Conrail Hot Spots West

Conrail West Cover.indd

Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1996

Locations: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio

Length: 2 hours

Source: Pentrex

Hotspots are where high concentrations of trains can be viewed. Sometimes, a busy section of a mainline.

They are often, trackage crossings. Multiplying opportunities to see trains. Intersecting lines that offer increased variety.

It doesn’t take a mathematician, to realize the benefits for railfans at such locations!


This show covers: Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Eighteen hotspots are visited.

All the screenshots are not exactly matched to the review progression. The realities of a coherent article and illustrative flow.

Pentrex in house productions maintain high standards of excellence. Everything done correctly. One of the few reliable producers. Frequently, a matter of the subject chosen. Quality is usually a given.


The unburned fuel is putting on an awesome display, on this General Electric unit!


Maps are in an abundant supply! Notice, how this enables a smooth flow to the procedings.

A professionally written script. Again, works to keep the program casually rolling along. Balanced with ambient sounds.


David Drui is the ever present narrator. Broadcast grade announcer. On many of their older releases. That guy!


Ashtabula, Ohio is the jumping off point. Notice there are additional tracks to provide access to the opposing rails. Just the beginning…

ATVR Bonus..Who pays for the Crossing trackage installation? A. Original Railroad. B. Newer Railroad.


Answer. B. The newer line is responsible.

The northern Conrail line is featured first. Running compass, East to West. Let’s look at some on the Chicago line first.


Toledo has a Vickers hot spot. Conrail has plenty of action here. CSX is a main crossover partner. Union Pacific, Chicago & North Western, Grand Trunk with CN and CV units all pass through.


Indiana has Elkhart, with a CR freight yard. Jake’s Restaurant for railfans. A New York Central museum. Complete with a steam engine on display.


South Bend offers up freight trains. Transporting cargo or empties, to the massive Chicago classification yards. Clearing Yard and Proviso Yard, for example.


The above Chicago & North Western SD 40-2,Operation Lifesaver diesel, is doing that task. On it’s path to Proviso Yard, with a mixed freight.


Hammond is the end of the Chicago line, for this hot spot West tour. Heavy traffic, as one would expect, just outside of Chicago.


Pentrex has on screen designations for many of the trains. Narrator does explain the fairly simple codes. After a time, most viewers will be able to decipher many Conrail codes.

Amtrak shown, just for variety.


Southern Conrail line next, for the remainder of the long program.


Our eastbound return begins at St Elmo, Illinois. Conclusion will be in Alliance, Ohio. Many hot spots visited on the sojourn.

vlcsnap-2019-02-12-15h44m02s092Pentrex fact. An EMD wide cab is no wider than a standard cab. It is the nose!


Effingham, features Illinois Central at the crossing. A well known spot for years. Nice passenger station there. active Amtrak stop, as well. The Illini is the Amtrak train.

This Union Pacific led train is actually another Conrail move. Looks can be deceiving in this modern era. One almost needs a scorecard to keep on top of the action. Pentrex takes care of it in this show.


Haley Tower at Terre Haute, IN. An old railroad town. The towerman was busy this morning. Plenty of Conrail and CSX trains.


Marion still must be the grandaddy of the Ohio hot spots! CSX and Norfolk Southern are still active here. The original tower and station, are still here. Yes, this place still has it going on. Although the tower is no longer in service.


Quadruple diamonds. Action all the time. What’s not to like at Marion?


Alliance, OH. is the final spot. Cleveland and Ft. Wayne lines are there.

Eighteen hot spots in this program. Pentrex had their favorite West. My pick would be Marion, Ohio. Although Elkhart ran a close second! What is your favorite Conrail West hot spot?


Conrail Hot Spots West. End to end, trains filled by, big blue and more. A great Pentrex show. This is one of those, that you will be replaying.

A fun one with: assorted locales, views and of course, the many trains. Conrail Quality.

Rating: 5 Stars


Southern 4501 to Summerville

Southern 4501 to Summerville$_57

Diverging Clear Productions

Length 80 minutes

Time Period: 2014.

Locations: Chattanooga, TN to Summerville, GA

Cameras: McPherson, Jensen, Redmond, Dunn

Producer: Mary McPherson

MSRP: 20.00

2015 release


Ever the busy producer, Mary McPherson has a current release with Southern 4501.  The star of this show is the famous 4501.  DCP draws footage from 4 videographers. Many runbys that showcase the 1911 built Mikado hauling passenger excursions in 2014. Plenty of steam shrouded mood shots add some variety.


Kurt Jensen narrates with his relaxed style


Informative background chapter with history of related Southern Railway steam. Includes some additional Southern steamers. Older video has the 4501 from an earlier time.


2015-09-07_232207                                                 Early morning action.


2015-09-07_231853                       Doubleheader with a Tennessee Valley Consolidation.

2015-09-07_232515                                                       On the turntable.



The narrative completes. Viewers are left with plenty of natural steam action. Graphics denote locations.2015-09-07_233017

Southern 4501 To Summerville is about what one would expect. Contemporary action of a vintage steam locomotive. The program plays fine. Railfans should find this a good release.

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’.


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.

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

Southern Railway Historical Society 4PAK Set #2

Southern Railway Historical Society 4PAK Set #2tag

Green Frog Productions

Length: 4.7 hours

Format: 4 disc set

Time Period: 1945- 1981

Sources: Southern Railway, Electromotive, Great Northern, Norfolk & Western, Southern Pacific, US Navy


Assortment collection of  16 vintage films. Sometimes these shorts, feature Southern Railway. Additional films are included. The US Navy has some on diesel motors. One by Electromotive of LaGrange. Great Northern, Norfolk & Western, plus Southern Pacific.

oth 2241They are varied in content. Most are based on railroad subjects. The naval films are a stretch. Southern Railway Historical Society has assembled this collection. Green Frog is the producer. They have transferred the films to 1080HD. Widescreen and 4×3 formats.

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A side benefit to see, are the time periods. Vintage truck fans will find numerous examples. Anyone who has ever been around a freight facility will notice all the handwork and lack of shrinkwrap.

Realize, that a transfer is not a restoration. These films were all professionally produced. They do have some color issues, like any unrestored film stock. The balance can be off or there can be fading.  Lucky for us, the assorted short shows were pro shot on 16mm film.

Audio is clear and that has good balance. Narratives are well written. Acting and some voiceovers, are often not Hollywood.They do convey the information.

joe 2145For the review, a selection of highlighted films will be the focus. Some have a higher interest level, and your mileage may vary.

The United States Navy films, are all black and white. Found these as unnecessary. Who cares about cylinder replacement and the like anyway? It plays like time filler. There is still a healthy amount of railroad material to watch.

This release is spread across a 4 DVD set. It is nicely packaged in a secure clamshell case.

Disc One

cattleSouthern Railway- Opportunity on the Hoof (28 minutes)

Learn the history of the meat industry, down South. Interesting account of the Agri-business . Very little railroad footage. Follow the Agri-Bus and see where they travel.


Paced to Live (17 minutes)

Great Northern produced, during the Big Sky Blue era. Grade crossing safety. Apparently, Southern was showing this one to it’s own people too.

Coupler Reprocessing (10 minutes)

Southern’s facility is seen in detail. More then you ever need to know, regarding coupler refurbishment.

Traction Motor Flashover (14 minutes)

This looks and feels old. Technical aspects of electrical flashovers. Motor centered. Produced by EMD. No, you do not see the plant, or much else. One Santa Fe passenger train shown at the end. Notable, as this is at nearby McCook Crossing on ATSF.

Sonicar (9 minutes)

Caldwell Westinghouse advertisement for an advanced braking system. They probably turned off buyers by showing all the added equipment.

Disc Two

nw2oth 9835

Off The Hook (16 minutes)

Family lake outing turns into a discussion of Southern! This shows a selection of modern equipment. Big John hoppers, All Door cars, Big Boy Tobacco Boxcars and Auto Bilevel. Section on the new cushion underframes. See vintage diesels at work. Good show.

pb2pb1Piggy-Back Southern Style (18 minutes)

This shows the plight of a Traffic Manager with company trucks. Enter Southern’s service! Vintage trucks are here. See early 1960’s Southern Containerized Freight Service. Plenty of action. Piggyback and container transloading. One of the best in the set.

Progressive Maintenance of the General Motors 12-567A Diesel Engine (21 minutes + 23 minutes)

US Navy training  films from 1945. EMD12-567 motors for LST units.

Disc Three


stp2Straight to the Point (23 minutes)

Three hunters discuss freight damage. Plenty of classic freight cars to see. Boxcar interiors, loading facilities, and no palletization. GE refrigerator plant, Aluminum factory. Produced by Southern. Operating Vice President plays Mr. Shipper. A good old show.

Ribbon Rails, Mechanized Handling and Laying (32 minutes)

Never have found anything related to rail captivating.

Progressive Maintenance of the General Motors 12-567A Diesel Engine (16 minutes)

Even more 1945 naval engine maintenance.

Disc Four

rollingSouthern- Rolling South (14 minutes)

Time period is the 1970’s. Train 154 to Atlanta and Port of Savannah. Aerial views of trains. Cab ride sequence. Nice runbys. Rotary coal dump. Linwood hump yard. Tower and office interiors. Excellent time capsule.

joe cincy2

joe baldwins

A Job for Joe (18 minutes)

Army veteran Joe can’t get rehired by Southern. The reason? Too many expensive claims. Great shots of classic Southern. Music by The Almond Hillbillies. This is the one most remembered by the employees. Plenty of train scenes.

nwCoal Carrier to the World (9 minutes)

Norfolk & Western 1981. Appalachian coal, from mine to port. Little is seen of the railroad. It does cover the coal transport to the ship very well..

safety3The safety film has faded on the outdoor footage.

safety2Safety Facts About Crossing Tracks (13 minutes)

SP Safety Department has a better then average cross safely show. Check the Matchbox cars and HO trains. A unique method to demonstrate scenarios around grade crossings.

Scavenging and Supercharging of Diesel Engines (14 minutes)

US Navy 1943 training film. Fairbanks Morse opposed piston engines were desirable for marine applications. Two stroke motors here. All of these mechanical shorts should have occupied a single disc. They do belong together.

This collection is good for those looking for subjects, that are only briefly seen in train videos.


Some of these films are interesting to watch. Others are one timers. Couldn’t sit through the old black and white engine training films.

Overall, this collection does have some worthwhile short features. Recommended for those shows as mentioned.

Rating: 3 Stars

Southern 630 On the Mainline to Cleveland

Southern 630 On The Mainline To Cleveland southern railway 630 - on the mainline to cleveland

Diverging Clear Productions

Length: 41 minutes on DVD-R + 42 on audio CD-R

Time Period: September, 2013

Locations: Chattanooga to Cleveland, Tennessee.

Source: Mary McPherson, Kurt Jensen,Tom Dunn

MSRP: 25.00

Southern Railway 630 is a beautifully restored Consolidation on the DVD. There is an accompanying audio CD of this engine. An innovative package.

2The 2-8-0 is shown operating in excursion service for Railfest Weekend. A diesel powered local also gets in on the fun. The story begins at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

day 2 consistDiverging Clear Productions has been noticeably upgrading their recent releases. Numerous small details that result in better viewing. The feel of the newer shows have a pro vibe.

map 2Mary has solved the map issues with this simple, yet stylish overlay. The white dot shows our current location. There is no diesel assistance or backup on the mainline!

tx                   A combination of mainline and museum track action, add variety.

Kurt Jensen narrates this show. He is a natural at hosting. Clear speaking voice and good delivery. The script contains most of the information desired. I would have moved, and modified a few things for greater clarity, but most of it is in there. There were 4 roundtrips on this weekend over two days. Not a long program, but less is sometimes more……

newAlco built 630 in 1904. Modified by Southern over the years. Kurt will explain the history.

1         All three cameras filmed the trains in fine fashion. The show looks excellent.

2aThe old steamer put on a good display. She ran on Norfolk Southern, former Southern Railway trackage. Speeds around 40mph. Wonderful steam sounds from this loco.

2594High hood GP30 leads from one end of this local. An FP7 is on the opposite end.

6133My only real issue is the title… Cleveland? More accurate, ‘On the mainline to the middle of nowhere’. Buyers will probably assume Cleveland, Ohio- NOT Cleveland, Tennessee. Nevertheless, aside from the title, the show content is solid.

tx2Southern 630 puts on a fine display that will satisfy adults and children. It is a program that has plenty of action. Brief bits of the diesels break any monotony.

cutSounds of the 630, is the title of the CD. Mary enjoys listening to trains as well. For review purposes, this is a bonus disc. Haven’t factored it in as far as ratings. There are 16 tracks. Good recordings. Some tracks are better then others. Maybe, I will open the windows and rock the neighborhood on the home sound system……. Where’s the train ??

2 obsProducer Mary McPherson has achieved a higher level program with this show. Tight editing, fine script and the map usage are some elements. It never drags out, as it has a good balance of movement and rest. This new release is comparable to some of the professional companies programs. Very well done. As a result, the show rates at the higher pro level.

Congratulations !

Rating: 4 Stars