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"South Shore Line" by Green Frog Productions Review (Video)


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Presented for your consideration is a review of the video titled "South Shore Line" by Green Frog Productions.

 

The Chicago, South Shore & South Bend Railroad has its origins early in the 20th Century. Since its inception, the railroad has provided high speed electrified passenger service between Downtown Chicago and South Bend, Indiana. Interestingly, in order to reach Chicago's Randolph Street Station, CSS trains for decades utilized trackage rights over former Illinois Central right of way which operated its own electric communter trains. By the time the majority of this video was filmed during the late 1970's, CSS had earned the unofficial title of America's last great interurban railroad. In 1978, I had the good fortune to make a railfan pilgrimage to Chicago and personally participate in the South Shore experience. I was therefore quite enthusiastic about the release of this program on VHS during the late 90's.

 

As mentioned above, the majority of the video was filmed during the late 70's. At this time, CSS was under control of Chessie System which was vigorously pursuing the abandonment of passenger service. The railroad's infrastructure was aging and its continued existence very much in doubt. Accordingly, it received a great deal of attention from the enthusiast community, although motion picture records regrettably appear to be minimal. Luckily enough, Dan Morris, who provided the vintage film for this program, was trackside with a sound equipped movie camera.

 

The video contains plentiful scenes of the 1920's era orange and brown cars which were the hallmark of South Shore service. Many locations are shown in a variety of lighting and seasons. Most of the material is presented from a trackside perspective although we are treated to the on board experience as well. Most of the program is focused on passenger operations; however, CSS hosts its share of freight traffic and scenes of trains powered by the "800" class Little Joe locomotives and former C&O GP7's are shown. It is interesting to note by the time these images were made, the 800's, despite their immense size, were limited to way freights. This restriction was the result of the extensive power draw these monsters generated in hauling heavy tonnage. The power supply system had deteriorated to the point it could not deliver the juice required for such assignments so the Joes were assigned to local service and Chessie supplied the above mentioned GP7's for heavier trains. Also included are several views of ICG's vintage and more modern bi-level multiple unit cars.

 

The quality of the images are quite acceptable given the cameras and film available at the time. A true gem is the fact Mr. Morris used sound film and the whine of traction motors and thumping of compressors is enough to warm the heart of any traction enthusiast. Following the main presentation of sixty minutes is an additional ten minutes of camcorder footage presenting the contemporary CSS featuring Japanese built stainless steel passenger equipment and GP38-2 powered freight trains. Despite the uncertainty of the late 70's, CSS passenger service has survived, thrived and even expanded with the extension of service to Michiana Regional Airport in South Bend. This is a true American railroading success story.

 

"South Shore Line" is now available on DVD with a list price of $24.95 although it is available at a discount from the larger dealers who typically advertise in hobby publications such as "Trains" and "Railfan and Railroad." I have owned the program on VHS since its original release and recently purchased the DVD version which will enable me to donate the VHS copy to the collection of one of the enthusiast organizations of which I am a member. "South Shore Line" serves as a wonderful time capsule of a truly historic railroad and should find a welcome home in the collection of any traction enthusiast.

 

Best Regards,

 

Earle

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