Its winter along the Upper Mississippi River Valley and Old Man River has never looked more regal. Frozen into stillness, and flanked by rolling countryside blanketed with two feet of snow, the drifting white banks look impenetrable… until the first freight rolls through. It doesn’t matter that it’s the middle of January and the mercury has dropped below zero… this main line operation still runs at full throttle. The So Line, Burlington Northern, Chicago & Western, Minnesota & Easter, and Dakota are just a few of the lines whose rolling stock kick up white clouds of snow in their wakes as they storm their way through the frozen Upper Mississippi River Valley. Follow the workers and engineers who fight and win daily battles against the wintry elements to keep the freight lifelines open through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa.
It’s a stunning panorama in motion as you sweep past Virginia’s fabled Shenandoah Valley in diesel-powered work horses that still punch a clock for the Winchester and Western Railroad. After all these years, these reliable veterans of the rails still pull more than their muscle-bound best hauling enormous loads up grinding upgrades of the wooded hills between Virginia’s working mines. This close-up look at down-home railroading gives you a good idea of what it takes to run this “big little” short-line. Then, follow the north-bound tracks as the action shifts from the Shenandoah Valley to the Appalachians of Maryland as we climb aboard the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. This time, get an engineer’s eye view of what lies ahead from the cabs of first generation Alco Diesels painted with the legendary “fireball” design. These classic locomotives are seen pulling vintage passenger cars over scenic mountain tracks before stopping at the fully restored station at Frostburg.