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.


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.


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.


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


Little Mikes In The Big Country

Little Mikes In The Big CountryLittle Mikes In The Big Country

Diverging Clear Productions

Length: 72 minutes and bonus

Time Period: 2012

Locations: Chama, Cumbres, Los Pinos, Lobato Trestle, Windy Point

Source: Kurt Jensen

MSRP: 20.00

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is a narrow gauge line that is known worldwide. This operation had been covered for years by railfan photographers. The line was built by DRGW in 1880. Abandoned by Rio Grande in 1969. Cumbres and Toltec operation since 1970. Diverging Clear has their modern take on the road with this 2013 release.

487                    Cumbres and Toltec 487 has the shrillest whistle of the three.

Three K36 class 2-8-2 Mikados lead trains up and down the mainly southern portion of line. Baldwin built in 1925. These former Rio Grande locomotives were some of the last steam used in American revenue freight service. Much of the original equipment and many structures survive today. A few minutes of old film open the show. Watch for a black and white that turns to color scene. Our producer having fun!

1LovtrestleModern camera gear has sharp picture quality. Trains are the focus of this wide screen show.

windypoint                                                               Windy Point.

Basic narration seems to be the standard, on these tourist and museum visits by Diverging Clear. Location based information is delivered in a minimalist format. Kurt Jensen has credit for the cinematography and narration. He does a fine job with both, on the main feature.

summit488                       Engine 488 at the summit. Tall pines dwarf the diminutive train.

1aComposition and various viewpoints do capture the action nicely. Scenery is as much a part of the program as the trains. Good balance and the majority is very smooth to watch.

1cAudio has long stretches of hearing the locomotive work, as it traverses the terrain. Some of this is extended trainwatching is really quite charming.

488                                                     488 offers a closer view.

chama 1                     Chama is the home of C&T. Engine 484 passes the coaling tower.

488aK-36 class were some of the larger narrow gauge steamers on the Rio Grande.

cumbres                                                                         Cumbres

By the time we are following the third train, the format does get repetitive. This may have been a good time to ramp up the narrative. There is so much history on the line.

A bonus chapter of Riding the Cumbres and Toltec, is included as a second section. Producer Mary McPherson now likes to offer this type of footage for those who want the opportunity to see it. Mary is a real world Amtrak conductor. She loves trains and films them, as well. Although her intentions are well meaning, the results are not of compatible quality.

bonus2This screenshot is shown to convey the headache of travel to Antonito aboard this train…. The camera is shaking almost constantly. The rest isn’t this severe. Get the feeling?

Her desire to present everything, is also the downfall of shows like this one. The camera shakes so badly, this material is unwatchable. A painful, amateur 34 minutes. Spare me!

Extras such as: maps, timetables or interviews can also enhance the programs. None.

2In summary. The main program looks great overall. Overstays it’s welcome with repetition. Narrative could have used additional historical background. A well filmed and pretty solid show.  Viewers do get an excellent visual visit from 2012 season. Good.

The Second section is among the shakiest footage on a commercial release. This belongs on the cutting room floor. Fortunately, the menu gives the option to opt out . Rubbish.

Recommended for the main program only. That first section is worth your time.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

Mexican Narrow Gauge

Mexican Narrow Gaugecover

A&R Productions

Length: 1 hour 48 minutes

Time Period: Early 1980’s

Locations: Mexico and Texas

Source: Jim Terrell

MSRP: 30.00

Travel to and through parts of Mexico. Multiple trips were made into Mexico. A specialty release for those who could be interested in this journey on Mexican rails. Standard gauge rails become narrow gauge. Diesels include some unusual narrow gauge engines. Strangest power of all, are the horse drawn railroads, Jim Terrell captured the sights on a handheld video camcorder in the early 1980’s. He also includes an Amtrak ride in Texas.

ga8A bit of an oddball type of train video. Opening scenes of a jet, and plane ride to Cancun, a hint at a different show. The handheld camera gives an amateur feel. Not bad overall, give him credit for filming there. Audio is whatever the camcorder mic recorded. Background sounds are distracting at times. Plenty of views of: stations, people, scenery and structures give a sense of the traveler.

g12An EMD G12 has a G8 on a flatcar to get repaired. Mixed trains dominate narrow gauge operations.

Narration is pretty good. Lack of background on the lines is the major weakness. While most know N de M…… please explain FUS and some other railroad info. Anyone can search it, but the show should have offered the basic information. On the plus side, are locations and locomotive identification.

mapA couple of maps are seen at the beginning of the program. As most viewers are likely unfamiliar with these locations, more map references would be desirable.

acancThe pace of the show is a leisurely one. Looks like the pace of life in the area is slower too.

rsd12The program almost is in two halves. First is the journey on FUS to visit the horse lines. Second half concentrates on N de M on both rail gauges. More rail travel on the latter portion. The pace becomes quicker and we see more former Alco and GE standard gauge locomotives.

hc2Our first destination is to experience various horse drawn lines. While a few scenes would have been sufficient, to resolve curiosity, major screentime is spent on the horse lines. The program quickly falls into chasing and riding this form of rail travel. The wooden flats are used by families to haul themselves and whatever else may be transported by this method. Wild turkeys or cattle can temporarily block the track. This footage is something you will only need to see one time.

woodsSecond half of the show returns to narrow and standard gauge railroading. N de M is featured in different locales. High elevation in mountains and wooded areas add interest.


cabTwo distinct forms of rail service …


Mexican Narrow Gauge is a one of a kind train video. The presentation encompasses more than just runbys and passenger views. Food stands, workers shoveling coal or transloading cargo and more. Those who are interested may enjoy this one. Mainstream viewers will have to decide for themselves. Overall, it wanders along and doesn’t continually hold high interest. Not exactly my cup of tea- maybe it is yours.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

Tennessee Narrow Gauge

Tennessee Narrow Gaugecover

A & R Productions

Length: 70 minutes

Time Period: 1942- 1950

Locations:Johnson City, Elizabethton, Doe River Gorge, Blevins, TN – Cranberry, NC.

Sources: Vince Ryan and Jack Alexander

MSRP: 30.00

Eastern Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad. That name is a mouthful. WT&WNCRR. Still, too long. Tweetsie? Yes, this was the common nickname. This narrow gauge line interchanged with Clinchfield and Southern Railway at Johnson City. Last operating 3 foot gauge in this part of the country.

ET&WNCRR Historical Society had a collection of these rare films. A&R Productions agreed to produce this program. First collection was from 1942 to 1943. Second collection dates from 1949.

1943 elizabethton 9Ten Wheelers do put on a fine show. Number 9 smokes it up on the scenic Tweetsie.

Ted Dalaku narrates a well written script. Assorted viewpoints and creativity from the cinematographers. Color 8mm film that has a clean appearance. Audio is full of train sounds, some nature and more. Banjo music spices up the soundtrack. A handful of fun shots that feature the two photographers add a little humor.

tweetsie mapHistory of Tweetsie and trackage are thoroughly explained with this map.

11 gorgeFascinating 1942 train ride onboard the caboose and steam locomotive 11. Elizabethton to Blevins, via spectacular Doe River Gorge. Train continues to destination at Cranberry. Brief scenes of engine servicing and switching are included. Travel westbound from Cranberry too.

tweetsie 11 loco gorgetrainDoe River Gorge is memorable. Many views give a great sense of traversing the line here.

1943 cranberry 11 passengerCameras returned in 1943. Action is centered around Cranberry. More Doe River Gorge. Similar in style, but different facets are shown. Wartime passenger service has been required by the War Board. Shots from onboard the trains have an excess of shaky views. Not as smooth overall, as the 1942 footage. Increased variety of trains in this year.

1950 last run 11The Last Run by Number 11 in 1950, was the curtain call for the Tweetsie.

tweetsie caboose

Tennessee Narrow Gauge does provide a detailed overview of the railroad. A & R has a nicely produced program.  An interesting visit to a bygone time.

Rating: 4 Stars

Narrow Gauge East of the Sierra

Narrow Gauge East of the Sierraspng

Sunday River Productions

Length: 31 minutes

Time Period: 1950’s

Locations: Owenyo, Laws, Keeler, Zurich

Sources: Wil Whittaker, Mac Owen, Otto Perry Library

MSRP: 29.95

Southern Pacific once ran a profitable narrow gauge line in Owens Valley California until 1960. The sparse desert with towering mountain backdrops reminds one of the 1950’s motion picture- Bad Day at Black Rock. Yes, diminutive SP steam engines are seen hauling boxcars and gondolas across desolate terrain.

sp9 borax otto perryThis show has had a 2007 digital remaster. Otto Perry was a famous photographer and filmed steam era railroads. His library contains over 20,000 photographs. Above, a train loaded with Borax, that will be transferred to standard gauge Southern Pacific Lines.

Carson Colorado mapA set of simple maps are clearly marked and useful. Graphics denote locations. A chapter menu offers the three cinematographic sources. The show was also reedited in 2007. It plays as an informative, smooth running presentation.

The late Alva Morrison narrates and he was the original producer. Plenty of operational information is shared.  Train sounds, some scenes sans narration. Brief musical interludes between the chapters are the rest of the audio soundtrack.

Wilbur Whittaker films are in Chapter One.

Believe this Whittaker Collection is from the early 1950’s.

sp18 railfansThere are railfans in the coaches. An early era outing behind the boxcars.

LawsService facilities at Laws. This compact scene is a natural for modellers.

sp18 turntable lawsA time honored Armstrong Turntable is manned on both ends!

Mac Owen films are Chapter Two.

sp9 sierra talcSierra Talc Company required that product shipped in boxcars,

sp transloaderTransloading facility to accommodate standard gauge interchange of bulk commodities.

borax trainThe remoteness of the area is felt in this scene by Mac Owen.

Otto Perry is the source for Chapter Three.

This satisfying chapter is half of the show length.

sp9Number 9 blasts out some steam. Almost seems ready to clean the dock!

sp ng 9

owenyo Borax loaded gondolas resemble a prehistoric unit train.

sp combineSouthern Pacific used a combine to serve as a caboose.

Sunday River has a fine little show in Narrow Gauge East of the Sierra. The half hour running time is all that viewers will see. Each of the three cinematographers provide their individual feel. Otto Perry footage is unique to this program.

Rating: 4 Stars