Pennsy Video - My Top Picks
By Tim Garner
If you're as rabid a Pennsy fan as I am, it's hard to conceive of a bad PRR video. All of them have something to offer – something you've never seen or something you can't get enough of. However, there are differences in quality and content. Since the PRR died before consumer video tape was prevalent, video producers must draw from movie film for all but footage of restored equipment. The vast majority come from 16mm and 8mm railfan footage. The higher quality of 16mm is easy to see.
What makes a great video? In my view, it takes several things. The film to tape transfer should be relatively free of dust, scratches, and flipping frames. The camera work should be properly lighted, and smooth. You can usually tell when someone did not use a tripod. The images should not be too repetitive.
If there is narration, it should be accurate. Factual errors and mispronounced place names are irritating. Some of the newest DVD's provide an option to mute the narration – handy for subsequent viewings.
If sound effects are used, they should be synchronized to the subject. The timing of steam exhaust, whistles, and safety valve releases are visible on the screen and it is rather obvious when the sound does not match up. When the video producer adds sounds that match both the railroad and the equipment on the screen, that's an added bonus. I've heard sounds recorded on the Illinois Central in the late 1950's in more than one PRR tape.
Music can be a great alternative when accurate sounds can't be found. Some producers make better choices than others do. Some seem to think only country music goes with trains. When I hear popular tunes on some tapes, I wonder whether the video producer is paying proper royalties.
I haven't seen every PRR video on the market, but I've seen quite a few. Here are reviews of my favorites and I'll add others as I see them.

The Ratings
Five keystones   Superior in every respect. You have to own this one.
Four keystones   Excellent quality. Strongly recommended for your collection.
Three keystones   Very good, recommended for your collection.
Two keystones   Good. May require more Pennsy knowledge to enjoy.
One keystone   Okay. You may enjoy it, but there are better values.

Five keystones
Pennsylvania Glory, Volume 3
57 minutes, VHS or DVD, ©1991
In my view, Herron stands out as the best producer of vintage rail videos and this is the best of their great PRR collection. The narration and music is quite good. This footage was shot from the 1920's to the 1950's and you'll see virtually every major type of PRR steam and electric locomotive. It was shot in 16mm mostly by John M. Prophet, one of the founders of the PRRT∓HS. Footage from five others is included. Prophet also recorded many of the sound effects Herron used. Shot mostly in color, you'll see footage all over the system. One of the big surprises is very rare color footage of a steam local with freshly painted H21 hoppers with clam shell doors. One downside is that some of the Horseshoe Curve footage has appeared on other videos.
Five keystones
The Middle Division
40 minutes, VHS and DVD, ©1995
Penn Valley has produced several videos from the 16mm films of the late Clarence R. Weaver, a long-time member of the Society. This film is 98% color. It covers from Rockville Bridge to Horseshoe Curve in Pennsylvania (both technically just outside the Middle Division) and many locations in between. There is a wide variety of steam and early diesel action with a couple of Penn Central trains at the end.
Five keystones
The Susquehanna Division
45 minutes, VHS and DVD, ©1995
Also from 16mm film by Clarence Weaver, this color video features the mainline and branches around Sunbury and Northumberland, Pennsylvania. Locomotives are mostly M1a, K4s, and I1sa locomotives. Narration and sound are good.
Five keystones
The Golden Twilight of Postwar Steam, Part 1: The Pennsy's West End and Its Neighbors
54 Minutes, DVD or VHS, ©2004
Greg Frog used the 16mm films of Gene Miller from 1945 to 1950 to put this video together. The exciting PRR footage covers Chicago, Englewood, St. Louis, and Terre Haute. There are rarities such as the S1 6-4-4-6 duplex, poppet valve and streamlined K4s's, and brand new early diesels. You'll also see the Fleet of Modernism paint scheme. Down sides? There are minor errors in the script and brief footage of other railroads in the area. Great picture quality.
Five keystones
Pennsy Steam & Electric Years – 1936-1952
Digital Image Works
45 minutes, VHS, ©1995
Ted Gay shot this black and white footage in the 30's, 40's, and early 50's on the New York Division, Harrisburg Division, and Philadelphia Terminal Division. The quality of the picture (digitally edited from 8mm film), narration, and music are high. You'll see mail caught on the fly, derailment clean up, oil trains during World War II, and demolition of Broad Street Station. You'll even see a brakeman signaling his engineman with a large wad of paper!
Four keystones
Pennsylvania Glory, Volume 1 and 2
Vol. 1, 46 mins; Vol. 2, 43 mins; VHS, ©1989
Except for some 1940's Horseshoe Curve footage by Joe G. Collias, all this 1950's material comes from 16mm film by Benjamin T. Young. Vol. 1 covers the Long Island Railroad and the PRR from New York City to Enola, Pennsylvania. Vol. 2 covers Rockville to Columbus, Ohio. Quality of the film, sound, and narration are good.
Four keystones
The Pennsylvania Railroad
60 minutes, VHS or DVD, ©1992
The 16mm films of Emery Gulash from 1952 to 1969 make up this beautifully shot video. Steam and electric are here, but diesels are the main part of the show. You'll see Tunnel Hill, Horseshoe Curve, Hollidaysburg, Altoona, Fort Wayne, the Corridor, and more. The film of traffic through the Ft. Wayne station is striking with a EF17's (GP9) fast freight and an EP22 (EMD E8) diesel stretching the slack on its train as it comes to a stop. Great picture quality.
Four keystones
Pennsy's Racetrack – The Northeast Corridor 1940-1980
69 minutes, DVD or VHS, ©2000
This video combines footage from several railfans including Ted Gay and John Prophet. Early black and white footage around Washington, DC shows GG1's in their original Futura lettering. You'll see great coverage of the line up through Penn Central, Conrail, and Amtrak ownership. Video quality is high.
Four keystones
Steam & Diesel on the Pennsylvania Railroad, Vols. 1 and 2
56 minutes each, VHS or DVS, ©1996
These two videos from Donald J. Krofta's 16mm film are beautifully produced with Herron's typically good narration, sound, and music. The film transfer was done at Disney studios. Vol. 1 covers the area from Tyrone to Horseshoe Curve in Pennsylvania with a mix of black and white and color footage. Vol. 2 covers lines in Ohio mainly focused on the Sandusky line. There is brief Penn Central and Conrail footage at the end that show how the lines changed.
Four keystones
The Ore Train
40 minutes, VHS or DVD, ©1991
Clarence Weaver put this film together like a documentary on the ore trains that ran from Northumberland to Mt. Carmel, Pennsylvania on the Shamokin Branch in the late 1950's. This was one of steam's last stands on the PRR. Legend has it that it was popular at Society Annual Meetings for years.
Four keystones
Pennsy Steam & Electric Years - 1995-1964, Volume II
Digital Image Works
45 minutes, VHS, ©1997
Richard T. Lane shot this color footage on the Philadelphia Region, Philadelphia Terminal Division, and Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines. You'll see several K4s's leaving 30th Street Station for Atlantic City. A highlight is a 75 mph. pacing sequence on the Cape May Branch with an E6s 4-4-2. Good narration, picture, and music.
Three keystones
The Transition Years in the 50's and 60's
47 minutes, VHS or DVD, ©1997
This mostly color collection of Clarence Weaver film is a mixed bag from the 60's, 50's and earlier. Among the highlights are footage of the Loewy-designed streamlined K4s and a train moving the PRR steam collection to from Northumberland to Strasburg. Penn Valley has other titles I haven't seen yet.
Three keystones
Pennsylvania Railroad Volumes I and II
60 minutes, VHS or DVD, ©1998
Two volumes on one DVD, part one starts on the Long Island, covers the commuter trains at South Amboy, and the Army/Navy Game operations in Philadelphia. Part 2 covers Altoona, Horseshoe Curve, and the Middle Division. Steam, diesel, electrics, and the Aerotrain are covered. Video quality ranges from good to excellent.
Three keystones
Pennsy In New Jersey
Digital Image Works
45 minutes, VHS, ©1996
Bill Folger and Ted Gay shot this mix of color and black and white 8mm film. It covers action on the New York & Long Branch in New Jersey and the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines in the 40's and 50's. Film quality is more inconsistent on this DIW film with many shaky or unclear sequences. Narration and sound are good. DIW has films on the Philadelphia Terminal Division and the Army/Navy Game Trains I have not seen yet.
Three keystones
Steam on Horseshoe Curve, Parts I and II
Part 1, 23 mins; Part 2, 28 mins; VHS; no date
The title of these videos is very misleading since the majority of the footage is from other parts of the railroad. Part 1 is mostly black and white and starts in the 30's. Part 2 is all color and covers the 40's and 50's. The quality of the transfer from 16mm to tape is good and there are many interesting views. However, the narration is frequently inaccurate and most locations are not identified. The price for these tapes is excessive.
Two keystones
Vignettes of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Vol. 1 and 2
58 minutes for 1, 53 minutes for 2, DVD and VHS, ©1998
Volume 1 is a collection of color films from William P. Price. Vic Ketchan, and Karl Walters. Quality of the film is inconsistent, but there are some interesting sequences. Geographic coverage is broad - NJ, NY, IL, OH, PA, and MD. Volume 2 has films from Charlie Bealer, Charles W. Hauser Sr., and Bruce Kantner. Again, geographic coverage is broad as is the type of steam and diesel locomotives. Material and film to video transfer seems better than the first release.
Two keystones
PRR Power, Vols. 1-6
Railroad Video Productions
60 minutes (typical), VHS and DVD, ©1990's
Walter M. Berko assembled these videos of railfan 8mm movies during the 1990's. Some include black and white scenes. Many are pure railfan footage, but some include segments from films the PRR produced. Volume 5 includes Trains, Tracks, and Safety Facts – a film directed at schoolchildren that includes great Aerotrain segments. Berko's films have train sounds, but no narration or titles. If you know the railroad, you might be able to guess what you are looking at. There is wide variation in the quality of the footage. Of the ones I've seen, I like Volumes 3 and 5 the best.
Two keystones
About PRR-Produced Films
PRR commissioned several publicity films in the 40's and 50's and several have show up on the video market. They include Steel Wheels Rolling, Progress on the Rails, Clear Track Ahead, and others. These three are black and white and it's not unusual to see railroad video producers steal scenes from these movies for their own products. Altoona shop scenes from Clear Track Ahead often appear, sometimes with sound effects that sound like they were produced with a hammer and a block of wood in someone's garage.
One keystone
A Century and a Half at Horseshoe Curve
80 minutes, DVD or VHS, ©1998
This video has some interesting early steam footage, but much of the material is reused from other sources. Film to tape transfer is not very good.
One keystone
Broadway Limited
100 minutes, DVD or VHS, ©2002
Much of the historical footage is reused from other sources. Majority of the tape covers the Broadway in the final days under Amtrak.

If you have different opinions about which videos or best or you have a favorite you don't see here, drop an email to me at

New England Chapter, Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society
PO Box 624, Marlborough, Massachusetts 01752-0624
© 2006, New England Chapter, PRRT&HS