Charles Smiley Presents "Midwest Electric Rails", their most ambitious production to date. This extensive presentation will paint the transportation picture that once wrapped around the lower part of the Lake Michigan, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, down through Chicago, Illinois and ending in South Bend Indiana.
The Chicago street car lines were claimed to be the largest system of its kind at one time. From 1858 it grew from a number of small lines using horse drawn trolleys that ran on tracks in the street. The scenes you are about to view are nearly all from the 1950 period to the early 1960s. Most of these electric inter-urban lines are gone with one exception. Plus, they have a few other surprises of how people commuted and traveled in these areas.
This program has a wealth of color movie film mainly from the 1950s, thru the changes into the 1960s. The accurate sound recordings, accompanying these movie scenes, bring back the auditory experience of living in those bygone years. Maps and graphics were specially created to enhance the relevance of the beautiful and nostalgic color movie scenes. These are presented with a well-researched and meaningful historic narrative.
It took many more years of smaller lines combining into what eventually was one giant system. The Chicago Surface Lines boasted 1000 miles of track and over 3000 streetcars of various designs. See hundreds of nostalgic views of streetcars, interurban trains, city and suburban life.
A portion of a review of this video from Railfan Railroad Magazine December 2018:
When the good folks at Charles Smiley Productions came out with this new title I knew I had to review it for you. It is like a veritable from the Dr. Who TV series that transports us back in time. Only this one is better because it takes us back to the Midwest in the 1950s for a look at a very colorful and bygone era.
We start out taking a look at some Chicago Surface Lines material which is nothing short of crystal-clear. How these guys got this footage to look this good is beyond me but I am certainly impressed and I know you will be too. It almost looks like it was filmed just yesterday. The accompanying sound is also very well done and appropriate for each scene. It is so much fun to watch the trolley cars pass through their environment; cars trucks and buses clamor for their position on the road; people in all their finery walk the streets; and downtown merchants are alive and well. and not a chain store to be seen anywhere. Definitely looks like a better place and time to me.
Next it's a look at the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin railroad, a line which was gone way too soon. Again the footage is so crisp and clear and colorful as to be mind blowing. Then it's on to Milwaukee or one of my personal favorites: The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company. I am willing to bet you will never find better footage of this company anywhere else. I really and truly enjoyed this portion of the DVD. We also see these the East Troy railroad as well here. The next chapter shows us a quick look at Chicago area diesel commuter trains of the Rock Island and Burlington Northern railroads before we spend a good chunk of time looking at the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee railroad in all its glory and true electric traction at its finest here.
Even if you have a slight interest in electric traction/trolley cars etc. you really can't go wrong with this DVD. It is so well done, the footage is so crisp and so clear, the material is so priceless, and the narration is so informative, you are simply bound to enjoy it.
Sparkling beautiful 16 mm color film. Visions you can no longer see today!
Charles Smiley Presents, 1 hr. 38 min., color video with narration.