The Pennsy- and More!


Producer: Steve Branfields

Timeframe: 1930s- 1960s

Locations: Pennsylvania- Ohio

Length: 47 minutes

Sources: Blackhawk, Bill Radcliff, Andy Schools

A&R Productions with a 30 year span of film. Pennsylvania Railroad. Bessemer and Lake Erie, which constitutes- the more!

Great collection of: Steam, Diesel and Electric locomotives. The all encompassing program, contains many examples of the vast Pennsy roster.

Each locomotive has a historical review, with the visual presented. Effective and compact method, to deal with a huge roster.


Dubbed audio. I cannot comment on the accuracy of every engine. The presentation works for me.


Almost a chapter menu. A show selector. Choice of: Pennsy or B&LE.

GG-1 electrics, along with it’s earlier class.


No maps or any visual references. This one moves around the state of Pennsylvania. Ends up in Ohio. Some maps would have been welcomed. Held this show back from an even higher rating.


EMD E units in Tucsan Red paint.


House annoucer Ted Daluku performs his usual, professional narrative. An equally, pro written script, makes this one of those traditional, good shows. A&R does it this time out!


A variety of film sources, lead to the variable qualities seen. Majority is good  to very good. A few down to fair, in earliest scenes. The 1930s, so it improves along with the timeline.


Black and white at the beginning. Movement towards color film usage, as time marches on.


Obvious preponderance of color in the later years. Quality remains variable. Check that GP30, with the Pennsy trainphone antenna!

The one constant is a horizontal distortion bar along the bottom of the screen. Look at the screenshots.


Pennsylvania was a true innovator. Their duplex steam designs had mixed results. Nobody would argue the aesthics were unique!


Pennsy steamers looked… The Business!


High steppin’ T-1 power. Fast, powerful and slippery. Pulled early from service.


Steam era to later years…


Horseshoe Curve. The classic hotspot, in any era!


New fangled diesels, proved worthy over the tough Allegheny grades.


TrucTrain was the PRR answer to early intermodal service. Yes, you will see some piggyback train consists.


Passenger trains were often heavy on mail cars. These were often the revenue makers. Before the US Mail contracts were discontinued. Check that Alco PA!


Cabin cars, as a caboose was termed. Those funny looking Trainphone attenana were essential for mountainous communications. They were singular to Pennsylvania.


Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad. Now, that is a line that you don’t often see on a train video! A bonus feature that fits perfectly!

Geographically and in chronological fashion. Heavy coal hauler, that had limited passenger service.


Pennsy – and More! The Standard Railroad of the World.

A daunting task to cover this railroad. Sheer volume of the locomotive roster. Multiply by 30 years. Again three eras. Steam. Steam to Diesel. Diesel. Do not forget Electrics.

A&R really did an excellent job here! Well organized. Decent soundtrack. Fine film collection. Good narration. All in a program that is suitable for the entire family.

As diverse as Pennsylvania Railroad actually was in equipment. Besides the daily challenge of operating over mountainous territory. A microcosm of United States railroad history, is present within this program.

A solid out of the box experience, from the house at A&R Productions. Comprehensive and succinct!

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars



Big Boy Combo DVD Part 1


Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1950s

Locations: Cheyenne, Sherman Hill

Length: 1 hour 23 minutes

Source: Union Pacific, Pentrex

What we have here. Is an original, vintage Union Pacific program, on Big Boy steam locomotives. A second show. Pentrex made, about the UP Cheyenne Shops. These are paired on a single DVD. Special Collectors’ Edition.


The Last of the Giants. The original and definitive show, on Big Boy locomotives. Union Pacific produced this program. Hours of film. The 23 minute show is a classic!


Last of the Giants Volume 2: The Cheyenne Shops. Culled from hours of original film from that old production. Interviews added to augment the Big Boy story.


A detailed Chapter menu makes life easy.

Pentrex production excellence. No worries.

Broadcast style narrative. Great script.


The largest steam locomotive in the world! Engineer has seniority too!

Holler up some instructions. Let’s get things on the move… The BIG BOY is here!


ALCO 4-8-8-4. Over one million pounds.


Modern UP steam guru Steve Lee adds a wealth, of background knowledge. As do some former Cheyenne shop force employees.


The time flies as the story is told. Surprising, how much old film exists in the vault. Not only of the Big Boys. Challengers, Turbines and whatever else was nearby at the time of the shoot.


A 48 stall roundhouse with large support facilities. Thousands of employees needed to keep the steam fleet operational. Learn all about, what it took to keep things running.


The interior views of the shops are astounding! Those small glimpses that you may have seen. Are complete, and discussed in a fully coherent chapter form.


That original steam service facility. Had some heavy equipment, to rival anyone. Serious business, for a single railroad.


Listen carefully to the workforce employed by Cheyenne. A complicated machine. Experts required to maintain.


Women remained employed by the railroad after World War 2.


After viewing this program. One can understand the order placements for diesel power. Doesn’t mean that one has to like it.


#4013 is ready to roll… Diesels…Bah! Not now. The advantage of a film collection!


Absolutely, a fascinating steam engine to see in operation or learn about.


Ultra clean clean film presentation by Pentrex.  Perhaps, not the neighborhood laundry in 1956!


Big Boys put on an awesome display!

Big Boy Last of the Giants combo DVD.

A great pair of Union Pacific steam locomotive shows, to add to anyone’s collection!

Rating: 5 Stars

SP’s Geeps and Cadillacs


Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1994

Locations: Fresno Line, Ione Branch, Stockton

Length: 53 minutes

The GP9e, SD7e and SD9e locomotives.  These Southern Pacific rebuilds, were making their last stand, in local rail service in 1994.

In this show, they are viewed in an agricultural region of central California. Bakersfield to Sacramento.

If you are asking about the odd title. ‘Geeps and Cadillacs’. Here is some background info.


Geeps were a nickname for early GP7 and GP9 diesels. Cadillac was a moniker used by Southern Pacific crews for SD7 and SD9 locomotives. In the old days, the long wheelbase units were smooth riders, like a Cadillac automobile.


In fact, the term Geep was used in the post World War 2 era. GP stood for General Purpose locomotive, as used by Electromotive. Supposedly, the comparison was to the utilitarian characteristics of the US Army Jeeps. GP7 and GP9 models were the all purpose diesels of the 1950’s.


Years ago, it was a stretch to call the newer GP30 and GP35’s a Geep.  As time passed, the term was used even more loosely. A 1970’s turbocharged GP40-2, really isn’t a Geep in the same way.

Seems as if any EMD with 4 axle trucks ended up, being called a Geep.

Perhaps, this transition of the nickname illustrates the nature of the original General Purpose designation.


A Geep will do everything on the railroad. By the way, the majority this discussion is not present, in the script. Interesting background though, isn’t it?

Have a VHS tape of this show from years ago.

Let’s checkout the DVD version. I have read, that Pentrex carefully upgrades and transfers their shows to the DVD format. A time consuming process. In fact, a rather large number of Pentrex shows have yet to be released on a DVD.


Major upgrade on the DVD picture quality! Audio sounds great, as well. It is a remaster, after watching the disc.

A detailed Chapter Menu is a welcome addition to now have included.


Some on-screen graphics denote: trains, locomotives and locations. Two maps.


Narration is the usual pro quality that we expect from Pentrex. The narrative will keep us current and informed, of every train in the scenes. Natural audio sounds are the main background. Camerawork and audio is fine overall.


Southern Pacific was still utilizing these 40 year old EMD locomotives in the 1990’s. The rebuilt GP9, SD7 and SD9 models were operating in Central California. While many other roads rebuilds had their noses chopped, SP units retained the high hoods.


Stockton Yard offers our best chance for close up looks at SD7/9 diesels. A GP9 is still in SP Kodachrome. The paint was for the failed SPSF merger.


A pair of good looking GP9E locos haul The Turlock local out of Stockton Yard.

The Lodi local gets featured as it performs switching at Lodi, with a pair of GP9E diesels.


There is a great segment of SP street running in the downtown area. Other through trains behind GP9 and SD7/9 lash-ups are interspersed with the locals workday.

At Galt, the local turns onto the Ione branch. Good edits let many freight cars pass for the viewer to watch.


In Ione, there is interchange with Amador Central. A rare Baldwin S12 waits for SP to drop it’s cars. The SP train picks up a string of cars for the return to Galt.


A cab ride in the lead GP9E 3742 is our way back to the mainline at Galt. It would have been good to hear some commentary from the Engineer. We do spend time watching him work the controls and drive the train. His silence feels odd. Back to exteriors and end of program. The Lodi local occupies a large portion of this show. Maybe a bit too much.


Based on the title, I was expecting equal coverage of the SD ‘Cadillacs’. Those SD7/9 units, are seen in the lash-ups, on the mainline freights. Expected more focus.

SP’s Geeps and Cadillacs. Vintage Workhorses. A final visit to Southern Pacific’s title fleet. Delivers as advertised. The local overstays at the party. Otherwise, the presentation is fine.

A nice upgrade on the DVD!

Rating: 4 Stars


Conrail Hot Spots West

Conrail West Cover.indd

Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1996

Locations: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio

Length: 2 hours

Source: Pentrex

Hotspots are where high concentrations of trains can be viewed. Sometimes, a busy section of a mainline.

They are often, trackage crossings. Multiplying opportunities to see trains. Intersecting lines that offer increased variety.

It doesn’t take a mathematician, to realize the benefits for railfans at such locations!


This show covers: Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Eighteen hotspots are visited.

All the screenshots are not exactly matched to the review progression. The realities of a coherent article and illustrative flow.

Pentrex in house productions maintain high standards of excellence. Everything done correctly. One of the few reliable producers. Frequently, a matter of the subject chosen. Quality is usually a given.


The unburned fuel is putting on an awesome display, on this General Electric unit!


Maps are in an abundant supply! Notice, how this enables a smooth flow to the procedings.

A professionally written script. Again, works to keep the program casually rolling along. Balanced with ambient sounds.


David Drui is the ever present narrator. Broadcast grade announcer. On many of their older releases. That guy!


Ashtabula, Ohio is the jumping off point. Notice there are additional tracks to provide access to the opposing rails. Just the beginning…

ATVR Bonus..Who pays for the Crossing trackage installation? A. Original Railroad. B. Newer Railroad.


Answer. B. The newer line is responsible.

The northern Conrail line is featured first. Running compass, East to West. Let’s look at some on the Chicago line first.


Toledo has a Vickers hot spot. Conrail has plenty of action here. CSX is a main crossover partner. Union Pacific, Chicago & North Western, Grand Trunk with CN and CV units all pass through.


Indiana has Elkhart, with a CR freight yard. Jake’s Restaurant for railfans. A New York Central museum. Complete with a steam engine on display.


South Bend offers up freight trains. Transporting cargo or empties, to the massive Chicago classification yards. Clearing Yard and Proviso Yard, for example.


The above Chicago & North Western SD 40-2,Operation Lifesaver diesel, is doing that task. On it’s path to Proviso Yard, with a mixed freight.


Hammond is the end of the Chicago line, for this hot spot West tour. Heavy traffic, as one would expect, just outside of Chicago.


Pentrex has on screen designations for many of the trains. Narrator does explain the fairly simple codes. After a time, most viewers will be able to decipher many Conrail codes.

Amtrak shown, just for variety.


Southern Conrail line next, for the remainder of the long program.


Our eastbound return begins at St Elmo, Illinois. Conclusion will be in Alliance, Ohio. Many hot spots visited on the sojourn.

vlcsnap-2019-02-12-15h44m02s092Pentrex fact. An EMD wide cab is no wider than a standard cab. It is the nose!


Effingham, features Illinois Central at the crossing. A well known spot for years. Nice passenger station there. active Amtrak stop, as well. The Illini is the Amtrak train.

This Union Pacific led train is actually another Conrail move. Looks can be deceiving in this modern era. One almost needs a scorecard to keep on top of the action. Pentrex takes care of it in this show.


Haley Tower at Terre Haute, IN. An old railroad town. The towerman was busy this morning. Plenty of Conrail and CSX trains.


Marion still must be the grandaddy of the Ohio hot spots! CSX and Norfolk Southern are still active here. The original tower and station, are still here. Yes, this place still has it going on. Although the tower is no longer in service.


Quadruple diamonds. Action all the time. What’s not to like at Marion?


Alliance, OH. is the final spot. Cleveland and Ft. Wayne lines are there.

Eighteen hot spots in this program. Pentrex had their favorite West. My pick would be Marion, Ohio. Although Elkhart ran a close second! What is your favorite Conrail West hot spot?


Conrail Hot Spots West. End to end, trains filled by, big blue and more. A great Pentrex show. This is one of those, that you will be replaying.

A fun one with: assorted locales, views and of course, the many trains. Conrail Quality.

Rating: 5 Stars

Burlington Northern E-Units

Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1990s

Location: Chicago to Aurora

Length: One hour

Source: Pentrex

Pentrex takes a grand tour of the BN Racetrack! The triple track mainline, serving Chicago. Featuring the venerable E9A locomotives. A fast paced and interesting visit, is on tap.


Professional in all aspects of production. Expert Videography is just the start. A slick edit that is intelligently cut. Really keeps what could have been a repetitive drag, into a highly engaging program.


Excellent narration by one of the best house professionals. Smoothly delivered. A finely tuned, script.

*ATVR bonus FYI. Two E9s together, are usually mechanical issues. Breakdowns, diagnostics or shakedown runs.


A chapter menu is included. As is, a simple map. This is all at is required. The BN terrirory is approximately a 30 mile westbound, straight shot exiting Union Station. Station stops. Nothing to it.


The action begins as it obviously should. At Chicago Union Station. Cavernous and dark. What a difference when the train emerges into the sunlight!


Moving outwards towards the western suburban destinations. Fine audio. As one would expect from Pentrex. Well balanced.


Eventually reaching the obvious conclusion at Aurora, Illinois.


The placement of transporting into the cabs of the E unit at random times.


BN # 9914 is the locomotive with the camera. This elevates and maintains a higher interest level of viewing.


A number of stops are visited.  Famous Brookfield Zoo is mentioned. Special architecture at the Brookfield station. No taverns are visited at any stops. Oh well… You can’t have everything.


FYI- Not mentioned in this show. A little ATVR reader bonus. Congress Park had a large trackside building, back in the 1950s. West Hinsdale once had a large, old wooden station. Burlington Route era. Seek still photos of these, for more. Also… All the various BN E units were upgraded to E9, during rebuilds.


Beautiful, Stone Avenue Station was always a personal favorite. LaGrange is the town.

They missed the LaGrange Road station. That one is located at the center of town. Similar to the other brick designs.


Highlands, in Hinsdale was another favorite station. Great architecture!


At Western Avenue. Locomotive 9907 gives a perfect view of the 1970 Cascade Green (hockey stick) paint scheme. Same firm that designed the Great Northern (Big Sky Blue) circa 1967.

Naperville is pretty far out. High growth city. That famous curve, has been previously filmed, as in the old (CB&Q) days. Not included in this show.


A few freights sneak into the show! As it should be. They appear between those dinky sets, as well.


The Engineer needs to reverse his position on the train. Take the cab controls on top of this car. Continue inbound, to traverse the BN trackage into Union Station.


Burlington Northern E-Units. An extremely well done program. Good for family viewing. Good rewatch value. A winner!

Rating: 5 Stars