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Big “E” Productions

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Frequency – four times a year                                   Issue #159                                               March, 2017


It’s Out!  Our Alaska Railroad DVD is ready to ship!  This is our 28th program to be released in both Blu-ray and in regular DVD.  You need to specify what type of DVD you are ordering with programs available in both DVD and Blu-ray.  All of our DVD’s have chapters and menus and the 133 newest ones – everything videotaped from 2004 on and a few programs from 2003 - have a choice of being watched with narration and without narration by using the menu or audio and language buttons on your DVD player controller.  300 programs are available in DVD (28 in Blu-ray) and all are listed in the flyers.  No other train video producer shows and explains railroading like we do and our catalogue includes programs on fallen flags ATSF, SP, Wisconsin Central, and Conrail.  Our shipping and handling charge on repeat orders remains $5.00 with no charge on orders over $100.  We offer discounts on large orders.  See flyers for details.  These discounts are available only by mail and phone.  If you have questions and get our answering machine, please leave your name and number and we will call you back as soon as possible.  We are also on the internet at


New this month is “The Alaska Railroad”  Alaska - the Last Frontier, land of glaciers, incredible vistas, the mountain known as “The Great One” - Denali, and incomparable wildlife – whatever superlative one applies to our largest and forty-ninth state, it can also be applied to the Alaska Railroad, arguably the most unique railroad in the United States.  The Alaska Railroad bills itself as “the last full-service railroad in North America”.  Twenty-seven percent of its revenues are from passengers.  No other freight common carrier that is not a commuter railroad in the lower forty-eight even comes close to that.  Its passenger car fleet, much of which is glass-topped and traditional domes and is supplemented by tour operators and cruise lines’ cars in three different color schemes, is easily the most eclectic in the country.  And its freight operations are unique also – with its captive rail cars and only connections to the outside railroad world being weekly barges from Seattle and twice monthly from Prince Rupert.  Yet the railroad is impeccably modern with welded rail, diesels with AC traction motors, distributed power, and majestic bi-level passenger cars all dressed up in a beautiful blue and gold.  Alaska has always been a land of booms and busts.  Tourism is the latest boom and the now state owned Alaska Railroad has taken full advantage of that.  This program shows the trains and traffic including all scheduled passenger and freight trains on the Alaska Railroad between the ports of Seward and Whittier and Fairbanks with many trains set in the grandeur of the Bold Land that is Alaska filmed in late August and September of 2016.  “The Alaska Railroad” is one hour and nineteen minutes in length and both the Blu-ray and DVD versions sell for $32.95 plus $5.00 for S&H. 


New three months ago was “BNSF at Perry, Oklahoma” and “Norfolk Southern’s former D&H – a Phoenix Rising”.  Perry, a county seat town in north-central Oklahoma, sixty-three miles north of Oklahoma City, is in a unique position on the sprawling BNSF system.  There, two important main lines run side by side through this town of 5100 residents – the north-south former Santa Fe, Kansas City to Fort Worth and Galveston line and the east-west former Saint Louis San Francisco or Frisco and later Burlington Northern Tulsa to Avard line.  Avard is ninety-three miles west of Perry where it connects with the BNSF Chicago to California Transcon and Tulsa is eighty-three miles east of Perry.  After the BNSF merger connecting tracks were installed at Black Bear, six miles northeast of Perry, and at Perry in order to allow westbounds from the hump classification yard in Tulsa to head south onto the former Santa Fe main at Black Bear and vice-versa.  The former Santa Fe line through Perry, BNSF’s present day Red Rock subdivision, has been an important trunk line since shortly after the Santa Fe took over the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe in December of 1886 and opened a through route between Kansas City and Galveston.  Until 1973 the former Frisco line through Perry was a sleepy branch line with a train a day between Tulsa and junction of two branch lines and some of the largest terminal elevators in the wheat belt at Enid, thirty five miles west of Perry.  Then in 1973 the Santa Fe and Frisco moved their interchange point for transcontinental traffic from Floydada in the Texas Panhandle to Avard.  But the Avard branch or Avard subdivision as it is known today didn’t really come into its own until after the merger of the Santa Fe and Burlington Northern to form BNSF in 1995.   This program shows over twenty-four hours of action at Perry in April of 2016.  “BNSF at Perry, Oklahoma” is one hour and 52 minutes in length.  Both the Blu-ray and DVD versions sell for $34.95 plus $5.00 for shipping and handling.  Norfolk Southern’s takeover of the former Delaware and Hudson south of Schenectady on September 19th of last year has continued the slow increase in traffic on the critical midsection of the former D&H that began with the 2004 trackage and haulage rights agreement with Norfolk Southern.  The Delaware and Hudson has surmounted many challenges and been near death more than once in the past eighty or so years – first with the loss of the anthracite coal business to oil and gas, then the loss of friendly connections as a result of the formation of Penn Central and later Conrail that led to near death in the late seventies and early eighties before Guilford took them over, the bankruptcy and directed service crisis after the strikes on Guilford in the mid-eighties, and finally Canadian Pacific’s indifference to growing the traffic after failing to find an acceptable buyer for the D&H and their constant cutbacks in service in the past few years.  Preceded by Norfolk Southern acquiring haulage rights on much of the D&H in 2004 and a half interest in Pan Am’s line from Mechanicville to Ayer Massachusetts in 2009, Norfolk Southern’s acquisition of the south end of CP’s D&H subsidiary seemed a foregone conclusion but it still took years for the parties to come to an agreement.  For the first time since the 1920s the former D&H is arguably entering a stable period where its future isn’t in doubt.  This program shows over 24 hours of action on the former 2nd subdivision between Delanson where the now truncated Albany main joins the main line and Belden tunnel, sixteen miles from Binghamton, in July of 2016.  “Norfolk Southern’s former D&H – a Phoenix Rising” is sixty-one minutes in length and both the Blu-ray and DVD versions sell for $30.95 plus $5.00 for S&H.


New six months ago are two programs on the Union Pacific in Nebraska showing all the trains on both lines east of the great junction at Gibbon where UP’s famed triple track main begins.  The Union Pacific main line up the Platte River Valley west of Council Bluffs to the junction with the line from Kansas City at Gibbon is one of the most historic and best known rail lines in this country – the first track to be laid by the first transcontinental railroad.  This line is still one of the most important and busier rail lines in the U.S. for freight traffic in spite of the recent recession and downturn in coal that has battered U. S. railroads the past decade.  Today’s trains are even longer and heavier than those seen during our last visit to this historic line in 2010.  Once best known as the Overland Route, this line today is part of UP’s heavily trafficked Central Corridor.  “UP’s Historic Council Bluffs to Gibbon Main” shows over twenty-four hours of action on UP’s Columbus and Kearney Subdivisions on both sides of Grand Island in April of 2016.  “UP’s Historic Council Bluffs to Gibbon Main” is a two disk set and is two hours and thirty minutes in length.  Both the Blu-ray and DVD versions sell for $38.95 plus $5.00 for shipping and handling.  Old timers would not recognize the way that the Union Pacific Marysville subdivision looks today.  This line stretches from Topeka, sixty-eight miles west of Kansas City, to Gibbon, Nebraska where the triple track main to North Platte begins.  UP’s Kansas City main today is two main tracks on wide centers with centralized traffic control as compared to the single track CTC line with 110 car sidings as recently as the early 1970s.  With little straight track until its gets close to Gibbon, most of this line is quite different from UP’s Omaha main with its long tangents up the North Platte Valley.  During the previous decade almost as many trains would head southeast at Gibbon onto the Marysville sub towards Kansas City than proceeded straight on the main line to Omaha.  But these are not normal times and the coal traffic is way off with the low price of natural gas and bloated utility stockpiles due to a warm winter.  “Union Pacific’s Marysville Subdivision” shows over twenty-four hours of fast paced action on UP’s still busy Marysville Subdivision both sides of Fairbury, Nebraska in April of 2016.  “Union Pacific’s Marysville Subdivision” is one hour and seventeen minutes in length and both the Blu-ray and DVD versions sell for $32.95 plus $5.00 for S&H.  These two programs together show the traffic on UP’s Triple Track Main west of Gibbon and the comparison of today’s trains to that in our last visit there in 2010 is quite interesting. 


Other recent releases that can be watched with and without narration and are available in both Blu-ray and DVD include “CN and CP Montreal to Toronto Mains”, “CN around Nakina in Northern Ontario”, “Canadian National’s Western Manitoba Mains“, Canadian Pacific’s Western Manitoba Mains”, “CSX’s ex-New York Central Rochester Sub”, “Norfolk Southern’s Funnel east of Knoxville”, “CN’s ex-EJ&E Leithton Subdivision”, and “UP’s ex-CNW Frac Sand Main”.  “CN and CP Montreal to Toronto Mains” shows at least twenty-four hours of action on the two busiest rail lines for freight and Via Rail passenger trains in eastern Canada - the Canadian National and Via Corridor between Montreal and Toronto and Canadian Pacific’s Belleville Subdivision, part of their Montreal to Toronto main line, in October of 2015.  “CN around Nakina in Northern Ontario” shows over 24 hours of action on the CN transcontinental main line at the end of the highway system around Nakina in northern Ontario, part of CN’s Caramat Subdivision that runs across the Canadian Shield in Northern Ontario.  “Canadian National’s Western Manitoba Mains” shows the trains and operations in October of 2015 on both of Canadian National’s main lines in western Manitoba – the transcontinental main line through Rivers and around Dauphin on CN’s secondary main line known as their Prairie North Line that diverges from the main line at Portage La Prairie, just west of Winnipeg, including some of the longest trains on this continent.  “Canadian Pacific’s Western Manitoba Mains” shows the trains and operations on both of Canadian Pacific’s main lines in western Manitoba – the transcontinental main line west of Brandon and west of Minnedosa on their North Line that diverges from the main at Portage La Prairie, just west of Winnipeg in October of 2015.  “CSX’s ex-New York Central Rochester Sub” shows over 24 hours of fast paced action in July of 2015 on the former New York Central, nee Penn Central and Conrail water level route west of Rochester, New York between the junction with the former West Shore Railroad bypass around Rochester at Chili and South Byron, just east of Batavia on Bergen Hill, part of CSX’s Rochester Subdivision that extends from Rochester to Buffalo.  “Norfolk Southern’s Funnel east of Knoxville” shows all the trains for over thirty hours in April of 2015 on NS’s Bristol Line immediately east of Knoxville, Tennessee.  Traffic on the former EJ&E Western Subdivision north of Joliet, “CN’s ex-EJ&E Leithton Subdivision”, has quadrupled from what it was before the CN takeover.  This line now hosts most of CN’s traffic from western Canada and Wisconsin for the Chicago gateway and beyond.  Both BNSF and Union Pacific have overhead rights for certain trains on this busy section of track.  “UP’s ex-CNW Frac Sand Main” documents the recent increase in trains due to the increase in sand for hydraulic fracturing or fracking on the former Chicago and North Western’s Twin Cities Line, the one-time route of the “400s”.


Our next release in late May will be programs on BNSF in Minnesota and on the BNSF Transcon in Illinois.

                                                   Dick and Barb Eisfeller