Conrail’s Beginning

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Producer: Clear Block

Timeframe:1976

Locations:East

Length:100 minutes

Source: Paul Geiger

In May, 1976 Paul Geiger took his 8mm movie camera to film Conrail. This is early in the merger. He visited many locations.

Another unrestored vintage, 8mm color film collection. The films are clean. Dark scenes too often. Nothing weird color wise. Good to very good, except for brightness issues. No maps or extras are included.

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The show does have natural sounding train audio. The sound is fine.

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Narrative is somewhat stiff in nature. Although, very busy and thorough. I see Paul Geiger narrates it himself.

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Too much to get everything here. Look at some highlights. Generally, everyday proceedings. In retrospect, this was a snapshot of 1976. See what is happening…

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Paul travels around Eastern points of Conrail. He will sometimes pan a scene. Mainly, this show is wall to wall action!

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Check this Conrail GG-1 at Enola Yard. Everyone was in, on the special celebration of the bi-centennial year.

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A grand Buffalo area tour. Bison Yard and Frontier Yard in Buffalo, NY. Tower visits. Buffalo Terminal. Historical aspects too. Amtrak E units are trading places here.

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Binghamton, NY. and the Delaware and Hudson. BD Tower. Binghamton station . Lackawanna Depot.

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As Paul travels around the new Conrail. He also films from a vehicle. Two for one shot. Kingsley Viaduct and a classic Texaco.

This one is for the Model Railroaders!

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Early merger units may display a renumber. As on this Erie Lackawanna.

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A cornucopia of trains! All kinds. Sans active steam. E-44 electric locomotives here.

 

A quick visit to Sayre,PA. and the Lehigh Valley.

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Coxton Yard. Lehigh Valley RS11 is working.

Allentown Yard at R Tower.

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RDC Bethlehem Reading line. Take a tour ride to Reading Terminal, in Philadelphia, PA.

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Lehigh and Hudson River visited. Very quiet. Nothing active at the moment.

Maybrook Yard is abandoned. Unused since 74 fire on Poughkeepsie bridge.

New York Central station. Penn Central FL9 Poughkeepsie. Hudson River line.

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Amtrak. Metro North, and New Haven. All crammed into the dense city areas.

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New Jersey Transit. Many GG-1 led trains are seen. Even in black Amtrak paint.

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Elizabethport, NJ. Central of New Jersey

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Reading PA receives an extended look.

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Reading fans will see a good supply.

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Pennsylvania Rockville bridge is very busy. Paul does a fine job of showing us this hot spot.

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A rare EMD electric demonstrator.

Altoona in the summer of 1976, is very busy.

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Horseshoe Curve. These three GP35 units, contain key components of the new Conrail.

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There is plenty of Penn Central freight moving through the Altoona vicinity.

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Fresh Conrail paint appears more frequently, as the summer of 1976 continues.

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Penn Central 6254 is an SD40. Compare with Conrail blue below.

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May of 1992. Video update with Penn. area.

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A solid composite, of the birth of Conrail. Consistent camera work. Good soundtrack. Well organized. Coverage includes quite a lot of territory.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

 

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Whistler’s Western – The Boston & Albany RR

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Producer: A&R

Timeframe: 1934-1989

Locations: B&A

Length:1 hour

Sources: Blackhawk collection

This comprehensive, historical overview is complete. History from the 1830s. Films dating back to the 1930’s, document the constant activity.

The Conrail era brings the B&A current, as of the production year. Conrail footage bookends the story.

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The writers dove deep on this program. Lecturing on the early incarnations, that were later rolled into the larger company.

Frequent map usage illustrates the territories. Multiple maps are posted of various areas. Extremely helpful for those who are unfamiliar, with this region.

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This program is approximately: one half, black and white, film. High quality footage, for the most part. All of this, is shot very well. Also, Hudson class steam galore!

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The diesel era is in quality, color film and video. This includes some cab rides.

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Majority of the film sourced audio, would be dubbed. Video of Conrail should be live. A fine sounding show.

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Ted Daluku performs his usual pro level narrative. The script is very well written. Chronological progress makes it easy, for even non railfan viewers to follow. Steam to diesel. Good for family viewing.

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Steam powered 20th Century Limited trains are shown.

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A 1932 Chevy gives chase to this train!!

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Away he goes…

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Checkout the heat running in that old, snow covered caboose. Baby, it’s cold outside!

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RDC car provides some interurban service.

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New York Central, with rare Alco RS 32 models.

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The Penn Central is a part of the Boston & Albany story. Much more coverage in Vol.2.

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Amtrak SDP40F proved unsatisfactory.

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Very early Conrail merger. No blue paint.

 

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The only misstep in my opinion. The title of the two volumes. I was expecting the likes of Starucca Viaduct. After some research. Whistler’s Arches were flood damaged. Abandoned. That’s it?

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Whistler’s Western – The Boston & Albany.

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A traditional approach has been used to present, The Boston and Albany Railroad. Say what you will about traditional. One truth is. Traditional becomes tradition, because it works!

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A&R has covered all the bases. Done their homework. Organized it all in a clear and concise presentation. Kept it nicely paced. Interesting history and brought current.

That is easier said, than done.

Excellent work!

Rating: 5 Stars

 

 

Rail Trek Volume One: The East

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Producer: Ron McElrath

Timeframe: 1960s-70s

Locations: East-South

Length: 140 min

Sources: R. McElrath, W. Sasser

One of three Rail Trek volumes. Eastern version. Wide coverage over 20 railroads. Updated in 2017 by Revelation Video for DVD release.

The new DVD has film repairs listed as: cleanup on splices and edits. Original sources of 8mm and Super 8. These still show limitations. Good to fair picture quality. Green overcast on occasional scenes.

 

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A detailed Chapter Menu is a fine addition. This lengthly program needs this feature. Especially, as it spends too much time on certain subjects. Definite pacing issues.

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A new, update (on- screen graphic) is used to correct previous narration mistakes. Even a bit of additional information.

The show is in full color. Brief segments with some live audio. Mostly a musical background. Same as previous edition.

Fully narrated by Ron McElrath. Same as the VHS series. Above scene from Marion.

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Show is a mixture of lineside and passenger train ride films. Covers a huge range of territories! Waynesboro, if you have trouble reading.

There is more than a basic review can fully get through here. Overview with some of the important parts to know.

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The railroads in the Southern states are hard to find. These alone, make this worth consideration. L&N, C&O, Southern, Auto-Train. Ride upon and view trains. You just don’t find much of anything, in the South on a train DVD.

Good developments, later in this show.

Earlier on, it was dragging badly. Roads that I like too. Just revolving, around and around, on passenger trains.

*Breakdowns are boring. The audience doesn’t care. Stuck like a bug on flypaper. Cut it short! The show is dragging…

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Endlessly looking around on New York Central. Finally, get out of there.

 

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Look! A neighbor, called New Haven. A chilly trip. Out and back, on a branchline

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A huge commuter mover. More than just Jamaica Yard. Long Island Railroad. Receives maybe, a minute! Really? Ugh…

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Only to get fixated, upon the very attractive Delaware and Hudson Alco PA locomotives.  Move it along…

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Norfolk and Western. This one scene is the best looking. Kind of loses it at Kenova. Experiments with shots and most don’t work. Chesapeake and Ohio. He blows most of the shots here miserably…

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Louisville and Nashville. Excellent choice. Rides an oddly named Pan Am train.

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C&O. 2nd chance. Gets it right now!

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Southern. Look South. GP30 looks awesome with a high hood.

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Birmingham. Hot Spot deluxe. A manned swing gate. Frisco here. More trains are seen. Who knew about this? Gate open…

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Take another look… Gate closed. Excellent.

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Florida. Auto Train gets a glimpse. Florida East Coast with a caboose is included within.

Florida has much more.

Pittsburgh in 15 minutes.. A fine chapter!

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Obligatory Amtrak shot. Cooler than most, with Three Rivers stadium!

 

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Pittsburgh and Philadelphia had vibrant trolley systems too. McElrath shows quite an assortment in both cities. I only have space for one. You’ve been told about it.

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Still in Pittsburgh. B&O action all around.

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Pittsburgh & Lake Erie. A train ride there.

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ATVR bonus. The Orange C was a give to ‘Green team’. New York Central. Red P was supposedly Red team. PRR staff. Neither side was satisfied. Everything reverted back to all white lettering. The rare, Orange C sure looked better to me! At Marion.

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In Ohio, things really get moving along. Erie Lackawanna is plentiful.

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Detroit, Toledo & Ironton, shows up for a minute.

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Marion Hot Spot. The ultimate all time?

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Get your good Norfolk and Western here.

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Recent early 1980s steam inclusion. Needless here. Better quality, easily is obtainable elsewhere. Quit when you are ahead.

Matter of fact. All steam on this show doesn’t really fit. Including, the poorly filmed breakdown outing, in the cold. Drags it down. Time waster that should not be here.

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Now, Atlantic Coast Line is a caboose, one rarely sees in service. There are some hard to find ones, bringing up the rear.

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Rail Trek Volume 1 The East The 1960s- 70s.

This show sure gets around. Large amount of railroads. A supply of rarities. Overall, weak on film quality. Needs some additional editing, for time. Create a stronger presentation.  Nice updates on the VHS. You have: the good, the bad and the ugly. A mixed bag. Make your choice.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

 

Whistler’s Western Volume 2- Penn Central

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Producer: Steve Bransfield & Phil Johnson

Timeframe: 1970s

Locations: Post Rd. NY to N. Grafton, MA

Length: 54 minutes

Source: Bruce Malone

The Boston & Albany, in Penn Central black. Whistler’s Western? Are you serious? Nonsense! Who cares. Just another route, to the Penn Central. Ignore the goofy title. If you enjoy the black diesels and a green caboose. Hop aboard!

Filmed in full color. Unrestored, but looks fine. Balanced presentation. Nothing weird. Just do not expect modern, crystal clarity.

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Imagery ranges around very good overall. Variable, with the sometimes grainy and murky backgrounds. Can be focus issues.

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Audio is dubbed. Some scenes work better than others. Levels are even.

No Chapter Menu is included.

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Ted Daluku is the reliable narrator. Clear and professional. Fine job!

In the above scene. Action at Chester. Check all that power. Power balance move.

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A good script. This time, a little thin on some details. They mention to assume, the viewer has digested the information from the first volume. (3263 is a GP40)

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A rudimentary map early on. Once, and a minimal effort. Location references are verbal throughout.

Starting point is Western end of the B&A line. It is at Post Road Crossing , New York.

Never heard of that place. Alright then…We are moving Eastbound, most of the time.

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This volume is focused on trainwatching. Nothing wrong with that. Pacing is the key.

An error or two in the script. Nearly all shows contain errors. If memory serves. This scene called for ,”An all GE lineup”. Not critical. In fact, if the viewer should yawn, fart or sip a beverage. They miss the mistake. Carry on!

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The action is tightly constructed. Quickly, moving from one train, onto the following one. Cinematography is excellent, by Bruce Malone!

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The Washington Cut. A deep rock cut, provides a different viewing angle. Looks like a GE U-33C in the lead.

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Penn Central freight trains roll by the camera in an endless supply.

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Big General Electrics share duties with EMD GP40 and GP38 units. PC # 2910 is a GE U33B.

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Amtrak Lake Shores Limited.

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Plenty of former New York Central cabooses, still service the line. Model railroaders will find a good supply of rolling stock.

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Interchange, with a Grand Trunk GP9, on the lead. Central Vermont train. Palmer location.

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An SW1500 also at Palmer. A branchline here. The transfer caboose was handy. Long platforms good for switching cars. They were used on many railroads. These were former New York Central. Some lasted into Conrail.

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Piggyback trains as they were called back in the day. A caboose on every one!

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Extra 8130 slows for orders. (FYI… 8130 is a GP38-2, your welcome)! Bruce Malone was a Penn Central employee.

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Train moves through the makeshift station. This is near the old Westfield Station.

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The Conductor grabs the flimsies. Maybe Bruce knew these guys. He is really close.

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Extra 6523 is shot from above, at Charleton. An Erie Lackawanna GE, is third in this lash-up.

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An easily recognizable caboose. Class N5C. A former Pennsylvania porthole window. These lasted into the Conrail years.

Sharp eyes, will find a little bit of: CR re-lettered cabooses and a boxcar. I could have shown them. Nah! You can hunt them. More fun that way.

Whistler’s Western Volume 2- Penn Central Black

This show does perform, with the constant parade of trains. Penn Central fans will enjoy it the most.

If it grabs you. You know. That’s the ticket.

Rating: 4 Stars

The Panhandle Volume One : C&N Division- Penn Central- Conrail- B&O

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Producer: Clear Block

Locations: Columbus, Newark, Ohio

Timeframe: 1970’s- 1991

Length: 60 Minutes

Sources: Paul Geiger, Bob Sherwood

Penn Central and Conrail, are the main railroads featured here. Baltimore and Ohio is also a joint trackage railroad operator, for 35 miles.

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The Panhandle, was an old nickname for what much later, was to become Penn Central territory. Between Pittsburgh, Columbus, St. Louis and Chicago.

This show covers the portion from Columbus to Newark. In depth historical information, is given via the narrative. Later series, Panhandle Volumes cover additional portions, of the involved routes.

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An older show in the Clear Block catalog. Dates back to the VHS tape era of commercial release. Unrestored and definitely showing it’s age.

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Film quality is fair overall. Plenty of scenes need color correction. Here again, a distortion bar!! This show has it at the bottom of the screen. Some Clear Block shows include these distortions.

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Although Penn Central paint dominates the program. Early Conrail patch jobs appear. As do, these former Erie Lackawanna SD45 units.

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Viewers are watching silent films, with narration and musical background. Only a 1991 update offers any live train sound. Not a badly put together show. It does have it’s share of serious flaws.

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Primitive maps, by more modern standards. Better to have, these simple maps versus nothing. They do the job.

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Bob Sherwood does the busy narration. Descriptive of nearly every scene. That encompasses a very large quantity of rather brief scenes!

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Amtrak takes a significant chunk of time. Centered around the Columbus Union Terminal. The old one is closed. This runs past it’s welcome. Feels like filler. Watching Amtrak trains back into and around the station area. Yawn…

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At this time, demolition is near or in progress, for many structures. This would be the rarity of the program.

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Some limited cab ride sequences appear. They are quick glimpses.

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Paul Geiger was a Towerman on the Penn Central. Some of those unique viewpoints are seen in this show. Tower views, yard access and wreck scene. Likely, including the locomotive cabs for those views.

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The Mail Train. In various incarnations. America’s mail once moved mostly by rail. Remember Air Mail?

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Majority of the program is trackside filmed action. ATVR tidbit… Southern Pacific units were run through power.

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B&O, C&O diesels provide additional variety. Trackage rights territory.

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Sharp eyes will observe the obvious Baltimore and Ohio architecture.

Interesting to note. Baltimore and Ohio lineside structures. Pennsylvania signals. A unique combination reflecting the dual operation of The Panhandle. See the narrative.

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A 1991 update brings the program to a close. Further demolition of the once dominant rail system is shown. Downsized to single track and double track operation. Removed yard. An interesting, if unwanted conclusion.

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This early works from Clear Block is very outdated now. It is badly in need of a remaster. As the featured railroads are available in much better quality elsewhere. It would really only be for hardcore railfans or completists.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars