Video and DVD Reviews

Vanna Video, approx 80 mins, £15.95 incl p&p.

For those not familiar with the video series, this is a pictorial survey of former Southern Railway locomotives still surviving. Consisting mostly of video taken of locos on preserved railways, running on rail tours on the main line or being stored at or worked on at preservation sites, archive photographs and films are also interspersed to illustrate the locos in actual SR and BR service. Part three covers loco classes commissioned between 1928 to 1942 and covers, from memory, classes U, U1, V, Q (Bulleid batch), Q1 and MN. Syd Carrol has admitted that the USA tanks, originally scheduled for inclusion, have been deferred to part four but I think he is right to do so because although they were built in 1942 they were not originally commissioned by the SR and were not taken into SR ownership until 1946. Video of preserved locomotives has been taken over an extended period so you can see locos operating on railways other than where they are currently based, locos being restored and then running, and locos having been preserved then undergoing heavy overhaul after years of service in a heritage operation.

A-Z Southern LocomotivesI'll admit a personal interest in this venture at this stage, because along with SEmG members Michael Taylor and Mike Morant I have contributed material, though in this part I only recognise my contribution being about a handful of shots (more of this later). I can also recognise some video of Michael Taylor's from the video captures appearing on the SEmG website. I have to admit to getting quite a kick out of seeing my name credited within moments of "gods" of the like of H C Casserley, R C Riley, Mike Esau and Lens of Sutton. This illustrates the quality of the material contained.

As per my review to the group of part two, I am no great purchaser of railway videos because far too often I see videos consisting of material of what happened to be available on a certain day just about competently thrown together. However this video series is carefully thought out, appropriate material hunted down and sourced, and the programme crafted together with care. Photography is for the most part good to excellent with very little evidence of automatic exposure having been used (so no lighting l evels "hunting" during a shot), the editing is consistent and sympathetic to the material, and detail shots of great interest to enthusiasts and modellers alike are freely included. Several shots display some digital aliasing but otherwise technically the visual content is good. Audio-wise the sound matches the action, the commentary is well pitched to be an authoritive overview to an enthusiast but is not over detailed for the average viewer, plus is informative without being intrusive. It is also clear to my ears that Syd has acted upon my professional comments about the recording of the commentary on part two because the perspective of the voice is now more comfortable and natural.

My personal highlights are the archive film of the MNs running in their original condition, of the MN's oil bath and mechanism in action (a demonstration rig/fitter training film) and a footplate ride to Woking on the rebuilt British India Line.

My comments about part two still apply, this is a programme for Southern enthusiasts made with love by Southern enthusiasts. The only significant improvement I would like to see would be for this series to be available on DVD so we do not have to put up with the poor resolution and swimmy images obtained from VHS. However I am well aware there are compatibility and quality control issues with small runs of DVD-Rs as I have had problems with DVD-Rs from another railway video producer.

Colin Duff, 28 September 2003

Video 125, approx 61 mins, £15.95.

What can I say? To adapt a phrase from my teenage kids - it's thumperlicious!

This is more than a cab view as it is liberally sprinkled with station, lineside, interior and cab shots (including a nice one of the driver slamming his cab window shut just before a tunnel). It was filmed on a fine hot sunny day and covers the 1200 Uckfield - East Croydon working (no date given) with 205009. Other 205s and 207s are featured. Photography is pin sharp, correctly exposed (no sign of AGC at all) and mostly well framed. The shots out of the cab widow vibrate a bit but, for heaven's sake, this is from the cab of a Thumper!!!

The Uckfield ThumperThis is a well thought out, well put together programme with brief side excursions to the Spa Valley Railway (to cover the original line to Tunbridge Wells), Hever Castle, Henry Vlll and two of his Annes, etc, (interesting, but dreadfully off topic)and Oxted signal Box (very interesting). The reversing move at Oxted is explained in the commentary but is not shown - this is the only real criticism I can make of this programme as given the time spent on the diversion into Tudor times I think it is a major omission from covering operations on this line. There are a few quick views of Croydon trams at the end.

The commentary is delivered by veteran "Southern" broadcaster Fred Dinenage. I can just hear SEmG'ers of a certain age uttering "HOW!" now. And both older and younger SEmG'ers wondering "WHY?" on earth I have just mentioned that! The commentary is just right, sufficient to explain essential and interesting items of information but no more. Otherwise except in opening and closing sequences (musak) it is just well recorded ambient sound.

If I wanted icing on my cake the only other thing missing from this programme is archive footage. This video/DVD is, in my humble opinion, worth every penny!.

Colin Duff, November 2003

Reflections on Southern SteamREFLECTIONS ON SOUTHERN STEAM
Published by Transport Video Publishing, RRP £16.95.

To many the Southern is, and always has been, an all electric railway. However, in the days of steam the Southern had more variety of motive power than its neighbour the Great Western. In this programme we reflect on various aspects of Southern Steam, from the pre-War years through to the present day.

I bought this DVD after flicking through a few titles and decided that the subjects listed would be varied enough to be interesting throughout, while not being so many that they would not be covered in any significant detail. As with many DVDs that come from enthusiast sources, you may find difficulties in playing it on your pc unless you have the right software installed. Commercially available players are normally fine, but free ones often require additional downloads to play correctly. I had to get an extra "plugin" to ensure that I actually got sound (not an uncommon problem), but even then, I was unimpressed by the picture quality. Please note, this is entirely down to the software on the PC, and is not an issue when using a stand-alone DVD player, or in my case, a Playstation 2®, where the image and sound quality are first class.

The menu on this DVD is nice and straightforward, affording easy navigation between the chapters if you wish to skip rather than just watch from one end to the other. Each chapter begins with a map showing the location of the featured subject, which is handy for those who are geographically challenged. Not being an expert, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the dialogue, but the information certainly seems to be spot on, and the commentary is very clear without overpowering the sound of the footage.

As well as the typical mainline and branchline shots, there is works footage showing what went on inside the oil baths of the Merchant Navy class, and also the Leader locomotive.  In addition, preserved lines and locomotives are also covered, and as an extra DVD only feature, there is a whole section dedicated to steam railtours from the modern era.

All in all, this is a full featured product with plenty to keep everyone interested, and I would not hesitate to recommend it as a wothwhile purchase.  I bought mine from the shop at Sheffield Park Station at the Bluebell Railway, but it is available direct form the manufacturer, as well as model shops, book shops and WH Smith stores.

26 June 2005

21st Century Bulleid21ST CENTURY BULLEID, DVD, Region 0, PAL
Visions International, approx 80 mins, £19.95.

This, just about the latest Southern DVD to hit the streets, features all 31 'surviving' Bulleid pacifics and tells of their condition and whereabouts during the first decade of the 21st century. From the total of 31 engines, 16 have worked between 2000 and 2011 and this DVD has film clips of each and every one of them, including some double-headers. There is quite a lot of main line footage, some with the locos almost at full chat - magic! There is a section for the 'non-runners' in 2011 and one titled 'Imposters' featuring some that have masqueraded as long-lost sister engines.

21st Century BulleidIt runs for 80 minutes and, IMHO, is a very good DVD, better than many, with a decent commentary that can be turned off if you just want to watch the locos working without interruption. Having written that please do not think the commentary is at all intrusive - it isn't. There are a few boo-boos of course, but nothing major. One that made me smile was they say of Wadebridge that it was restored at a factory in Bodmin, Devon. Only partly true and the wrong county! Doesn't detract from the DVD though - in fact, could be an appeal as many people love to 'find some fault'!

Written and produced by David Maxey, this is a proper factory-pressed DVD made from a glass master which makes for a high quality product and a must for anyone who is a fan of Bulleid's wonderful pacifics. Even my wife enjoyed watching it and she normally starts yawning after ten minutes or so!

Furthermore you can support the overhaul of the Battle of Britain loco Nº34081 92 Squadron by buying the DVD for £19.95 post free in the UK from the Battle of Britain Locomotive Society's website.

PJR, 12 June 2011

21st Century BulleidGUILDFORD - AN ENGINEMAN'S VIEW, DVD, Region 0, PAL and NTSC
SVS Film, approx 82 mins plus 16 mins 'bonus' footage, £15.95, $24.95 Canada & USA.

The first thing to say about this DVD is that it is quite different from the "run of the mill" railway DVDs. The film was shot by Guildford Driver Lew Wooldridge on 8mm silent cine film, mainly whilst at work, between 1963 and 1966. The silent film has then been enhanced by the addition of railway sounds and the producer of this DVD is to be congratulated on this as in almost all cases the sound is very well matched to the engine in question - be it a U class pulling out of Guildford station or an express thundering down the main line. Many of the clips are of places not normally accessible, though some are rather dark through being shot in poor light.

The DVD starts with an interview of Lew Wooldridge and Jim Lester (see our review of his book SOUTHERN REGION ENGINEMAN) after which the main film itself begins. There are a lot of scenes of Guildford depot and some of the engines shedded there with one or two "now and then" shots. Throughout the DVD various personalities captured on camera are named, making this a rather interesting DVD for anyone who worked on this area of the South Western line. The interview then continues, interspersed with a section dedicated to staff members at work or just walking around. In all some 80 men are identified.

The DVD then moves on to visit other locations (frequently filmed from the footplate) namely Woking, Weybridge, Walton, Surbiton, Nine Elms, Feltham, Pirbright Junction, Aldershot, Reading, Hook, Eastleigh, Redbridge (which includes a nice shot of Q1 class Nº33020 with its smokebox number "doctored" to read C20) and Salisbury, where this section ends with film from the footplate of 34007 Wadebridge leaving Salisbury towards Andover.

In addition to the main film there are a few "extras". There's a three minute section of film taken on the Bluebell Railway in 1964, a brief film of 4472 Flying Scotsman passing Woking and thirteen minutes of film of 60024 Kingfisher, mainly of the Waterloo-Weymouth-Yeovil Junction-Waterloo "Victory" rail tour of 26th March 1966 and a short clip of the "A4 Commemorative" rail tour passing Walton-on-Thames the following day.

Overall it is a well presented DVD with an informative but not obtrusive commentary, though a number of the clips are rather dark and/or short. As mentioned above, the addition of railway sounds to the silent footage has, in the main, been expertly done though on the review DVD there are a few places where faint background voices are included which seem a little out of place. I understand that these will be removed from future DVDs. Consisting of nearly all steam shots, there is a small amount of electric and diesel traction included. If you are looking for a non-stop succession of expresses at full chat on the main line, then this is not for you. If you are interested in "behind the scenes" views of railway life on this section of the ex-LSWR route, and especially if you knew the men working there in the 1960s, then you'll probably find it very interesting.

The film does bring back memories of how run down the railway infrastructure became during the last days of steam - more than one shot would be worthy of being the subject of a David Shepherd painting!

Furthermore you can support the overhaul of the Battle of Britain loco Nº34081 92 Squadron by buying the DVD for £15.95 post free in the UK from the Battle of Britain Locomotive Society's website.

PJR, 9 September 2011

A Video Decade of Taw ValleyA VIDEO DECADE OF TAW VALLEY, DVD, All Regions, PAL
Vanna Video, approx 67 mins, £13.50, post paid in the UK.

The first thing that has to be said about this is that although it is a newly released DVD it is not, in fact, a new film but rather the previous VHS version that has been re-released in DVD format and sold by the Battle of Britain Locomotive Society to raise funds for 34081 92 Squadron.

It features 34027 Taw Valley as herself and masquerading as 34045 Ottery St Mary, on the main line and on heritage railways, with some in-cab footage included. Starting in March 1991 the opening sequence features Taw Valley at London Bridge with 35028 Clan Line before moving on to a visit by the engine to the NYMR where Taw Valley performs well on the fierce gradients there. Next there is a switch down south where Taw Valley was enjoying a weekend at Folkestone Harbour topping and tailing with 80080, and throwing some cinders for the camera after dark!

1992 saw Taw Valley at Ahford for the Ashford 150 celebrations and the engine is seen at work on the Ashford - Hastings line, complete with a couple of slips. The Ashford sequence has an interesting section on the re-tyring of a coach wheel there. Moving on Taw Valley is next seen at a GCR Winter Gala working in the snow with 34039 Boscastle. A clip of the engine at Micheldever in 1997 is followed by one at Gillingham, Kent, in 1998. Taw Valley then teams up with 35028 again for a spot of double-heading on the "Tour of Kent" before heading off to the WSR for a repaint and rename as Hogwarts Express. Returning to Ashford the engine is seen to be still painted for Hogwarts but with the correct nameplates restored. Finally the film features Taw Valley, dirtied up as 34045 Ottery St Mary and double-heading "The Pines Express" with 75009 at an SVR Somerset and Dorset weekend.

The DVD is available solely from the Battle of Britain Locomotive Society for £13.50, post free in the UK.

PJR, 16 January 2013

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