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Earle Baldwin

"North American Trolley Treasures" (Video)

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By the mid 20th Century, trolley and interurban wires literally spanned the country. The electrically powered railway vehicle was the widely accepted choice of travel within most urban areas and many rural locations where construction of heavy rail systems was not practical. In many cities, trolleys outnumbered automobiles on avenues and boulevards. In less developed regions, they rolled along dedicated rights of way, providing access to destinations which were otherwise challenging to reach. They were safe and dependable. Unfortunately, as automobiles increased in popularity and public officials became beholden to oil interests and auto manufacturers, the nation's once vast urban electric railway empire was largely obliterated in the name of "progress" or so it was believed, quite mistakenly, at the time as we shall see later.

 

"North American Trolley Treasures" takes us back in time when trolleys and interurbans were still plentiful in number. The films of John Stein provide coast to coast coverage including more than 25 individual locations and/or systems. Both passenger and freight operations are on display. Some of the major locations visited are Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Saint Louis. Many traction legends such as North Shore's Electroliners, Pacific Electric's Big Red Cars, South Shore's 800 Class Little Joe motors and Pittsburgh's PCC's are viewed in operation. Canada is not neglected as images of trolleys in Montreal and Toronto as well as Canadian interurban freight motors are shown. It should be noted Toronto remains a hotbed of streetcar activity with periodic expansion of its electric railway system in the ensuing years. At least the people of one North American city had enough common sense to leave its network intact!

 

The program is 77 minutes in length and approximately 90% of the content is in color. It features a mixture of dubbed but well placed sound effects and appropriate background music. In addition to the video's main body consisting of the aforementioned vintage material, an addendum celebrates the revival of surface electric railway transportation in the form of light rail. We see, among others, the San Diego Trolley, modernized South Shore equipment and NJ Transit's Newark City Subway while PCC's were still running. As the nation's roads have grown more congested and gasoline becomes more expensive, states and municipalities have finally come to grips with the shortsightedness exhibited by their predecessors many decades ago which resulted in the destruction of America's once proud urban electric railways. In some locales, light rail is being laid as fast as man and materials will allow. It may have taken awhile but the concept of urban electric railway transportation has returned stronger than ever!

 

"North American Trolley Treasures" is released by Revelation Video. Proprietor Ron McElrath is one of the nicest people I have met in the hobby and he produces a high quality program. The list price of the DVD is $29 postpaid although he offers discounts on purchases of two or more programs. Revelation's address is as follows:

 

Revelation Video

P.O. Box 129

Tallmadge, OH 44278

 

Revelation programs are also stocked by many book and video dealers who advertise in the various hobby publications and/or attend meets. This provides an alternative source for those wishing to purchase the videos.

 

Pick up a copy of "North American Trolley Treasures." You won't be disappointed.

 

Regards,

 

Earle

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