Premise

“Glenreagh Mountain Railway Inc was established in 1989 to operate a heritage tourist railway on the Glenreagh to Ulong section of the former Glenreagh to Dorrigo railway line. The star attraction is the beautifully restored engine No. 1919, ‘Betty’ the steam locomotive.

In the Wheels of Time documentary, the volunteers of GMR share the hard work that has been undertaken to restore ‘Betty’ to her former glory and to re-establish the railway line to become a successful tourist attraction.”

Initial Impression

When I watch a video I’ve chosen I often find myself viewing footage which has little or nothing to do with the premise on the cover – not so with Wheels of Time. This video is interesting and provides an immersive experience as is possible in such a special interest genre.


Produced by Jacaranda Films
Directed by Robert Pommer
Edited by Colin Henry of 1Image Design
Music and Lyrics by James Buck Donald
Narration by Terry Daniel
PAL Colour DVD MPEG-2 720x576 (625/50) in standard 4:3 TV format
Video: Single title of 41.47 minutes
Sound: English only LPCM 2-ch (stereo) 48Kbs sample rate
Subtitles: None
Where To Get It
Jacaranda Films www.jacarandafilms.com.au
More information about GMR can be found at www.gmr.org.au
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Presentation

Features:

  • The original music soundtrack by James Buck Daniels is a welcome change to the run-of-the-mill train video. Many of them resort to royalty free tracks just for the sake of background music. GMR-WoT uses music to tell the story of the locomotive and of the railway. Embedded in the lyrics are technical details about locomotive 1919 ‘Betty’, her history, the people who restored her and the railway on which she runs.
  • The narration and interviews are interesting. The interviews have been edited, probably for brevity (after all people who love their topic do tend to ramble!). For the most part the interviews are a mix of video and audio as well as audio only playing over the video of the run down the track, the magnificent mountain views around the railway, or contextually related still images.
  • The main focuses of the production are the GMR itself, and the steam locomotive No. 1919 ‘Betty’. Also covered in lesser detail are: an operational Melbourne a W2 Tram; Rail Motor CPH 11; volunteers and track machines.
  • The video is both a documentary of the hard won efforts of the volunteers and their local community and a plea for assistance to complete the long term plan of reopening the railway all the way to Ulong. Volunteers and funding are both needed.
  • The GMR features a standard gauge track running through the picturesque scenery of northern coastal NSW. It has been restored for 2.5km from Glenreagh and is used for operating the steam train and the tram. The operational railway currently stops at a trestle that must be rebuilt. It is possible to navigate much more of the track by track machine (trolly or trolley depending on your era!) and during the film this is done until an impenetrable (for now) wall of forest is reached at the end of the line. The rough motion of the trolly clearly defines the work to be done on this track before trains can run on it.
  • There are enough detail shots of No. 1919 ‘Betty’ to interest the modeller without boring the average viewer.
  • The railway sounds are clear and well recorded. There is a complete absence of the common audio clipping heard in many productions of this genre.

Challenges:

  • I run an up to date home theatre system with wide screen TV and 7.1 speaker sound. I expect high quality presentation from my system and it rarely lets me down. Two aspects of this production did manage to confuse things a little.
  • The DVD intentionally swaps from standard TV format to two different wide screen formats for some scenes. In the areas where this feature was used it theatrically fits well with the content being displayed at the time but to me it did not jell. Perhaps I’m just a little too fussy.
  • There is a down mixing fault in the audio mixing that causes Terry Daniels wonderful narration to emit from all speakers in the surround matrix instead of just the centre speaker. Forcing my surround system to Stereo resolved this.
  • Finally, I’ve come to expect subtitles on all DVD movies and missed this feature on this disc. Having deaf members of the family highlights this issue to me. Out of the detected challenges, I would seriously urge Jacaranda Films to consider subtitles for future presentations to make their productions accessible to the hard of hearing. Considering the aging population of railfans this is an important selling point.

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Overall impression

Not just another special interest rail video. The DVD leaves me with the desire to visit this railway. The high quality presentation of just enough detail to whet the appetite leaves you at just the right point where interest in the topic is maintained. Some special interest videos of subjects only exciting to those that are interested leave me cold due to their unstimulating presentation. This one manages that tough feat of maintaining the interest of the viewer and educating them in the topic of the moment. One of my kids came in and sat down part way through and actually stayed still until the end! At only $25 (for members of volunteer railways and railway clubs) this DVD is a satisfying purchase.

Images on this page are © Copyright Jacaranda Films and are used with permission.