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Big “E” Productions

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Frequency – four times a year                                   Issue #161                                         September, 2017


New this month are two interesting programs from our Texas trip.  On the way to Texas we videotaped CSX’s busiest north-south corridor – their S&NA North subdivision in the winding valleys of south-central Tennessee.  This gives an early look at the changes wrought by new CSX president Hunter Harrison.  Also just released is our first new Texas program on the two Union Pacific directional running lines between Beaumont and Houston.  These are our 31st and 32nd programs 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 137 newest ones – everything videotaped from 2004 on plus 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.  304 programs are available in DVD (32 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 “Union Pacific’s Texas Chemical Coast Mains” and “CSX’s S&NA North Subdivision”.  Refineries and chemical plants along the Texas Gulf Coast stretching from Orange, Texas on the Louisiana border to Kingsville, just below Corpus Christi produce over two-thirds of the country’s petrochemical output.  The railroad heart of Texas’s Chemical Coast is the two rail lines that run between Houston and Beaumont, a distance of eighty five miles.  This program shows over 24 hours of action on both of those lines in late April and early May of 2017 – first the former Missouri Pacific line, now UP’s Beaumont Subdivision, and then the former Southern Pacific line, now UP’s Houston sub.  Kansas City Southern trains running between Laredo on the Mexican border and Shreveport, Louisiana or Jackson, Mississippi have overhead rights on these lines as does BNSF, both from conditions in the UP-SP merger in 1996.  UP began directional running on these lines in 1998 as part of their improvements to get out from under their meltdown in Texas which lasted nearly a year.  Train movements on the Beaumont sub are nearly always eastbound including Amtrak’s Sunset Limited.  While movements on UP’s Houston sub are predominately westbound, the directionality is complicated by trains running both ways from Englewood and Settgast Yards to Dayton where UP’s busy Baytown branch begins and where BNSF has their key yard for sorting manifest traffic in the Houston area.  In contrast to the Beaumont sub, the Houston sub has many customers requiring service from locals.  “Union Pacific’s Texas Chemical Coast Mains” is a two disk set and is two hours and thirty-nine minutes in length.  Both the Blu-ray and DVD versions sell for $40.95 plus $5.00 for S&H.  “CSX’s S&NA North Subdivision” shows over 24 hours of action on the former Louisville and Nashville, now CSX, S&NA North Subdivision which runs from Nashville, Tennessee to Birmingham Alabama, a distance of 205 miles.  This is part of CSX’s most important north-south traffic lane between Chicago and Florida which they have nicknamed the Southeast Corridor.  Trains were videotaped south of Nashville in south-central Tennessee, between Cornersville and Dellrose.  This part of southern Tennessee is full of winding valleys and high ridges as the tracks pierce the edge of the Appalachian Plateau and Tennessee’s Southern Highland Rim between the Cumberland River at Nashville and the Tennessee River at Decatur, Alabama.  There is even a fifteen hundred foot long tunnel here although it is inaccessible for videography.  At the time that these trains were videotaped in late April of 2017 CSX was a couple of months into the Hunter Harrison era where dramatic changes in train operations were taking place with many hump classification yards and intermodal terminals being closed and trains combined into 10,000 foot monsters.  As an example, two pair of intermodal trains have been added since our 2011 visit to this line but one pair will be re-routed via Atlanta only a week after our visit.    In spite of the train consolidations, the freight train count on this line is nearly triple of what it was 50 years ago.  “CSX’s S&NA North Subdivision” is 61 minutes in length.  Both the Blu-ray and DVD versions sell for $30.95 plus $5.00 for S&H.


New three months ago was “The Transcon in Illinois” and “BNSF’s Twin Cities to Fargo Mains”.  If you want to see the greatest show in freight railroading in this country, head to the former Santa Fe, now BNSF, main line between Chicago and Los Angeles known as the Transcon.  The Santa Fe’s extension to Chicago helped to bankrupt the company only five years later, but that extension was a key factor in making the Santa Fe the most admired and one of the financially strongest railroads in this country for the next one hundred and seven years.  West of Galesburg in central Illinois where we videotaped, the line once known as “the Airline” is nearly straight as an arrow as it crosses the Galesburg Plain and heads down an undulating grade into the Mississippi River Valley at Lomax.  Trains then thunder along the Mississippi River for twelve miles to Niota where the great bridge over the Mississippi to Fort Madison is located.  Traffic on the Transcon is five or six times what it was fifty years ago, arguably the greatest increase in traffic on any significant rail lane in the country that doesn’t handle coal from the Powder River Basin.   This video shows over twenty-four hours of action on the Transcon on the one-time Santa Fe Illinois Division between Ormonde, thirteen miles west of Galesburg, and Fort Madison in October of 2016.  And some Union Pacific trains between Chicago and the Southwest or Southern California use this line also, a condition of the Burlington Northern – Santa Fe merger.  “The Transcon in Illinois” is a two disk set and is two hours and forty minutes in length.   Both the Blu-ray and DVD versions sell for $40.95 plus $5.00 for shipping and handling.  “BNSF’s Twin Cities to Fargo Mains” takes a look at the two BNSF main lines between the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the adjacent cities of Moorhead, Minnesota and Fargo, North Dakota.  The predecessors of these two lines are the first railroad in Minnesota, the St. Paul and Pacific, nee St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba, later Great Northern Railway, and the Northern Pacific Railway, the first northern transcontinental railroad and third overall transcontinental.  First, we will show trains on BNSF’s former Northern Pacific Staples Subdivision around New York Mills and Perham, Minnesota.  Perham in sixty-five miles east of Dilworth, BNSF’s main terminal for the Fargo-Moorhead area, and one hundred seventy-five miles west of Northtown, BNSF’s primary classification yard in the Twin Cities.  Then we will cover the trains on the former Great Northern Twin Cities to Fargo main between the outskirts of Breckenridge, Minnesota and Benson.  Breckenridge is forty-eight miles railroad east of Fargo and two hundred and fifteen miles from St. Paul.  These two lines handle all of BNSF’s Northern Transcon traffic between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest and are part of BNSF’s northern coal corridor and are also the eastern outlet for crude oil from the Bakken Shale oil field in North Dakota.   In spite of the downturn in coal and crude oil, these lines are still quite busy and the fall grain rush was also on when we visited BNSF in Minnesota.  BNSF has recovered from its Bakken crude oil induced meltdown on their Northern Transcon in 2013 and 2014 after billions were spent on added capacity and new power.  This DVD shows over 24 hours of traffic on both of BNSF’s main lines between the Twin Cities and Fargo in September of 2016.  “BNSF’s Twin Cities to Fargo Mains” is a two disk set and is two hours and ten minutes in length.   Both the Blu-ray and DVD versions sell for $36.95 plus $5.00 for S&H.


New six months ago was “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 that were 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.


Other recent releases that can be watched with and without narration and are available in both Blu-ray and DVD include “BNSF at Perry, Oklahoma”, “Norfolk Southern’s former D&H – a Phoenix Rising”, “UP’s Historic Council Bluffs to Gibbon Main”, “Union Pacific’s Marysville Subdivision”, “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”, and “CSX’s ex-New York Central Rochester Sub”“BNSF at Perry, Oklahoma” shows over 24 hours of action in April of 2016 at Perry, Oklahoma, where two important BNSF main lines run side by side through town – the north-south former Santa Fe, Kansas City to Fort Worth and Galveston line and the east-west former Frisco and later Burlington Northern Tulsa to Avard line.  “Norfolk Southern’s former D&H – a Phoenix Rising”, shows over 24 hours of action on the former 2nd subdivision of the Delaware and Hudson, now Norfolk Southern, between Delanson, New York where the now truncated Albany main joins the main line and Belden tunnel, 16 miles from Binghamton, in July of 2016.  “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.  This is one of the busiest and best known rail lines in this country.  “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.  These last 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.  “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.


Our next releases in late November will be two more programs from our trip to Texas.

                                                   Dick and Barb Eisfeller