Rio Grande Rememberances



Producer: Charles Smiley

Timeframe: 1954- 1969

Locations: Durango, Arboles, Salida, Antonito, Gunnison, Farmington…

Length: 1 hour 36 minutes + previews

Sources: Andy Payne, Fred Hust, Harvey Laner

A fascinating, time travel visit, into vintage Rio Grande Narrow Gauge steam. Andy Payne was a Rio Grande Engineer. He was also an independent Railfan / Cinematographer. Early on, he acquired a Bolex 16mm movie camera. Filmed mostly in 16mm. All films are full color. Only some highlights here.

vlcsnap-2020-08-16-17h42m45s238Harvey S. Laner digitized Payne’s film collection in 2008. Three narrators on this show. Harvey, Andy and Charles Smiley.

vlcsnap-2020-08-16-17h58m04s178The earliest films are in 8 mm. Those are very good, for their age. Durango is above. The gems are the 16mm films. Excellent quality! Nearly all freight trains.

vlcsnap-2020-08-16-18h54m11s365The custom Charles Smiley maps are extremely helpful. Also, explains other lines.

vlcsnap-2020-08-16-18h54m40s564Alamosa to Antonito dual guage trackage. This on the San Juan Extension. This line continues towards Laboto Trestle.


The old freight cars are bursting with character! Railfans and Model Railroaders will have a grand time, with the varied equipment.

vlcsnap-2020-08-16-18h24m54s770Various class Mikado’s are reviewed. 480-489. K-36 seen here.These 2-8-2 are seen with close-ups. Maintenance functions.

vlcsnap-2020-08-16-19h20m08s102Andy has detailed Hostler duties and discussion of steam locomotive fire. This is unique amount many steam shows!

vlcsnap-2020-08-16-20h12m42s404Soundtrack is mixed. Authentic steam sounds, background music and narrative. All interwoven in that Charles Smiley style.

vlcsnap-2020-08-16-19h44m32s005Old Arboles area is shown, before a water dam project buried this area. A highline is being installed. Navajo River.

vlcsnap-2020-08-16-19h55m54s838Gunnison in 1955.  The 268 was Baldwin built in 1882. Leased here for a scrap train.

Salida in 1955. Dual gauged.

vlcsnap-2020-08-16-20h03m38s252The Durango Loop was Railroad built around 1967.

vlcsnap-2020-08-16-20h09m15s939Andy rode freight trains on off days. Filmed from assorted viewpoints. Here, on a revenue stock train.


See how to get a Mike rerailed, without a crane.

A number of Hollywood feature films were filmed, in part at or near Durango.


Oil and the Freight business. Farmington Branchline in 1955. South of Durango. Carbon Jct. had a small switch yard.

vlcsnap-2020-08-16-18h55m02s160Model Railroaders will get a kick out of seeing GRAMPS oil tank cars!

vlcsnap-2020-08-16-20h27m57s907Declining traffic spelled the end of the San Juan Extension.

vlcsnap-2020-08-16-20h29m15s953Andy filmed Springtime snow and slide clearing of the Silverton line. An old Caterpillar bulldozer does the job!


This is a wonderful collection of vintage Rio Grande Narrow Gauge action! Inclusion of rare locations and singular viewpoints, set it apart from the competition. Not too mention Andy Payne’s first person accounts of the action. Harvey Laner provides the bulk of a clear narrative. Many are interview style, with his friend Andy.

Starting as a Los Angeles Transit Motorman. Andy hired on as Fireman with DRGW in 1957. He loved his work and filming the trains. He passed away in 2012.

vlcsnap-2020-08-16-20h14m54s921Charles Smiley organized everything, into a highly enjoyable viewing experience! As usual, it shall take multiple viewings to get it all in. The 90 minutes literally fly-by. Always the mark of a fun program.

This is a must see, for Rio Grande and Narrow Gauge steam fans.

Rating: 5 Stars


Chicago Steam Celebration

Chicago Steam Cover.indd

Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1993

Locations: Chicago, East Union..

Length: 2 hours

A varied program. This is more than a steam show at Chicago. A trip to the Illinois Railway Museum is included. Ride the Chicago Transit Authority. See some steam, operate in poor weather. Hey, it’s Chicago. Tourists may find it fascinating. Locals may give a few yawns, in places.

A single DVD-R. Detailed Chapter Menu. Preview section. Maps and on-screen graphics. High quality throughout.

This was officially, the 1993 NRHS Convention. You will be reminded of that, by numerous shots of the attendees in this show.

vlcsnap-2020-03-28-11h38m46s450As in other releases of this type. Pentrex has some of the trips to the event. Former Southern green is seen at Morristown, Tennessee. This does not travel to Chicago.

NW 611 runs another leg. Doesn’t show in Chicago. This feels disjointed..

vlcsnap-2020-03-28-12h40m12s565Union Pacific 3985 ran a Central Stated Challenger Special. Heavy rains. Weather clears on day 2. Illinois on third day under cloudy skies.

vlcsnap-2020-03-28-11h47m38s940Fort Wayne had a double header Nickel Plate train. This train all the way on ex: NKP rails.

vlcsnap-2020-03-28-11h52m11s847Day One. Metra F units, wearing the ugliest paint this side of Metro North. Everyday commuter cars to Elgin. The F pair is pulled before the return to Chicago. Yawn..

A show highlight follows…

Illinois Railway Museum.

vlcsnap-2020-03-28-11h57m21s756Burlington Route Nebraska Zephyr. All stainless steel. See it run. Car ride too. Rare E5 diesel.

North Shore Electroliner. Wearing fresh paint!


Milwaukee Road 118C. A vintage freight train too.


Baldwin built in 1918. Frisco 1630. IRMs main steamer.


A general tour of the museum. Ride the mainline. Ride the trollies on the backlot. See big power. Plenty of information. Highly interesting chapter!

Day Two. Ride the CTA elevated. Yawn. For tourists, I suppose.


Meanwhile, the 3985 is at the yard in Lansing. This train goes to Findlay Jct. Happy riders get interviewed. Cab action with Steve Lee the engineer. This trip is another highlight.


Crossing at Tuscola, Illinois. Note the tower. Spare me the lunches…

Day Three. Indoors at the Palmer House Hotel. Union Station has been restored! Wow, it is actually clean. Dedication ceremony, for a couple of plaques.

Next section made me chuckle. Tour of ugly Metra locomotives. Everyone is more interested in the two BN E9 units. You betcha!


Day Four. Calumet Yard. This is Norfolk Southern now.  The 587 leads the bigger 765. Venerable State Line Tower. Much of this trip is under clouds or in the rain.


Dumbest part of the show at Argos, Indiana. The big crowd is served lunch.  Not enough seating has some people sitting on the wet ground! Nothing like a wet butt, for the trip back. Good job. More rain. Not a pretty trip. Could have edited much of this out.

Day 5. Ride the South Shore. More for the out of towners. Non steam. It’s raining again. Between the snow, cold and rain, why people move! Excessive. Most of this could have been deleted.

Chicago Steam Celebration. A mixed bag. The couple of highlights are well done. CNW 1385 was marooned, due to flooding. A loss, that resulted in filler here. The NW 611 disappears, as well.  Union Pacific trip is a good one. If a bit crowd heavy.


The Illinois Railway Museum is the best part of this grab bag. IRM is an absolutely wonderful train museum! This chapter alone is worth the price of admission. Frankly, saves this show from a lower rating.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars












Southwest Big Boy


Producer: Tim Walter

Locations: Nevada, California, Arizona, New Mexico

Timeframe: 2019

Length: 1 hour 30 minutes

Sources: Mile High Drone Services and additional.

Continuation, of Union Pacific’s Big Boy 4014 tour. This release covers the Southwestern United States. Pentrex standards should provide a great experience.

vlcsnap-2020-03-05-12h25m05s594There is a master main menu. The SW Big Boy feature, Previews and Titans of the Wasatch music video. Southwest Big Boy, has a super detailed Chapter Menu. No map. On-screen graphics. Limited narrative.

vlcsnap-2020-03-05-11h15m46s646Some vintage Pentrex film, begins this show. Also, the tow to Cheyenne. Previous Pentrex releases are quoted. Some of this is seen, in the other recent 4014 shows.

vlcsnap-2020-03-05-11h21m26s897Oct.6 2019. Aerials at Rainbow Cay Nevada. Continues onward from there. Departs Las Vegas. Pacing at Sloan, NV.

vlcsnap-2020-03-05-11h33m12s747Interesting, as narrator David Drui discusses Big Boy in California. The 4014 has been there for 60 years. This 2019 trip, is the first time a Big Boy has ever ran under it’s own power in the state!

Those drone aerials capture, many memorable scenes.

The song, Trains of the Wasatch plays. As the train traverses across the Mohave desert. The Altar Billies are the band.

vlcsnap-2020-03-05-12h09m13s711This view from old Route 66.

vlcsnap-2020-03-05-11h58m44s457Cajon Pass contains spectacular scenes. The high winds are a problem. Beating on the microphone. Knocking down the smoke exhaust. That’s the reality of excursions. Sometimes, you get what you get.

vlcsnap-2020-03-05-11h48m14s627On the positive side. The sun is shining brightly. The drone footage is awesome! All the wind noise. Perhaps, the song would have been better placed here.

vlcsnap-2020-03-05-12h01m17s057Departs Colton Yard the next day. Winds subsided. This trip, a fundraiser for the museum that gave up the 4014.

vlcsnap-2020-03-05-12h16m23s733Oct,13. Leaves Barstow Yard on BNSF. This is a second fundraiser. Plenty of aerial views.

October,15. Leaves Colton Yard to travel the Sunset Route. LA to New Orleans.

vlcsnap-2020-03-05-12h05m02s871Operating on an upgrade. The 1941 built steamer pulls flawlessly.

vlcsnap-2020-03-05-12h48m47s298Nearing Tucson, at  Cienega Creek. The articulated design is visible. Watch the headlight, as the locomotive bends around the curve.

vlcsnap-2020-03-05-11h40m50s461The best pacing is in Arizona. It’s the sound!

vlcsnap-2020-03-05-12h51m53s488FYI- Arizona towns tended to be overcrowded. Willcox is featured. Good choice.

vlcsnap-2020-03-05-12h57m09s565Steins, New Mexico is where this program ends. In and out, in 90 minutes. Just about perfect!

vlcsnap-2020-03-05-12h38m04s250Southwest Big Boy. This is a fine release. Pentrex has a trio of 2019 shows, that feature the 4014 in current service. All have a different flavor. They are all equally good.

vlcsnap-2020-03-05-12h20m27s542This one has the natural desert beauty. The Big Boy looks at home, on Cajon Pass! Tour on the Sunset Route, is worth the film. Excellent presentation overall. Any steam fan should find this to be an enjoyable show.

Rating: 5 Stars

Big Boy Greetings From Kansas City


Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 2019

Locations: Kansas City, Topeka, Denver…

Length: 1 hour 25 minutes

Sources: Marc Lingenfelter, David Burritt, Stephan Johnson, Jim Tanis, Nancy Burritt

In the Steam Era, Kansas City would have been foreign territory, to a Union Pacific Big Boy. Times change and the 4014 attained KC, in 2019. This was the final run for 2019.

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-19h06m20s859This show is on a DVD-R. It has a new style menu! The Top Menu is overlayed on a map. A detailed pictured Chapter Menu, lists locations. Quite modern. Also, a preview section and the music video.

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-18h47m38s833A full page map is displayed, near the beginning of the show. On screen graphics denote locations. David Drui narrates.

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-18h54m12s723This leg of the tour, begins in Arkansas.

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-18h56m25s878Vintage film of 4014 is included. Retirement of the 4014, was in 1961. Brief history includes a little bit of 4014 update. Previous Pentrex Big Boy shows are referenced in this program.

Quickly into Oklahoma.

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-19h01m27s822Fort Gibson bridge. Drone shot footage throughout

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-19h03m30s069Kansas City is next. The Union Station has been beautifully restored.

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-19h11m38s848The Highline bridge is well documented, as waiting for the Big Boy to appear.Outstanding aerial view, as the 4014 is paced.

Additional drone footage is great! The train moves at a leisurely be pace towards Topeka. Sure is an advance, over endless runbys. As found in an average modern, steam show.

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-19h22m21s286Arrival at Topeka. A restored UP station, now a museum.

Overnight here. Grain cars added for braking the following day.

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-19h26m32s940A large amount of stored power at North Topeka. Evidence of changing opearational practices! Just a single yard. Think about it.

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-19h17m08s648Are we there yet?

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-19h32m42s153Frequently referenced in old Western movies. This is Abilene. A modern canyon, created by grain elevators.

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-19h35m22s469Model Railroad sized structures! Steam to diesel era. Your welcome.

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-19h43m45s167Pentrex breaks the monotony, with a music video. It’s about the UP 9000 locomotive. Nebraska is the band. 9000 is the song.

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-19h48m36s795Pretty amazing accomplishment. To obtain this amount of aerial. Not to be critical. If nature doesn’t cooperate, the results would be far less useable. Nearly all the scenes are perfect. Just be sure to appreciate it!

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-19h53m44s635A snowstorm is encountered. It is an improvement, over the brown fields.

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-19h50m48s094If there is one new item learned with this aerial tour of rural Kansas. Not a burger joint in sight! Better pack a lunch. Lol.

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-19h59m07s830Enter Hugo, Colorado. Desolation.

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-20h01m02s283Limon has historical equipment on permanent display.

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-20h08m41s937Arrival at Denver is in clear conditions. The city skyline is in the background.

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-20h10m01s482Departing Denver, blizzard conditions are on hand the following morning.

vlcsnap-2020-02-15-19h24m07s661The aerial approach makes this show! Rural Kansas in drab November, is not very scenic. The weather is favorable, for the majority of the time. The Big Boy is the star. Expert camerawork makes this program fly. Smartly paced and an interesting script, move this tour along. Pentrex can sure dance! They certainly elevate this one.

While this release doesn’t have the natural, scenic advantages. The aerial videography, makes it a worthy addition, to any Big Boy collection!

Rating: 5 Stars









Sixty Years Along the Illinois Central


Producer: Mary McPherson

Timeframe: 1938-1998

Locations: Carbondale, Centralia, Champaign, Edgewood Cut-Off,  Tuscola, more

Length: 2 hours

Sources, video: George Redmond, Kurt Jensen, Mary McPherson, Tom Dunn

Covering 60 years of Illinois Central history. Geographically, this is mainly in downstate Illinois. This is representative of the railroad, for the most part. So, do not expect the full system. Too much to get everything in this review. Let’s see some highlights…

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-09h53m31s717The timeline begins early in 1938. Moves forward into 1998. Two GP40s bracket a pair of GP9 units, in the Green Diamond scheme. This from the 1960s.

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-10h08m27s129The single DVD-R contains a Chapter Menu. Plenty of on-screen graphics. No maps. Narrated by Mary McPherson.

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-09h56m55s905Audio is natural sound on the contemporary sections. The vintage films have a mixture of, train sounds and music. Some extra attention to detail on the train sounds. Above, is at Effingham, an old hotspot. The crossing is Conrail trackage.

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-09h32m18s345The 1938 film is black and white. Appears to have been filmed by someone, with approved access. Officials and workers posing, with train scenes. Clean footage. Good sounds. Fine chapter. Carbondale location.

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-09h42m08s042Some amateur, 1950s color film. This from the transaction era. Quick glimpse of Chicago, a few trains. Follow a hostler. Frank Baumgarten in 1955.  A last look, on his normal steam engine, roundhouse, workday. A little more action, at Carbondale. Mikado 1516 above.

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-14h39m21s577A pacing sequence of the DeSoto local, ends this Chapter.  Watch for a diesel pace, same location later!

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-10h01m08s490The Metropolis bridge is stunning!

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-09h44m32s897The highlight is excellent color film from the 1960s. This small collection, from the Champaign area. Most from near the tower and yard lead. Slow speeds allow good views. Some from the on tower! GP9 locomotives, in original and new repaints. Rebuilt Geeps, as well.

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-09h54m32s266There are several passenger trains. Various viewpoints. Above is, The Shawnee. Viewed from Champaign Tower. Find a rare E6. Inquire within…

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-10h03m34s250Moving with a big leap forward. Well into the late Illinois Central Gulf era. Familiar George Redmond, with unreleased video! Nice, clean footage.

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-10h00m22s031Raunchy looking power, was part of the rolling museum, of the 1980s Illinois Central Gulf. The GM&O sights, were incredible! Not included here.

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-10h06m00s470This black GP40 was the last one, in original, Green Diamond scheme. Pacing sequence above.

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-10h00m18s618The gray/orange scheme, was the ICG answer to heavy weathering. Unique to the railroad, SD20  locomotive. 

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-10h11m41s222Creeping into the 1990s. The black dip Illinois Central paint appears. It does look sharp, after many years of observing the ragtag fleet of ICG.

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-10h20m54s706The show settles into a more standard, pattern of 1990s era trainwatching. Doesn’t the SD20 appear better in black?

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-10h13m17s706There are still some Paducah Geep rebuilds in service. The GP11 types will be the very last in usage.

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-10h27m25s226Tuscola has a tower in it’s last year’s. A significant amount of time spent here. Inside tower visit, although not filmed the best. Still, beats no visit. Take it.

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-10h56m47s737Rare territory is the Edgewood Cut-Off. Coal and grain were always money.

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-11h02m22s243There’s a derailment! Whew! Only a single boxcar.

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-10h52m50s984Need a rest after that scare. Compare the older orange, with the new image caboose. Yawn, for the gray one.

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-11h17m21s343At Cobden, a grade requires a good headstart and enough horsepower. Some trains have to be split in two.

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-11h27m24s246Winter snow dramatically alters the scene. An Operation Lifesaver #6068 on the point, at Cobden. An SD70 is in this lash-up. 

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-11h43m10s802Excellent night scenes in this show. Amtrak at a station. The reflective surfaces are great, for under the lights. City of New Orleans. Mary’s run! Laughed at that closing piece!!

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-11h38m27s668The Illinois Central does have some tunnels. This one is on the rarely filmed Edgewood Cut-Off in 1998, by Tom Dunn.

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-11h32m55s226At Edgewood. Train symbol MECR is Memphis to Conrail, at Effingham. More frequent SD70 appearances, signal that we are approaching the end, for the Illinois Central Railroad. The Stop sign foreshadows the roads future… 

vlcsnap-2019-11-24-09h51m06s299The venerable IC side door caboose. Mainline of Mid America slogan. Some of these served, into  ICG paint. Classics!

Sixty Years Along the Illinois Central.

The show meets it’s advertised. Vintage films are very worthwhile. The 1960s film is excellent. ICG update is very good video. The later 1990s video, is even better. Fast paced. An enjoyable look, at the Illinois Central. Action is around Southern Illinois. This Heritage Series, is their best release!

Rating: 5 Stars