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

Southern Pacific Daylight Time

Southern Pacific Daylight Timecover

A & R Productions

Length: 50 minutes

Time Period: 1930’s- 1950’s

Locations: Pacific Coast, Donner Pass, Chicago, Sunset Route, Mt. Shasta

Source: Blackhawk Collection

MSRP: 29.95

A collection of 5 vintage based SP films. Featuring steam era SP Coast Daylights and more. There are chapters on: SP/ RI Golden State, Cab Forwards and steam era Donner Pass snow service. Approximately half of this show is in black and white film.

coastThe early 1937 Coast Daylight footage was from pre- LAPUT days. Train 99 operates from Central Station in LA to Oakland Mole destination. Black and white film is clean. Interesting.

 sp the larkAction along the Pacific Coast with Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. The Lark is seen here.

gs2 train 99 laSP train number 99 departs Central Station in 1937 at Los Angeles. The GS-2 has it’s counterpart, train 98 scheduled southbound from Oakland.

Ted Daluku narrates a good script. Train sounds are included. The assorted chapters are titled and presented as a series of film shorts. Quality is very good on the whole. One film in particular, The Golden State, seems to have been produced in the 1950’s. Appropriate period corniness for modern viewers.

1952 City of San Francisco Donner PasssnowboundThe City of San Francisco is being freed from the snow in 1952.

4270 ac11SP 4270 is a late model AC11. Leading the Western Pacific California Zephyr at Truckee in 1952.

golden stateJointly operated by Rock Island and Southern Pacific, is The Golden State. Tracing the train from LaSalle Street Station in Chicago, this move winds up on SP’s Sunset Route to Los Angeles. Appears to be a railroad produced film.

F DonnerF units lead trains thru the snowsheds on Donner Pass. This frame has Donner Lake.

tnoSP Daylight Time. The Coast Daylights can be found in full color, on other programs. Naturally, it is still worthy for SP fans. For the rest of us, the vintage era Donner Pass action would be the main reason to acquire this release. A good and informative show.

Rating: 3 Stars

Corn Belt Railroads In the 1950’s

Corn Belt Railroads In the 1950’s cvr

C. Vision Productions

Length: 66 minutes + previews

Time Period: 1950’s

Locations: Des Moines, LaCrosse, Oelwein and many more..

Source: George Niles

MSRP: 29.95

A collection of midwestern action that includes some rare scenes. Steam and diesel, as well as an interurban gas car. Filmed by George Niles.  Wisconsin and Iowa locations. Passenger and freight. All color film. Narration and music soundtrack.

C Vision has this interesting variety of late steam and early diesel action in Corn Belt. The Rock Island stars for nearly half of the show. Milwaukee Road has plenty of screentime. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy is present. A little Chicago Great Western. An industrial train at Redfield Brick and Tile. Some definite rare trains and equipment are on hand in this program.

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The color 8mm films were shot by George Niles. He has various viewpoints that work well overall. At times he was too close to the trains. Fortunately, the majority of scenes have good composition. All of the films are pretty clean looking. There are some damaged frames too. Quality is good to very good. The colors are bright and vibrant. Perhaps these reels were well preserved somewhere.

4057 steam engineDon Grant performs the narrative. The script has some detail and good information. More narration would have been welcome. On / off switchable musical background. They have expanded from some earlier efforts in the music department. Relaxed pace and sometimes too laidback. Many locations and no maps are included.

grand towerAt Grand Tower. Baldwin S12 does switching. The 1951 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 is George’s.

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Locations are by on screen graphics and descriptive narration. Chapter menu and organization is nicely done. Editing is sharp and smooth. The only concern, is some apparent film skipping or camera jumping. Not much can be done there. The rarity means that viewers live with the flaws. Otherwise, it is mostly good, clean footage.

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Opening with coverage of Rock Island, near Des Moines, Iowa. What an awesome record of transitional era action. An overview of all types of activity. It has mostly slower speeds, that are conducive to trainwatching.

1215Original red and black paint schemes were a reflection of the 1950’s. Deluxe and attractive passenger equipment too. The Rock Island never looked as prosperous. It is a sight to see the different early diesels operating in new condition.

rock emd taCheck that super rare EMC TA as the trailing unit on a football game special! These were built in 1937 as a lightweight locomotive for smaller Rock Island streamliners. Rated at 1200 horsepower, they were the forerunner of the F unit series. Here, it just passes by quietly.

233Milwaukee Road 233 crosses over the high bridge at Des Moines. This is one of the spots, where he was too close to get good views of the trains.

milw f7a

The Milwaukee Road is also impressive. Some big steam operates along with the newer EMD diesels here. Between Des Moines and Spirit Lake, Iowa is a visit to a gas electric interurban on Milwaukee Road.

geThe Gas Electric train is ridden on a branchline to Spirit Lake. The exterior shows a typical ’50’s era scene. A steam era watertank and period automobile set the scene. This gas car action is very rare.

spencerA different age. At Spencer, Iowa the little train will encounter 3 steam powered locals. At Spirit Lake, see the engine on an Armstrong turntable.

1952Burlington Route has limited coverage. A 1952 view of a passing Zephyr moves slowly through a junction at Grand Tower.

cgw f3a

Chicago Great Western gets a few scenes. This is the Corn Belt scheme.

Redfield Brick and Tile is an industrial narrow gauge that is another scarce find.

rock island wood cabooseCorn Belt Railroads In the 1950’s, is one of the best vintage releases from C. Vision.

If you want to add to your vintage collection, this is a good choice. Railfans and model railroaders should enjoy this program.

Rating: 4 Stars

Milwaukee Road West

Charles Smiley Presents Milwaukee Road West

Charles Smiley Presents

Format: DVD (factory pressed disc)

Length: 67 minutes + previews

Time Period: 1955-1978

Locations: Chicago to Seattle, Avery, Milwaukee, Missoula, Three Forks, Deer Lodge…

Sources: George Barnes, Bob Finan, John Pertos, Bo Golson, Gino Pagliaro

MSRP: 28.50

The Long Road to Extinction is the aptly named subtitle. Milwaukee Road’s last quarter century is examined, as only Charles Smiley Presents can do. An extremely high level of detail provides viewers a knowledge base of Milwaukee Road. Friends and rivals, are an important element to put the railroad in perspective. Plenty of color film from the additional lines will assist the narrative.

We begin in 1955. Steam and early diesels are the power. An intriguing look at different styles of tailcars around the passenger yard at Milwaukee.

Sourced from 8mm and Super 8 color films. Quality is good to excellent. While not always pristine images, they are interesting scenes. All the cameramen have good composition. Digital enhancements have those vintage scenes appearing as best as possible.

A number of scenes are from circa 1955. Chicago is a colorful showcase of railroads!

Check the dual pantographs raised near Butte, Montana. See Milwaukee Scrapbook by Charles Smiley for much more coverage, of the electrified territory.

Outstanding and accurate! Live audio is custom matched, to the various locomotive models. Multiple sources were listed for the sounds. Painstaking attention to detail.

Unparalleled, custom made maps, are one of the nice extras that are contained in all CSP shows. These are labor intensive, handcrafted illustrations. Referenced at key points throughout the presentation. Also, there is an extended preview section containing more titles of: mainline, electrics and trolley/ interurbans.

This 1917 built substation, at Avery is about to receive visitors. They will see the interior and hear the turbines startup. Who are the visitors going to be ????…….. all of us !

A PBS style of production, many facets of the railroad are revealed. Judicious use of: still photographs, memorabilia and fitting music, are combined to augment the program. Natural train sounds and  the electric power substation are memorable.

Narration by Charles Smiley is engaging and very informative. He is just as interested in the subjects as the viewers. This area is critical and sometimes overlooked by others. Poor narratives can detract from a good show. Charles always has amazing discussions.

Milwaukee’s famed electrified portions of the Pacific Extension are a major subject. Little Joes are a centerpiece. Fascinating segment of operation at an old roundhouse.

Eastbound Hiawatha engaged in a stub end station move. Note the beavertail observation.

This show has a large share of the other railroads, that operated in the same territories. Some of this footage overlaps with his releases. Each individual story does get elevated by inclusion of the films. If Great Northern or Burlington Route is discussed, let’s see it!

Cabooses are seen on many of the freights. A large supply in assorted roads. Fantastic. Wooden, Steel, Composite, Cupola, Bay Window, Wide Vision, Transfer. Collect them all!

Rock Island is notable with a chapter of this movie. A sweet assortment of early to mid 1970’s footage. Some decrepit diesels and trackwork are familiar reminders of 70’s era Rock Island. Alco, GE and EMD locomotives, are all here.

Monon Alcos are one of the rare inclusions. Butte, Anaconda & Pacific is another. All of the Hill Lines are included. Burlington Northern, Chicago Northwestern, and Union Pacific too. Indiana Harbor Belt even gets into the act! Louisville and Nashville. Montana Rail Link makes an appearance. Even more lines, in a plethora of paint schemes.

Milwaukee Road West has a wide ranging collection of vintage films. Easily could be subtitled, Railroads to The Pacific Northwest and more. The comprehensive show is a cornucopia of; some legendary and little known railroads. A ‘must have’ for Milwaukee Road fans. Rock Island and Electric aficionados take note, you are missing out.

Railfans and Model Railroaders will find this show to be enjoyable. It also serves as a fine reference resource. A definite, deluxe presentation that people can revisit with satisfaction.

Rating: 5 Stars

Steam in the 1940’s, 50’s, & 60’s : Special 7 PAK Boxset

Steam in the 40’s, 50’s, & 60’s: 7 PAK Boxset

Green Frog Productions

Format: DVD- R (7 disc boxset)

Length: 5 Hours 52 minutes

Time Period: 1940’s- 1960’s. Bonus 1990’s.

Locations: USA and Canada

Sources: Gene Miller,

MSRP: 59.95 ( Separate shows value is over 204.00)

The set is housed in a sturdy, hard plastic case. Each disc is mounted on a hard plastic page. Seems very durable.

Green Frog has a tantalizing boxset. This contains 7 discs and 7 complete shows. All of the programs have individual, full reviews on ATVR. A brief overview of each will follow.

All of the shows are digitally edited on state of the art equipment. Each disc has artwork.

Maximum fun calls for many different screenshots from the full reviews. Bonus for you!

The Golden Twilight of Postwar Steam Part 1: The Pennsy’s West End and it’s neighbors.

1947- 1950. Gene Miller 16mm.

                                                     Mountain type. M1

                                           Pennsylvania Broadway Limited.

Early diesels. A quartet of ‘chicken wire’, Electromotive F3 locomotives.

The Golden Twilight of Postwar Steam Part 2: Rails in the Heartland: The L&N, C&EI and IT

Gene Miller. 16mm.

                         L&N Mountain class at Howell Yard. Evansville, Indiana.

                       Steam and diesel are both here. A K-5 Pacific with an EMD E7 unit.

                   Chicago & Eastern Illinois departs the massive St. Louis Union Station.

                               C&EI has these pretty F3 engines. Nice variety on this railroad.

Illinois Terminal once had a sizeable trolley operation. Strange entry for a steam series.

The Golden Twilight of Postwar Steam Part 3: Cajon to Horseshoe- Trains Across Mid-America and the West.

Gene Miller. 16mm. 1940’s- 1950’s. Many railroads are seen. Color, plus black and white film.

Santa Fe steam shown from California, to Dearborn Station, in Chicago.

Union Pacific has an awesome collection. Cheyenne and Denver. Big Boys, Challengers, Northerns, switchers and those big 9000 class locomotives. Plus more!

St. Louis Kaliedescope has various lines. MoPac Heavy Mike 1417 shown. Some fine black and white, plus color in this show. Missouri Pacific has color also. Nice chapter.

                             Horseshoe Curve finishes up the Gene Miller films.

Steam in the ’50’s: Volume 1

Jerry Carson. 16mm. Covers 14 different railroads.

B&O with a pair of big T-1 class locomotives at Chicago. Plenty of classic B&O within.

                                Some great action on the Norfolk & Western.

                                  Chicago & North Western departs Green Bay.

Chesapeake & Ohio is a tough road to find, in the steam era. Like some others in this show, there are only a couple of trains.

Illinois Central Railroad. This one gets extended coverage. Assorted locations and trains.

                        Pennsylvania receives plenty of coverage. Doubleheaders too!

Steam in the ’50’s: Volume 2

Tom Strid. 16mm, mostly color. Shortest length show in the set. All classic.

                            Union Pacific Big Boy is eased across the wooden trestle.

See this locomotive being returned to America, at the dock. The General Pershing.

Circus World Baraboo train move to Milwaukee. Some unloading is shown at Milwaukee.

Steam in the ’50’s: Volume 3

Ted Carlson and Maynard Laing. 16mm. USA and Canada.

                                            Northern Pacific excursion chase.

                                  Hillcrest Lumber with Climax locomotives.

                            UP Big Boy pace sequence. More Big Boy action is seen.

                                                          Canadian Pacific.

                              Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range Yellowstone steam.

The Bonus Show isn’t listed on the rear cover…

Steam Giants Across America

Compilation steam program. Some repeat footage from these other shows, in this set. Still, it is a fun standalone program, and not everything is from this collection.

             Some circa 1991 bonus footage includes: UP 844 and UP 3985.

                      Norfolk & Western with vintage and contemporary  era footage.

Green Frog has a big winner. This 7 DVD set is an awesome value. This ‘package deal’, is a fast way to build an instant steam collection. A big bargain, that outweighs any issues.

Highly Recommended for anyone with an interest in steam. The early diesels are equally fine. This Steam Special 7 PAK would make a memorable gift.

Rating: 5 Stars