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

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Otto Perry’s Rio Grande Southern

Otto Perry’s Rio Grande Southern

Sunday River Productions

Format: DVD

Length: One hour 24 minutes

Time Period: 1940’s – 1951

Locations: Telluride, Ridgway, Lizard Head, Rico,     Dallas Divide,Ouray, Hesperus,Mancos, Mesa…

Source: Otto Perry (16mm film)

Producer: Alva Morrison

MSRP: 49.95

Steam in the West Series

A comprehensive look at Rio Grande Southern. Famed cinematographer Otto Perry is the film source. He filmed the RGS over a ten year period. Both; black & white, plus color footage of the operations.

Alva Morrison was a great producer. One of the original masters in his own right. He was an early producer of train videos. Concepts, edits, interviews, scenery, trains, tracks, livestock, history, people, script and more. All sharply done, in this nicely paced feature.

A chapter menu divides the show by subjects. Commodities and passengers. Timber, livestock and more. Majority of film is all color.

He has many interviews of former RGS employees and family members. The GM of Durango & Silverton , also has some commentary. His Dad worked the RGS.These stories sure add personality. They help us to understand what life was like around the railroad. An engineer speaks of an average, 14 hour workday.

This line had 3 of the highest passes to cross in the United States. RGS had 4% grades and a multitude of trestles, cuts, fills and mountain hugging trackage. Challenging!

Otto Perry’s films are fascinating! A wide array of viewpoints are effectively deployed. There are trackside and closeups. Spectacle shots of the diminutive trains climbing steep mountain grades. They look like ‘n gauge’ models against the towering backdrops. Wooden buildings are the normal shelters. Looking as if a page out of the old west, they really are!

Nice segments of natural sounding trains, working in this remote wilderness. Color film reveals a colorful landscape. Let’s get a sampling of some of this presentation.

Timber is the first chapter. Rio Grande 319 and 461 on one double-headed lumber move. A wreck on Dallas Divide is seen, 8 months later. Short and sweet chapter.

Ore has some b&w film. Good clear film. Placerville is one of the locations. Old timers talk about the challenges of hauling ore trains. Engine #20 is lettered Rio Grande Southern. Color film is an eye opener. Fascinating combination of trains, and mountain scenery. Check the double headers. Memorable!

A complete run of a sheep train is featured. At Rico, the livestock are loaded into stock cars. We follow the train for a short time. A narrow gauge stock train is a sight! A woman discusses her railroad father, giving hungry hobos some food at his house regularly. The same hobos would be seen by Dad riding a freight, the next day. Back with the stock train, it sure is puffing away. The golden Aspens are gorgeous. A cornucopia of views of this train. The sheep are fed and watered at Ouray. Loaded the following day to continue the trip. The empties are hauled back to Rico for another trainload of sheep.A major highlight chapter of the program. Film within the film.

Alva conveys much history of the line. Introduction of the Galloping Goose. A Ridgway to Durango round trip, for the Rocky Mountain Railway Club in 1946, required 3 Geese to complete the trip. Views from trackside and through the front windshield in color.There is some camera shake, as the goose bounces down the track. That adds character, and a feeling of being in that goose! Old timers reminisce about Goose travels on bumpy trackage. Awesome scenery shots from onboard a Galloping Goose!

May 30, 1947 the club tries another trip. This time with steam power, engine #20. Excellent views of the excursion train. May, 1949 is another outing with #74, a few shots.

Sept.1, 1951 was the final trip with #74 and Otto Perry. He captures this one in great detail. Otto hauled his friends in a 1936 Ford and one friend describes a journey to Alamosa. Another discusses the cameras they liked to use. Back to 1951. Stunning scenes that are nearly ‘beyond classic’. At Telluride, the engine begins the return journey. Trout Lake is a water tank stop. The train backed down Lizard Head Peak for the photographer’s final chance on the line. Even more than I relate here. Outstanding chapter!

This Sunday River show contains elements of a PBS style program. As I have come to expect from Sunday River, a very well produced train video. An instant favorite!

Steam train and narrow gauge fans will just adore this one. Otto Perry gives a lesson on cinematography by his choice of viewpoints, lighting and a great eye. This is one of the best narrow gauge programs on the market. It will be in regular rotation for many owners.

The whole family can enjoy this combination of: narrow gauge steam, beautiful scenery, friendly folks and a bygone view, in some of the old West.

Rating: 5 Stars

Otto Perry’s Santa Fe

Otto Perry’s Santa Fe

Machines of Iron

Format: DVD

Length: 40 minutes

Time Period: 1940’s – 1950’s

Locations: Colorado, New Mexico, Missouri, Kansas

Source: Otto Perry/ Rocky Mountain Railroad Club

 ATVR is working on featuring some of the original masters of train films. Otto Perry is one of the top cinematographers of the early era of color film. He shot in the 1940’s on black and white film. This is true vintage footage of a world, that no longer exists. The Rocky Mountain Railroad Club has an archive that contains these films.

Otto Perry lived in Denver, CO. He was always out, filming trains. Sometimes whatever else was happening at the scene. Relying on a 1935 Ford and later on, a 1951 Ford, he would travel thousands of miles in pursuit of trains. What makes his films so interesting, are his willingness to roll the camera at any train. The steam to diesel transition years provided the perfect source of unending variety to record.

In this feature about Santa Fe, we sure get to see that variety of railroad equipment. Steam, early diesels, streamliners, switchers, freight trains, old automobiles, it’s all here.

The film has a chapter menu, which is always nice. There are some fine maps too. The way the story moves around, we will need these maps.

Rich Melvin is our narrator. He does a fine job with; a good, information driven presentation. On screen graphics provide more locations.

A good chapter revolves around the ATSF joint line from Denver and southbound trackage that arrives at Palmer Lake. Castle Rock is approximately halfway there and it is seen as some background scenery. Colorado and Southern was a subsidiary of Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, aka, CB&Q or Burlington Route. By filming the shared line, we get the bonus of viewing C&S and CB&Q trains. This predates BNSF by decades. A small world indeed!

High quality imagery with the use of 16mm film. This footage was edited,  from many locations and different years. As a film source now, the archived footage is consistently excellent.

Steam and early diesels share the screen time. Big northern types, smaller Prairies, 2-10-2, smoke it up. Diesels seen: EMD FT, F3’s along with Alco PA units. Classic Santa Fe warbonnets pull the passenger trains. Freight schemed Blue and Yellow F’s are on point of freight action.

The Las Vegas subdivision is another area that is visited. Black and white film for these 1942 scenes that show an E6 on the El Captain and steam. Color film now with an Alco PA. The Chief  and Super Chief pass by, in black and white. 1947 color shot of California Limited with diesels. A 4-8-4 follows with a 2nd section of train number 3 and heavyweight cars.

In 1946, Otto has journeyed to Fort Madison, Iowa. Steam has had it’s sunset on ATSF in 1958. We are in Kansas, as Otto continues to film trains. Warbonnet F7 sets lead lengthy US Mail trains across the plains. Show closes with a smattering of Santa Fe diesel trains.

Machines of Iron has given the viewers a great showcase of Otto Perry. Fans of Santa Fe, steam to diesel era railfans and general train enthusiasts, all will find a plentiful array of vintage scenes. As was true for the era, you never know what is coming next on this show.

Rating: 5 Stars