Extreme Trains: Circus Train

Extreme Trains- Circus Train

History Channel

Format: 2 DVD set

Length: 44 minutes. Single Episode

Time Period: 2008 and some vintage circus film.

Locations: Baltimore to Washington, Steamtown USA, Palmetto, Fl.

Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus

Episode From Extreme Trains- Season One

Host: Matt Bown

As a fan of both railroad and circus, this title does get my attention. Does the presentation mix the two subjects together well? Do we get the desired mix of circus animals and iron horse?

t1                                       A Ringling Brothers train is a long one at nearly 60 cars..

t2

spare tireMatt Bown is our energetic host. He’s a hands on, let me try that type of guy. In this episode we see Matt shovel both manure and coal. Wow Matt!

3Final performance night with the Ringling Brothers Circus at Baltimore.

5

trainmasterThese programs are packed with  behind the scenes action. The Trainmaster is  the man who is in charge, as far as this private train goes. The amount of work to prepare and move the circus is formidable. Time constraints add pressure to maintain the schedule. Maintenance and emergency repair tasks can be unexpected. Professionals , the Ringling crew gets it done.

 

upThe night loading includes horses and elephants being loaded. We find an elephant with a mind of its own.

A brief visit to Steamtown is the centerpiece of the historical aspect of the circus train.

This is a fun and informative program. There is quite a bit to see here. We are carrying some livestock. The Ringling Brothers are sidelined for a CSX freight. Decades ago, a circus train with animals would have had priority. Matt misses this point, so you readers are one up on him. Yes, livestock transportation had many rules and could rate higher than even passenger trains! Matt does a great job of telling the stories of circus trains and educating the audience about this one.

pie carWe get back underway and a hungry Matt visits the piecar. Check that tasty looking food.

Another sidebar visit shows the circus mechanics with old car shells that will be rebuilt for the train.

unload

offAs expected, we make it to DC. Now, we need to unload the train. Setup is a huge production.

pusherThis program is fast paced and balances history with the modern era.

walkThe Greatest Show On Earth parades down city streets… Love the elephant walk!

matt bEnjoyable program for all ages. One of the series best episodes.

Rating: 4 Stars

#Circus

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Extreme Trains: Overnight Traveler

Overnight Traveler- Extreme Trains

History Channel

Format:  2 DVD set

 Length: 44 minutes

Locations for episode: Chicago to Seattle.

Source: Extreme Trains- Season One

Host: Matt Bown

Updated and illustrated review.

Here is a single episode from the series called, Extreme Trains. Matt Bown hosted various shows in this set on railroading. A good collection of programs that are fine for beginners. Additional information that sometimes, can keep veteran railfans interested as well.

This is the story of the Amtrak Empire Builder. The modern version of a former Great Northern, premier passenger train. Viewers will experience the trip from, Chicago to destination at Seattle.

215Comprehensive  look at the contemporary era Amtrak passenger train. Coverage that features: equipment, employees, and the journey.

chicago union station tower                                           Chicago Union Station tower view.

james hillA fast-moving and varied presentation.  Historical aspects and modern operation are both well researched. This is very informative and fascinating journey, over a classic train trip. Rich in history with some great scenic vistas! A sidetrip to Steamtown for good measure.

MonocoqueCompare the 4250 horsepower of a single Genesis, to the 1500 hp of a 1950’s EMD F7A.

Mono diagramMatt kicks off the show with a segment on the power for the Empire Builder. Two General Electric Genesis locomotives. The design is called a Monocoque. A single, lightweight shell that mounts to the chassis. The shell is akin to a load bearing aircraft fuselage. Check one of the diagrams shown.

loco pit matt eddieAt the Chicago Amtrak facility. Matt walks with an Inspector, underneath the eleven cars in the inspection pit. Safety is first and foremost. An overview of the preparation for the soon to be outbound train is complete.

conductorThe conductor is ready for an on time departure from Union Station in Chicago.

cabA cab ride contains a discussion on speed and safety features on the locomotive.

snowAnother fun sequence is Matt on a snowmobile, on the original (abandoned) Cascade Tunnel line. The early switchbacks are discussed with some more history of building the line.

cascade tunnelA feature on the 8 mile long Cascade Tunnel is a highlight.

lights

pan

A nicely done program. Good for the whole family. Quite different from the majority of standard train videos. Matt is a lively and hands on type of host. The many tasks that he tries do convey the hard work and care of Amtrak employees.

Rating: 4 Stars

The Hard Coal Roads: what went wrong

The Hard Coal Roads: what went wrongD143

Charles Smiley Presents

Format: Factory Pressed DVD

Length: 1 hour 40 minutes + 20 minutes previews

Time Period: 1970- 1976

Sources: Joseph Zook, Jack Kuiphoff, Will Whittaker.

MSRP: 28.50

Charles has the Eastern hard coal roads featured in the pre-Conrail era. This new program, contains a cornucopia of rare, and unreleased film. Featured railroads: Lehigh Valley, Reading, Jersey Central, Erie Lackawanna, Delaware and Hudson, plus Penn Central. There are also some connecting lines. Railfans will see an action packed show!

rs3Central Railroad of New Jersey. Red Baron paint scheme on an Alco RS3.

Much of the film has hard to find footage, in high quality. This collection surpasses anything that I have seen for the first three railroads. Face the facts, LV, RDG and CNJ are usually available in grainy, unrestored issues. They didn’t capture the attention of railfan cinematographers very much.

1919Riding a hard coal train in the year………….. 1919.

Hard coal… anyone?.. The answer is Anthracite coal… What went wrong?…Why are there nearly zero coal trains in this program?…. How does this lead into Conrail?….. Watch this show.

rdg5209Reading Lines had a unique, cab roof rain gutter over the cab windows. Number 5209 is a Century 424. It leans into a superelevated curve.

dh610Alco Centuries were part of the D&H Alco heavy roster. The lightning stripe livery, is a true classic. Number 610 is a C628. At 2750 horsepower, it was a powerful locomotive. One of three that still exist. This one survives at a museum in Mexico.

lv635Lehigh Valley C-628 in the stunning Snowbird scheme.

Alcophiles will love all of that builders diesels in use by these railroads. Plenty of Electromotive too.

pc tansboroCharles is also a talented model railroader. He has an eye for including scenes that are conducive to the hobby. Note all of the details in this scene. Structure, signals, rural crossing etc..

dh455

All six railroads benefit from Mr. Smiley’s extensive digital restoration. The colors are accurate. Images and the trains seem to jump off the screen.

cnjrsd5Jersey Central with a pair of Alco RSD-5 locomotives. Passenger trains are sometimes operating with leased power. Some unrepainted, second hand cars are surprising.

The audio levels are well balanced. The narrative and train sounds have even levels. There are various musical pieces interpolated throughout the show.

dh trackageAlways improving his products, check the updated maps. D&H with trackage rights.

bmAll CSP shows have nice surprises. A railroad that is hard to find, Boston & Maine.

elErie Lackawanna receives extensive coverage. All have their historical background described. Viewers will have an understanding of the regional big picture.

rdg map

dhgp

A meticulous producer. Location awareness is always a priority. Using: narration, text graphics and a fabulous array of maps to enhance the story.

pc4603 e33Penn Central electric operations are one facet of the vast railroad.

el tuxedo

A 20 minute preview section is included. Total time is 2 hours. Man, I like the looks of Northeast Rails. Conrail fans will find plenty in these previews.

lv neThe USRA Northeast caboose is all over the show! Visible on different roads, in assorted liveries. Watch for these gems.

The Hard Coal Roads: what went wrong. I have watched the program and heard the history. Any railfan or model railroader should find this an enjoyable sojourn on these fallen flags. Extremely interesting and has the rarity factor. In short, this exemplary show is a must have!

Rating: 5 Stars

#Railroad#Train#LehighValley#Reading#JerseyCentral#ErieLackawanna#DelawareAnd Hudson#AmericanTrainVideoReviews

WP Vintage West

WP Vintage Westcvr

Charles Smiley Presents

Length: 90 minutes

Time Period:1950’s- 1980’s

Locations: Systemwide and more

Sources: 18 includes: Gary McClain, John Illman.

MSRP: 29.50

The history of Western Pacific is covered in depth. There is a plethora of additional subjects, connecting roads, shortlines and Oro Dam construction. Sacramento Northern and Key System are part of the story. Rio Grande has a large chunk as well. For those who want to delve into a historical Western Pacific program, this is your ticket.

high line locosUtilizing 18 different film sources could be a challenge. Digital restoration has everything looking nice. Mostly appears to be 8mm color film. Cameramen are generally excellent. Steam, early diesel, traction continues into Perlman Green.

3519 rainAudio has a high percentage of varied musical background on this show. The variety of music is interesting. Less train sounds then some other CSP shows. This release is more of a PBS style program.

high lineCustom maps and on screen graphics are frequently used. Here, the High Line is introduced.

Charles conveys a wealth of information. As subjects, stories and locations change, the WP sometimes gets lost. The deviations can get long. This takes away from some of the punch.

fExtensive coverage of the California Zephyr is here. Burlington Route and Rio Grande also have plenty of time for their parts of this famous train. The show within the show in 2 chapters.

ride         Ride the California Zephyr on Western Pacific and Rio Grande- classic style!

drgw 5721Rio Grande is looked at in detail. Quite a bit of time is on Rio Grande. Fans of that railroad will enjoy the amount of: history, locations and more. Another show within the show.

oroOro Valley Dam construction is a key point of that area’s history. Plenty of that too.

711                                       GP7 is performing some street running.

ftEarly diesels. These FT units are part of the original wave that replaced steam engines.

keddie rainAt Keddie and in the rain. The rear facing GE U-23B, is part of a scene that is good for model railroaders, Note the 1968 or 69 Chevy Camaro SS. Old water tower and more.

4241The Burlington Northern provided run through power. These rare Alco locomotives and tons of BN freight cars display the solid relationship of WP and BN.

boxcars keddie wye                Plenty of classic rolling stock on freights. You can’t beat the scenery either.

3519Four axle power was used by WP. The GP40 and GP40-2 models were favored. The last third of the program covers 1960- 1980. Great chapter.

cab 427

Charles has two other Western Pacific programs available. Western Pacific Remembered was released in 2012. That one is my favorite of the trio. Western Pacific- The Last Decade is the other. All of these are reviewed here.

caboose                                         Greenway, Calirornia. The High Line.

WP Vintage West is a fine program. This one is rather quiet and feels a little flat compared to the 2012 show. All of the extra coverage of associated railroads is excellent. That does go pretty far off the Western Pacific story. A quality show, but not in my top rank for CSP.

Western Pacific is one of those railroads that are hard to find on film. This one is geared towards the history of this road and those other subjects. A must have for those so inclined.

Rating: 4 Stars

Atlanta’s Railroads – All Aboard – PBS

Atlanta’s Railroadsaa

Green Frog Productions

Length: 30 minutes

Time Period: 1800’s to 1990’s.

Location: Atlanta

Sources: Charlie Brown, John M. Koch, Rob McCormack, Pete Silcox

Another one from the All Aboard PBS television series. Howard Goodwin hosts the 30 minute shows. The complete set is available from Green Frog Productions.

chaseThis particular show does not follow in the regular Green Frog format. An interview based program. What some term, a talking heads show. Very heavy on early and Civil War era. Of course, the imagery is period photos and illustrations. The format continues in the same fashion, right up to the 1990’s era. There is a smattering of 8mm color film and video. It is extremely limited screentime. In that respect, it does not compare with their standard train videos.

general                                        The General is also presented in HO scale.

general3The Great Locomotive Chase is a main feature of the 1860’s. A raid by Union Army, with the intent to destroy or disable lines into Atlanta. The raiders escape on The General. Confederates give chase with 3 steam engines. Eventually, the engine runs out of fuel. There is much discussion on this event. Two original locomotives survive in museums. Overdone, as far as using up time. Where are Atlanta’s trains?

1Dan Chandler narrates this slow paced release. It is professionally produced. The issue is the focus of the program. One would expect a bunch of footage containing classic and modern era film. That just is not the case. Functions more like a slide show.

1871depot                                            Atlanta train shed built in 1871.

1905                                            A larger station constructed in 1905.

hoThe 1905 station with downsized spires in HO scale. The real ones sustained storm damage.

Historians are probably more likely to enjoy the very lengthy early history. Plenty of old pictures as well. As nice as the pics are, nothing moves. More, talking heads.

2                                                 This photo looks like a rare one.

sd45souEventually, we arrive in a more modern age. A few glimpses of moving diesels.

csxydCSX and Norfolk Southern both have large freight yards. You barely see either one.

nsydAtlanta’s Railroads ends up a disappointment. What could have been an overview of a busy rail city, gets bogged down in ancient history. Perhaps, there just isn’t much vintage film from there. Yet, even contemporary video is in short supply. This program is really more of a history of early railroading in Atlanta. One of the weaker entries in the series.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars