"For a small railroad -- 225 miles across Illinois, plus 65 Indiana miles in the Conrail era -- the Toledo, Peoria & Western has had more than its share of history. Consider that it suffered one of the worst train wrecks of the 19th century; that it was taken over by the Federal government because of an anti-labor president who was later murdered; that it had the lightest 4-8-4's in the U.S., converted an F3B to a cab unit in its own tiny shop, and ultimately counted 13 models from three builders among its 41 total diesels.
"TP&W even disappeared for five years, becoming the easternmost end of the Santa Fe, which then spun it off to its current owners, who reinstated the old name.
"All this is covered in this tape. There are the standards you expect in a modern-day rail video: an interview with the current president; trackside train sequences, covering about half the railroad; a map.
"But those are presented almost as dessert, for this video delves much deeper.
"Its biggest selling point is oral history. Former President Bob McMillan talks of his years trying to keep TP&W viable as big mergers surrounded it. He also recalls the loss of the Illinois River bridge in a barge accident, and TP&W's brief time as an Amtrak host. Chatsworth historian Louise Stoutemyer describes the horrible 1887 wreck that killed 85 and sent TP&W into bankruptcy. John Buckingham talks of working the 4-8-4's. Marilyn Clark Paxson tells of her father, Leo Clark, who became its youngest freight engineer, and who took many photos during his 51-year career. Bill Lanxon recalls the East Peoria refrigerator-car icing station and how its work was important to the road's bridgeline traffic. During many of these interviews, old black-and-white still photos or movies are presented. Especially memorable is coverage of the 1970 Crescent City wreck, in which LPG tank cars blew up and destroyed much of the town.
"Naturally, fans of the TP&W and/or central Illinois railroading should snap this program up. But in the broader scope, would-be video producers should also take note. For this program can serve as a model for future efforts to document any small railroad, or a portion of a large one. It's an excellent model that proves rail video can be an educational and reference tool as well as entertainment. The segues between segments often are a bit rough or quick, requiring you to hit the pause button to gather your thoughts. But a few production details aside, this is a program that should be emulated." J. David Ingles - Trains Magazine
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