Midwest Electric Rails


Producer: Charles Smiley

Timeframe: 1950 – 1962

Locations: Chicago, Milwaukee, South Bend..

Length: 1 hour 38 minutes

Sources: R. Gabriel, D. Kydd, B. Warrick, J. Swenson, J. Illman, G. Barnes, W. Whittaker

Visit the streets of Chicago, in the Streetcar era! See the Milwaukee vicinity. Ride an Electroliner, from Milwaukee to Chicago! See the South Shore operation. All of this and much more. Note  the lack of suburban sprawl, in both major cities.. Vintage vehicles, period businesses, and the people.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h34m04s975Consistent with other trolley, streetcar or electric line programs. A time machine like trip into a bygone era. This show has high quality color movie film. Appears to be 16mm for the majority. All restored films. Stunning appearance!

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h37m49s544Audio has many scenes with: trolley sounds and often, automobile traffic. Musical backgrounds that vary. Charles Smiley with the narrative. Very informative. Plenty of history. Still photos augment the discussions. A PBS style program.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h58m05s590A single factory pressed DVD. Detailed Chapter Menu. On-screen graphics. The CSP exclusive, custom made maps. All the extras!

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h20m39s755Chicago Surface Lines. A humongous system of over 1,000 miles. Intriguing period footage that contains vintage Chicago.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h26m58s535Charles goes into the various Trolley cars, but look at those street scenes! Check the Divco milk truck at left.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h38m56s179The CSL has beautiful footage of Chicago.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h31m40s233Locals know that Chicagoans love their beer! Often visible on: buildings, signs and delivery trucks. It’s fun to find some old brands.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h43m38s973Chicago, Aurora and Elgin in full color. This line seen in 1950. Ran west and is now a recreational Illinois prarie path for biking and hiking. The Forest Park station is seen. The line was closed in 1959.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h39m47s729CA&E quickly escapes the city, back in those days.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h46m48s684Milwaukee Electric, original went as far north to Green Bay, until 1948. Check that Schlitz tavern. That is interesting history, as well. Schlitz Beer having once built beautiful taverns. A quality brew, to boot! At least until the 1960s.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h51m08s029Ride through Milwaukee.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h48m43s648West Junction, this is open country.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-11h56m35s271East Troy with a box motor. Survives at Illinois Railway Museum, in Union, Illinois.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-12h00m40s464Chicago, South Shore and South Bend.  They had 80 seat coaches. 803 is a Little Joe and exists today at Illinois Railway Museum. Other freight motors were on the roster.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-12h11m33s786The South Shore is visited from: South Bend to Chicago. The Illinois Central yards are viewed. This ICRR equipment is included.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-12h14m12s722Rock Island commuter trains serving LaSalle Street Station make for a surprise Chapter. Action in the 1960s and ’70s.

Even more Union Station and a little Amtrak film, from the 1970s. Burlington Northern mainly. Gulf,Mobile and Ohio with The Plug!

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-12h27m40s985lIlinois Terminal had Interurban service.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-13h10m17s957North Shore. The last electric line featured. This one ran North to Milwaukee. Here are the well known, Electroliners. Footage from 1962 in Milwaukee. One year prior to abandon.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-12h49m09s866The highlight of this show. Ride the North Shore Electroliner to Chicago! The sights are pointed out by Charles.

vlcsnap-2019-12-22-12h01m12s862Electric Rails is right at the top of the Charles Smiley Presents shows, on Streetcars. The plethora of clear movie film, gives this one an advantage. Riding the Electroliner, gives a viewer a more complete experience. While, one can’t go wrong with his Los Angeles or Bay Area shows. This Electric Rails of mainly Chicago… rules.

Rating: 5 Stars



Classic Steam of the ’20s to the ’40s


Producer: Green Frog

Timeframe: 1920s-1940s

Locations: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Chicago, Kansas City, more.

Length: 1 hour

Sources: Frank W. Schlegel, Vince Ryan, Jack Alexander

A smorgasbord of films. Spanning 4 decades. Some rare and not so rare, steam locomotives. A Collection of: black and white, plus a little color film. Eastern Railroads mainly. Everything is worthwhile.


See: Delaware and Hudson, New York Central, Lackawanna, Central of New Jersey and Frisco (above). Also, Pennsylvania  Erie, Wabash, Rahway Valley, B&O, and much more. Steam, Electric and several early diesels.


Frog DVD-R. Nothing extra. Plays straight through. The Milwaukee Road Hiawatha. Nice runby…in Milwaukee!

The show is narrated by Dan Chandler.  Script is good. Fine work on the dubbed trains.


Camerawork varies by source. As does the visual quality. Majority is fine. About what an experienced Railfan would expect, from a wide ranging assortment. Good on the big screen.


There is way too much to cover the whole show. Highlights of this fine program. New York Central, Empire Star Express. Two steam pushers on the rear. The show’s gem!


Reading Crusader at Dunellen, New Jersey.


Camelback is a strange looking steam engine. It hauls a fantrip out on to the Long Branch.


Turns around, the yard in Bay Head Jct. A joint CNJ and PRR. So, Pennsylvania power is there with K4s. Compare the access the people had, in those days. More PRR is seen, in their home state.


A 1936 fantrip over the former, Ulster and Delaware. This one required a double header with a pusher, and ran two sections!  The New York Central ten wheelers were added to the head end. Former U&D power. Depart Kingston.


Oneonta roundhouse on D&H was destination.


Check the size of the people against this Lackawanna locomotive.


Steam and Electric. New York Central. Harmon, NY.


The big surprise is at Pennsylvania’s Enola Yard. Before retarders were used, brakeman manually controlled the cars, from the hump. Dangerous work in the winter. Unbelievable by today’s safety!


The Alton. Street running! How rare is this?


Middletown and Union, has a face, only a mother could love. Come closer..


Venerable, Boston and Maine Mogul type.


Rock Island at St. Louis.


Erie passes with it’s train.


Indiana Railroad was a large, Electric Interurban. Ran streetcars and freight.


Delaware and Hudson Northern type. Plenty of D&H is within.


Springfield Terminal in it’s original incarnation. Take a trolley. Quite a difference, from later SD45s in grey paint!


A Lackawanna Milk Train, really harkens back to an earlier era.


A Chicago, Burlington and Quincy sits in a huge yard. Burlington Route, was a road that ran steam late, on the Colorado and Southern.


This is a cornucopia of steam era scenes. Here, the ice bunker reefers are loaded at the Chicago Stockyards. South Shore Electric cars to the right.

There are even bonus shots. City pan views (Philadelphia), street scenes, humoungous Chicago stockyards. A well thought-out production. Packs a bunch, into a fast moving one hour program.

Also available on the, Trains around New York and New Jersey – collection.


Closing caboose is a Wabash.

Green Frog has a must see show, for any fans of steam era Railroading. The black and white film, adds to the vintage feel. Fascinating and varied visit to the past.

Rating: 5 Stars

The Heritage Collection, Volume 1

Empire Builder Cover.indd

Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1940 – 1950s

Locations: USA

Length: 1 hour 35 minutes

Five vintage films from the 1940s and ’50s. Professionally produced by the Railroad organizations of the time. Most, if not all of these have circulated. Convenient to have a group on a single DVD.

A detailed Chapter Menu breaks them down by the five movie titles.  A Play All option, as well.


These shall be reviewed by individual title. All are narrated. Full color films.

A roll up and combined rating upon completion.


Burlington Route FT set. One of the myriad of rarities.

On The Track 

AAR short film of 1950s era. Dudley Productions.  A shared theme of America produces, and ships by rail. Wide variety of railroads passby the camera.  


There are a number of famous landmarks. Prosperous, post war America. There are similar films made during this time.


Covers much subject matter in about 15 minutes. Historical look back into time. Heavy industry is one focus.


Plenty of early diesels. F and E units dominate. A few odd, Alco and Baldwin units. Several steam locomotives.


Life – Line of the Nation

Another Carl Dudley Production. Don McNamara has the narrator credit.


An earlier film. Deals with World War 2. The valuable role of US railroads to move the military. The industry to manufacture equipment.

C&O 1490 is shown above.


Hence, a National defense theme. Milwaukee Road box cab electrics.



Get busy identifying what you see in all of these shows. Look closely…

Florida East Coast!


Milwaukee Road Hiawatha. Nice runby!

Runs about 20 minutes. Plenty of steam.


Rare, New York Central Empire State Express.

Early diesels in small numbers here.


The might of the US industrial complex, to support the war effort. Cooperation amoung the railroads to move everything.

The responsibility of the railroads to keep the peace time America rolling.


225,000 Mile Proving Ground

A 1958 produced, Association of American Railroads. Dudley Pictures.

The Headline Story of Railroad Research.


The subtitle sums up where this movie short is going. These old films do like to emphasize just how well they are doing!

This Union Pacific Turbine, is the future.


The science of Railroading. Metallurgy, as in more durable rail is one subject. Freight car design and uniform improvements.


Improved refrigerator equipment. Santa Fe.


Modern hump yard.


Modern signaling for reliable train movements. Great Northern.


Boxcars are constantly improved.

America’s 225,000 rail miles are the proving ground for so much technology.

Suffice it to say, A Chicago headquarters, was at the forefront, of the leading edge.

Railroads and National Defense

Dudley Pictures. Korean War era.

America: with natural resources, industrial might and a strong military. Ready to meet any challenge. Transportation is the key.



This short is packed with early diesels!

Missouri – Kansas – Texas E units. MKT.


This one reassures the public, that our railroads are more than ready to move the military.vlcsnap-2019-04-28-20h15m48s775

By now, you will notice the recycling of some footage. Remember, the producers were doing these films separately. They would have never dreamed of a single DVD!


Seaboard train


Buses move troops to the trains. Going to embarkation areas.


Runs about 12 minutes. Many of the same trains seen previously. Like this Monon.

In a way, seen one, seen them all with these old short films. They vary somewhat. Yet, are quite similar.

Mainline USA

Also an AAR release from the 1950s. Dudley Pictures. Gilmore is this narrator.


Probably the best of this collection. Many diesels. Pennsylvania Baldwin Sharks.


Rock Island TA.

Again with the greatest America.

Same recycled footage. Much new and additional film.


This one contains the largest selection of diesels. Western Maryland trio, in fireball paint scheme.


Baltimore and Ohio F7A.


Advances, such as truck trailers on flatcars.

Runs about 20 minutes.


The Heritage Collection, Volume 1

Pentrex has delivered on the advertised. These vintage short films are of a historical nature. Repeat scenes, no extra charge!

Years ago, many old train films were difficult to obtain. Much has surfaced over the decades. There are still some rare birds. Although, only a quick glimpse of each.

Overall, an authentic period collection. Has trains, and much more. One viewpoint of American life. May or may not, be of interest.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars


Wallin’s Wonders


Producer: Ron McElrath

Timeframe: 1960-65

Locations: Ill, MO, TN

Length: 50 minutes

Source: Dick Wallin

Dick Wallin film collection of the headliners. All color in 8mm. Various locations as listed below. Unrestored and silent sourced.

Typical, Revelation Video production. Keep your expectations low. Bootleg type quality. If this was an audio concert, in comparison. Nothing equals the nice cover picture.

A little usage of : timetables and printed map. Odd choice, but does the job. None for Rock Island though.


There are plenty of scarce items within, to be seen. Too much to get everything here.

The original cinematography ranges around the good marker. Variable lower production quality, of course. Drags it all down.


Viewing ranges from fair to nearly good. Downward to rude. Yes, I said rude. You will see for yourself.


I believe that Ron McElrath himself performs the narration. Covers the scenes in an adequate fashion. Updates certain details to 1994. Knowledgeable man.


Dick Wallin shot some film right from his home. GM&O tracks out across his backyard. Springfield, Ill. According to a graphic.


GM&O wore a classic paint scheme. Rock Island had an ugly straight maroon with various decals and stripes at this time. Later Rock Island themes were highly improved.


Rock Island is added in the 2nd half. This works out just fine. The show is put together in a logical way. Split about half between the two roads. Not counting the other railroads that are present.


A musical soundtrack is the background. Most of this is Classical. It sounds good.


Some effort should have gone into post production imagery. This is my chief complaint. I understand some limitations of source reels.


However, in this modern age. Why are we looking at these rude green bands?


Is some basic color correction too much to ask?


He said this is the lone Fairbanks Morse locomotive. Hard to identify, given the bleak image.

Other producers are meticulous in these areas. Seems that some level of attention, could be given to visuals. Apparently, zero restoration here.


Gulf, Mobile & Ohio is one of those hard to find roads. Small pieces are around. Rare in any sizeable quantity.


These Alco FA units are why Dick travelled. To record them, before GM&O traded them in to EMD. Corinth, MS. and Middleton, TN. are the Alco FA locations.


St. Louis is where the passenger train action was in the 1960s, for Mr. Wallin. The Abraham Lincoln appears several times, along with other GM&O. Some other roads passenger trains are also shown there.


Plenty of additional connecting railroads make cameo appearances. Illinois Terminal is shown on the long trestle in the above scene.


Rock Island is readily available, in high quality everywhere else. So the only purchase factor here is rarity. Yes, this show has some goodies. Above is a rare BL-2.


Plenty of Rock around Silvis. A major facility in the heyday.  More trains at Blue Island and Joliet, Ill.


The Rock Island F2A leads a freight. A wide assortment of builders and models, demonstrate why they were called a rolling museum. As far as locomotives were concerned.


Rock Island FA. They extended the life of these by repowering with EMD engines.


Much of the Rock Island footage is too dark.


The Rock Island had these mean looking transfer cabooses for Chicago area service.


Wallin’s Wonders Vol.1. Is it worth the trouble? Hardcore fans only. Careful.. Has some of the goods you may seek. Overall, not so wonderful….

Plenty of trains…. It is a rough ‘ol boy!

Rating: 2 Stars

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


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.


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