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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » America's Scenic Rail Journeys
America's Scenic Rail Journeys
Acorn Media // Unrated // April 12, 2005
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted March 14, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

When I went to New York City on my own a little over a year ago, I decided that I didn't want to fly there like most people do. I wanted to take the train halfway across the country. It may have sounded like a questionable idea for someone with the attention span of a four-year-old, but it would be an adventure. And, for a $53 round-trip sale, I didn't even mind being in coach. It was certainly a journey - I was so jazzed to be heading to New York City and so fascinated by the scenery that was whizzing by the windows outside that I ended up staying awake for the entire trip - nearly 1,000 miles. Was it a little difficult? Sure. Will I ever forget the experience or what I saw along the way? Definitely not. The last stretch of this trip heads along the beautiful Hudson River in New York, all the way from Albany into New York City.

This Hudson River stretch is also travelled by the Adirondack, one of the trains focused on in "America's Scenic Rail Journeys", a six-part PBS program available on this set. The train departs New York City in the morning and heads up the Hudson River Valley, past Lake Champlain, all the way to Montreal. This piece generally sets the tone for the rest of the programs. We are brought aboard as the train departs the station, then ride along, pausing along the way to learn more about the history of some of the stops or people on the train's route. In the case of the Adirondack, we meet with actor David Hyde Pierce to discuss his hometown and meet with a man who patrols the Hudson.

On the other side of the country, we're also introduced to one of Amtrak's flagship routes, the Coast Starlight, which runs along the coast from Los Angeles to Seattle. That train heads through some incredible terrain and gorgeous scenery. Stops include taking a look at a train that goes through wine country. Both of these Amtrak trips profiled here are certainly fine choices, although there are a few others that I think also deserved a place in the program, such as: The Empire Builder, which runs from Chicago to Seattle; and the Southwest Chief, which runs from Chicago to Los Angeles. A two-parter could have been the Sunset Limited, which runs all the way from Orlando to Los Angeles.

The other programs in this set take a look at other, popular non-Amtrak trains. One of these trains is the Skeena, a popular route for Canada's Via Rail that runs through 700 miles of British Columbia's countryside, including almost 200 bridges. A two-parter of sorts takes a look at the Alaska Railroad, with one program looking at the Anchorage to Seward route, and the other viewing the train trip from Anchorage to Fairbanks. Finally, we also go on the Copper Canyon, down into Mexico, in restored cars.

In other countries, rail is an accepted and often loved method of travel. In the US, Amtrak has to continually fight for funding, and that's unfortunate, as it offers an incredible view of some of the country's most incredibly beautiful landscapes.


The DVD

VIDEO: Acorn Media presents these programs in their original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. The picture quality is perfectly good, considering the material. Sharpness and detail are consistently first-rate - while not outstanding, the picture remained crisp and well-defined throughout.

Some minor shimmering was spotted at times, but no edge enhancement or pixelation was visible during the program. No wear or other damage was spotted on the elements used for this release, either. Colors looked bright and natural, with no smearing or other faults.

SOUND: The stereo soundtrack was more than adequate for this release, as it provided clear dialogue and ambience.

EXTRAS: Text screens about the trains are included, there's a gallery of Alaska archival rail photos and the insert offers both chapter listings and maps.

Final Thoughts: "America's Scenic Rail Journeys" is a highly enjoyable six-part series that looks at some of the most beautiful rail routes and the history of the people and towns that surround them. A few nice, minor supplements are included and audio/video quality is fine. Recommended for railfans.

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