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The End of the Line - Rochester's Subway
The End of the Line - Rochester's Subway
Directors: James P. Harte, James P. Harte; Frederick Armstrong
Genres: Indie & Art House, Special Interests
NR     2005     1hr 30min

The story of Rochester, New York's subway is one of hope and disappointment, pride and conflict. Using archival photos and film clips, interviews and contemporary footage, "The End of the Line" is a high speed ride through...  more »


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Movie Details

Directors: James P. Harte, James P. Harte; Frederick Armstrong
Genres: Indie & Art House, Special Interests
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Special Interests
Studio: Animatus Studio
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 10/21/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Thumbs up for The End of the Line
Roger Westmore | 10/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I'd seen The End of the Line - Rochester's Subway several years ago on The History Channel and enjoyed it enough to purchase my own VHS copy. Originally produced in 1994, the film compresses the story of Rochester, NY's ill-fated subway from its birth in the abandoned Erie Canal to its own abandonment in 1956. Along the way, it details the line's thirty years of operation with photos, film clips and interviews with people who were directly involved in its history. What impressed me most about the film was the sheer volume of images, probably because of Rochester's connection with its best-known company, Kodak. In forty-five quick minutes The End of the Line travels the first half of the twentieth century and brings us up to date on its finish. It's a great documentary of how things changed from the days of trolleys to the transportation systems of today. Near the end of the film we see rush hour cars and one bus leaving the city in the highway that replaced the canal and subway's route. Watching it made me think of this summer's hurricanes and how dependent we've all become on cars.

More than ten years after the film was produced the Subway is still in the news. During Rochester's mayoral campaign plans were announced to fill in the subway's abandoned tunnel with dirt. Suddenly, Rochester's underground history has taken a life of its own, making it all the way to the pages of The New York Times. Groups have been formed to save the tunnel and Rochester's mayoral candidates have had to back away from the fill-in plan, at least until after the election. It's a perfect time for Animatus Studio, producers of The End of the Line, to come out with a Special Edition DVD. It's a good deal for the money, since the price is the same, $29.95. But the best part is that there is so much more; forty-five minutes of new material, enough about The Rochester Subway to satisfy any railfan for a lifetime.

The extras start with the cover. The insert, made to look like a subway timetable, breaks the original film down into chapters. Flipping it over reveals a detailed map of the subway's route. This is a great aid for following the system and the extra features, which are many. But first about the film. The producers have left it exactly as it was in 1994, but the images look better on the DVD format. There is also the option of closed-captioned subtitles, which make things nice for the hard-of-hearing, or in my case, the hard-to-understand. These features enhance the original production without changing its impact or focus.

After watching the film, with it's all its what-ifs, it's a real delight to open the extras. The first one on the menu is simply called, "The Archive" and consists of over 150 still photos and other images of the subway. They go by too fast and I took the producer's suggestion to slow down my DVD player. Again, there's a subtitle option, which details the exact location of the photos.

The next feature on the menu is "The Steel Wheel", a silent color film about the subway made in 1956. As the producers explain, it has been combined with the soundtrack from a lost 1950 film about the same subject. The effect is of watching a 1950's industrial film, complete with corny stock music and a narrator who sounds like a local radio announcer. Its a little like watching "Last of the Giants" made on a much smaller budget. I especially liked the part where kids (probably the cameramen's) walk on tracks and wave as the subway passes by. How things have changed.

Next is a piece called "Prodigal Son", a combination of the story of Car 60, the subway's last surviving passenger car and Don Espenmiller, one of the last men to run it. The first part is a montage of Car 60 in operation, how it escaped the fate of its brothers, was moved several times and eventually returned home for restoration. The second part is an extended interview with Don Espenmiller seated in front of Car 60. Born in 1917, Mr. Espenmiller explains the day-to-day workings of the subway with detailed, funny and tragic stories. He also gives his own opinions on the current state of Car 60 and the subway's tunnel. It's a great piece of first-person history.

After that comes perhaps the strongest of the new features, "Motherless Child", a moody piano backed montage of the abandoned tunnel. Watching these images made me think of something from a horror movie like "Phantom of the Opera". Fans of abandoned places will love it. The montage finishes on a spider web in an abandoned station then proceeds to the most impressive feature I've seen in a railfan video. Starting from a period film clip shot inside a subway car entering the tunnel we are suddenly transformed to a point-of-view of the car itself in what must be the most bizarre and extreme head end shot ever filmed. The filmmakers managed to somehow replicate the perspective of a motorman driving through the entire mile and a half of the abandoned tunnel. Dreamlike and unreal, it is at the same time completely convincing. Only the missing tracks remind you that it is somehow impossible. The impressive stunt gives new meaning to the term, "Phantom Run" and is alone worth the price of admission.

After catching your breath, the DVD's next feature is a welcome relief. Two outtakes are presented in which the filmmakers reveal the frustrating, hilarious and sometimes dangerous steps they took to make the film.

There are a few other extras that I'll let viewers discover for themselves. Suffice it to say this DVD is a lot more than the VHS original with some extra stuff thrown in. It is a full immersion into a strange world and as much of the Rochester Subway as you'll ever need to know. I enjoyed it very much."
Subway DVD Special Features
Mike Boas | Rochester, NY | 10/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"As originally seen on the History Channel and WXXI-TV, PBS Rochester.

Animatus Studio has remastered the original documentary (previously only available on VHS) and included 45 minutes of new features.

Soundtrack music by folk group The Dady Brothers. Additional music by renowned pianist Philip C. Carli.


* The Steel Wheel
Experience a round trip ride on the subway as it existed in the 1950s.

* Prodigal Son - Rochester Car 60
Video of the subway's last surviving passenger car and an all new interview with one of the last motormen.

* Motherless Child - Remnants of the Subway
A look at the subway as it exists today. Includes a "phantom run" through the abandoned Broad Street tunnel.

A library of 150 still images.