A Quarter Century of Steam

A Quarter Century of Steam25

Diverging Clear Productions

Length: 4 1/2 Hours

Time Period: 1985-2010

Locations: Midwest, East, and more..

Sources: Jensen, McPherson, Redmond, Tom and Kyle Dunn

Producer: Mary McPherson

MSRP: 30.00

Where can you find 65 steam locomotives in a train video? Diverging Clear has just released a pair of DVD’s that are packed with over 4 hours of steam action. Many locomotives are found here. The usual suspects are ever present. Railfans already can guess those examples that were running during those years. Union Pacific, Nickel Plate, Norfolk & Western are the major ones. Frisco, Southern Pacific, Pere Marquette, and Southern are some others.

sr 4501Southern 4501

A small sampling of what you will see in this show . There is much more. Many locomotives no longer are in service. There is plenty of fine cinematography. Kids will love this one.

3985 Union Pacific 3985.

ssw 819bCotton Belt 819

There are rarities to be enjoyed. Viewers will see operating steam power that is no longer in service. Re-lettered locomotives such as former Canadian railroads round out the selection. Special excursions and train museums, are where the trains operate.

black hillsBlack Hills Central encounters a mother deer and doe.

A variety of sizes and classes are here. Diminutive narrow gauge. Large Northerns from UP and Milwaukee Road. Passenger power. Consolidations, Mikados and Shays. Strange looking Chinese steam, on US rails. Articulated, with UP, N&W. Saddle tanker and even a replica of an early 440 steamer.

slsf 1522Frisco 1522 in a stunning scene. Reminds one of classic Emery Gulash. Some engines, like this one are shown very often. Ditto for UP 844, UP 3985, NW 1218.


Kurt Jensen does minimal narration. Title screens offer the bulk of information. The program is better when Kurt adds more information.

grand canyonGrand Canyon

The show is arranged in chronological order. As one would expect, the quality increases over the timeline. 1985-2010. Editing is smooth. Sometimes, the lower quality is all there is of a rare scene. In that case, it’s better then nothing.


East Broad Top.

pm 1225Pere Marquette

soo 1003 2007Soo Line

mil 261This scene with Milwaukee Road 261 recalls the spirit of Lionel trains .

261A Quarter Century of Steam: 25 years. The show does contain many steam engines. It fulfills the advertised content. This reviewer does find the program overstays it’s welcome. There is too much repetition of the same engines. After awhile, the proceedings end up an excessive series of runbys. Seems that an hour or more would have served better. if presented as a separate bonus section.

gtw ocOhio Central has a restored Grand Trunk Western and more.

cn 89 strasburgCanadian National 89 is one of several steam engines seen at Strasburg, Pennsylvania.

There are 2 identities of DCP. There is the ‘new and improved’, with tight editing and sharper scripts. There is also the earlier incarnation. That has endless footage and simple narrative. This show falls into the early style.


It is geared as a basic ‘Best of DCP Steam’. That all being said, this is worthy for the assortment and the rarities. If those are appealing, jump on it!

Rating: 3 Stars


Rio Grande Odyssey

Rio Grande OdysseyRGO

Green Frog Productions

Length: 2 1/2 Hours

Time Period: 1960’s to 1980’s

Locations: Denver, Moffat Tunnel, Royal Tunnel, Tennessee Pass, Leadville, Soldier Summit

Source: Emery Gulash

MSRP: 39.95

2014 Updated..

The Denver & Rio Grande Western in the Rocky Mountains. A healthy dose of steam operations on the Rio Grande narrow gauge is here. Speaking of steam, a standard gauge Burlington Route 2-8-0 is shown, working at Leadville.

cal zephyrA balanced presentation of, freight and passenger trains. Fascinating viewing.

Natural, scenic beauty is often the setting, for this train video. Emery Gulash made multiple visits there. His 16mm color film camera recorded the action. At 2 1/2 hours, there is good coverage of the Rio Grande. The 2 DVD’s are a worthwhile upgrade over the old vhs format. Chapter menu. Stereo sound. Train sounds by Emery . Fine, basic narrative by Bob Carrera.

2We begin in May 1964. The Wasatch mountains have F7A/B and GP9 locos. The F unit mid-train helpers were a surprise to Emery. Soldier Summit is a showcase for the weathered, covered wagons. This is mountain railroading! Great scenery, and over to Castle Gate. Denver Union Station is featured with the CB&Q, UP and DRGW trains.

5102 tt                                      DRGW 5102 rides the turntable at Alamosa.

antonitoIn May 1960, the dual gauge operation is shown and continued in 1964, at Alamosa and Antonito. Intriguing segment to say the least.

Matched sets of GP30,GP35, SD7, F7 units make for interesting viewing. The California Zephyr is frequently included.

rgz moffat 72The 2nd half is at Moffat Tunnel in 1972. Grand Jct. is a busy division point.

tippleA limestone operation is a highlight visit. Two GP- 30 locomotives are busy at work.


leadville                               Burlington Northern / Colorado & Southern action.

bridge                                            Wide variety of cabooses are seen.

dusk                                 Emery was great at mood shots. Dusk falls at Helper.

tennessee pass 2                              Mid-train helpers at Tennessee Pass. Much more….

cabGreen Frog has another excellent entry in their Odyssey series. This set is fantastic!

Rating  5 stars

WP Vintage West

WP Vintage Westcvr

Charles Smiley Presents

Length: 90 minutes

Time Period:1950’s- 1980’s

Locations: Systemwide and more

Sources: 18 includes: Gary McClain, John Illman.

MSRP: 29.50

The history of Western Pacific is covered in depth. There is a plethora of additional subjects, connecting roads, shortlines and Oro Dam construction. Sacramento Northern and Key System are part of the story. Rio Grande has a large chunk as well. For those who want to delve into a historical Western Pacific program, this is your ticket.

high line locosUtilizing 18 different film sources could be a challenge. Digital restoration has everything looking nice. Mostly appears to be 8mm color film. Cameramen are generally excellent. Steam, early diesel, traction continues into Perlman Green.

3519 rainAudio has a high percentage of varied musical background on this show. The variety of music is interesting. Less train sounds then some other CSP shows. This release is more of a PBS style program.

high lineCustom maps and on screen graphics are frequently used. Here, the High Line is introduced.

Charles conveys a wealth of information. As subjects, stories and locations change, the WP sometimes gets lost. The deviations can get long. This takes away from some of the punch.

fExtensive coverage of the California Zephyr is here. Burlington Route and Rio Grande also have plenty of time for their parts of this famous train. The show within the show in 2 chapters.

ride         Ride the California Zephyr on Western Pacific and Rio Grande- classic style!

drgw 5721Rio Grande is looked at in detail. Quite a bit of time is on Rio Grande. Fans of that railroad will enjoy the amount of: history, locations and more. Another show within the show.

oroOro Valley Dam construction is a key point of that area’s history. Plenty of that too.

711                                       GP7 is performing some street running.

ftEarly diesels. These FT units are part of the original wave that replaced steam engines.

keddie rainAt Keddie and in the rain. The rear facing GE U-23B, is part of a scene that is good for model railroaders, Note the 1968 or 69 Chevy Camaro SS. Old water tower and more.

4241The Burlington Northern provided run through power. These rare Alco locomotives and tons of BN freight cars display the solid relationship of WP and BN.

boxcars keddie wye                Plenty of classic rolling stock on freights. You can’t beat the scenery either.

3519Four axle power was used by WP. The GP40 and GP40-2 models were favored. The last third of the program covers 1960- 1980. Great chapter.

cab 427

Charles has two other Western Pacific programs available. Western Pacific Remembered was released in 2012. That one is my favorite of the trio. Western Pacific- The Last Decade is the other. All of these are reviewed here.

caboose                                         Greenway, Calirornia. The High Line.

WP Vintage West is a fine program. This one is rather quiet and feels a little flat compared to the 2012 show. All of the extra coverage of associated railroads is excellent. That does go pretty far off the Western Pacific story. A quality show, but not in my top rank for CSP.

Western Pacific is one of those railroads that are hard to find on film. This one is geared towards the history of this road and those other subjects. A must have for those so inclined.

Rating: 4 Stars

Little Mikes In The Big Country

Little Mikes In The Big CountryLittle Mikes In The Big Country

Diverging Clear Productions

Length: 72 minutes and bonus

Time Period: 2012

Locations: Chama, Cumbres, Los Pinos, Lobato Trestle, Windy Point

Source: Kurt Jensen

MSRP: 20.00

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is a narrow gauge line that is known worldwide. This operation had been covered for years by railfan photographers. The line was built by DRGW in 1880. Abandoned by Rio Grande in 1969. Cumbres and Toltec operation since 1970. Diverging Clear has their modern take on the road with this 2013 release.

487                    Cumbres and Toltec 487 has the shrillest whistle of the three.

Three K36 class 2-8-2 Mikados lead trains up and down the mainly southern portion of line. Baldwin built in 1925. These former Rio Grande locomotives were some of the last steam used in American revenue freight service. Much of the original equipment and many structures survive today. A few minutes of old film open the show. Watch for a black and white that turns to color scene. Our producer having fun!

1LovtrestleModern camera gear has sharp picture quality. Trains are the focus of this wide screen show.

windypoint                                                               Windy Point.

Basic narration seems to be the standard, on these tourist and museum visits by Diverging Clear. Location based information is delivered in a minimalist format. Kurt Jensen has credit for the cinematography and narration. He does a fine job with both, on the main feature.

summit488                       Engine 488 at the summit. Tall pines dwarf the diminutive train.

1aComposition and various viewpoints do capture the action nicely. Scenery is as much a part of the program as the trains. Good balance and the majority is very smooth to watch.

1cAudio has long stretches of hearing the locomotive work, as it traverses the terrain. Some of this is extended trainwatching is really quite charming.

488                                                     488 offers a closer view.

chama 1                     Chama is the home of C&T. Engine 484 passes the coaling tower.

488aK-36 class were some of the larger narrow gauge steamers on the Rio Grande.

cumbres                                                                         Cumbres

By the time we are following the third train, the format does get repetitive. This may have been a good time to ramp up the narrative. There is so much history on the line.

A bonus chapter of Riding the Cumbres and Toltec, is included as a second section. Producer Mary McPherson now likes to offer this type of footage for those who want the opportunity to see it. Mary is a real world Amtrak conductor. She loves trains and films them, as well. Although her intentions are well meaning, the results are not of compatible quality.

bonus2This screenshot is shown to convey the headache of travel to Antonito aboard this train…. The camera is shaking almost constantly. The rest isn’t this severe. Get the feeling?

Her desire to present everything, is also the downfall of shows like this one. The camera shakes so badly, this material is unwatchable. A painful, amateur 34 minutes. Spare me!

Extras such as: maps, timetables or interviews can also enhance the programs. None.

2In summary. The main program looks great overall. Overstays it’s welcome with repetition. Narrative could have used additional historical background. A well filmed and pretty solid show.  Viewers do get an excellent visual visit from 2012 season. Good.

The Second section is among the shakiest footage on a commercial release. This belongs on the cutting room floor. Fortunately, the menu gives the option to opt out . Rubbish.

Recommended for the main program only. That first section is worth your time.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

Soldier Summit Reflections

Soldier Summit ReflectionsD-116

Charles Smiley Presents

Length: 90 minutes

Time Period: 1970’s – 2000

Locations: Soldier Summit, Castle Gate, Martin,

Sources: Bo Golson, Steve Rosconi, Lou Mandeville, Bob Morris, Gino & Vince Pagliaro, Charles Smiley

MSRP: 29.50

Charles Smiley covers Denver & Rio Grande Western trackage from Price to Provo, Utah. A distance of 82 miles. Scenic mountain terrain. There are always many extras on his shows. Extensive coverage of Utah Railway, that includes vintage Alco power at work. Even more, with Rio Grande branchlines. A look at the Rio Grande Zephyr. Denver to Salt Lake City Memorable DRGW locomotive helpers are also covered.

Fast paced and loaded with train action. This program visits numerous locations in Utah. Tehachapi Loop, Los Angeles, and Tennessee Pass are a few other places.

drgw 5365Rio Grande SD40T-2 pair at Helper, Utah in January, 2000. Tunnel motors were real workhorses on DRGW and Southern Pacific.

kcoaf 94Kansas City to Oakland Forwarder. Primarily a coal program, there are some through freight trains.

up6843 ac4400 pleasant valley line

Locomotives are a centerpiece, with Rio Grande as the main attraction. Southern Pacific and some Union Pacific appear. Foreign roads include BNSF, CSX and Norfolk Southern. A handful of assorted vintage cameos are woven into the story.

bnsf                                           BNSF exercising trackage rights in Utah.

Fascinating narration is a hallmark of Charles Smiley. Audiences will find a wealth of: historical and contemporary information. Operations of railroads and the industries they serve add to the educational nature of the programs. Coal is the major commodity here.

castle gateThe best view of Castle Gate, and clearly a great choice for this formation. Resembles something akin to Lord of the Rings. Footage of coal loading here, is a must see.

The combination of vintage 8mm film, and modern video provides a fine basis for the show. Image quality on the video is excellent. Film sources are good to very good. Still photographs have additional viewpoints. Environmental audio, lets viewers hear the diesels operate. Smooth editing, which eases scene transitions. Professional edits are one of the little things that go nearly unnoticed, when done correctly.

mapCustom made maps are used to orient viewers. They are more elaborate on his more recent shows. Frequent looks at the maps are a big plus. Branchlines are covered with greater detail. Thistle is now a ghost town.

utah 9001

utah rsd15 hill

Utah Railway has extensive coverage. Vintage and contemporary scenes that display older Alco power along with 2nd generation EMD locos. SD40 types dominate the roster. GP38, SD35 and an ex: SF F45 are seen. Martin has the headquarters and main shop facilities. Provo is another key location. GE AC4400 units operate on lease as well.

castle gate loaderCoal loading facilities are visited. One has the inside perspective from the control room. This one is at Castle Gate. Plentiful supply of shots, that capture the scope of a modern mine facility. Informative discussions that explain loading process.twin tunnels                                       Rio Grande helpers on a light engine move.

utah mid train helpersAwesome, mid- train helper sets are needed to move the heavy trains.

rgz pace2Rio Grande Zephyr on a pace sequence. An onboard camera has interior and out of the window shots.

caboose thistle utahThistle, Utah was a town destroyed after a major landslide.

Soldier Summit Reflections has a fine overview of railroad operations. Plenty of variety and attention to detail, will keep viewers happy. Model railroaders can benefit from the coal loading features. Naturally, the Wasatch Mountains add character. Railfans can see an intriguing mix of  locomotives.

Charles Smiley has combined many elements, to create a professional railroad video show.

Rating: 5 Stars