Today’s Chicago Railroads

TCR-DVD

Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1991

Locations: Many

Length: 2 hours

Do you like variety? Chicago provides the Motherlode! This guided tour, of Chicago and vicinity, will satisfy most any Railfan. Fallen flags, local lines and pre- merger roads. Many old Towers are shown.

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Pentrex maximized their time in the field. Concentrating on classic hotspots. Crossings, Yards, Towers are generally, multi- Railroad locations. Busy mainlines, can provide ample supply. Frequent trains are practically a lock.

All the best of the Pentrex production team results in a smooth and well paced program.

Familiar voice of David Drui performs the informative and balanced narrative.

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There is a detailed, Chapter Menu. A master map, with nearly 2 dozen locations. Many close-up maps, as needed. Highly organized.

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Pentrex states that they only have room to hit the highlights of what they have. Likewise with my review. There is so much more to see!

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As the sign says. To The Trains…

Alco C424 of Chicago Belt Railway.

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Best place to begin the tour. Is the center of the city. That is Union Station. Full visit. visit. Amtrak’s yard is plentiful. Burlington Northern commuters run behind the E9 locomotives, as well.

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State Line Tower is far south. Norfolk Southern and CSX. Illinois – Indiana line.

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Speaking of towers. Van Loon Tower, is located in Indiana. Elgin, Joliet & Eastern with an SD40, in fresh paint. Norfolk Southern intersects here. I-80 is above.

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Blue Island has always been one of the best hotspots. Many roads move through here.

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Chessie System, now CSX, with a long lash-up of light locomotives. Barr Yard is nearby, not visited. Blue Island action.

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Dolton Jct. is very popular now. Easy to access, for railfans. CSX, Conrail and more.

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More.. A grimy Missouri Pacific pair, trundle through Dolton.

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McCook Crossing, features the busy Santa Fe Mainline. Multiple ATSF, trains passby. Willow Springs is next. Pre UPS days there.

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The details of the trackage at McCook. Everyone seemed to exercise trackage rights, on the Indiana Harbor Belt!

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Old, beater CNW geeps are seen here.

Grand Trunk , Chessie, IHB, Amtrak too.

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WICT F units at Edgewood are a rare sight! Wisconsin and Calumet. Later, became part of Wisconsin and Southern. The road was called Wicket, for short.

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A Soo Line switch job receives a detailed chase. A low speed one. Street running at Goose Island. A truncated version is on Street Running by Pentrex.

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The Burlington Northern Racetrack is a must see on any Chicago visit.

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BN executive F units appear at Clyde yard in Cicero. You never know what shows up!

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Hawthorne yard, has Belt Tower . This is visited inside. A former Illinois Central structure. Chicago Central was here. This structure, is gone now.

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Brighton Park has a full – on stop. Rare, a Switchtender with a shanty. A GT transfer caboose, hits the diamonds.

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Illinois Central SW14s on their ex: GM&O trackage. Note the unusual, hip cab roofs.

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CR 5032 is next to get the wave at Brighton.

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Bensenville is now a Soo Line stronghold. The former Milwaukee Road facilities are huge. A freshly painted SD40 powers a hot Soo Sprint train past B-17 tower.

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The engine house and Bensenville yard run right along a public road.

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Grand Trunk near Hayford Junction.

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Hegewisch still has electric interurban service. Chicago South Shore Line.

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Chicago and Northwestern, has a major line in a Westerly direction, from Proviso Yard. Union Pacific run through units are common. Metra is the local commuter service. Proviso Yard, is not seen in this show.

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Chicago Short Line is another rare find.

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Many of the trains, still employ a caboose. The Indiana Harbor Belt used these home built transfer ones for many years.

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Pentrex has knocked it out of the park. A home run! An instant classic. This show will give viewers a high rerun value. There is simply, an astounding amount of various, and interesting trains. Outstanding videography, that hits the mark!

Rating: 5 Stars

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Street Running

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Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1990- 2000s

Locations: 22 USA

Length: 1 hour 44 minutes

Street running, is a highlight on most any train program. The image is a powerful one. Class ones to shortlines. Pentrex has this compilation, from nearly two dozen USA locations.

A detailed Chapter Menu provides easy access to the choice spots. Bonus Material consists of Pentrex previews. Audio has the selection of either: On/ Off. That is for narration.

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David Drui is our familiar narrator. Smooth as glass. Tight script. All production aspects, are the usual high quality of Pentrex.

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Of note, several locations were filmed without a train. Would have liked to have seen Fort Collins, Colorado. However, they do mention a few misses at the end, including that one.

So, it  is good that Pentrex went to their vaults. Created added interest to this program. Smart move. There is plenty to see.

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Everything is separated. Billboarded, if watching it through. Available by chapter, as well. This show is jam packed!

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Time to hit some highlights. Checkout some of the many viewpoints on tap. Let’s see what’s going on, in the streets…

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LaGrange, Kentucky. CSX line. There is frequently, a train per hour here.

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Augusta, Georgia. Norfolk Southern 9003. Trains through historical district.

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Erie, PA. Canadian Pacific. Unique nowadays,  are the Crossing guard shanties.

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Oakland California. Rare, double-track street. Amtrak, is an Amtrak West  operation. According to Pentrex. Freight action is also shown at ground level.

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Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad. York, Pennsylvania. Blink twice and you will miss, this former Santa Fe CF7 rebuild unit.

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New Albany, Indiana. Canadian Pacific AC4400. This freight on CSX, is using authority from former Soo Line. This is old Monon, to Louisville route trackage. Action!

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Albany, Georgia. Norfolk Southern 3177, on ex: Central of Georgia trackage. Long hood forward built locomotive.

Columbus, GA. Another no trains.

Frederick, Maryland. Track is disconnected. They probably had to account for the trip expenses. Hence, all the zero sum screenshots. Do notice how smoothly they integrate these shots. Marietta, Ohio is the best one!

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Watsonville, California. Observe how tight street operation can be for a train. A quartet of GP40s, haul a long consist.

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Santa Cruz SP 7138. Palm trees, beaches and the Pacific Ocean! What could be better?…  Retirement! 

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Brooklyn. New York Cross Harbor Railroad. Alco S2 power. The busy switch crew is followed by the Pentrex camera. Bush Terminal vicinity. Succinct and satisifying.

Utica, NY. none. Hudson, NY. No trains.

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Chicago, Ill.  Goose Island. Soo Line, circa 1990. Check the ex: Milwaukee Road switcher, in a ‘bandit’ paint job. Have seen this footage before. So what! This fine segment fits perfectly. Tells the story. Just like, so many Charles Smiley Presents. A smart recycle. No worries!

vlcsnap-2019-04-01-10h27m32s305In the almost, but no cigar category. Amtrak Auto Train on ex: RF&P  at Ashland, Virginia. This on ballasted track, center of street. 

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San Antonio, Texas. Pearl Brewing. An electric motor connects, with Union Pacific. Texas Transportation Company.

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Chicago South Shore and South Bend. Action in Michigan City, Indiana. Electric interurban, which were born in the streets. Think about it. They should have filmed a South Shore freight train.

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Middleton, Pennsylvania. One of the last two Alco locomotives built. T6 diesel.

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Stockton, CA. Central California Traction. Not all operations filmed are daylight ones. Note the safety flare.

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St Mary’s, West Virginia. A CSX coal train, rolls by a Food Giant. Town population 2200. Took some dedication for the guys to get a daytime train.

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West Brownsville PA. is very busy for Norfolk Southern on a ex: Conrail line. Yes, this busy stretch has NS coal moves. Monongahela from the archives is better!

vlcsnap-2019-04-01-11h12m30s770Elizabeth, PA. Watch these new Electromotive built locomotives. These are former P&LE tracks. SD70MAC engines.

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Modesto, CA. Railfans choice. Former Tidewater Southern. Western Pacific. Old Mill Cafe. Ninth Street. All important to knowledgeable fans.

It is under the umbrella of Union Pacific now. The GP40 leads and obeys traffic lights. I enjoy the ,”Conductor lends a pair of eyes” about watching traffic. Look at it!

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Look at the butthead following so close! No brake lights on the coal train. Not much brain power in the car. Think about it…

Street Running

An enjoyable show. Videography is top shelf. Excellent narrative. Fine sounding audio. The brevity of each chapter, keeps the pace moving quickly. Good rerun value.

Speaking to the Pentrex comment about living next to Railroad tracks. Ever live it? Noisy, vibrates your home, and dust from those passing trains. Airhorns that blow, 24/ 7. Louder in winter too! Novelty wears off.

This program is great for everyone to see. Interesting to watch these trains. A good time for: Railfans Model Railroaders, and the whole family.

Rating: 5 Stars

Hot Spot: Argo

MVARG

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?

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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.

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

What ripoff! No problem. Hose’em down.

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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.

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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!

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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…

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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?

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

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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.

 

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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??

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

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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…

** BAD SHOW ALERT **

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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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