Steam Giants Across America

"This tape is a superb look at articulated steam superpower. It runs for 60 minutes, which is just the right length; railfans can watch it in one sitting comfortably. And for the price, it's a real deal, especially considering the quality of the footage is top-notch.

"Green Frog makes sure that this production captures the awesome power of two of the most advanced (for the 1940's) and powerful steam locomotives ever to turn a wheel: Norfolk & Western's A-class (2-6-6-4) and Union Pacific's Big Boys (4-8-8-4). These monsters, along with UP Challenger 4-6-6-4s, are caught doubleheading with Big Boys; Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range 2-8-8-4s around Proctor, Minnesota, and Rayonier articulated 2-6-6-2s 111 and 38 near Gray's Harbor, Washington, fill out the presentation nicely. All of the archival footage was made from quality 16mm movies.

"The opening segment shows multiple N&W A's pulling and pushing on 100-plus car coal trains. Shown are upwards of five of the these engines, all of which are straining with everything they've got, muscling thousands of tons of coal over the hills of Virginia.

"Separating two of the archival segments is a real interesting computer graphic sequence which illustrates the mechanics of an articulated steam locomotive. This short sidebar will help one to visualize what's going on underneath the boiler.

"UP Big Boys working with Challengers between Laramie and Cheyenne, Wyo., give the N&W footage a run for its money. These scenes are downright awesome. You can keep your diesel superpower; I'll take power in the form of water above 212 degrees Fahrenheit. The only complaint I have about these films is I couldn't be there to witness two articulated giants moving endless strings of boxcars at 80 miles an hour first-hand.

"The tape ends with some modern footage of N&W 1218 between Jacksonville, Fla., and Augusta, Georgia. These scenes are incredible, as the camera zooms in on the rods and drivers at speed, ventures into the cab and watches the engine being serviced. UP's modern steam-ops aren't forgotten, either, as Challenger 3985 and Northern 844 doublehead through Feather River Canyon.

"The quality of the archival footage is superb. Green Frog, through its studios, is able to do fully digital reproductions. This means that older archival footage, some of which is in need of restoration, can be digitally enhanced. Now for purists, enhancement does not mean adding extra locomotives or altering the original film in a way to deceive viewers. It does involve, however, increasing the clarity and resolution of the original film to eliminate imperfections caused by age, damage and equipment and film limitations of the time. After the transfer the digital tape is crisp and clear. In fact, 8mm movies look as good as their 16mm counterparts and both are professional broadcast quality.

"It would greatly benefit the hobby if the smaller producers, who are unable to utilize the same multi-million dollar studios as do some of the larger outfits, would contract with the bigger guys for archival film restoration before they release golden-oldies tapes. It is nice to be able to tell the difference between locomotive types and read the names and road numbers on the sides of engines. And besides, at $30 to $40 a tape, viewers deserve a quality product. In today's digital world, cleaning up old movie film should be standard before a tape is released. Bravo, Green Frog." C.K. - Railfan and Railroad

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