Today’s Chicago Railroads

TCR-DVD

Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1991

Locations: Many

Length: 2 hours

Do you like variety? Chicago provides the Motherlode! This guided tour, of Chicago and vicinity, will satisfy most any Railfan. Fallen flags, local lines and pre- merger roads. Many old Towers are shown.

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Pentrex maximized their time in the field. Concentrating on classic hotspots. Crossings, Yards, Towers are generally, multi- Railroad locations. Busy mainlines, can provide ample supply. Frequent trains are practically a lock.

All the best of the Pentrex production team results in a smooth and well paced program.

Familiar voice of David Drui performs the informative and balanced narrative.

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There is a detailed, Chapter Menu. A master map, with nearly 2 dozen locations. Many close-up maps, as needed. Highly organized.

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Pentrex states that they only have room to hit the highlights of what they have. Likewise with my review. There is so much more to see!

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As the sign says. To The Trains…

Alco C424 of Chicago Belt Railway.

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Best place to begin the tour. Is the center of the city. That is Union Station. Full visit. visit. Amtrak’s yard is plentiful. Burlington Northern commuters run behind the E9 locomotives, as well.

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State Line Tower is far south. Norfolk Southern and CSX. Illinois – Indiana line.

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Speaking of towers. Van Loon Tower, is located in Indiana. Elgin, Joliet & Eastern with an SD40, in fresh paint. Norfolk Southern intersects here. I-80 is above.

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Blue Island has always been one of the best hotspots. Many roads move through here.

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Chessie System, now CSX, with a long lash-up of light locomotives. Barr Yard is nearby, not visited. Blue Island action.

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Dolton Jct. is very popular now. Easy to access, for railfans. CSX, Conrail and more.

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More.. A grimy Missouri Pacific pair, trundle through Dolton.

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McCook Crossing, features the busy Santa Fe Mainline. Multiple ATSF, trains passby. Willow Springs is next. Pre UPS days there.

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The details of the trackage at McCook. Everyone seemed to exercise trackage rights, on the Indiana Harbor Belt!

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Old, beater CNW geeps are seen here.

Grand Trunk , Chessie, IHB, Amtrak too.

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WICT F units at Edgewood are a rare sight! Wisconsin and Calumet. Later, became part of Wisconsin and Southern. The road was called Wicket, for short.

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A Soo Line switch job receives a detailed chase. A low speed one. Street running at Goose Island. A truncated version is on Street Running by Pentrex.

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The Burlington Northern Racetrack is a must see on any Chicago visit.

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BN executive F units appear at Clyde yard in Cicero. You never know what shows up!

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Hawthorne yard, has Belt Tower . This is visited inside. A former Illinois Central structure. Chicago Central was here. This structure, is gone now.

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Brighton Park has a full – on stop. Rare, a Switchtender with a shanty. A GT transfer caboose, hits the diamonds.

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Illinois Central SW14s on their ex: GM&O trackage. Note the unusual, hip cab roofs.

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CR 5032 is next to get the wave at Brighton.

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Bensenville is now a Soo Line stronghold. The former Milwaukee Road facilities are huge. A freshly painted SD40 powers a hot Soo Sprint train past B-17 tower.

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The engine house and Bensenville yard run right along a public road.

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Grand Trunk near Hayford Junction.

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Hegewisch still has electric interurban service. Chicago South Shore Line.

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Chicago and Northwestern, has a major line in a Westerly direction, from Proviso Yard. Union Pacific run through units are common. Metra is the local commuter service. Proviso Yard, is not seen in this show.

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Chicago Short Line is another rare find.

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Many of the trains, still employ a caboose. The Indiana Harbor Belt used these home built transfer ones for many years.

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Pentrex has knocked it out of the park. A home run! An instant classic. This show will give viewers a high rerun value. There is simply, an astounding amount of various, and interesting trains. Outstanding videography, that hits the mark!

Rating: 5 Stars

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Southern Pacific Daylight Collection

PCDAY-DVD

Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1940s- 1950s

Locations: Coast Line, LA. Phoenix…

Length: 80 minutes

The classic Daylight steam locomotive, is featured in a stunning collection. Pentrex has assembled an all color show of vintage films. Covering a wide range of territory.

California has the greatest coverage. As it should be. The Coast Line, Beaumont Hill and Soledad Canyon. Phoenix, Arizona to El Paso, Texas. The Great Salt Lake in Utah. Some post Daylight era service.

An add-on short. Daylighting the Padre Trail. This, a 1930s black and white film. It may or may not, Crank your tractor!

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Of course, Pentrex has their ‘A’ game on, production wise. Top shelf, all departments. That’s how they would put these programs together.

A Chapter Menu is included. Narration is optional. Hi-Fi sound.

To the land and heyday, of the Southern Pacific GS-4…

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I found the old, black and white film unnecessary. Dated and an odd decision. Less is more.

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A premier collection of all color, vintage films. Impeccable presentation by Pentrex.

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There are many fantastic scenes along California’s coastline.

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Mission Tower, back in those days.

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Phoenix was a much smaller city. A GS-3 slows to a stop.

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A  winner in The Rose Bowl Parade, circa 1940. The running gear operates. Fabulous!

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Helpers could be either: steam or diesel.

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This double header, was filmed at Soledad Canyon.

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A GS-4 nears LAUPT.

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Black scheme GS-4 class, were often found on Mail Trains.

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More action around Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal. Check those autos!

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What would we give to see this now?

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On a backing move, the future is seen.

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The pacing sequences are nicely done.

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This beats any Amtrak train. Any day.

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GS locomotives look good, in any paint, any weather.

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San Joaquin Daylight gets featured late.

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Eventually, economics win. The diesel will rule. Even this scene shall be missed.

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Those Daylight trains were special.

Southern Pacific Daylight Collection.

An outstanding collection of all color, vintage films! While some of this has been used elsewhere. It is better to have it all in this single program.

The action is non stop. An intriguing visit into the steam era. Excellent, for all audience viewers.

The only odd concern, is the tacked on 1930s film at the end. Totally unneeded. Dumb.

Just stop at the end of the Pentrex show.

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

 

Santa Fe’s Mohave Mainline

MOJAVE-DVD

Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1992

Locations: Needles to Barstow

Length: 75 minutes

 Santa Fe’s California desert crossing. The Mohave sub is 120 miles. Needles to Barstow. Mountain vistas, ghost towns, and the Mohave desert. Santa Fe trains speed across this division.

David Drui with his comfortable narrative. Smooth as glass. A well written script to match.

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Pentrex, with their professionals in the production areas. Everyone has done a fine job!

A Chapter Menu is detailed for easy access throughout. Bonus previews too.

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Plentiful map usage and some elevations, as well. On-screen graphics, coupled with train identification.

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Lighting creates dramatic effects.

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Jumps out to Needles. Working the way back. Seligman sub crosses the Colorado River to Needles.

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7449 and a crew change point. Train 189. This move gets chased. TOFC.


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Quality train is a, Dallas to Barstow move.

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Train 885 at Danby. Passes by Miner shacks from the 1880s.

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Arizona and California Railroad interchange. MRL unit is field testing.

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This warbonnet gets beautifully filmed, on a grade.

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Siberia has the best name. Klondike had the best screenshot.

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Ash Hill is a high vantage point.

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Higher? You bet!

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Ghost towns do exist in the Mohave.

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Progressive maps are good.

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Troy Lake is a dry lake. #114 is shown, because it’s cool.

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Union Pacific shows up to get on the Santa Fe main. Check that Soo Line, far from home!

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Amtrak’s Desert Wind at Barstow.

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Train 338 arrives at the Eastern end of Barstow Yard.

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The Mohave is presented in an interesting fashion. An intelligent mixture of trains and local history, keep viewers attention. The fast pace and relaxing intervals, are perfect. Top notch videography really tops it off.

Excellent train program for all.

Rating: 5 Stars

 

 

Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Update 2011

091WSRU

Producer: Bradley A. Plets

Timeframe: 2007- 2011

Locations: WI only

Length: 111 minutes

Source: Bradley A. Plets

This is my first Plets Express show. It is advertised, as coverage across the 700 mile W&S. A Class Two Railroad. Mainly, ex: Milwaukee Road and CNW trackage. Madison to Chicago. Eastern Wisconsin.

The show is fully narrated, by Bradley Plets. He is very informative. A frequent talker on this show. That Wisconsin accent is a surprise! Nothing wrong with it. Most train videos use a neutral California accent. Which is none at all. His adds local character.

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The videography is the strong suit. One sequence dates back to 1996. Preponderance of video is 2007- 2011.  Editing is crisp. The show is fast paced, and well organized. Camera is rock solid.

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A Chapter Menu is included. On/ Off narrative. A nice paper map.

Plenty of those E9, in action scenes! This is a rare, gravel service loading at Rock Springs. The E units pull passenger specials, as well.

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The audio is fine, with a couple of major concerns. The vast majority of the shots are at grade crossings. This leads to two obvious problems.

Mazomanie Station is the above location. Fascinating history.

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Repetitive and annoying, bell ringing. This is common find among amateur videos. Ding, ding, ding… A trademark fault on amateur shows.

Edgerton grows tobacco. Here we are. Check that old Mail Pouch ad!

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Excessive horn blowing. Blat.Blat.Blat… Exciting for 3rd graders. Grating on the nerves for adults. Give us a rest!

The 30th Anniversary displays the Counties served by the railroad.

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Same with the locomotive bell ringing. Repetitive and boring. Not quite as bad. Yet, added to the above. Yuck! Too much.

Great action! Monroe is a busy town.

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If the train isn’t making noise, the narrator certainly is sounding off!

FYI.. See the Canadian Goose in the logo? Thousands migrate and use Horicon Marsh as a rest point annually.

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BLAT… BLAT… BLAT…BLAAATTT!!!!

The one quality that is lacking IS balance. Give the viewers ears a rest!

I had to turn this off, and take a break…

Timeout….

 

OK…

vlcsnap-2019-04-10-12h21m48s652Approaching Janesville. Rock River. W&S has a yard with a roundhouse there.

Second half is slightly improved, sound wise. Pretty good, for the visuals throughout.

One dimensional, for the most part. Largely, the same, repetitious viewpoints. Filmed by the crossing. Yet, shot very clearly. Good composition. Very steady camera work.

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Much of the narrative is locomotive focused. Historical background. Towns, as well. Business of the W&S. It works.

Horicon Yard scene is shown above.

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W&S, sure looks successful, with all the shiny paint on their engines. Note the 25th Anniversary commemorative paint.

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Surprising, how many old train stations have been preserved in Wisconsin. Plets shows quite a few. History and current disposition. Stoughton shown above.

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Agriculture is huge business in Wisconsin. Grain elevators tower above the flat farmlands. All shapes and sizes.

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Lake Wisconsin, Prairie du Chien.

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A visit to Madison, provides a variety of railroads and viewpoints.

vlcsnap-2019-04-10-12h06m36s214Canadian Pacific at Madison. Interesting power with an all Soo Line lash-up.

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An earlier time visit, with Chicago and Northwestern. Madison.

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Baraboo has this former CNW station. Baraboo, is the home of Circus World.

vlcsnap-2019-04-10-12h01m49s154This Wig-Wag signal is the same location. These old timers are scattered within this program.

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The Circus Train is an annual event. Is a highlight. They do a short chapter. This used to be performed by, Chicago and Northwestern.

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The lone caboose is the Circus World.

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At nearly two hours in length. This show continues to wander. Going along with a local here. Outside of Oshkosh!

Thought we were supposed to see Chicago. Why are we still in rural areas? Get on that freeway!

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I thought the program was going all the way to Chicago. Here, we end up in Beaver Dam! Home of 14,000 busy beavers.

Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Update 2011.

This is not a bad show. It is above an amateur level. Good pace. Well edited. Script has good information.

Viewers get everything: Road, Locals, Specials and switching.

Soundtrack is the downfall. It becomes annoying. As described in the review.

Not much available on this railroad.

Fails on the advertised. Does NOT go across the entire 700 mile system. Deduction.

Rating: 3 Stars

The Rathole combo DVD

RTH-DVD

Producer: Pentrex

Timeframe: 1995

Locations: Danville, KY- Oakdale, TN

Length: 2 hours 28 minutes

A double release on a single DVD. Norfolk Southern’s, scenic Rathole Division. Located in Kentucky and Tennessee. Only Two tunnels remain. Multiple cuts, grades and bridges. A Rathole Cab Ride. An EMD GP60 on a Triple Crown Road Railer, is the second show.

Pentrex originally had these out on VHS tapes. A detailed Chapter Menu has been added with this combination.

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The programs are narrated by David Drui. Dependable Pentrex high standards. No concerns, as far as production.

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For this review. We will look at the pair separately. Tie them together, with a combined rating. Sound good? Let’s move!

The Rathole

Back in October, 1995 and Pentrex was filming the Norfolk Southern. Their Rathole Division should provide plenty of interest. Even, if the modern traffic isn’t very interesting. This line has a big, tough reputation. The Rathole! Certainly, it is worth a visit.

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At Junction City, 3302 waits to enter one of the single track stretches. These bottlenecks make for interesting trainwatching.

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King’s Cut was part of a 1963 line relocation. There were once over 20 tunnels on the Rathole. Only four remain. Only two in the territory.

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Signal bridge at South end has 3303 meet.

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While the large cuts are good backdrops. It would have been a trip, to see the twenty missing tunnels! That would be something.

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Burnside, KY. Bridge Crossing Lake Cumberland.

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A tobacco car designed for Southern an exclusive.

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New River Bridge. A high in the sky structure. Tough to clearly photograph.

Most of this becomes repetitive. Trains and similar rock cuts or wooded scenery. Where are those tunnels?

An excursion train finally alleviates the monotony.

This show needed to be edited downward in length. It becomes a dragging show.

A tower visit deviates from the repetitive nature, of the less than exciting, modernized Rathole. It is a pretty route though.

Return to more Rathole diet. Deep cuts and same looking trains. Are we there yet?

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Two tunnels are finally encountered! One exits directly on to a bridge. About time.

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Pentrex has a good looking final location. Very railroad flavor.

Perhaps, they felt they need for more tunnels. A really nice addition of two more tunnels. These are technically beyond the Rathole district.

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An abandoned, original tunnel. Still used by Maintenance of Way vehicles.

A good program overall. Not a favorite on my end. No major flaws. Just not very exciting. The territory, formerly known as The Rathole. That name fits better!

 

Through the Rathole Cab Ride

One may think. A Cab Ride on a single GP60 pulling truck trailers? Bah! Normally, I would agree. But wait. There’s more!

This is a one hour, Cab  Ride on the famed Rat Hole division. Clear weather. Fall colors.

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The train itself is a high priority one. An NS Triple Crown Road Railer. These are 72 hot loads heading to: Chicago, Detroit, Ft.Wayne Crestline,Ohio and Canada.

Board at Emory Gap. Not at the Rathole yet.

The second week of November. Past peak leaves.

Radio chatter can be heard. Crew talks but engine cab is noisy.

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Number 251 causes us to wait. Having equal Priority.  We pass other lower priority trains.

This GP60 bounces along…

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Coleman has the Through truss bridges.

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Nemo South.

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The engineer describes the GP60, as a hot rod. It has plenty of, get up and go. Perfect for this service!

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A few views still have late fall colors.

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An old Rathole tunnel is visible.

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High up, on the New River Bridge.

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The rearward look, at the 72 Road Railers.

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The train slows on approach for a crew change.

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Excellent tour of the line. Hits the key points. Quick pacing that maintains interest. Enough variety within the parameters of a cab shoot. Nicely done!

 

 

The Rathole

The Rathole does not live up to it’s reputation. I suppose that, was expecting a pre 1963 Rathole. A route with many tunnels for starters. At least, thought to find tough mountain railroading. Like, some Union Pacific or Conrail in Pennsylvania. What I saw was more like a purring kitten!

Still a decent show. Simply limited by the constraints of standardized, modern railroading. Neat, clean and dull.

Through the Rat Hole Cab Ride

The Cab Ride is a shorter show. The fast paced action, benefits from the reduced length. Time passes quickly. This trip covers the same ground. The better of these two programs.

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars