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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Wire, Wings and Warriors – The Milwaukee Electrics

Wire, Wings and Warriors cover

A&R Productions

Length: 31 minutes

Time Period: around 1915- 1960’s

Locations: Avery, GE Factory, Harlowton, Pipestone Pass and much more..

Source: The Blackhawk Film Collection

MSRP: 30.00

Milwaukee Road electrified operations are the main feature in this show. Little Joe and early Boxcabs are the locomotives that get the trains over the mountains. Normal diesels are included, as the electrics were added to the road freights. The Olympian Hiawatha is seen as a separate entry, later in the program.

joeA&R Productions has a solid script, which is very descriptive. Ted Daluku is the familiar narrator. The Milwaukee Road Historical Society was involved in this presentation. Train sounds are heard in the background. Everything is well organized.

olympian hiawathaThe Blackhawk film collection used, is all black and white. Fine for the really old material. However, some of the Little Joe engines are operating much later. Also, the cinematography within is very good overall. The films are clean. Realize, this is 100% black and white.

1919 wh quill                           A 1919 Westinghouse Quill. A bipolar is in the show too.

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ep1

Ride an EP-1 boxcab on the Rocky Mountain Division. Early era, when they were painted black!

mapLocations are referenced throughout. A handful of basic maps are helpful. Both the Rocky Mountain and Coast Divisions are covered.

ge erie                                        Visit the General Electric plant at Erie. See Boxcabs.

Avery                                                              Avery Yard

skytopWire, Wings and Warriors. The black and white film era was over in the 1950’s. However, The Olympian Hiawatha and earlier footage is fine with b&w. The detailed narrative is the strong point here. Milwaukee Road fans should be satisfied.

The sum total is the show is pretty good. If you can overlook the b&w factor on the Little Joes, an informative 30 minutes are viewed. Smooth and full of action, a fast half hour.

Rating: 3 Stars

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

A Quarter Century of Steam

A Quarter Century of Steam25

Diverging Clear Productions

Length: 4 1/2 Hours

Time Period: 1985-2010

Locations: Midwest, East, and more..

Sources: Jensen, McPherson, Redmond, Tom and Kyle Dunn

Producer: Mary McPherson

MSRP: 30.00

Where can you find 65 steam locomotives in a train video? Diverging Clear has just released a pair of DVD’s that are packed with over 4 hours of steam action. Many locomotives are found here. The usual suspects are ever present. Railfans already can guess those examples that were running during those years. Union Pacific, Nickel Plate, Norfolk & Western are the major ones. Frisco, Southern Pacific, Pere Marquette, and Southern are some others.

sr 4501Southern 4501

A small sampling of what you will see in this show . There is much more. Many locomotives no longer are in service. There is plenty of fine cinematography. Kids will love this one.

3985 Union Pacific 3985.

ssw 819bCotton Belt 819

There are rarities to be enjoyed. Viewers will see operating steam power that is no longer in service. Re-lettered locomotives such as former Canadian railroads round out the selection. Special excursions and train museums, are where the trains operate.

black hillsBlack Hills Central encounters a mother deer and doe.

A variety of sizes and classes are here. Diminutive narrow gauge. Large Northerns from UP and Milwaukee Road. Passenger power. Consolidations, Mikados and Shays. Strange looking Chinese steam, on US rails. Articulated, with UP, N&W. Saddle tanker and even a replica of an early 440 steamer.

slsf 1522Frisco 1522 in a stunning scene. Reminds one of classic Emery Gulash. Some engines, like this one are shown very often. Ditto for UP 844, UP 3985, NW 1218.

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Kurt Jensen does minimal narration. Title screens offer the bulk of information. The program is better when Kurt adds more information.

grand canyonGrand Canyon

The show is arranged in chronological order. As one would expect, the quality increases over the timeline. 1985-2010. Editing is smooth. Sometimes, the lower quality is all there is of a rare scene. In that case, it’s better then nothing.

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East Broad Top.

pm 1225Pere Marquette

soo 1003 2007Soo Line

mil 261This scene with Milwaukee Road 261 recalls the spirit of Lionel trains .

261A Quarter Century of Steam: 25 years. The show does contain many steam engines. It fulfills the advertised content. This reviewer does find the program overstays it’s welcome. There is too much repetition of the same engines. After awhile, the proceedings end up an excessive series of runbys. Seems that an hour or more would have served better. if presented as a separate bonus section.

gtw ocOhio Central has a restored Grand Trunk Western and more.

cn 89 strasburgCanadian National 89 is one of several steam engines seen at Strasburg, Pennsylvania.

There are 2 identities of DCP. There is the ‘new and improved’, with tight editing and sharper scripts. There is also the earlier incarnation. That has endless footage and simple narrative. This show falls into the early style.

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It is geared as a basic ‘Best of DCP Steam’. That all being said, this is worthy for the assortment and the rarities. If those are appealing, jump on it!

Rating: 3 Stars

Corn Belt Railroads In the 1950’s

Corn Belt Railroads In the 1950’s cvr

C. Vision Productions

Length: 66 minutes + previews

Time Period: 1950’s

Locations: Des Moines, LaCrosse, Oelwein and many more..

Source: George Niles

MSRP: 29.95

A collection of midwestern action that includes some rare scenes. Steam and diesel, as well as an interurban gas car. Filmed by George Niles.  Wisconsin and Iowa locations. Passenger and freight. All color film. Narration and music soundtrack.

C Vision has this interesting variety of late steam and early diesel action in Corn Belt. The Rock Island stars for nearly half of the show. Milwaukee Road has plenty of screentime. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy is present. A little Chicago Great Western. An industrial train at Redfield Brick and Tile. Some definite rare trains and equipment are on hand in this program.

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The color 8mm films were shot by George Niles. He has various viewpoints that work well overall. At times he was too close to the trains. Fortunately, the majority of scenes have good composition. All of the films are pretty clean looking. There are some damaged frames too. Quality is good to very good. The colors are bright and vibrant. Perhaps these reels were well preserved somewhere.

4057 steam engineDon Grant performs the narrative. The script has some detail and good information. More narration would have been welcome. On / off switchable musical background. They have expanded from some earlier efforts in the music department. Relaxed pace and sometimes too laidback. Many locations and no maps are included.

grand towerAt Grand Tower. Baldwin S12 does switching. The 1951 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 is George’s.

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Locations are by on screen graphics and descriptive narration. Chapter menu and organization is nicely done. Editing is sharp and smooth. The only concern, is some apparent film skipping or camera jumping. Not much can be done there. The rarity means that viewers live with the flaws. Otherwise, it is mostly good, clean footage.

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Opening with coverage of Rock Island, near Des Moines, Iowa. What an awesome record of transitional era action. An overview of all types of activity. It has mostly slower speeds, that are conducive to trainwatching.

1215Original red and black paint schemes were a reflection of the 1950’s. Deluxe and attractive passenger equipment too. The Rock Island never looked as prosperous. It is a sight to see the different early diesels operating in new condition.

rock emd taCheck that super rare EMC TA as the trailing unit on a football game special! These were built in 1937 as a lightweight locomotive for smaller Rock Island streamliners. Rated at 1200 horsepower, they were the forerunner of the F unit series. Here, it just passes by quietly.

233Milwaukee Road 233 crosses over the high bridge at Des Moines. This is one of the spots, where he was too close to get good views of the trains.

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The Milwaukee Road is also impressive. Some big steam operates along with the newer EMD diesels here. Between Des Moines and Spirit Lake, Iowa is a visit to a gas electric interurban on Milwaukee Road.

geThe Gas Electric train is ridden on a branchline to Spirit Lake. The exterior shows a typical ’50’s era scene. A steam era watertank and period automobile set the scene. This gas car action is very rare.

spencerA different age. At Spencer, Iowa the little train will encounter 3 steam powered locals. At Spirit Lake, see the engine on an Armstrong turntable.

1952Burlington Route has limited coverage. A 1952 view of a passing Zephyr moves slowly through a junction at Grand Tower.

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Chicago Great Western gets a few scenes. This is the Corn Belt scheme.

Redfield Brick and Tile is an industrial narrow gauge that is another scarce find.

rock island wood cabooseCorn Belt Railroads In the 1950’s, is one of the best vintage releases from C. Vision.

If you want to add to your vintage collection, this is a good choice. Railfans and model railroaders should enjoy this program.

Rating: 4 Stars