Heislers, Shays and Other Teakettles

Heislers, Shays and Other Teakettlescover

A & R Productions

Length: 45 minutes

Time Period: 1898- 1962

Locations: USA

Sources: Mac Owen, Thomas Edison, Blackhawk Collection

MSRP: 29.95

Various old steam is featured from the first half of the 20th century. Containing some rarities, an oddball film collection. The emphasis is on rural, or woodsy railroading. Title is not very accurate, unless you agree that: Consolidations, Mallets, Ten Wheelers and Decapods are ‘Teakettles’. Perhaps the odd title, is indicative of what to expect.

There is no sound – except the brief announcements of the scenes. The remainder are just silent movies. Annoying to have this format, with a 1994 production date. It is a deal breaker. That is too bad, the show does look good.

et208A mixture of color, plus black and white film. The earliest source is Thomas Edison circa 1898 and 1906. Other footage is late 1950’s to early 1960’s. Overall, good cinematography.

Ted Dalaku performs his usual good narration. The script is fine and concise. Brief mention of: locomotives, location and some line information.

Viewers will receive a decent introduction to the subject. After that, you may think that your television has broken! An abrupt change to dead silence ruins the flow of the show- every single time. A strange production decision that feels cheap.

etwnc 208ET&NWC aka The Tweetsie, leads off at Johnson City. Two former Southern Railway locos are operating there. Not the best composition, but a quick look at the power.

miss 77The Mississippian in the late 1950’s. Baldwin built power that was on Frisco. Number 77 is a 2-8-0 Consolidation. Excellent section that appears to be 16mm. Highlight and rare.

gainesville midland 204 paceGainesville Midland had 2-10-0 Decapods in service. Different scenes and pacing with doubleheaded engines. This rare material was shot in Georgia.

sw lumber 2 280 1959Southwest Lumber #2, at Flagstaff, Arizona in 1959. This ex: Rock Island locomotive is seen outside of town.

Rayonier is another logging line. Westside is the third line of logging roads. All three are in black and white. What is included in this program looks pretty good for the most part.       Note- if logging piques your interest, there are full shows available with plenty of color film.

nevada northern 40 1962 Curry                          Nevada Northern ten wheeler passing through Curry, in 1962.

mill valley stationThe Crookedest Railroad In The World is a fairly long closing subject. This consists of two films from Thomas Edison.  In 1898, we travel up the twisting trackage to a mountain destination that has tavern refreshments. The 1906 footage is a gravity driven car traveling downhill, and following another train. Again, the long silence could have been improved.

This show could have rated higher. Considering the train video market, it does not compare well to most other shows from the 1990s. Complete audio is an industry standard, which is lacking here.

Absence of a proper accompanying soundtrack is archaic.

Heislers, Shays and Other Teakettles is a big disappointment.

Rating: 2 Stars


Pickering’s Sugar Pine Railroad

Pickering’s Sugar Pine Railroadcvr

Catenary Video Productions

Length: 62 minutes

Time Period: 1920’s to 1965

Locations: Stanislaus River Canyon, Standard,  Peeled Onion, Chinaman Creek, Strawberry, and many more..

Sources: Don Olsen collection

MSRP: 29.95

Pickering’s Sugar Pine Railroad receives comprehensive coverage, from early days through abandonment. This logging line was 70 miles long. The Sugar Pine branched from The Sierra mainline. Multiple camps and assorted tracks are visited. A former engineer and a conductor, give first person perspective of oldtime logging railroad life.

Geared locomotives operate in the tall pines. Additional scenes display steam powered donkeys and their application. The Empire City Narrow Gauge is an incline, feeder line to the railroad. Ultimately, the steam gets replaced by diesel, much of the railroad replaced by trucks. Here is a chance to look back in time…..

1Warren Haack is a very capable producer. Catenary Video has a PBS style program. A smooth blend of: vintage films, period photographs and interviews with former railroad employees. Narration, train sound and music, all tell this story.


Numerous and varied maps are included, and we’ll need them. Location and elevation maps are basic, but are sufficient for an older show. This one shows just one of many areas visited.


Vintage 16mm color film contains rare, Sugar Pine Railway views. If you have seen other Catenary logging shows, it is in a similar arrangement. Over 100 vintage black and white photographs augment the history and storytelling. The chapters are titled, such as Geared Locomotives. No chapter menu. Script is good and well organized.


Manny Marshall and his brother Tom, are both former railroad employees of the railroad. Stories and photos from the 1920’s and on, do add character to this show. Their tales offer first hand insight into logging life. Humor is a part of the storytelling. They worked there from 1920 to 1942.


Sawmills are another subject that is discussed and has some operations to watch. Still photos and movie film gets it done.

Catenary Video and Tuolumne Films have a variety of logging line shows available. This is one of the older releases. Some others have a higher content of movie film. This one has more film rolling in the second half. What is shown, is in color 16mm.

shy                                                   Shay #8 works at a sawmill.

Wrecks and Runaways is another interesting chapter. The brothers have some detailed stories of wrecks that had occurred and some avoided.

cabnHere is one for model railroaders. How did they move the camps around? Load everything you can and ship it by rail. Redefines the term ‘ cabin car ‘. Perhaps, the ‘ Ship and Travel ‘ slogan too! Numerous still photos are memorable ones.

po2The Peeled Onion was a line carved into solid granite.

logPickering’s Sugar Pine Railroad covers a plethora of the historical aspects in about an hour. Fascinating sights and stories are exactly what makes logging lines so compelling. These programs are worlds apart from class ones such as, Santa Fe or New York Central.

This show is good entertainment for the family. Model railroaders will see a good amount of detail. Railfans will obtain a type of railroading that was, far off the beaten path. A word of caution on logging shows, they can be habit forming. That is in a good way.

Rating: 4 Stars

Smoke in Niles Canyon

Smoke in Niles Canyoncvr

Catenary Video Productions

Length: 35 minutes

Time Period: 1920’s- Present

Sources: Don Olsen, Bill Straile, Warren Haack

MSRP: 19.95

A Pictorial History of The Niles Canyon Railway

Niles Canyon is presented in a ‘then and now ‘ format. Located west of San Francisco, California. Both Southern Pacific and Western Pacific had tracks through the canyon. SP abandoned their line. Pacific Locomotive Association operates a museum and vintage equipment on the now restored trackage. Known as, Niles Canyon Railway, the remainder of the show will focus on modern operations.

The historical films are from the Don Olsen collection. Black and white from 1926 begins the movie film coverage. Much color is seen in the archive assortment. Modern footage was shot in HD. Various early black and white, plus color photographs.

cvmClover Valley Lumber Company Mallet. Archive film that captures a logging train. For a short program, we visit beyond Niles Canyon. The benefit is the sight of some equipment heritage.


Narration by Warren Haack. He was raised in logging country and is an enthusiastic host. Warren has produced this release, with fine results. Dividing the show into chapters, we start with a look at the early history of the tracklaying period in 1869. The editing is smooth and sharp. No chapter menu or search function.


A PBS style format is used for this release. Narrative, train sounds, live sound, photographs and brief commentaries, all enhance this high quality show.


Custom maps are frequently referenced. Older SP/ WP and Niles Canyon current day.

cz1Western Pacific California Zephyr. Multiple scenes with this famous train. Ride the train too. A few Cab Forwards on freights are seen, on the close proximity SP line.

2472 southern pacific steam          SP 2742 at Mission Bay.


Southern Pacific 2742. Vintage and contemporary views, of this classic engine.



California Western Skunk. These trolley/ interurbans are the diesel self-propelled type. Different color schemes and various models, are seen in the old films.


Modern Niles Canyon Railway is featured in the second half of this show. Four steamers were operating when this was filmed. Get a cab ride on this Robert Dollar Co. locomotive.

gncA photo freight special that swaps leading locos on this doubleheader.

mclThe saddle tankers appear almost narrow gauge. Until coupled to standard gauge cars! More background information on these engines would be desirable. The 35 minutes packs much, but is a shorter release. If the log trains catch your fancy, check other Catenary titles.

Smoke in Niles Canyon is an excellent show for the whole family to enjoy! There is plenty to keep railfans and model railroaders interested, as well. A nicely balanced presentation.

Rating: 4 Stars

Steam in the 50’s: Volume 3

Steam in the 50’s: Volume 3

Green Frog Productions

Format: DVD

Length: 55 minutes

Time Period: 1950’s

Locations. Northwestern USA, Western Canada, and more…

Sources: Ted Carlson, Maynard Lang (16mm)

The Golden Twilight of Postwar Steam, Steam in the 50’s Special: 7 pak .

This review is from the 7 pak set.

Each show reviewed individually. A review of the complete package, will appear upon completion of the shows.

Steam in the 50’s Volume 3 is the final show in this series. As part of the Steam Special 7 pak from Green Frog. This is one of the 7 DVD’s in the set. They are housed in a sturdy plastic case. The discs are all labeled, unlike the factory picture.

Ted Carlson was a Seattle native. Maynard Laing is the other photographer. Both men used 16mm color film. It is a clean looking collection of vintage steam footage. Green Frog is known for high production standards. Original sound recordings are the sources for the soundtrack. Emery Gulash is one of the audio contributors. Picture and sound are great.

This is a varied compilation from the 2 cameramen. There is quite an assortment of classic railroading, both large and small.

          Northern Pacific is paced and pulls a Seattle- Snoqualamie Washington excursion.

                    Union Pacific #8444. Never retired from active service. Impressive in any era!

              Big Boys and Challengers get some attention. The Big Boys are fantastic!

                              Big Boys are paced from Ted Carlson’s 1955 Chevy!

                                  Cheyenne Tower and double headed Big Boys!

Ted Carlson had filmed some ‘must see’ pacing sequences on the UP main. Really, Ted has numerous pace sequences throughout the program.

Narration by Don Chandler is smooth and professional. Stan Kyper has the script credit. A well-wriitten program. Plenty of space is left, to listen to the steam engines. This is an older show. No chapter menu or maps. The ‘next button’ on a remote can skip chapters.

  Logging lines are prominently featured. The various lines visited offer a nice mini-overview of logging operations. Different types of steam logging locomotives, work those forests. Shays, Articulateds, and Climaxes are shown. You may get hooked.

Rayonier 120 is a 2-6-6-2 articulated. Note the train crossing a wooden trestle. Logging!

Canadian railroads are another fine chapter. Smaller lines are shown, along with some logging lines.  Vancouver Island and Edmundton. Northern Alberta Railway is not often seen, and  a welcome sight. Of course, Canadian national and Canadian Pacific are here, with good scenes.

Double headed CP freight, is chased from the Trans Canada highway, in Alberta.

Duluth Missabe and Iron Range. Massive Yellowstone class locomotives with a singular mission. To haul ore cars to be shipped on Lake Superior. Good pacing shots.

Norfolk and Western is the eastern railroad visited. Super steam power, in their twilight. The Y and J class are both included. The shot of the articulated, is paced from the car.

Steam in the 50’s Volume 3. A very satisfying program. Action packed and enough variety to keep viewers coming back for more.

Rating: 5 Stars

Mallet In The Mountains: Black Hills Central 2-6-6-2T #110

Mallet In The Mountains: Black Hills Central 2-6-6-2T #110

Diverging Clear Productions

Format: DVD-R

Length: 1 hour 10 minutes

Time Period: 2010 release

Location: Hill City to Keystone, South Dakota

Source: Mary R. McPherson

Producer: Mary R. McPherson

MSRP: 20.00

Black Hills Central has been hauling passengers on it’s scenic line, since 1957. The featured locomotive, #110, is the only operable compound mallet in the USA. This is one of the oldest tourist lines in the United States. Mary gives a good history in the narrative.

Baldwin built in 1928. Weyerhauser Lumber was the original owner. Rayonier was the second owner, another logging line. This logging lines engine had always worked in Washington state. Weighs 111 tons. Most of those pounds are over the drivers. Steam is used twice with 2 boilers. The secondary boiler reuses the steam at lower pressure.

By the way, 2-6-6-2T… the ‘T’ stands for tanker. No water in a separate tender. This is a one piece locomotive. The water is in the tank, mounted on top of the boiler.

Purchased in 1999 from State of Nevada, and returned to service for the 2001 season. The look at the 110 starts with the engine being warmed up and serviced before the days work. The weather is clear and there is plenty of sunshine. Bright sunlight is great to illuminate the dark locomotive and it’s complex running gear.

Mary gives viewers a nice, balanced narrative. Natural environmental audio contains the 110 as it is working the route. The soundtrack is excellent! No map or chapter menu. Use the next button to access the chapters. The DVD is packaged in a slimline case.

The train gets the highball and departs Hill City….

   Tin Mill Hill,and the train encounters some local wildlife along the track, on the 4% grade.

There are some views within the cab of engine 110. Too tight to see much. An occasional glimpse is all that is needed here. We can watch the engineer control the throttle and steam whistle cord. This is the cab scene, and not too much timer is spent on this.

Onboard a coach, the train and scenery are combined in a pleasing manner.

Ground level shots are sweet. Smart camerawork with high and low angle shots added. Editing is the key. Multiple viewpoints are well-balanced, and the pacing is just right.

                      Beautiful scenery as the train navigates through the hilly forest.

The twisting line is reminiscent of those old logger railroads. A detailed map of the trackage would have been a big asset. Granted, it is an out and back roundtrip. Just would have liked to see the twisting line, from a map overview.

Arrival at Keystone seems to come quickly. Time flies when you are having fun!

The Black Hills Central public address announcement is made, and the return ensues.

                  Running with the engine in reverse, this is mostly an uphill run.

This show is value priced, as are the other DCP releases. Buyer’s receive a fine, basic train program on DVD-R. Housed in a slimline plastic case. DCP has upgraded the labeling, with directly labeled discs.

Mallet In The Mountains is a fine program. The Black Hills Central is located in a highly scenic region. The ultra rare compound Mallet is worth the price of admission. If you find this type of steam engine compelling, check out some logging lines shows too. This one is tops for the cinematography. DCP really has a winner here. This is a nice entry point,  to watch one of their best productions.

Diverging Clear has a wonderful program. The whole family would enjoy this tourist line.

Rating: 4 Stars