Review: MTH Greatest Layouts II
by Don Grabski
Should I review the video and quality thereof,
or the content?
Quite a dilemma I got myself into. Actually,
the video quality is without equal. It will
be difficult to cover all aspects in this
I had the privilege of reviewing the first
MTH Video done by TM Books namely Tom McComas
and Joe Stachler. These gentlemen are, without
a doubt, the foremost videographers in the
model train industry. Having worked in Hollywood
in the technical end of sound and video,
I feel I am qualified to make a comment,
or two on the technical aspects of this
The lighting, which affects everything
from accurate color rendition to good depth
of field, is Oscar class. My color monitor
has been calibrated for true color display.
The color rendition is superb. I was able
to color match objects on the screen with
items, (boxcars), I held in my hand. The
detail and focus are sharp and clear from
the opening scene to the closing credits.
One minor flaw (and it could have been
my VCR) was in the scene showing John Shankland
without gray or white in either his hair
or beard. Now, John is nearly my age, and
most of you have seen my photo on my website
and various other publications. Lot's of
gray and white. Come on John, fess up, it
couldn't be my VCR. John is widely known
in Hi Rail circles and we applaud him for
his expertise. The layouts that are the
subject of this video are definitely in
the "Master Modeler" class.
The video opens with a Burlington F3 Diesel
coming straight towards you as another Burlington
E3 roars past using what sounds like the
Doppler effect of the MTH DCS system. It
is a quite spectacular opening scene.
Take note of John Shankland's scratch
built signal bridge. When you build them
yourself, you can design them to any height
needed for your consists or terrain.
It is important to note here the narrator's
short, but pointed dissertation on "running
trains mindlessly about with no thought
or real RR operation." John wants to bridge
the gap with scale modelers. This will be
a subject of much debate and controversy.
Knowing model railroaders as I do, we are
very passionate in our views and feelings
about how we operate/collect and display
This review is not involved in this debate
and it is only mentioned here because of
the uniqueness of incorporating the subject
in this video. John points out the "fun"
of simulating real RR operation.
There is much depictation and discussion
of the "how to" aspects of Hi Railing, with
the aspects of prototypical operation being
emphasized. Overall, John's layout is one
of those "Dream Layouts." TM Books captured
the real "flavor" of John's layout, from
the scenery to trains operating in all their
glory. I am in awe of this Hi Rail layout;
lots of "tips & tricks."
John's layout is computer controlled and
fully signaled which of course aids in the
real railroad simulation. Hey John, can
I come over and play trains?
I like the triple headed 0-8-0 and the
Erie Triplex. There are many other neat
things about John's layout, but you'll have
to purchase the video to see all of them.
The video is divided into two main sections.
The first half is as reviewed above. The
second is about a "custom built" layout
for Steve Scholl constructed by Carl Wilmsen
of Chesterton, Indiana. Carl built a layout
in the first MTH video for Richar Johnson.
Some important and very interesting items
shown in this section are the operating
MTH Gold Hudson Steam Engine hauling the
matching Gold Passenger cars. You'll also
see a Lionel "Lift Bridge" in operation.
Five trains can be operated at one time.
Two RailKing Hellgate Brides are connected
together in a unique fashion.
This layout shows what can be built with
MTH Real Trax and designed using the MTH
Track Planning Software. My all time favorite
engine can be seen traveling this layout,
the Southern Pacific Daylight steam engine.
This is an "All Star" MTH cast layout.
Lots of operation and many unusual bridges.
Carl Wilmsen has built a CLASS A layout
for Steve Scholl.
To sum up: Go out and buy this video.
You'll love it! I'm told it MAY be available
in the fall on DVD!