problems. UGLY!

Post production work may have been able to improve some of this. There is a general murkiness to much of the background. Auto-focus issues perhaps.

Narration offers plenty of train information. Train designation. Even where the trains are going. Including long haul destinations. Crew changes.

Audio is fine. Narration and live audio. No complaints.


Argo Crossing. Used to be the GM&O line it crossed. Later on, that was Illinois Central Gulf into Illinois Central etc..

The steel truss bridge, crosses a canal in the background. At this point, the tower  is in the process of demolition.


Argo Yard is eventually acheived by the film crew. Nearly 28 minutes to arrive here! Too long, for the title and main feature.


Argo Yard is a rather small one. Especially in the Chicago area. It is next to a humongous, Corn Products (CPC) plant. That has rail service. Surprisingly, this is not mentioned. Neither is the stench.


Busy place. The 910 assignment switches the yard. Back and forth…


Argo is a crew change point.

vlcsnap-2019-02-01-10h14m24s013A Willow Springs bound power set passes by the camera.

vlcsnap-2019-02-01-10h30m19s850CN-GT power, with a Proviso to Blue Island transfer, via the IHB trackage. One never knows what will come down the tracks.


A former CNW GP15 is now in Union Pacific colors. It is entering Argo Yard.


Additional crew change. This BNSF train will travel to McCook Crossing. Not far.

Timing this at 54 minutes. That is all folks? Out of Argo already! Are you kidding?


Control point 466 at (who cares) Indiana. He mumbled it…


However, by the time we are transported to Indiana. No map. All geographical orientation, goes out the window. Save for the location screens. Useless, sans a map.


Now, it is just an extended series of mindless runbys. Conrail action now, for the majority. A lack of being centered this round. Standing trackside in the middle of where? Makes all the difference…

(This deception, is about the equivalent of purchasing a show titled ‘Horseshoe Curve’ and spending more time, at alternate locations.

One would not expect to be spending significant time, trackside on a single CSX line, out in Ohio. Off topic, for a Horseshoe Curve titled show).

Same garbage here. How does Indiana relate to Hot Spot: Argo? Does not fit.



Yet I myself digress. Back to our review. Back to Indiana. Back to the wasted money! Still stuck with a rather abysmal visual, as well. This isn’t much fun. Is it over yet??


On to Conrail’s Elkhart Yard. Still murky. Yawn.


Where’s Argo?

Only 27 minutes @ Argo… Insulting!

There is nothing in this show, that you can’t find, in better quality elsewhere.

Wanted to sit back and enjoy the show. Ended up with this loser! One and done.

Argo… Not hardly. A Loser. Pass…


Rating : 1 Star



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

Atlanta’s Railroads – All Aboard – PBS

Atlanta’s Railroadsaa

Green Frog Productions

Length: 30 minutes

Time Period: 1800’s to 1990’s.

Location: Atlanta

Sources: Charlie Brown, John M. Koch, Rob McCormack, Pete Silcox

Another one from the All Aboard PBS television series. Howard Goodwin hosts the 30 minute shows. The complete set is available from Green Frog Productions.

chaseThis particular show does not follow in the regular Green Frog format. An interview based program. What some term, a talking heads show. Very heavy on early and Civil War era. Of course, the imagery is period photos and illustrations. The format continues in the same fashion, right up to the 1990’s era. There is a smattering of 8mm color film and video. It is extremely limited screentime. In that respect, it does not compare with their standard train videos.

general                                        The General is also presented in HO scale.

general3The Great Locomotive Chase is a main feature of the 1860’s. A raid by Union Army, with the intent to destroy or disable lines into Atlanta. The raiders escape on The General. Confederates give chase with 3 steam engines. Eventually, the engine runs out of fuel. There is much discussion on this event. Two original locomotives survive in museums. Overdone, as far as using up time. Where are Atlanta’s trains?

1Dan Chandler narrates this slow paced release. It is professionally produced. The issue is the focus of the program. One would expect a bunch of footage containing classic and modern era film. That just is not the case. Functions more like a slide show.

1871depot                                            Atlanta train shed built in 1871.

1905                                            A larger station constructed in 1905.

hoThe 1905 station with downsized spires in HO scale. The real ones sustained storm damage.

Historians are probably more likely to enjoy the very lengthy early history. Plenty of old pictures as well. As nice as the pics are, nothing moves. More, talking heads.

2                                                 This photo looks like a rare one.

sd45souEventually, we arrive in a more modern age. A few glimpses of moving diesels.

csxydCSX and Norfolk Southern both have large freight yards. You barely see either one.

nsydAtlanta’s Railroads ends up a disappointment. What could have been an overview of a busy rail city, gets bogged down in ancient history. Perhaps, there just isn’t much vintage film from there. Yet, even contemporary video is in short supply. This program is really more of a history of early railroading in Atlanta. One of the weaker entries in the series.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

Marion AC Volume 2

Marion AC Volume 2cover

Clear Block Productions

Length: 110 minutes

Time Period: 1992- 1996

Location: AC Tower. Marion, Ohio and vicinity

Source: Todd Miller

MSRP: 30.00

This volume presents the Marion area in a simulated 24 hour period. Filmed over a four year timespan. The day and night, seem to pass. There is an endless supply of trains. Conrail, Norfolk Southern and CSX are the operating railroads during this time.

cr6201Different format than the first AC Tower show by Clear Block.  Graphics are the predominant source of information.buin crNarrated only at the introduction to the program. Todd Miller gives knowledgeable info here. The bulk of the show is not narrated. Environmental audio. On screen graphics contain detailed train designation and heading. Map references at the introduction only. Too bad there isn’t scanner (radio) talk. That one element would have made this one much better.

ns2744aWhat viewers will experience are endless train runbys. Appearing from assorted viewpoints and varied locations. Majority are directly within site of AC Tower. Conrail and NS are the stars of the show. A handful of additional scenes within the vicinity of Marion.

csx4238                             Nice CSX action, is shot from the old C&O station.

csx6549Many years ago….. Marion was packed with classic signal equipment, such as this.

du                                      Todd gets some fine shots with his video camera.

During the 1990’s railroading was far into standardization. A generally, bland collection of EMD and GE power pulling the usual assortment of large freight cars and little else. Cabooses were gone by now. An occasional special can be found, even Milwaukee 261.

cre8a                                   Conrail business cars rollby with an E8A unit.

ns21AC Tower provides some great views of Norfolk Southern and Conrail traffic.

csx6547CSX is nearly the odd man out in this show. Distant views with a handful of nicer scenes.

cr3335                                       Conrail Extra 3335 passes the old depot.

cr6201xIt is a long night. Some discussion would have been welcome. Trains disappear into the darkness.

cr8161Marion AC Volume 2 is a decent effort by Clear Block. The production is good overall. Would have rated higher with more narrative, or radio traffic for the soundtrack. If you want to know….. AC Tower Volume One is the one to get …. AC Vol.2 is a good add, if you like Vol.1.

After watching this long player, you may realize. The silence of the human voice is deafening.

Rating: 3 Stars

Early CSX: The Rainbow Years

Early CSX: The Rainbow Years

Producer: Diverging Clear Productions

Format: DVD

Length: 1 Hour 40 minutes

Time Period: mid 1980’s to 1990’s

Locations: Mt. Vernon, IL. Huntington, WV. Birmingham AL. , Anchorage, KY. and more..

Source: George Redmond

The Heritage Series

MSRP: 20.00

Diverging Clear has just released this show, that features early merger CSX. Chessie System combined with Seaboard System to create CSX. This videotape source had recorded the merged but not repainted fleet in the 1980’s. Extra predecessor railroad liveries add even more color to the locomotive fleet.


Early segments have Chessie System and Seaboard System appearing and operating separately. As the years pass, many combinations, including full dress CSX schemes are seen. A wide variety of power and cabooses keep the interest level high. Time does progress, towards the end of the program, we see mainly CSX paint, and no cabooses.

There is a main menu on the DVD. Chapters are accessible from the menu. The chapters are numerous.

CSX2Narration is provided by Mary McPherson. Subjects covered such as: locomotive models and locations. Additional commentary as needed, the narrative is on the minimal side. Plenty of natural, environmental audio is the main soundtrack.

No maps are included. It would be nice to get an idea where places such as Delafield are.


Video quality is very good overall. The usual issues with aged videotape are present. Green tinting, pink skies and odd yellows are some issues. Considering the scarcity of the material, it is acceptable. Appears to be a direct tape to DVD type transfer. No digital enhancements. The imagery improves during the program.

CSX9Multiple locations and varying years do add enjoyment. It is akin to a time machine. Having original paint progress to CSX renumberings and eventually full repaints, plus new CSX engines all in a single show!

                                          This is an action packed program!

Clinchfield SD40 carries newer SBD identification. This is one of several great pacing sequences of assorted CSX trains. Shot without green vegetation, the views are excellent!

By 1988, the new CSX livery is becoming visible on the trains. A rare GP35 is in a lash-up of mixed EMD locomotives.

There is a cornucopia of predecessor roads that are sure to satisfy! Chessie System, Seaboard System, B&O, Seaboard Coast Line, Louisviile & Nashville, Clinchfield, Family Lines are all present. CSX is viewed in various incarnations. Mostly second generation power from EMD and GE. Some rebuilt engines are also in service.

The inclusion of cabooses is another good factor in this show. They are seen in assorted types and roadnames. Freight cars of the time are also seen in the consists.

This is a fun program to watch. Early CSX: The Rainbow Years should make a railfan smile. Plenty of trains for the model railroader too. This is the best one yet, in the Heritage Series. Chessie, Seaboard and CSX aficionados will all enjoy this program!

Rating: 3 Stars