The Alaska Railroad

Alaska Cover.indd

Producer: Pentrex

Locations: Anchorage, Denali Park, Fairbanks, Whittier

Timeframe: 1984

Length: 90 minutes

A visit to the Alaska Railroad in 1984. Vintage F units were still operating. Chase or ride, several featured trains. Briefly see some other operations. Not a classic Pentrex structured program.

A detailed Chapter Menu is included. One basic map. No extra graphics. Bare bones.

Natural audio is the dominate soundtrack.


Tour begins with an F unit can ride. The journey kicks off at Fairbanks. It is a ten hour trip to destination at Anchorage. This is a passenger train.


Takes about a half hour to arrive. Basically, a non narrated trip. Unexciting for sure.


The best scenic view from a bridge.


Gravel trains are the next subject. Dave Drui brings his familiar voice. Unit trains are the deal. Hey, the narrative is very minimal.


Some nice pace sequences.


Earlier, a brief shop tour.


A State Fair passenger train is next. Again, almost non existent narration.


Whittier shuttle is the train that hauls autos and passengers.


Visually, this show is fine. Alaska Railroad beckons for more in depth discussion.


Ride in the back of a pickup truck on this train, to Whittier. Again, light on information.


A barge operation transfers freight cars. This enables movements to the lower 48 states. See this in close-up.


Check the ferry boat!


A special Cruise ship train. Whittier at 6am. The passengers are hauled out. Porter to Anchorage. Another cab ride.


Tacked on as the final chapter. A random collection of freight trains.


The Alaska Railroad covers a beautiful area. It is one that many may never visit. Hence, a narrative would be highly desirable. This was a big letdown. Other shows do this much better.

A quiet and somewhat, sleepy presentation.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars



The Best of Soo Volume 2


Producer: CVP

Timeframe: 1986- 89

Locations: Minneapolis

Length:100 minutes

Source: Bob Rivard

This Second volume continues with the Milwaukee Road merger. Raises the interest level, with a greater assortment  of equipment. Videography has also improved over the course of time.

Visual quality is markedly improved versus volume one. Picture is in the very good range,overall. A good transfer to the DVD format.


Audio is enviornmental, plus radio chatter. The scanner traffic explains several situations!


On-screen graphics denote: dates, locations and pertinent information. Everything ties together.


There is a pic only Chapter Menu. No maps. I would have preferred some maps. Not knowing; Shoreham Hill from Humboldt Yard etc…


The Milwaukee Road power is still merger fresh at the beginning. Factory paint in the lash-ups. Later, the bandit paint begins to appear.


Chicago and Northwestern locomotives make a few appearances. As does, Burlington Northern.


Clean GP30 units are easy to find at first.


Surprisingly, some GP7/9 units are still in service. Although, zero F units are seen.


Much of this show was shot in winter.


The pairing of the merger roads becomes more frequent, as the years pass. Milwaukee bandits replace the factory paint.


Pushers are commonplace on Shoreham Hill. Soo Line 2126 received an emergency radio call. To hustle over, and shove on a stalled freight. A boxcar in tow, the 2126 renders assistance.


See a grounded Soo caboose #85  get rerailed.


At first glance, this appears to be a solid Milwaukee Road lash-ups. Check the middle unit..


Humboldt Yard.


This program is wall to wall action! Many freight cars are viewed, as the trains roll past the camera.


Electromotive GP30 had a distinctive cab and roofline. It was all about muscle in the 1960s. The designers at EMD sure gave it the look!

vlcsnap-2019-07-09-13h38m15s868Milwaukee Road gives plenty of variety.


A Bandit shot for comparison.


Both Railroads supply their cabooses. Milwaukee Road with their Bay window models.


Hey! It’s still a Soo Line show.


Soo Line wide vision style.

The Best of Soo Vol. 2

A diverse locomotive fleet is the key to an enhanced Soo Line volume. Volume 2 is improved in every area. It is a fast moving show. The lack of a formal narrative, keeps it in the realm of Railfans, and Model Railroaders.

Quite an enjoyable look, at vintage Soo/ Milwaukee trains around Minneapolis. Hands down, the best of the two volumes!

Rating: 4 Stars



Heritage Unit Roundup


Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe 2015

Locations: SoCal, Chicago, Yuma sub

Length: 1 hour 54 minutes

Pentrex dives into the somewhat boring modern locomotive railroad scene. They seek out those specially painted Heritage units.

These engines were schemes to commererate previous paint jobs or general railroads, as aqquisitions.

Let’s checkout some show highlights.


As I have little interest in modern railroading. Only what is shown within this show, shall be reviewed. I really do not care what is missing.


A detailed Chapter Menu highlights the individual UP units, plus a Norfolk Southern general listing.

Dependable Pentrex quality is assured.

Narrative includes some history on predecessor roads.


Notable locations include: Cajon Pass, Beaumont Hill, Colton, Yuma and more..


Amtrak has several units, that cover various phases. This scene from Chicago has a Phase One paint scheme.


UP 1982 is a tribute to Missouri Pacific.


UP 1983 is Western Pacific. The WP is a long chapter.Numbering is approximate merger years, more or less.


UP 1988. The red Katy is a sharp looking one!


UP 1989 wears the Rio Grande.


UP 1995 in Chicago and Northwestern.


UP 1996 is heavily featured.


Why not? The Southern Pacific. One of the most attractive of the group.

Norfolk Southern visitors…


Savanna and Atlanta, leads on an inbound and outbound move. Many leading Heritage units get paced.


A Virginian is buried in a lash-up.


Pennsylvania is a vintage, eye popper! Nicely paced…


The double stacks are what these newer locomotives are usually hauling. Endless long trains of container traffic. Yawn.

Heritage Unit Roundup. Pick your favorites. Argue what’s missing. Seems that Pentrex could have included more Eastern. Fine show of these modern diesels. Not my wheelhouse. Perhaps it is yours.

Rating: 4 Stars


Union Pacific Classic Collectors Series


Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1950s

Locations: Cheyenne, Sherman Hill line, Laramie, Green River, more…

Length: 90 minutes

Source: Video Rails

Pentrex has three former Video Rails shows on a single DVD. Hence, The Collection. All vintage Union Pacific Steam. Each feature is thirty minutes.

A master Chapter Menu allows access to the individual shows. Detailed menu on the shows. Narration by Michael Berger.


Film and sound credits, contain notable names. All the elements are top shelf.

Big Boys


An entertaining half an hour. Full color, high quality film. Informative script, that begins with the development of these locomotives.


Big Blow UP exclusive Turbines were sometimes the assistance.


A single F3A is almost comical in appearance, as a front end helper.


Big Boys could also simply help themselves!


Winter of 1956 is the final chapter.



Early history leads off with the growing need for larger locomotives. Wahsatch grades required ever powerful engines.


The year 1936, saw the initial delivery of 15 new Challenger class. A second order included some improvements.


1942 . New 3950 to 3969 were the Heavy Challengers. Designed to work in conjunction with, the Big Boys over the Wahsatch Mountains. Last of the series.


Doubleheader with a Pacific. Both in Two- tone gray paint.


In Nebraska the 3936 operated in the snow.


Two tone grey Challengers we’re painted in Portland. Primarily assigned to passenger service. They are shown hauling freights.


Last stand, were as helpers along the Green River. In a classic and rare scene…


The Turbine is assisted by a Heavy Challenger.


This is an outstanding Challenger show! A  chase through the mountains is a highlight.




The venerable 0-6-0 switchers were in service for decades. They were stationed systemwide at Union Pacific yards.


The 1243 is briefly seen in operation. Various UP steam engines are covered.


Former passenger engine Pacific’s were downgraded, until winding out their careers in freight duty.


In 1958, at the Grand Island, Nebraska roundhouse. UP #428 is one of only 2 active steamers there. The Consolidations were used in branchlines service in later years.


Mikado 282 . 1924 is one of the oldest operating in the Wahsatch.


Northern’s. FEF class. 4-8-4. North Platte.

vlcsnap-2019-06-22-14h06m58s603Now in twilight, 833 is now a beater!



A Challenger and Northern 839, are about to depart.


Union Pacific put on a glorious steam show.

Here is a great collection of classic Union Pacific steam programs. Anyone with an interest in steam era railroading should find this an enjoyable look at the Union Pacific steam in the 1950s.

Rating: 5 Stars


The Best of Soo, Volume 1



Timeframe: 1979- 1985

Locations: Minnesota

Length: 100 minutes

Source: Bob Rivard

A show featuring Soo Line in and around the Twin Cities area. Bob Rivard’s original VHS tapes span years.

There is a detailed Chapter Menu. On-screen graphics provide all information. No narrative.


The action is highly enjoyable! The video quality shows it’s age. Majority of the video has a greenish cast. It is generally around the edges. Variable.


The audio is all live microphone. No narrative. On screen graphics provide: locations, dates and train designations. Additional details, from time to time.

There are the standard offenders. Wind noise and loud auto traffic sometimes.


The train sounds are excellent! A couple of standouts. F unit horns. The sound of GP7/ 9 quartets running wide open.


Experienced railfans will enjoy hearing these GP30 locomotives windup before departure!


The odd Alco diesel appears.


Some interline railroads are shown. Rock Island with an intriguing GP38 and possible GP7.


Scenes from various locations and years.


A couple of shoots with these SD60 demos.


Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern switchers are viewed in yard and pushed service.


Bob shoots in his own style. Close to the action. Some camera shake. Brings the viewer right into the scene.

Squawk box has radio traffic which add color to certain scenes. This is towards the end.


This show is a raunchy one! Off the chain. Color balance hangs by a thread. Audio levels need help at times. Usually, the liveliness adds drama to the visuals.


All in all, this is a somewhat wild ride. Technical issues hold down the stars. If the old Soo Line gets your interest. There are two volumes.

The video quality drags the rating down. Hardcore fans will still appreciate the rare action of the early Soo Line power.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars