Union Pacific Odyssey: Volume I

"Volume I, which is divided into two tapes for convenience, was shot by Emery Gulash between 1952 and 1967 on the Union Pacific, almost entirely along the mainline between Council Bluffs and Ogden. The bulk of the tape, however, comes from the years 1964 and 1967, including the entire second tape (the shorter half of the volume) which focuses on two excursions by the UP 4-8-4 then numbered 8444.

"An opening sequence of views, accompanied only by music, previews the rest of the tape. Narration takes us too quickly through the early years of Emery's UP filming up to 1960, where we see a great deal of varied passenger action at Denver Union Station one morning. The action, which will thrill passenger enthusiasts, incudes eight different trains: two Union Pacific, three Rio Grande, Burlington, Colorado & Southern and Missouri Pacific. The next action follows the Union Pacific west, beginning at Fremont, Nebr. And ending at Morgan, Utah, in 1964. The remainder of the volume is set in 1967, and similarly follows the UP west, this time from Council Bluffs to Sherman Hill, before following two spring 1967 excursions of the 8444 on the second tape.

"The action can still be filmed on the lines covered here, but the turbines, freight diesel models and the passenger trains are long gone, so one can easily become absorbed in all the activity included in this collection. Runby after runby follows, but with enough variety of content, angle and location as to be of interest. There are some problems, however. Viewers used to videos shot with modern equipment quickly learn that today's technology still can't make 16mm film any more steady and smooth than technology allowed then, and the jerky motion of some runpasts taken at fairly close range at a 90-degree angle are disconcerting. The narration is informative, explaining items from the evolution of the yard and station at Cheyenne to why turbines later ran in multiple with diesels, but sometimes it is just plain wrong. A run-through of Frisco and Rio Grande diesels turns out to be only Frisco; the "Rio Grande" unit actually has the earlier black and gold Frisco paint scheme. F-units are said to be rare when photographed in Idaho in 1964, but the diesels shown are upgraded F3s -- often call F9m -- the same model frequently seen by this reviewer as late as 1970. Some of the movements in the early sequence at Denver Union Station are wrongly identified. In addition, dates aren't always clear. For example, it seemed that the trip west along the main was in the same time frame as Denver (1960), but models of diesels are seen in it that didn't exist then so it was apparently 1964, the next date mentioned. The organization is largely sequential by location and apparently chronological, so insertions such as a "Cities" train arriving in Chicago, a Cedar Rapids & Iowa City local, the Wabash Cannon Ball at an un-named location and the UP train in Idaho are out of place.

"There are still plenty of highlights. Emery chases several freights as they make their way along the main, and the variety of settings provided by the geography of Wyoming and Utah make this even more impressive. Passenger train buffs, such as this reviewer, can delight in the runpasts of a number streamliners. Picking up mailbags and orders on the fly are also included.

"Comments made by the narrator about the locomotives and equipment are helpful. Criticism could be made of the camera work, especially the awkwardness of some of the pans, but in general it was excellent and highly varied, especially considering that it is doubtful that the photographer was filming this for the mass media market. Of special note are some of the dramatic sunsets and much of the distant viewing. Certainly this is material that can no longer be seen live. We can be glad Emery was there with a quality camera recording the action so we can enjoy it. If you are a UP fan or enjoyed 60s-style railroading, you'll like these tapes. Richard G. Prince - National Railway Historical Society

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