Stuff for the Stocking : There’s something for all, especially train lovers, stumped gift-givers and the VCR-impaired.


Looking for some unusual videos for Christmas? Here’s a grab bag of goodies, ranging from railroad tapes to videos that will help deck and decorate the halls for the holidays.

Pasadena-based Pentrex has just released several new railroad tapes for the trainspotter near and dear to your heart, including “Steam to Squamish,” “Tribute to Tennessee Pass” and “BC Rail Cab Ride: From Sea to Sky” ($30 each).

Also new from Pentrex is “Big Boys on TV” ($20)--a live TV drama from 1954 recently discovered in the archives of the Union Pacific Historical Society. This “Robert Montgomery Presents” tale stars Ed Begley as an engineer facing the onset of the diesel train. Montgomery is also on hand to host and narrate the story. Not exactly scintillating drama, but the Lucky Strike and Union Pacific commercials are a hoot. The tape also includes never-before-seen 35mm footage of the steam trains called the Big Boys that was shot in Wyoming in 1953. To order any of the Pentrex videos, call (800) 950-9333.

The train traveler will enjoy Acorn Media’s “America’s Scenic Rail Journeys” ($60 for the set: $20 each), which includes train adventures in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The series originally aired on PBS. To order, call (800) 474-2277.

If you’re absolutely flummoxed on how to pick and decorate a Christmas tree, “Dr. Christmas: The Complete Tree” (Dr. Christmas Productions, $15) may be the cure you need. The “Dr. Christmas” team of Bob Pranga and Debi Staron discuss the pros and cons of selecting a live tree over an artificial one and demonstrate how to light and decorate a tree. Production values aren’t great, but the video offers a lot of solid tips. To order, call (310) 854-0886.


Goldhil Video’s “At Home for the Holidays: Making Christmas Special” ($15) is hosted by the very perky Sharon Anderson. The tape offers fun, simple tips on how to decorate your home for the holidays, make gift baskets and gifts for your children, as well as how to decorate your tree with everything from dried fruit ornaments to country garlands. “At Home for the Holidays” originally aired on TV. To order, call (800) 250-8760.

For the VCR-challenged--and you know who you are--there’s “VCR Programming Made Simple” (Memory Lane, $25), a 30-minute guide that takes viewers step-by-step through the recording of a TV program and even how to set the VCR clock. The tape even demonstrates techniques using several different styles of VCRs, including older models that don’t offer on-screen programming features. Also included is a chapter on VCR Plus+ recording. Of course, you’ll have to be savvy enough about a VCR to know how to watch this tape. To order, call (800) 906-0298.

The Art Institute of Chicago produced the tasteful but rather dry “How to Visit an Art Museum” (Tellens, $20). If the kids can manage to sit through the video, they’ll learn how to make the most out of a visit to a museum and get info on how to look at art in different ways. To order, call (520) 742-0649.

Girls and young women who love to play basketball will enjoy “Swoopes on Hoops” (White Star, $20), hosted by Olympic gold medalist and WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes. The fast-paced tape features demonstrations of simple and effective techniques on how to improve your game. To order, call (800) 458-5887.

If you have stars in your eyes and are looking for a career change in 1998, then check out “How to Start a Career in Television, Movies & Commercials” and “How to Get Your Child Into Television, Movies and Commercials” (9.5 Productions, $25 each). Actress Maria Lease hosts these informative guides on how to break into the industry.