The Rock Trains

Rock Trains_cover

Two powerful steam engines. The challenge of a lifetime.

The Rock Trains

The scenery… Spectacular.
The action… REAL.
The video… “Awesome!!”

(So says Timber Times Magazine). More reviews below.

“May well be the best documentary about steam railroading ever.”

Presented in 5.1 Dolby Surround-Sound.

Seldom do videos inform and entertain as THE ROCK TRAINS does. Even my 3-year old was enthralled. This video’s high-quality makes it a real bargain. Use of the camera is down right innovative. The scenery is very beautiful. I was very pleased to review this video from Golden Rail. I only hope they continue to make more new shows.

Model Railroad News

THE ROCK TRAINS skillfully weaves a tale of working steam. It is highly recommended viewing. A superb show from Golden Rail Video. This is down and dirty railroading …powered by Mt. Rainier Scenic’s beloved Porter-built Mikado and their cantankerous Climax geared locomotive…one of the very few of its type still running.

TRAINS Magazine

“Even though the stage was set… I never saw it coming.”


First, high, fast water cascading out of the mountains took out half the railroad bridge.

That’s what first set the stage…

When I arrived with my cameras, I had no idea I was in for the ride of my life. As it turned out, neither did the train crews.

No one had ever put these old steam engines to a real test for a very long time. But, a unique set of circumstances made this challenge unavoidable.

The historic Mt Rainier Scenic Railroad operates with an amazing assortment of steam-era logging locomotives. Big tank engines, little rod engines, and vairious geared-engines. These locomotives are part of the Western Forest Industries Museum collection. The bridge that washed out was critical to their operations…and to the long-range plans of the Tacoma Eastern Railroad (owned by the City of Tacoma).

At the end of the line there is still a lumber operation that needs to make shipments by rail. As you can see on the overview map, there is no other track route across the Nisqually River to get to the seaports of Tacoma. Obviously, the bridge had to be rebuilt.

To help rebuild the bridge, the Mt Rainier Scenic was called upon to transport rock and gravel on a journey of 12 miles up and over the mountain. There was no time to waste. If the winter storms arrived it would wash away what was left of the bridge.

Because of the washout isolated the track, the ONLY equipment available to haul the trains were two old STEAM ENGINES…and some very old side-ways dumping hopper cars!

I arrived on the scene not sure of what to expect. And right before my camera lens, a movie seemed to be writing and performing itself all at once.

There was drama.
There were moments of classic humor.
There was beautiful scenery.
And there was spectacular action.


It suddenly hit me that I was filming something that no one had ever captured before…a “day in the life” on a short line railroad during the age of steam.

The old shortlines never had the operating budgets of the major railroads.
To keep things running with 2nd hand equipment, the crews had to be 1st rate, a bit rambunctious, and definitely resourceful.

On a short line railroad, the bottom line was always “in your face.” (It still is.)

So, here was just such “a day” …with all the challenges of working against time …time that was running out fast.

Everything depended on human dedication above and beyond the call of duty… and two cantankerous old steam locomotives that seemed to demanded center stage.


Many have told me they regard THE ROCK TRAINS as the finest railroad documentary ever.

They say they love it because it shows two steam locomotives being pushed to the absolute limit (“working their butts off” was almost their exact language)…and also how the crews cope to take care of the resulting challenges.

I have also been told that a super attraction for DVD audiophiles is the 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound audio from the dvd. Imagine getting to hear steam locomotives the way they sound in their “natural habitat”?


Oh Canada!

The Rock Trains is currently our only video featuring a Canadian steam locomotive… the Climax #10. Rail historians know the obscure Climax was built in Cory, Pennsylvania, but this “lokey” spent most of its working life on the Hillcrest Lumber Company in the forests of British Columbia.

It is fascinating to learn how this oddly-designed steam locomotive has deeply affected the lives of so many people during its long and varied life on the rails. That, too is part of The Rock Trains.

The Rock Trains also features descriptive interviews and commentary by the late Jack Anderson, the highly regarded and personable chief mechanical officer of the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad at that time.


I couldn’t be more pleased how much people are enjoying this true-life railroad story with all the authentic steam railroad action, the beautiful backwoods northwest scenary, and the incredible sounds.

Whether you are new to railroad videos, buying a present for a child, an uncle, an executive, or a long-time railfan, I know you will be pleased by this entertaining show. In fact, I guarantee it (a money-back guarantee on the price of the DVD.)

Rob Simpson

A track crew inspects the rails following the storm. (A scene from the film).
In this screen shot from the film, you see that the dangling track has been removed, the river diverted, and a construction engineer is studying the blueprints.


This incredible adventure was photographed on a former Milwaukee Road branch line in the mountains of Washington State near majestic Mt. Rainier.

Heavy rains have washed out the 800-foot Nisqually River railroad bridge. There was nothing left.

Steam locomotives #5 and #10 must abandon their tourist excursion duties at the Mt. Rainier Scenic RR and join in a race against the coming winter storms in an effort to save the bridge.

The Cast: #5 is a Porter built Mikado-type engine, while #10 is a rare geared locomotive called a Climax.

In the map below you can see where the rock quarry is located and the route the trains must take over the hill to get to the site of the washed out bridge.

In Part One of The Rock Trains… .We are thrown right into the action. First we get an overview of the challenges facing the crews. It’s easy to see that real steam railroading has again come alive.

#5 is seen here moving out of a siding. The switchman is standing by.
Engine #5 pulls the cars in front of the quarry to be loaded with rock and gravel.
Loaderrs fill the rock trains to capacity. (All scenes are taken from the film.)

Next, we hop into the cab with the engineer and fireman. Engine #5 is pulling the heavy train up steep 3% grades on its way up over the mountain to the washout. Riding in the cab of a steam locomotive working this hard is not to be missed!

#5 charges over the New Michel River trestle as we ride along with the engineer.
A load of gravel is dumped off the bridge to reinforce weakened bridge supports.

For trip after trip #5 is pushed to the limits, just as she was back in the 1920’s. (Back then she was working up in the woods on the old logging railroads. Later on she worked on the docks of Greys Harbor, Washington State..)

You’ll have a front row seat as her crew struggles valiantly to keep her feet on slippery rail.

The challenges were often unexpected. We almost called this “Stampede Pass”.

Did you ever wonder why the metal grid on the front of the locomotive is called a "cow catcher"?
These old side-dump cars have their own built-in mechanisms to dump their load to one side.

But, wait….there’s more….

Part Two of The Rock Trains

… The constant pounding of the pistons has taken a toll on engine #5. As Part One ends, engine #5 goes down for emergency repairs. The back up engine is called into service. Engine #10.

Added Drama

The infamous Climax geared-locomotives were the cheapest steam engines ever made. Every one of them seemed to have an inclination to fall apart.

Can you imagine how this adds to the challenge as the crews struggle to keep this scrappy little “bulldog” of a locomotive on schedule?

At 3:00 AM firing up the back up engine, Climax #10.
#10 coming down the hill.
Crossing a creek.
#10 finally breaks down on it's way to the bridge. Their is no other backup engine left.
Stuck on the mainline in the village of Elbe.
Crews brainstorm a solution.
Emergency repairs while on the mainline. As in days of old the engine crews had to have a bag of tricks ready.
Persuading a steam locomotive back into service!
Running late, but back on track.
  • The Rock Trains is a sight and sound spectacle as these two steam locomotives are pushed to their limits.
  • Exciting cab rides in both locomotives.
  • Mt. Rainier high-country provides a beautiful backdrop for the story.
  • Variety of action. Kids love not just the steam trains, but also watching the construction loaders dumping huge boulders into the train, the tilting side-dump cars, the construction site, and more.
  • Crews struggling valiantly with finicky old equipment.
  • Highest production values. Features a dramatic story, excellent photography, and a subtle and dramatic musical score by American composer Robert Oakford. It perfectly compliments the story and sets off the awesome location sound.

More published reviews:

The Rock Trains will leave you wondering where the 82-minutes went. The video is skillfully composed…The viewer can become totally engrossed with the scenic panoramas, moody segments…and the melodic whistles echoing through the woods are sounds guaranteed to raise goose bumps. A must for the steam fan. This is a very informative presentation of what working on the railroad meant in the days of steam. It is a rarely seen side of what daily steam RR operations were and some of its attending problems. How the crew handled them are a large part of the fascination of this video…The principal actors are a Porter-built Mikado and a Climax geared locomotive.

Live Steam Magazine

Comprehensive, amusing, and informative. Production is first rate. Great cab and running gear sequences. The unique and thorough coverage of a wide-open Climax is a highlight.

Railroad & Railfan Magazine

THE ROCK TRAINS is really awesome…Some moments are almost magical.

Timber Times Magazine

THE ROCK TRAINS is excellent. Interesting, unusual, and well done. The scenery is spectacular. It is thoroughly professional

Finescale Railroader Magazine

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