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Imperial Valley Sugar Beet Trains on DVD

4.3 of 5 (8)
Imperial Valley Sugar Beet Trains on DVD Pentrex VR074-DVD 748268004995
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The Ending of An Era
In the early hours of July 17, 1993, Southern Pacific"s last sugar beet train from the Imperial Valley pulled into the station at Guadalupe, California. The nearby sugar mill would soon be shut down after nearly 100 years of operation and SP"s sugar beet trains, with their familiar wooden gondolas, would no longer make the run from the southeast corner of the state to the central coast. Video Rails was on hand to record this historic moment, for they were capturing the entire operation prior to the end of an era.

Our journey begins in the lush farmlands of the Imperial Valley, 420 rail miles away from the Holly Sugar Mill at Betteravia. There you"ll watch as sugar beets are harvested, transported to receiving stations, and then loaded into the wooden gondolas, with their friction bearing axles, that made SP"s unit beet trains so unique. The loaded trains of up to 100 steel and wooden cars hauling 10,000 tons of sugar beets depart El Centro, heading toward Taylor Junction in L.A. and along the Coast Line to their destination in the Santa Maria Valley. Helper units are often added for the push over Beaumont Hill, as you"ll see on several of the trains. At Taylor Junction, we"re invited into the cab of SD40 7349 on the point of a 3-unit lashup that includes two SD45s. The cab ride to Guadalupe features tunnels, cuts, and blue Pacific Ocean views as well as meets and passes with intermodal hotshots and Amtrak trains. At the interchange yard in Guadalupe, the Santa Maria Valley Railroad"s new GP-9 arrives to transfer the gondolas to the Holly Sugar Mill. Then we"re treated to a complete tour of the refining process, from unloading to washing, pulping, purifying, drying, and bagging the granulated sugar.

Though the mill has since been partially demolished and SP"s sugar beet trains are a thing of the past, you can still enjoy one of the most interesting railroading stories ever shown, now on DVD from Pentrex!

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Imperial Valley Sugar Beet Trains on DVD
DVD Item#:VR074-DVD
Runtime:1 Hour, 00 Mins
Producer:Pentrex
Aspect Ratio:Full Screen
DVD UPC:748268004995
Shrink Wrapped?:Yes
Disc Type:DVD
Region Code:0 Worldwide NTSC

Imperial Valley Sugar Beet Trains on DVD
(Dayton, OH) on .

People who found this review helpful: 3

We have verified that this reviewer has purchased this item from Train Video Depot because this reviewer is a member of our loyalty program and was signed in when they purchased the item and when they left the review.

  •  3 of 5


Been wanting this DVD for years and I finally got it. Well I must say I really found it to be lacking in just about every way. Unless you're really into the harvesting and processing of Sugar Beets you really should look elsewhere for your SP excitement because this really doesn't have any.

Additional remarks by Daniel Eltzroth:
Narration: Just enough.
Would kids enjoy this? I doubt it.
Image quality: Excellent!
DVD Value:: Fair.
Recommend to others? Not unless they REALLY were interested in the subject matter.

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Imperial Valley Sugar Beet Trains on DVD
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People who found this review helpful: 2

  •  5 of 5


A very interesting movie. Whether you are a farmer, a tourist, a rail fan, a fan of food production, etc... There is something of interest in this movie.
The making of sugar is complex, and the movie producer shows all the stages from the field to the plant to the bag. Most interesting as to how everything thing is covered. Having farmed for many years, I was able to place myself in the field during the harvesting of the beets. Enjoyed seeing a Southern California cattle farm. As a railfan, watching the loading, transportation, and unloading brought the trains to life. The processing of the sugar was an eye opener. Few people realize exactly what's involved. This movie shows it all.
Only note that I thought could have been added was: What happens to the left over product (the beet pulp) that is not made into sugar? (My daughter asked me at the end of the movie). There is no showing of any products leaving the plant. The beet pulp is dried down and returned to many farms as a high protien feed additive for livestock, amoungst other products that it can be made into.
An excellent presentation of a topic that most people take for granted. High marks for Video Rails and Pentrex for bringing us this movie.



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Imperial Valley Sugar Beet Trains on DVD
(New Zealand) on .

People who found this review helpful: 1

  •  5 of 5


If you want only train action this DVD is not for you. If like me you are a Southern Pacific fan and are interested in seeing how the sugar beet is harvested, transported and processed then this DVD is for you.

Additional remarks by Michael:
Narration: Just enough.
Would kids enjoy this? I doubt it.
Image quality: Good.
DVD Value: Excellent Value!
Recommend to others? Yes.

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Imperial Valley Sugar Beet Trains on DVD
(Los Angeles, CA) on .

People who found this review helpful: 1

  •  4 of 5


This was a very interesting and well done documentary on the Southern Pacific sugar beet trains. Informative about not only the trains, but the growing of sugar beats, the processing of them, and the processing of the sugar at the mill, this was a very interesting piece. The narration was clear and the video quality was excellent. If you want to know about not only the trains the SP ran but about the produce it hauled and the route it took, this is a very good video to own.

Additional remarks by keith:
Narration: Just enough.
Would kids enjoy this? I doubt it.
Image quality: Excellent!
DVD Value: Excellent Value!
Recommend to others? Definitely.

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People who found this review helpful: 1

  •  4 of 5


Video Rails was on location once again, this time to document the very last Imperial Valley sugar beet trains. In just one hour, Video Rails presents the entire process. Included are the harvesting of sugar beets, transporting to loading facility by rail and truck, unloading of trucks, and loading into old friction-bearing-axle gondolas. The very last pair of cars loaded with sugar beets are also documented. Even the impromptu ceremony honoring the last car is briefly shown. After that, ground footage as well as cab footage transport you to Betteravia, the Holly Sugar's refinery. Included are gorgeous shots of the Pacific Ocean from the cab as well as footage from inside one of the Chatsworth tunnels. The camera crew went to great lengths to document the very last sugar beet train arriving at Betteravia in the early morning hours. Then, Video Rails takes you through the entire sugar refining process from unloading the beets to packaging the sugar. The wide variety of subjects covered in this program makes it available to many people, from railfans to farmers. I thoroughly enjoy this DVD every time I watch it; every railfan should have this in their collection.

Additional remarks by VideoRailsFan:
Narration: Just enough.
Would kids enjoy this? Maybe.
Image quality: Good.
DVD Value: Good Value
Recommend to others? Definitely.

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Imperial Valley Sugar Beet Trains on DVD
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People who found this review helpful: 1

  •  5 of 5


Wow! This was like an extended How It's Made episode geared towards railroads. I had no idea what a sugar beet was, how it was harvested, how it was transported, and how it was processed...until now.

Some incredible cab rides on the Coast Line just a few feet from the Pacific Ocean. Don't miss the "Man Lift".

Really good DVD. And the price is right!



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Imperial Valley Sugar Beet Trains on DVD
(Revere MA US) on .

  •  5 of 5


In this 1994 program, it starts with 2 maps: 1 on the southern California mainline from El Centro to betteravia, the other for the el Centro branch lines. The first train is an empty sugar beet train led by 7423, 5821 & 7540 as it heads for El Centro. Near Seeley a pair of SW1500 switchers leads a mixed train with the sugar beet cars on the rear, then they arrived at its assigned destination where they drop off the empties and pick up the loaded cars. Here the brakeman adjusted the couplers on one of the sugar best cars, leaving the 2 switchers sandwiched between the mixed freight and the lone sugar beet car. Moments later, switchers 2501 & 2458 picks up the loaded cars and does a fly switch while one of the sugar beet cars bangs on the hoppers. The same brakeman does some hand signals at an unprotected crossing as the SW1500 units backs up to the other cars on the siding. With switching and assembly completed, 2501 & 2458 heads for El Centro & would assemble more cars to Betteravia. The friction bearing trucks would be banned for use by in Federal railroad administration in 1994. Mature sugar beet fields look like a field of weeds than crops. A case tractor is harvesting the field with a cutter on the rear. The harvest season begins on the third week of April and would be finished by the first day of July. They can't harvest the Beets in July and August due to hot temperatures. Next, the farmer is holding 2 different sizes of sugar beets. Moments later, 2 trucks are loaded with some help from another case tractor as the beets are loaded from a conveyor belt. With loading finished, the trucks head to the dumpsite and also to the receiving station at Calipatra. Inside the scale house, the driver is receiving a ticket for how much his truck weights with a special computer. According to the computer, the date is July 15, 1993. An interview with weight master Gloria Lang is included. Afterwards, the truck heads to the unloading area to be transferred to the SP. All trucks are again weighed to determine the actual weight to the load. One truck is making a loop to the dump pit. The beets are dumped from the truck on the side, then they are loaded into one of The sugar beet cars on a conveyor belt for as little as 10 minutes. The wooden cars can help the beets transfer to the refinery than the steel cars. Under the conveyor belt, a stationary winch pulls the cars through the loader. A vintage Farmall McCormick tractor also uses the cars to tow them one by one. This tractor can only tow 3 cars. A Chevrolet pick up truck arrives to pick up samples with special bags. While the conveyor belt transfers to the SP, the bucket can carry about 7 to 10 beers at a time. Once loaded in the bags, they slide down the ramp to the pick up truck. As we are riding on a pick up truck, the driver was a longtime employee at union sugar and holly sugar. Cows are waiting for food as a dump truck arrives with sugar beet sewage. Back at the conveyor belt, these 2 cars are officially the final cars to end the sugar beet loading and unloading era of the SP. Again due to the FRA rules, the friction bearing trucks are due to be scrapped at the end of the season. With the final cars loaded everyone gathers around for a farewell group photo. The final cars are waiting to be picked up. Meanwhile at meloland, the operations there have since been closed for good. The last sugar beet switching operation is underway as 2458 & 2501 heads for El Centro. The temperature is a massive baking 120 degrees. The least desirable cars for hauling sugar beets are the quad hoppers with black sides. Another look at the map is shown this time is from El Centro to Taylor junction. At Beaumont hill near West Palm springs, a 4 unit train is shown with Illinois central 6057 in the consist. There are 3 helpers on the rear. The same train is seen again at an unidentified location, then it blares it's horn for the crossing at the summit of Beaumont hill for a descendant down hill trip to West Colton. Fog is common during the early summer months in the Santa Mateo canyon as the same freight is descending the grade. On another day, Another 4 unit sugar beet train is shown. This time it doesn't have helpers on the rear, and a GATX unit is the second in the lead behind script lettered unit 3995. Yet another 4 unit Sugar beet train arrives at West Colton for a crew change. A different crew would take the train to Betteravia. Another look at the map is shown, this time from Taylor junction to better along the Pacific ocean. From Taylor to Guadalupe, a cab ride on SD40 number 7349 with a pair of SD45 units behind the lead locomotive. A as well leave, we pass by the service area, then once the speed is 45 miles per hour it passes by the Glendale depot. West of Glendale, it turns left at the junction to the coast line. The track on the right goes to Saugus. The coastline is operated by Direct traffic control. More SW1500 switchers 2683 & 2519 are doing some switching Chris's on a siding. 2519 is still wearing the cotton belt logo. Picking up speed, 7349 enters tunnel 28 it's located at milepost 443.9, measures 538 feet long, and it's the first of the 3 tunnels at Chatsworth. West of tunnel 28, these Rocky cliffs are used by movie companies to film western films. Tunnel 26 is the longest tunnel on the coast line. It's measured at 7369 feet long. Here the headlights are activated. This is one of the longest tunnels in America like the Hoosac in Massachusetts & New York, the Moffat in Colorado, & the cascade in Washington state. West of the tunnel, 7349 makes a meet with Amtrak's san diegan express which has since been renamed to the surfliner. It's led by an F40. Approaching ventura, the engineer lowers the throttle as it rolls through town. North of ventura, the tracks are alongside the Pacific ocean. These tracks are also used by Amtrak's coast starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle. Another cameraman is on the second SD45. Stopping at captain, a southbound coast starlight passes by with cotton belt 8323 in the lead. Still parked on the siding, the 2 unit doublestack with a Rio Grande unit in the consist passes by the sugar beet train as it heads for San Francisco. With traffic completed, the sun is setting as it approaches point conception. On a different day, a 4 unit sugar beet train heads for Guadalupe. It's led by 7402. Early in the morning of July 17, 1993 (the final day of sugar beet trains), they roll through waldorf between midnight and sunrise. It's led by a failed 1985 merger unit with the Santa fe, while the 4th unit is from The Rio Grande. As the clock strikes 4:15, the train arrives at the interchange with the Santa Maria valley. The end of an era on the southern Pacific finally comes to A close. After uncoupling the cars, the failed 1985 merger unit is number 6566, followed by 6325 (A reference to the grand trunk western 4-8-4 in ohio), & 6326 with the unidentified Rio Grande unit parked on a siding. On the Santa Maria valley, chopped nosed GP9 number 1801 is hauling the sugar beet cars. In Betteravia, a visit to the holly sugar plant is shown. It's the oldest operating sugar plant in California that was opened in September 27, 1897 as Union sugar. In 1986 union sugar was acquired by holly sugar. The silos are high as 12 floor apartments. They are built with a million pounds of steel and could handle 40 million pounds of sugar. A workman is replacing the metal plates at the bottom of the flume after its been cleaned. Once the plates have been placed, the cars open their doors as the beets are falling down to the plates. As one flume is being filled, another flume is empty. The beets are flowing down with water. To get the beets out of the flume, the worker has to pull them into the water. Other beets that can't get out of the freight train are being washed out with pressure hoses. Here the workmen use a gantry crane. Meanwhile, 1801 runs light and couples up to the cars. Another set of cars are heading for the ramp for unloading the beets. Note the alarm off screen. Once in position, the beets are unloaded from the cars again. Meanwhile 1801 handles the new metal cars that were built in 1992 and were the replacement ones for the wooden cars. Semi trucks also help out as well. The unloading process is exactly the same as the imperial valley. A cylinder tower is called a limekilm. One bucket is hauling like rock to the top floor. Lime rock has bought into the plant from a truck at a local quarry. Coke is hauled by hoppers to the refinery. This liquid is melted lime. Fluming continues as the beets roll down the water. Workmen are cleaning the water on the flume. The big wheel is the beet beater. Another big wheel takes the beets to the factory, where they are due to be washed. Afterwards, the beets are transferred to the conveyor belt, goes up, and rolls down to the hopper for cutting purposes as they are sliced by 4 robotic cutters. Once they are sliced, they head into the conveyor belt for transported to the defuser. A scale is measured for tons during day and night shifts. The giant cylinder is the defuser where the sugar is dissolved. The first step is the sugar purification process. This causes a chemical breakdown. Once the juice has been purified, it's transfers to the evaporators. With a Microscope, a workman is inspecting sugar crystals. To move from one floor to the next, a worker uses a manlift.The process of the crystals begin, followed the special robot called a centrifuge which spins at 120 miles per hour. As the rotation is completed, the robot comes to a stop. Then the sugar is sent to the Gradulators where they are sent into bags as robots assemble the bags, taped them up, and loaded for multiple grocery stores across America and the world. Giant bags are loaded into forklifts. As the final sugar beet train heads to Los Angeles with 4 units, the book is closed as the end of an era on the southern Pacific has come to the close as the wooden sugar beet cars are due for scrap as well as their trucks.

Additional remarks by Steamboy:
Narration: Just enough.
Would kids enjoy this? Yes.
Image quality: Excellent!
DVD Value:: Fair.
Recommend to others? Definitely.

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Imperial Valley Sugar Beet Trains on DVD
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  •  3 of 5


This video is heavy on side information about the industry served and associated history. That is why I bought it. There are also a few scenes with classic heavy trucks in action.

Additional remarks by JoshM:
Narration: Could have used more.
Would kids enjoy this? Yes.
Image quality: Good.
DVD Value:: Fair.
Recommend to others? Not unless they REALLY were interested in the subject matter.

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