Rock Island: The Rockets Defy Discontinuance

 cvrRock Island: The Rockets Defy Discontinuance

Green Frog Productions

Length: 63 minutes

Time Period: 1970’s

Locations: Chicago area, Bureau Jct. and more.

Source: Roger M. Koenig

MSRP:29.95

The Rock Island passenger trains of the 1970’s are the story. American railroad passenger service had peaked during the 1950’s. Air travel, automobiles and the interstate highway system, had changed the way we traveled. Consolidation to Amtrak was the national solution to ever declining ridership on the rails.

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Rock Island chose to continue operating their passenger trains. Named trains such as The Quad Cities Rocket, still served from Chicago LaSalle Street Station. That structure’s deterioration had mirrored the state of the railroad. Both well past their prime.

peorian end                       The Peorian was down to 2 cars, just prior to discontinuance.

Roger Koenig filmed much of the Rock Island. Using Super 8mm color, with sound he recorded the final years of those trains. The collection of his films is focused on those last Rockets and local Rock commuter service in Chicago area. Metra takes over the locals.

quad cities 78                                                     Quad Cities Rocket in 1978.

These recent Green Frog releases offer on/off narration. Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound. Chapter search function that allows easy access to favorite scenes. It will play Widescreen. Nice features to have on this DVD. Green Frog has it in a sturdy, plastic case.

1977 peorianImage and these original films are problematic, on this release. Many variations in lighting within individual scenes. Other times the camera jerks around. As far as riding some passenger trains, the rough track is the culprit. Pacing scenes vary. Other shots where the composition is lacking. Overall, a noticeable percentage has camera or film issues. Looks like most of the Koenig’s best films have already appeared, in earlier volumes.

The audio is lively. The natural sound was recorded via camera microphone.

Peter Youngblood narrates a well written script. Informative concerning the happenings on the Rock Island at the time. A few times he erroneously identifies the 1920 era coaches as gray ones. Actually, they were dark green. Otherwise, the locations, trains and years are looked after consistently. The extra information about the railroad maintains interest. The actual trains do get somewhat repetitive. Such is the case, with passenger based programs.

lasalleThe first third of this show is at LaSalle Street Station. Many commuter moves behind a plethora of old and recent equipment. For those who never saw this in the era, quite a treat.

e7e8A rolling museum. The E7/ E8 locomotives with a consist of 1930’s era passenger cars on a daily commuter train in 1977. Plenty of variety at LaSalle Station. Best chapter is here.

2f40Contrast that with two new F40 engines pulling modern double deckers on the same day.

652a                                 The Bicentennial E8 leads The Quad Cities Rocket.

Bureau Jct. is the alternate main location. The openness of the country area allows better photography of the trains.

metra 112 79This cameraman did get out in all kinds of weather. Hardy Chicagoans will often brave below zero temperatures vs. staying indoors for months, waiting for a nice day. Look at all of the frozen scenes. Many move to warmer climates!

cabFreight trains make a few cameo appearances. This is a passenger train show.

Rock Island: The Rockets Defy Discontinuance. The program does exactly as advertised. See the last couple of years for Rock Island passenger service. Actual film collection is a step down from previous volumes. Looks like an assortment of outtakes. However, the professional production elevates the overall show. Good for what it is. Just a little rougher to watch. Rock fans should enjoy this. Others will find a good, if somewhat flawed show.

Rating: 3 Stars

Railfanning the Delaware and Hudson- Volume One

Railfanning the Delaware and Hudson- Volume Onecover

John Pechulis Media

Length: 72 minutes

Time Period: 1979-1981

Locations: Binghamton, Starucca Viaduct, Ninevah,Lanesboro, Mechanicville Yard..

Source: Paul Cooledge

MSRP: 29.95

Delaware and Hudson Railroad. Featured on the Susquehanna and Penn Divisions. The Conrail Southern Tier is included. March 1979 to October 1981 is the timeframe. Oneonta Yard is the home base of this show. Much action is centered from this location.

7619This was filmed on Super 8mm film, with sound. Most of the footage looks excellent. Sometimes the lighting is not the best. Colors are generally accurate. The few John Pechulis productions reviewed here all have strong film quality. His shows do excel in the visual department. Needs to raise the audio half of the equation. That would be, a good script and narrative. Also, attention to background noise management.

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As with another JPM show, this has very limited narration. A commentary credit listed proves accurate. The voiceover is only present near the beginning of the program. Just some random comments for the first 15 minutes. After that, almost non existent for the remainder. A true loss for the viewers. Safe to say, many railfans gave never been near the DH, let alone around 1980.

bxOn screen graphics are always used to denote locations. This serves adequately, much of the time. Other instances such as ‘rescue helpers’ to retrieve a stalled train call for more detail. The scenes are usually very brief. We jump from place to place. Plenty of action for certain. The hopping around feels like a bunch of endless runbys. This is where a narrative can tie scenes together, to smooth out a show.

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The operations and equipment are very engaging. DH is now using plenty of EMD GP39-2 locomotives. Age is catching up to the vintage Alco diesel fleet. There are remaining RS and some Century class still in service. They don’t seem to be first choice for road assignments.

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Former Reading and Lehigh Valley locomotives are units transferred to D&H. This was related to the formation of Conrail. D&H had received trackage and/ or trackage rights to offer competition to Conrail. None of this is discussed in this show. Glaring omissions. A single stab at a map reference proves useless.

cr3164Conrail trains are seen on the Conrail Southern Tier. D&H trains were sometimes detoured on the Conrail line.

1795Norfolk and Western has many of their locomotives on DH trains. They can lead as well as follow on the lash ups. In fact, NW cabooses are just as likely as DH ones on freights. Why all the NW equipment in use here? Again, no answers are provided.

starStarrucca Viaduct. Commentary states these engines are running around their train. To push the freight onto the Conrail track. DH helpers arrive from the Conrail main. A detour move. Not stated, but possible. This DH crew was not qualified to operate on the Conrail trackage.

bmBoston and Maine at Mechanicville Yard is visited late in the show. Interchange with DH there.

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The show really makes a case for the importance of including professional audio. Here,it is mostly the live microphone. In fairness. the chance to just listen to the old Alcos is great. Most of the time, it is standard EMD power. Very familiar and nothing special. Half heard background voices do not help. Without narration, viewers are watching edited, raw footage.

cab

In the end, it is a good collection of largely, random shots. Handful of amateur feeling scenes; of pacing and cab rides. A solid narrative would have raised the rating dramatically. Viewers are left with a bunch of unanswered questions. Recommended only for hardcore railfans. They can best live with no extra information. Everyone else will probably be a little bit confused.

The total. Good looking show with graphics for locations. Raw sound and almost zero extras. Rates a half star up for coverage of a somewhat uncommon railroad.

Rating: 3 Stars

The Golden Twilight of Postwar Steam Vol.4

The Golden Twilight of Postwar Steam Vol.4 PostwarSteam_Pt4_DVD

Green Frog Productions

Length: 51 minutes

Time Period: 1940’s- 1950

Locations: Putnam/ Harlem NYC, NYO&W

Source: Frank W. Schlegel

MSRP: 29.98

A fascinating series continues in a 4th volume. Featuring the rare New York Central Putnam Division, from the late 1940’s. The NYC Harlem Division is also included in this show. It is Ten Wheeler heaven for those so inclined. Another co-star is the New York, Ontario & Western. NYO&W contains the ultra rare content.

1234 highbridge

Frank Schlegel was the Cinematographer for this collection of films. He had good proficiency with a movie camera. Much of the footage is black and white. Some pieces are color. Quality ranges from fair, to a majority of very good. Nice composition skills. In fact, for the era, an excellent selection of viewpoints. Much more than a series of runbys. Viewers will: ride trains, front end shot scenes, rear facing and some panoramic  frames. Steam engines are the star. A handful of early diesels. Yet, there are plenty of people and structures.

east viewColor film comes later. This Ten Wheeler leads a passenger move, perhaps at East View.

Harlem Division is the mainline New York Central that we are accustomed to seeing.

What is the oldest bridge in New York City, that connects 2 boroughs? Hint, it is not the Brooklyn Bridge. See the picture below.

croton aqueductVariation is a hallmark of these films. An m.u. ride yields a terrific scene at High Bridge. Part of the old Croton Aqueduct. Completed in 1842, the system carried fresh water by gravity, over 40 miles to New York City. A walkway on the top connects the Bronx and Manhattan.

Professional production in all aspects. Full narration. Appropriate soundtrack with well balanced levels. Smooth editing and best possible picture from the old films. An extremely detailed chapter menu. Unique, is a motion map of the territory. Switchable on/off narration.

 

1238 bronx1The Bronx, New York. Even in the late 1940’s, the endless high rise apartments are imposing.

The New York Central Putnam Division no longer exists. In this program, the line gets a basic tour. Station stops and travel the trackage. A well written script is informative. The show is fast paced. A multitude of vintage scenes

mt hope1Mount Hope is a contrast to the big city. Believed to be the hometown of Mr. Schlegel. By the way, model railroaders can have a field day with the plethora of railroad structures. Check this walkover passenger bridge for example.

5456 j2 hudson putnam jctPutnam Junction appears to have been a busy facility. A J2 class Hudson trundles slowly. This 5456 was finishing it’s career on the Putnam Division.

safety bridge                                         Is this scene a time portal or what?

white plainsOver at White Plains. One never knew what power was going to show up next.

conductorAs much as railroading has changed, some jobs are timeless.

 

New York, Ontario & Western is a major rarity to see in operation. That it is a feature here, is worth the price of admission. There is even some color film too. Viewers will experience some traveling on the OW. Stations and other points of interest make this a singular trip in time to the long abandoned railroad. The ‘Old Woman’ was closed in 1957. You do the math.

405Custom streamlined by a famed designer, the 405 is a sharp looker.

455 youngs gap                    Mountain type 455, bears down with a freight at Young’s Gap.

cn tower ordersA tour of the line is great. Begins at New York Central Ferry at Manhattan. Our train stops as the conductor receives orders for operation on the NYO&W. CN tower is this location.

stationRiding the mostly single track OW line has a much different feel from the sophisticated New York Central. Even in the 40’s, this road seems to fit one of the nicknames- ‘old and weary’.

y2 mountain 1947                     A 1947 chartered excursion looks glorious in color.

ft setAs the timeline progresses, Electromotive FT diesels appear. This FT ABBA set looks stunning, compared to the all black locomotives of the steam days.

Always prefer to close a review with a caboose. In this case, 2 railroads call for a pair!

nw2 122As the end came in the diesel era for the NYO&W, It is fitting to close with a colorful scene with this NW2 switcher.

local

New York Central was a cutting edge railroad in it’s prime. At the end of the day, the NYC crews were probably just as exhausted as their NYO&W counterparts. Yes, even on the Putnam Division.

The Golden Twilight of Postwar Steam Vol.4. Green Frog has produced an outstanding steam era trip back in time. A multitude of rarities make this a must have for railfans and model railroaders. Highly recommended to all train lovers.

Rating: 5 Stars

Norfolk & Western 475 on the Strasburg Railroad

Norfolk & Western 475 on the Strasburg Railroad Norfolk & Western 475 On The Strasburg Ra il Road

Diverging Clear Productions

Length: 51 minutes + previews

Time Period: 2014

Location: Strasburg

Source: Mary McPherson

MSRP:

Norfolk & Western 475. This vintage steam engine operates in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. The Strasburg Railroad is the home for this locomotive for over 20 years. Running through the rural countryside, it is on scenery akin to the old N&W.

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Baldwin built in 1906. The 4-8-0 was the largest class on N&W when constructed. By the 1950’s, it was used on branchlines. This cab was ultimately, a poor design. It straddles the boiler and leaves very little room for the crew to operate. The architecture was discontinued.

chr1

Mary McPherson performs excellent cinematography. A high def camera captures a high level of detail. There are a couple of challenges for her. Overcast weather on the first 2 days. The engine cab is just an ugly one to shoot. There is no room for anyone.

engineerThe Engineer barely fits in his area. That out and back operation is not this engine’s intent.

fireman

That boiler and firebox stick out, like a tree trunk shoved through a garage. She keeps filming it and those shots continue not to work. Fortunately, this eventually gets abandoned, The sun comes out on the third day. Everything improves, she films the exteriors and the remainder is pleasant.

overcastKurt Jensen narrates a well written script. He is a natural for the task. Environmental audio is the balance of the soundtrack. N&W has a steam whistle which doesn’t have a good tone. Interesting , the whistle gets swapped for a real nice single note later in the show.

chrEditing is first rate. Smooth transitions. A map overlay or graphics track the 4 1/2 miles.

steamEarly morning backshop action. See the engine get serviced.

curve                                                         Classic scene.

ch1Cherry Hill Road. The train looks best when the engine is facing forward, at the head end.

6                              The Strasburg looks like one to visit.

 

cab1Just when things are getting too redundant. A call for mixed train service. Tie on a caboose. Passengers are taken to pickup a freight car. We ride the caboose. Check the speed on the return trip. Fun sequence.

cab

 

Norfolk & Western 475 on the Strasburg Railroad. A good document of a museum operation starring the 475. At 50 minutes, just the right length. The second half plays out the best here.  A decent release for those who are interested in the 475 or the Strasburg Railroad.

Rating: 3 Stars

 

A 1960’s Train Travelogue

A 1960’s Train Traveloguecvr

C Vision Productions

Length: 65 minutes

Time Period: 1960’s

Locations: Marinette, Charleston, Naperville, Ontario, Wisconsin and more..

Sources: Joe Siedl,. Lynn Longley

MSRP: 29.95

C Vision surprises us, with another new source of upper midwest vintage railroading. This cinematographer also traveled to Canada. There are some hard to find lines and locomotives. Mid 1960’s timeframe is highly desirable. Filmed in color, on Super 8mm.

soo neenahJoe Siedl is the main cinematographer for this program. He had an Argus camera. Filmed alot around Marinette, Wisconsin. CNW and SOO are prominent. Canada has a big chunk of the program. Canadian Pacific, CN and Ontario Northland. Seaboard Coast Line is a highlight. Burlington Route is another feature. A few GG1 electrics too.

1535CNW 1535 is a GP7, with a Fairbanks Morse Baby Trainmaster.

Don Grant narrates the show. Music background is used to fill the rest. There is an off switch for the music. The keyboard player is pretty good. Improved overall music versus older releases. Basic narration is good with: locomotive call-outs, locations and some more. I have added a little extra information, for my readers.

soo gp35 gp30 stevens point 2                  Soo Line GP35 with a GP30 are at Steven’s Point, Wisconsin.

Camera appears to be handheld. For the most part, it is steady. A few scenes have some shakes or possible film jumps. Nothing to worry about. Colors look good. Film looks original, unrestored. Composition is well done. Graphics for locations.

Chicago and North Western is loaded with freight and passenger trains. Many locomotive types. CNW fans should be satisfied.

 

cnw f7 4052A peshtigoCNW 4052A at Peshtigo, WI. This is not an F3. Rather, an F9AM. A rebuild from original FT series, built in 1945. The 4050 series are tricky, with some being F3 before rebuilding. I had to look it up. Otherwise, what a sweet scene!

cnw 901 rs27Here is CNW 901 in 1966. Misidentified as an Alco C425. It is a rare Alco RS27. This occurs more commonly then you may realize on many train videos. Not worth bothering, except this engine has an interesting history. Purchased new in 1962. Traded in with the other 3 RS27’s after only 4 years for C425 models. Alco leased it and sold it to Precision National. Leased to Canadian Pacific. Sold to GBW in 1976. On to WC in 1987. Minnesota Commercial in 1992. Interesting…back to the show.

cp alco fa fbCanadian Pacific Alco FA/ FB combo. It is a maroon and gray CP seen in this era.

dh17What amounts to small segments: Green Bay and Western, LS&I. Milwaukee Road and Great Northern. A cameo on Delaware and Hudson. Former Santa Fe PA17 heads The Laurentian.

 

Joe was stationed at Charleston, SC. Circa 1968. Worth the price of admission for this chapter. A hard to find supply of Seaboard Coast Line. A fine variety of vintage diesels.

scl 585 e7   SCL 565 is an E7A. Seen at Charleston station. Also, are rare E6 and common E8 units.

scl 2006Could have filled the page with cool shots of Seaboard Coast Line activity. SD45 displays flags because it is running extra.

scl  959The GP9, GP18 lash-up includes some interim looking paint schemes.

cbqA bunch of Chicago, Burlington and Quincy at Naperville, Ill. Even in the 60’s this was a known hotspot. Triple track mainline all the way into Chicago. The freights were to Clyde Yard. Passenger action is plentiful. All stainless passenger trains look great. Chinese red and gray on the freights is a bonafide classic. The GP20 on the lead, was a hot mainline locomotive in 1966!

cbq 4960At Baraboo, Wisconsin. The circus train with it’s very colorful consisit of classic circus wagons. These wagons are loaded on flatcars. The loading methods used by the circus industry, helped develop early piggyback transportation. In this scene, Burlington Route 4960. a 2-8-0 Light Mikado hauls the train.

pbxOntario Northland Polar Bear Express. Joe caught some rare ON freight as well. Must see.

soo fp7aA classic scene of the mid-1960’s. A single four axle EMD locomotive with a freight train. This Soo Line FP7 is a classic.

Lynn Longley’s bonus section at the end doesn’t match the quality of the main show. It will not be factored into the rating. A few minutes of 1950’s Milwaukee Road. Poor to fair at best.

scl 2007 rearNot much in the way of cabooses in this show. We shall close with a passing SD45 leading 4 F units from the SCL yard. The high horsepower units were strong entries in the headlong race for more power. Mixed in with this unusual lash-up of 1950’s era covered wagons. The F unit engines that defeated steam. A modern second generation model that would replace the earlier diesels. Atlantic Coast Line merged with Seaboard Air Line. All pass into history.

A 1960’s Train Travelogue. Here is a worthy assortment of circa 1966-67 railroading. The rarities make it one that railfans may need. It plays well and the nonstop action passes the time quickly. Overall, a nice release to add into a collection.

Rating: 4 Stars