Midwest Electric Rails


Producer: Charles Smiley

Timeframe: 1950 – 1962

Locations: Chicago, Milwaukee, South Bend..

Length: 1 hour 38 minutes

Sources: R. Gabriel, D. Kydd, B. Warrick, J. Swenson, J. Illman, G. Barnes, W. Whittaker

Visit the streets of Chicago, in the Streetcar era! See the Milwaukee vicinity. Ride an Electroliner, from Milwaukee to Chicago! See the South Shore operation. All of this and much more. Note  the lack of suburban sprawl, in both major cities.. Vintage vehicles, period businesses, and the people.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h34m04s975Consistent with other trolley, streetcar or electric line programs. A time machine like trip into a bygone era. This show has high quality color movie film. Appears to be 16mm for the majority. All restored films. Stunning appearance!

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h37m49s544Audio has many scenes with: trolley sounds and often, automobile traffic. Musical backgrounds that vary. Charles Smiley with the narrative. Very informative. Plenty of history. Still photos augment the discussions. A PBS style program.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h58m05s590A single factory pressed DVD. Detailed Chapter Menu. On-screen graphics. The CSP exclusive, custom made maps. All the extras!

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h20m39s755Chicago Surface Lines. A humongous system of over 1,000 miles. Intriguing period footage that contains vintage Chicago.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h26m58s535Charles goes into the various Trolley cars, but look at those street scenes! Check the Divco milk truck at left.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h38m56s179The CSL has beautiful footage of Chicago.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h31m40s233Locals know that Chicagoans love their beer! Often visible on: buildings, signs and delivery trucks. It’s fun to find some old brands.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h43m38s973Chicago, Aurora and Elgin in full color. This line seen in 1950. Ran west and is now a recreational Illinois prarie path for biking and hiking. The Forest Park station is seen. The line was closed in 1959.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h39m47s729CA&E quickly escapes the city, back in those days.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h46m48s684Milwaukee Electric, original went as far north to Green Bay, until 1948. Check that Schlitz tavern. That is interesting history, as well. Schlitz Beer having once built beautiful taverns. A quality brew, to boot! At least until the 1960s.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h51m08s029Ride through Milwaukee.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h48m43s648West Junction, this is open country.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h56m35s271East Troy with a box motor. Survives at Illinois Railway Museum, in Union, Illinois.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-12h00m40s464Chicago, South Shore and South Bend.  They had 80 seat coaches. 803 is a Little Joe and exists today at Illinois Railway Museum. Other freight motors were on the roster.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-12h11m33s786The South Shore is visited from: South Bend to Chicago. The Illinois Central yards are viewed. This ICRR equipment is included.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-12h14m12s722Rock Island commuter trains serving LaSalle Street Station make for a surprise Chapter. Action in the 1960s and ’70s.

Even more Union Station and a little Amtrak film, from the 1970s. Burlington Northern mainly. Gulf,Mobile and Ohio with The Plug!

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-12h27m40s985lIlinois Terminal had Interurban service.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-13h10m17s957North Shore. The last electric line featured. This one ran North to Milwaukee. Here are the well known, Electroliners. Footage from 1962 in Milwaukee. One year prior to abandon.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-12h49m09s866The highlight of this show. Ride the North Shore Electroliner to Chicago! The sights are pointed out by Charles.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-12h01m12s862Electric Rails is right at the top of the Charles Smiley Presents shows, on Streetcars. The plethora of clear movie film, gives this one an advantage. Riding the Electroliner, gives a viewer a more complete experience. While, one can’t go wrong with his Los Angeles or Bay Area shows. This Electric Rails of mainly Chicago… rules.

Rating: 5 Stars



Canadian Electric Rails


Producer: Charles Smiley

Timeframe: 1950s

Locations: Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, more

Length: 1 hour 11 minutes

Sources: William Warrick, William Whittaker, Bentley Salkeld, Lloyd Salkeld, Richard Pratt

Charles Smiley takes us back in time. The decade of the 1950s. Five Electric lines in Canada. Always said that Charles would have made a great History Instructor. Here is an opportunity to see and learn!

vlcsnap-2019-11-20-14h40m23s686A single, factory pressed DVD. Detailed Chapter Menu. A 20 minute bonus section of previews. All the usual CSP extras. On-screen graphics. Custom made reference maps.

vlcsnap-2019-11-20-14h14m40s101Let’s look at the five individually.

Predominantly, a color film program. Small segments, of black and white footage. All restored to best appearance. PBS style program. Period photographs. Meticulous attention; to a recreation of trolley/ streetcar sounds and environment. Background music that is appropriate. Everything is first class. Full narration by Charles Smiley.

London & Port Stanley

vlcsnap-2019-11-20-14h22m13s190This electrified line ran from Port Stanley to London. Recreational passenger service, and local service.

vlcsnap-2019-11-21-13h54m29s869Station @St. Thomas, Ontario.

vlcsnap-2019-11-21-13h58m34s858BX Tower. The Interurban lines had facilities similar to regular railroads. Yards, Towers, Stations and some a turntable. Specialized equipment too.


Niagara, St. Catherine’s & Toronto

vlcsnap-2019-11-20-14h34m08s821The largest Company. Controlled by Canadian National. Served Niagara Falls, amoung other areas. Commonly known as the NS&T.

vlcsnap-2019-11-20-14h40m11s959One of many custom made maps.

vlcsnap-2019-11-21-13h41m24s600Charles will use still photographs to augment discussions. NS&T freight motors here. Maintenance of way and various passenger cars, are some additional subjects. Valuable information.

Toronto Transit

vlcsnap-2019-11-20-14h43m05s550Original, 1938 built streetcar. You will learn much about the history of the Toronto system. Excellent city scenes!

vlcsnap-2019-11-20-14h55m15s9461954 Stop with PCC car. What is PCC? Inquire within…


Before the Internet… Newspapers were vital. Big cities offered Morning and Evening editions. A Newspaper truck!

vlcsnap-2019-11-20-15h04m14s746This was the first Toronto Subway. Some sections ran above ground. Many scenes are long gone.

Montreal & Southern Counties

vlcsnap-2019-11-20-15h13m03s736Scenes from the early 1950s to about 1958.

vlcsnap-2019-11-20-15h12m04s650A more involved map. Green line is M&SC. This line ran 47 miles, to Granby.

vlcsnap-2019-11-20-15h14m46s096Connecting the city to countryside. Before, the advent of common automobile travel, with good roads.

vlcsnap-2019-11-21-13h40m08s787Montreal street scene, with a classic 1950s work vehicle. A panel truck. Makes my day!

Quebec Railway Light & Power


vlcsnap-2019-11-20-15h32m29s509The most interesting streetcar line, to myself. This turntable was used at Quebec City.

vlcsnap-2019-11-21-13h33m06s892Served a huge textile mill. Scenic Montmorency Falls, as well. Also, the substantial Cathedral at St. Anne’s.

vlcsnap-2019-11-21-13h28m25s204Another Canadian National line. Yes, there are several CN Steam locomotives. Brief appearances, in this show. 

vlcsnap-2019-11-20-15h50m41s761This is an intriguing journey into the past Interurban history of Eastern Canada. Never considered that they had trolley service. Charles Smiley has a class on this subject. Learned quite a bit. Viewed another world, that has long since passed. 

Rating: 5 Stars



Pacific Electric and Los Angeles Railway


Producer: Charles Smiley

Timeframe: 1940- 1963

Locations: Greater Los Angeles area

Length: 1 hour 53 minutes

Sources: Lloyd Salkeld, Ross Salkeld, Ed Minshall, Paul Lukens, Roy Gabriel

Charles Smiley Presents with a double feature. The two streetcar lines, that once served Los Angeles, and vicinity. Pacific Electric is the much larger of the two companies. Los Angeles Railway is the second company.

Both had extensive coverage in their territories. Originally construction, was before the common usage of automobiles and freeways. The commuters traveled in much different fashion.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-17h19m50s821There is much color movie film, to document the cornucopia of various, equipment and lines. Which serve the area. Years of the restored color footage. They are from 1940 to 1963. Though the scope of the show, goes back earlier in time.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-17h38m39s558This show is loaded with extras. A factory pressed DVD. Detailed Chapter Menu. A long preview section that runs for 20 minutes.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-15h11m00s865Custom made Maps throughout. Any line that is discussed, gets highlighted.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-17h30m27s957On-screen graphics that have all sorts of additional information. These details augment the on going discussions.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-15h40m08s665Varied soundtrack. Notice the high level of detail on enviornmental scenes. Hear the auto traffic on some scenes? Hear the flanges squeel, as a trolley hits a turn? Background music elsewhere.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-17h10m27s663Simply, too much to cover everything within, this fully loaded program. This collection of films must be rare. Let’s hit on some highlights…

IF you haven’t seen a Charles Smiley Presents yet. You are in for a treat! These are: part train video, part history lesson, extra information, at no extra charge! All neatly wrapped in a PBS style program. Charles Smiley narrates.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-17h42m02s403Pacific Electric had about 1000 miles of trackage. Extended beyond Los Angeles. Long Beach, San Pedro, San Bernardino to name a few. Their large red cars were well known.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-17h01m48s654Los Angeles Railway was Henry Huntington’s, from 1898. This also extended past the city limits, although not so far. Yellow and green colors.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-15h47m50s348Later on, the so called, fruit salad colors came into usage.


The streetcar system predates the freeway system.

A small portion of the Oakland Key System is included, into this story. Another, El Paso, Texas to Mexico, as well!  Plus more. Learn the dispositions of various streetcars.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-17h06m46s982Here , at Inglewood viewers get a sense of streetcars running in traffic. Check those two sets of rails.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-16h57m28s620Later, the now numerous  cars in the downtown area, brought resentment towards the big streetcars.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-17h51m27s014Watts Station is on the right.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-17h41m05s627This Watts bound car, originated up on a substantial  elevated platform. 

Electric buses are even included!

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-18h11m31s623The 1938 PCC built cars offered riders many improvements. Charles explains types and improvements.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-17h43m35s589Notice how massive the streetcar is compared to the bus.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-18h12m22s287The old Sears building on the P line is gone. Resembles other vintage Sears, in other parts of the US.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-17h08m35s605The diminutive white safety zones, in the middle of busy streets. These are almost a joke by modern standards.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-17h18m24s601Here is a scene with potential for Model Railroaders. Have a trolley line that; dead ends, near a standard gauge track!

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-15h40m05s602The many onboard rides, give viewers the feel of streetcar transportation. Assorted lines and years. Fascinating material.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-18h22m39s781Big Bertha tows a broken down car.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-18h37m34s633A final fantrip with a couple of streetcars. A discontinued line, complete with rusty rails. Amazing!

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-17h28m58s333These trolley subjects offer a time machine visit into the past. One doesn’t have to be from Los Angeles to enjoy this either. Plenty of these scenes no longer exist.

vlcsnap-2019-10-15-17h19m24s278Vintage is vintage! Autos, trucks, pedestrians, businesses, and the chance to witness the changes. Fascinating material that you see in fine quality here. There is simply too much, to retain everything in a single viewing. That is good news. Rerun value. Suitable and interesting, for family viewing.

Rating: 5 Stars

The Canadian


Producer: Alva Morrison

Timeframe: 1960s

Locations: Montreal to Vancouver

Length: 47 minutes

Source: 2007 Remaster

Alva Morrison originally produced this film, with Sunday River Productions. Remastered and a re- edit by JMJ in 2007.

vlcsnap-2019-09-01-08h44m24s793The Canadian, is a Transcontinental passenger train on Canadian Pacific. This is the original incarnation. Vancouver to Montreal. Calgary, Medicine Hat, Lake Superior, Banff and Schreiber. Not the later Yellowhead version.

vlcsnap-2019-09-01-09h14m42s400Begins out West. On the waterfront,at Vancouver. A return from Montreal follows. That picks up Lake Superior.

vlcsnap-2019-09-01-09h04m24s477Traversing the best scenery of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Kicking Horse Pass, with it’s tunnel and grades. Scenic canyons and rivers. Quite a trip!

vlcsnap-2019-09-01-08h52m37s610Similar to a PBS style presentation. Nicholas Morant, with at least one photographs used for comparison, along with other vintage pictures. Good history is included in the narrative.

vlcsnap-2019-09-01-09h03m39s065Multiple viewpoints. Onboard the train. Externals, both near and far. Scenery is nicely incorporated.

vlcsnap-2019-09-01-08h47m29s713Soundtrack is music and train sounds. The train sounds are good. The musical interludes are very dated, to the 1960s. Oh well, not a deal breaker. Kicking Horse Pass.


Alva Morrison performs the narrative. He does a fine job. Very knowledgeable.

vlcsnap-2019-09-01-09h03m09s285CP Rail painted FP7A diesels are in charge of the train. Sometimes, GP 7/9 units assist.

vlcsnap-2019-09-01-09h12m06s123On-screen graphics help with locations.


Various views of the equipment.


A group of grain elevators, that show a part of Canada’s huge business.

vlcsnap-2019-09-01-08h42m44s027Some basic maps help out with geography. Higher detail on specific areas, as needed.


Riverfront running in deep valleys.


Famous location on Lake Superior, is Mink Tunnel.

vlcsnap-2019-09-01-08h54m23s562The program is very well put together. A bit long on several transitions. Well, that’s the reviewer talking. No big thing.

vlcsnap-2019-09-01-09h02m19s723Visual quality looks fine. Good colors. Kicking Horse Pass Tunnel.

vlcsnap-2019-09-01-09h22m39s722The Canadian is a fine show. It stays on target. Complete coverage, with a tight focus on the subject. Good pacing, it moves along quickly. Before long, it nears the end! Where did the time go?

Alva Morrison really knew how to produce interesting Railroad films. This is a good one. A fine show for all viewers.

Rating: 5 Stars


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..


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.


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.


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