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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Rail Trek Volume One: The East

Rail-Trek---The-East-1960s-1970s-Volume-1-DVD-RVQ-RT1

Producer: Ron McElrath

Timeframe: 1960s-70s

Locations: East-South

Length: 140 min

Sources: R. McElrath, W. Sasser

One of three Rail Trek volumes. Eastern version. Wide coverage over 20 railroads. Updated in 2017 by Revelation Video for DVD release.

The new DVD has film repairs listed as: cleanup on splices and edits. Original sources of 8mm and Super 8. These still show limitations. Good to fair picture quality. Green overcast on occasional scenes.

 

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A detailed Chapter Menu is a fine addition. This lengthly program needs this feature. Especially, as it spends too much time on certain subjects. Definite pacing issues.

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A new, update (on- screen graphic) is used to correct previous narration mistakes. Even a bit of additional information.

The show is in full color. Brief segments with some live audio. Mostly a musical background. Same as previous edition.

Fully narrated by Ron McElrath. Same as the VHS series. Above scene from Marion.

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Show is a mixture of lineside and passenger train ride films. Covers a huge range of territories! Waynesboro, if you have trouble reading.

There is more than a basic review can fully get through here. Overview with some of the important parts to know.

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The railroads in the Southern states are hard to find. These alone, make this worth consideration. L&N, C&O, Southern, Auto-Train. Ride upon and view trains. You just don’t find much of anything, in the South on a train DVD.

Good developments, later in this show.

Earlier on, it was dragging badly. Roads that I like too. Just revolving, around and around, on passenger trains.

*Breakdowns are boring. The audience doesn’t care. Stuck like a bug on flypaper. Cut it short! The show is dragging…

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Endlessly looking around on New York Central. Finally, get out of there.

 

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Look! A neighbor, called New Haven. A chilly trip. Out and back, on a branchline

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A huge commuter mover. More than just Jamaica Yard. Long Island Railroad. Receives maybe, a minute! Really? Ugh…

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Only to get fixated, upon the very attractive Delaware and Hudson Alco PA locomotives.  Move it along…

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Norfolk and Western. This one scene is the best looking. Kind of loses it at Kenova. Experiments with shots and most don’t work. Chesapeake and Ohio. He blows most of the shots here miserably…

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Louisville and Nashville. Excellent choice. Rides an oddly named Pan Am train.

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C&O. 2nd chance. Gets it right now!

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Southern. Look South. GP30 looks awesome with a high hood.

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Birmingham. Hot Spot deluxe. A manned swing gate. Frisco here. More trains are seen. Who knew about this? Gate open…

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Take another look… Gate closed. Excellent.

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Florida. Auto Train gets a glimpse. Florida East Coast with a caboose is included within.

Florida has much more.

Pittsburgh in 15 minutes.. A fine chapter!

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Obligatory Amtrak shot. Cooler than most, with Three Rivers stadium!

 

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Pittsburgh and Philadelphia had vibrant trolley systems too. McElrath shows quite an assortment in both cities. I only have space for one. You’ve been told about it.

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Still in Pittsburgh. B&O action all around.

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Pittsburgh & Lake Erie. A train ride there.

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ATVR bonus. The Orange C was a give to ‘Green team’. New York Central. Red P was supposedly Red team. PRR staff. Neither side was satisfied. Everything reverted back to all white lettering. The rare, Orange C sure looked better to me! At Marion.

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In Ohio, things really get moving along. Erie Lackawanna is plentiful.

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Detroit, Toledo & Ironton, shows up for a minute.

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Marion Hot Spot. The ultimate all time?

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Get your good Norfolk and Western here.

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Recent early 1980s steam inclusion. Needless here. Better quality, easily is obtainable elsewhere. Quit when you are ahead.

Matter of fact. All steam on this show doesn’t really fit. Including, the poorly filmed breakdown outing, in the cold. Drags it down. Time waster that should not be here.

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Now, Atlantic Coast Line is a caboose, one rarely sees in service. There are some hard to find ones, bringing up the rear.

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Rail Trek Volume 1 The East The 1960s- 70s.

This show sure gets around. Large amount of railroads. A supply of rarities. Overall, weak on film quality. Needs some additional editing, for time. Create a stronger presentation.  Nice updates on the VHS. You have: the good, the bad and the ugly. A mixed bag. Make your choice.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

 

Vignettes of the Western Maryland Volume One

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Producer: Clear Block

Timeframe: 1940 – 1975

Locations: System

Length: 1 hour

Sources: Multiple

A large collection of films. Steam to mostly diesel. Preponderance, of color footage. Wide coverage of this railroad.

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Todd Miller performs the narrative. Good script that he wrote. It moves geographically across the territory. A well organized show.vlcsnap-2019-01-31-22h14m22s183

Hence, the timeline jumps as the program progresses. A production decision. One could argue the continuity of time. I would make the argument, the sensibility of time progression. No matter. Let’s go!

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Maps are used judiciously. Excellent, to have these frequently referenced. This show really moves around.

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We will visit Pen Mar Park, circa 1940s. Jump in a locomotive cab, here and there. A tiny amount of interurban service. See the odd loco in Chessie paint.

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Film quality hovers around medicore. Some scenes are a bit less. Some later scenes, are a little higher quality. Much of it, looks dull or unbalanced. The collection sure could use restoration.

In the year 2019. These old, unrestored 8mm film collections are wearing thin. Historical value is obvious. Consumer value can be, less beneficial. Seek the best quality films first. Read the reviews.

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Cinematics themselves are much better! Good camera skills, by about a dozen men.  Filmed over many years. Nice work.

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The commoners can be found in higher quality, in other programs. It is then a question of rarities, or completeness for collectors. They are here.

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Audio is surprisingly excellent.  In this case, almost astounding. Considering the general viewing standards. Locomotive sounds are matched to types. Obviously, much effort was put forth. Resulting into an accurate  environmental soundtrack.

vlcsnap-2019-01-31-21h31m19s363Ubiquitous EMD F7 units served WM with long careers. Note the nose logo here.

vlcsnap-2019-01-31-22h11m40s297Alco locomotives are out on the mainlines. RS-3 units, as well.

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This program has plenty of variety.

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A rare BL- 2 set operates in yard service.

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New circus paint, first appeared in 1969. This SD40 trio illustrates the schemes.

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Norfolk and Western, along with Reading trains, pass through parts of the WM territory.

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Chessie System paint began in 1972. One of the Safety Slogan series.

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The now vintage, Northeast caboose was a staple on Western Maryland.

Vignettes of the Western Maryland Volume One. An interesting show. It covers the railroad as advertised. The visuals are weaker than expected. The audio is much stronger than one would expect. Some rare items within. There you have it.

So… Do you need it?

Depends…

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IF Western Maryland cranks your tractor…

Rating: 3 Stars

 

Before the Wires Came Down

Before the Wires Came Downcvr

(The Springfield Terminal Railway)

A&R Productions

Length: 45 minutes

Time Period: 1950’s

Sources: Karl Hartman, Bill Orne

MSRP:

Vintage film collection of diminutive Springfield   Terminal Railway. This shortline was 8 miles long. It interchanged with Boston & Maine at Charleston, New Hampshire.

8ft

Beginning with some black and white film of the ST. Proceeds with Karl Hartman’s color films. Amateur shot on 8mm film. Camera shake is ever present. A variety of viewpoints do show a healthy inclusion of cab rides. Pacing, runbys, and street views. Period towns and traffic are interesting.

car barn

Audio has dubbed sounds. These are adequate at best. Levels are uneven. Ted Dalaku clearly narrates. Some history and equipment, includes final dispositions of featured units. Heavy on locations.

st 29 bw 1929Baldwin-Westinghouse number 20 is the feautured motor in the first half of the show.

st8                         Number 8 is homebuilt. Equipped for maintenance jobs.

16brMotorcar 16 is the featured on two fantrips on the second half. Arranged by Karl Hartman in 1956. Karl is the only fan on these trips!

transToo much time is spent on, loading and transporting the retired equipment. This is filler.

trip2A so-so trolley video. There are higher quality programs about trolley lines.

The amateur camera relegates this to hardcore fans.

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

Chessie & Seaboard Hall of Fame

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Charles Smiley Presents

Length: 2 Hours + Previews

Time Period: 1950’s- 1990’s

Locations: Systemwide

Sources: Robert Zook, Jack Kuiphoff, Will Whittaker, Ed Kaspriske, Nelson Rath

MSRP: 29.50

A double feature and loaded with rarities. CSX heritage is thoroughly covered in this latest  release from Charles Smiley Presents. A Hall of Fame series that contains total vintage, all color film. Freight and passenger operations are seen in a wide array of trains.

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Chessie System and predecessor railroads : B&O, C&O and WM. These are the main subjects in the first half of the program. Interurban fans get a treat with a brief visit on Potomac Edison. Circa 1950’s era C&O showcases a Brill car operating in Appalachia.

scl2021_sd45Seaboard System and these components: SCL, L&N, and Family Lines members. There are numerous rarities to be savored within Seaboard. The majority of this collection is hard to find material.

ln4099_waldoLouisville and Nashville 4099 leads a mixed lash-up, with a Seaboard Coast Line unit. This EMD locomotive is a GP-38-2, built in 1972. Plenty of trains travel past the camera at Waldo, Florida in the 1970’s. This show provides more L&N, another tough to find film subject.

RF&P receives an extended chapter. This road is another that has been a scarce video find.

wm3580_3577_nw2910_gp35Western Maryland GP35 units 3580, 3577 and NW 2910 are one of many WM trains.

nw2910_wm_gp35Additional Locomotives from: NW, NS, SOU, PC, SP, EL, Conrail, IC and Monon are included. Norfolk & Western 2910 was the lone GP35 from Nickel Plate Road.

Charles Smiley is a consistent producer who maintains high production standards. He gives much value with every release. Every detail is equally important. All of the many elements that combine to create an enjoyable and informative experience, are smoothly presented.

This show is 100% vintage film. Quality is very good to excellent. Digital restoration and enhancement gives the best possible picture. Audio is excellent and matched to the train.

scl_mapThis map displays Seaboard Coast Line. As the story develops, connecting railroads are added to the map. Specific areas are highlighted, and closer views are used as needed.

Chessie 4439The 1970’s are great for seeing Chessie System engines with excellent paint. Most of the second generation locomotive fleet is pretty clean at the time.

Graphics are a key element. Custom made maps are frequently referenced. Locations, years and statistics are included.

Charles is a great narrator. A wealth of historical information is discussed. Fascinating ‘what- if ‘ scenarios offer even more perspective. The nicely balanced presentation has viewers enjoying straight trainwatching sequences as well.

Chessie System

Fascinating , a cornucopia of colorful trains with main action in the 1960’s thru 1980’s.

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co9050_brillThe Brill car is ridden and operated in the Appalachians. A must see has the 9050 riding on a creaking turntable!

co_e8Passenger trains from all three predecessors are included.

bo3722B&O 3722 is a GP40 built in 1969. Western Maryland tracks at Williamsport, MD.

wm_williamsport_helpersAlco FA units with a trailing RS3 are the helper set. These tracks are a bike trail today.

co7511_1975C&O 7511 in 1975. The large roster of Chessie and CSX had unrepainted power roaming the rails for years, such as this SD40 with the C&O For Progress nose herald.

csx4121_gp30B&O GP30 with the CSXT renumbering. Esthetically, these were much better than ugly patch jobs on other railroad mergers. Original paint schemes were fun to find on CSX.

co3257_cabooseChessie aficionados will be satisfied with this show. This review can only give a small sample of the numerous trains.

Seaboard System

The Seaboard Coast Line is prominently featured with a treasure trove of SCL footage. Early Seaboard Railroad is shown. Louisville & Nashville is another film rarity. Family Lines has plenty of coverage. Clinchfield Railroad even makes some cameo appearances. After the satisfying chapters of those railroads, Seaboard System is seen, before and early CSX era. This Seaboard half of the release is worth the price of admission. Viewers will benefit with intelligent background knowledge, and a plethora of trains.

seaboard_e8Charles is extremely thorough when he produces a program. Both shows reach back into the 1950’s with relevant footage of uncommon scenes. Various passenger trains operating to be shown, but this is one of the surprises!

scl1753_u36bSCL 1753 is a GE U36B. There is a good variety of power, paint and cabooses

ln2744_u23bL&N is a major component of Family Lines. A revelation is the L&N route mileage.

ln8142Explanation of Family Lines puts that group in perspective.

sbd1391_gp30Seaboard System is the final incarnation before CSX merger.

ln6131Cabooses are plentiful and an intriguing package of 1970’s – 1980 era.

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Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac

rfp145The RF&P bridge line is reviewed, before the line was absorbed. Yet, another hard to find railroad.

csx118_f7CSX F7A 118 is one of several later era scenes. The show progresses into the CSX Racetrack livery.

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scl_cabooseChessie Seaboard Hall of Fame is a big winner. Railfans and model railroaders will find this a goldmine. The rare factor alone makes this a must have program.

Once again, Charles Smiley has set the bar for vintage railroad shows.

Rating: 5 Stars