Today’s Chicago Railroads


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.


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.


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


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!


As the sign says. To The Trains…

Alco C424 of Chicago Belt Railway.


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.


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


Old, beater CNW geeps are seen here.

Grand Trunk , Chessie, IHB, Amtrak too.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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


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


CR 5032 is next to get the wave at Brighton.


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.


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


Grand Trunk near Hayford Junction.


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


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.


Chicago Short Line is another rare find.


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


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


The Rathole combo DVD


Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1995

Locations: Danville, KY- Oakdale, TN

Length: 2 hours 28 minutes

A double release on a single DVD. Norfolk Southern’s, scenic Rathole Division. Located in Kentucky and Tennessee. Only Two tunnels remain. Multiple cuts, grades and bridges. A Rathole Cab Ride. An EMD GP60 on a Triple Crown Road Railer, is the second show.

Pentrex originally had these out on VHS tapes. A detailed Chapter Menu has been added with this combination.


The programs are narrated by David Drui. Dependable Pentrex high standards. No concerns, as far as production.


For this review. We will look at the pair separately. Tie them together, with a combined rating. Sound good? Let’s move!

The Rathole

Back in October, 1995 and Pentrex was filming the Norfolk Southern. Their Rathole Division should provide plenty of interest. Even, if the modern traffic isn’t very interesting. This line has a big, tough reputation. The Rathole! Certainly, it is worth a visit.


At Junction City, 3302 waits to enter one of the single track stretches. These bottlenecks make for interesting trainwatching.


King’s Cut was part of a 1963 line relocation. There were once over 20 tunnels on the Rathole. Only four remain. Only two in the territory.


Signal bridge at South end has 3303 meet.


While the large cuts are good backdrops. It would have been a trip, to see the twenty missing tunnels! That would be something.


Burnside, KY. Bridge Crossing Lake Cumberland.


A tobacco car designed for Southern an exclusive.


New River Bridge. A high in the sky structure. Tough to clearly photograph.

Most of this becomes repetitive. Trains and similar rock cuts or wooded scenery. Where are those tunnels?

An excursion train finally alleviates the monotony.

This show needed to be edited downward in length. It becomes a dragging show.

A tower visit deviates from the repetitive nature, of the less than exciting, modernized Rathole. It is a pretty route though.

Return to more Rathole diet. Deep cuts and same looking trains. Are we there yet?


Two tunnels are finally encountered! One exits directly on to a bridge. About time.


Pentrex has a good looking final location. Very railroad flavor.

Perhaps, they felt they need for more tunnels. A really nice addition of two more tunnels. These are technically beyond the Rathole district.


An abandoned, original tunnel. Still used by Maintenance of Way vehicles.

A good program overall. Not a favorite on my end. No major flaws. Just not very exciting. The territory, formerly known as The Rathole. That name fits better!


Through the Rathole Cab Ride

One may think. A Cab Ride on a single GP60 pulling truck trailers? Bah! Normally, I would agree. But wait. There’s more!

This is a one hour, Cab  Ride on the famed Rat Hole division. Clear weather. Fall colors.


The train itself is a high priority one. An NS Triple Crown Road Railer. These are 72 hot loads heading to: Chicago, Detroit, Ft.Wayne Crestline,Ohio and Canada.

Board at Emory Gap. Not at the Rathole yet.

The second week of November. Past peak leaves.

Radio chatter can be heard. Crew talks but engine cab is noisy.


Number 251 causes us to wait. Having equal Priority.  We pass other lower priority trains.

This GP60 bounces along…


Coleman has the Through truss bridges.


Nemo South.


The engineer describes the GP60, as a hot rod. It has plenty of, get up and go. Perfect for this service!


A few views still have late fall colors.


An old Rathole tunnel is visible.


High up, on the New River Bridge.


The rearward look, at the 72 Road Railers.


The train slows on approach for a crew change.


Excellent tour of the line. Hits the key points. Quick pacing that maintains interest. Enough variety within the parameters of a cab shoot. Nicely done!



The Rathole

The Rathole does not live up to it’s reputation. I suppose that, was expecting a pre 1963 Rathole. A route with many tunnels for starters. At least, thought to find tough mountain railroading. Like, some Union Pacific or Conrail in Pennsylvania. What I saw was more like a purring kitten!

Still a decent show. Simply limited by the constraints of standardized, modern railroading. Neat, clean and dull.

Through the Rat Hole Cab Ride

The Cab Ride is a shorter show. The fast paced action, benefits from the reduced length. Time passes quickly. This trip covers the same ground. The better of these two programs.

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Street Running


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.


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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!


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!


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


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


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.


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. 


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


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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!


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

Southern Memories


Producer: Main Line Motion Pictures

Timeframe: 1950’s- 60’s

Locations: South

Length: 49 minutes

Sources: Marvin Clemons, Tom Rock, David Driscoll

This was going to be a hit or a miss attempt. Assortment of vintage films, on Southern Railway. No narration. Something I usually avoid. The rarity of anything from this era and Southern states had my curiousity.

Mainline Motion Pictures was an unfamiliar producer to myself…

Let’s see. A bare bones release. No Chapter menu. Zero maps. No narrative.


They do advertise that sound has been added. Hope that soundtrack is not, a Harpo Marx bicycle horn, with a block and hammer. I despise cheapness!


The actual film collection is nearly all 8mm color. It appears to have had some restoration. Most looks very good to excellent! A small black and white section, from one cameraman.


Much of the sound has been dubbed. It sounds very good to excellent. Beat my expectations by a country mile. At the end they have some live audio. All in all, the audio is fine.


On screen graphics, label many locations and trains. Original film sources, as well. General years when available. So, pretty good in the basic information department.


You still cannot beat a well written script. Give me a solid narritive everytime. There is so much to learn about Southern railroading. What a missed opportunity!


That being said, it is fantastic to have a show, where one can see, hear and ride, Southern Railway.


We are at Saluda, North Carolina in the above frame. This one, is actually a more recent Norfolk Southern train. Triples the steep grade, on this tough hill. Definitely worth inclusion!


This movie sure gets around. Alabama, North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee.


A big variety of diesel locomotives. Alcos and Electromotive. Rare E6A type above. Passenger and freight. Through trains and locals. Some rare paint schemes for sure!


I am always watching backgrounds. Check those flatbed trucks. I know trucks of all types. Except those. My best guess. Based on the area… Must be Tobacco loads. I think.


See…a narrative. Also, is that then a Philip Morris plant or similar? Study the scene as it gets switched. My case for narration.


A matched SD-24 lash-up this long…    No way! There are numerous surprises.


Another surprise. Birmingham, with this much trackage. Looks like Chicago. If only for a moment.


Savannah and Atlanta lettering, on a Southern painted EMD. What is the deal here? Thought the Carolina & Northwestern was confusing enough.


The passenger ride journeys were fun! Happy faces encountered. The trips gave a good slice at looking out at the local scenery. Tuscaloosa Station.


We stop at Tuscaloosa. No time for a long lunch? Maybe that beer truck is open for business!

vlcsnap-2019-02-17-15h29m49s622Central of Georgia trains make some unexpected appearances.


Even more to enjoy. A caboose lettered, Central of Georgia. Rare!!


Southern Memories. This show turned out to be a nice surprise. Despite being a no frills package. It does contain an enjoyable show! The material is very rare.


Not much film has been released on any Southern railroads from the old days. The big name guys were not shooting there. Not much else has turned up. So, if this is of any interest. This is the move.


Southern Serves the South.

Southern Memories- Serve Yourself!

Rating: 4 Stars

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