Vignettes of the Western Maryland Volume One


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.


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!


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


This program has plenty of variety.


A rare BL- 2 set operates in yard service.


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


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


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


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?



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


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


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

Chessie & Seaboard Hall of FameCover d142

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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.


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

Smoke in Niles Canyon

Smoke in Niles Canyoncvr

Catenary Video Productions

Length: 35 minutes

Time Period: 1920’s- Present

Sources: Don Olsen, Bill Straile, Warren Haack

MSRP: 19.95

A Pictorial History of The Niles Canyon Railway

Niles Canyon is presented in a ‘then and now ‘ format. Located west of San Francisco, California. Both Southern Pacific and Western Pacific had tracks through the canyon. SP abandoned their line. Pacific Locomotive Association operates a museum and vintage equipment on the now restored trackage. Known as, Niles Canyon Railway, the remainder of the show will focus on modern operations.

The historical films are from the Don Olsen collection. Black and white from 1926 begins the movie film coverage. Much color is seen in the archive assortment. Modern footage was shot in HD. Various early black and white, plus color photographs.

cvmClover Valley Lumber Company Mallet. Archive film that captures a logging train. For a short program, we visit beyond Niles Canyon. The benefit is the sight of some equipment heritage.


Narration by Warren Haack. He was raised in logging country and is an enthusiastic host. Warren has produced this release, with fine results. Dividing the show into chapters, we start with a look at the early history of the tracklaying period in 1869. The editing is smooth and sharp. No chapter menu or search function.


A PBS style format is used for this release. Narrative, train sounds, live sound, photographs and brief commentaries, all enhance this high quality show.


Custom maps are frequently referenced. Older SP/ WP and Niles Canyon current day.

cz1Western Pacific California Zephyr. Multiple scenes with this famous train. Ride the train too. A few Cab Forwards on freights are seen, on the close proximity SP line.

2472 southern pacific steam          SP 2742 at Mission Bay.


Southern Pacific 2742. Vintage and contemporary views, of this classic engine.



California Western Skunk. These trolley/ interurbans are the diesel self-propelled type. Different color schemes and various models, are seen in the old films.


Modern Niles Canyon Railway is featured in the second half of this show. Four steamers were operating when this was filmed. Get a cab ride on this Robert Dollar Co. locomotive.

gncA photo freight special that swaps leading locos on this doubleheader.

mclThe saddle tankers appear almost narrow gauge. Until coupled to standard gauge cars! More background information on these engines would be desirable. The 35 minutes packs much, but is a shorter release. If the log trains catch your fancy, check other Catenary titles.

Smoke in Niles Canyon is an excellent show for the whole family to enjoy! There is plenty to keep railfans and model railroaders interested, as well. A nicely balanced presentation.

Rating: 4 Stars