Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011...What a great year !

Looking forward, looking back. Reviewing what I've posted here over the last year, I relived the entire process of creating my book.  First defining a premise for the book, amassing information, formatting, adding photos, printing,  taking and fulfilling orders, book reviews and now the last few copies remaining.

It has truly been a great year.  I learned a lot.  Creating Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years helped me organize my passenger train consists.  It also allowed me to correspond with and meet many VIA fans and railfans in general.  Trying something new is always a challenge, but I like a challenge.

Robert W. Bly wrote, "No one has done exactly what you have, or lived the exact life you have lived.  The uniqueness you have as a professional and as a human being brings uniquess to your book, which is what makes it worth reading...(he continues "...which is what it makes it worth reading even though there have been many others on the topic before.") which clearly isn't the case when it comes to the history of VIA Rail.

As 2011 comes to a close, I can reflect on a year of challenges, anticipation, activity and even success.  If someone told me a year ago that I would sell 340 copies of this book, I would suggest a visit to a specialist.  I'd like to thank everyone who supported this process in any way.  

Now it's time to look ahead as I anticipate a new project...

Highball 2012!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Six Forty-Eight at Twenty One Twenty-Five

Last night I had the pleasure of delivering a copy of my book to a VIA train. Engineer Chris Diddy was operating VIA train 648, on this night not J'ed to VIA train 668, but running about ten minutes later arriving at 2125. (Spoiler alert: the photo above is NOT last night's train. It was a dark and stormy night; not good for my usual delivery photograph, so 6505 at Kingston on VIA train 169 in 1988 will have to do.)

Chris and I had been trying to arrange this delivery since June 5, just after the release of my book. Operating on the other side of Toronto, combined with our schedules not meshing led to this 5+ month delay, but tenacity and timetable aligned on a drizzly Sunday night in November.

After Chris alighted from the cab of P42 912, we were able to have a short conversation about the working for VIA and railfans' altered view of Canadian railways in the 21st century. Chris, enjoy the book - safe trip and hope to meet you Trackside again.



Monday, November 21, 2011

But It's a TRAIN...VIa RAiL Video

As a bit of a departure, I decided to produce a short VIA Rail-themed rap music video. Note that the letters of the word 'viral' are in block caps within 'VIA Rail' in this post title. No, no, the video has not gone viral yet, nor do I expect it to. However, it is being received favourably in the railfan community.

The video was born out of the anniversary of massive VIA cuts thirty years ago this month. Usually referred to as the 1981 Pepin cuts, one resulting major loss was the Super Continental. Recently, while doing some enjoyable VIA 'fanning at Kingston, it struck me that there's still lots to see trackside, even with all the changes, cuts and improvements to VIA throughout its history. My son shared the 'Songify' app on his iphone with me, and the rest is history. Here are the full original lyrics, used in the But It's a TRAIN video which appears on my main blog, Trackside Treasure.

I was standin' on the platform
Feelin' down, feelin' forlorn
The classic trains all gone
Yo, yo, what's goin' on?

Not the Super Continental
It can still be transcendental
Canadian's got a Park car
I'm a railfan sittin' in my car

But it's a TRAIN
Yeah it's a TRAIN
'Cause it's a TRAIN
Yeah it's a TRAIN

It's not the Scotian or the Ocean
Ain't got no Sceneramic magic potion
On the Kingston Sub like a yoyo
I still like to watch them go go.

'Scuse my Cavalier attitude
Don't wanna sound too rude
It ain't blue & yellow
But I'm chill, yo I'm so mellow.

But it's a TRAIN
Yeah it's a TRAIN
'Cause it's a TRAIN
Yeah it's a TRAIN

Now and then I like the Ren
LRC sweet as can be
P42 whatcha gonna do?
Ain't got no steamy SGU.

F40PH what the H?
HEP yeah it's gotta be.
Skeena Turbo Rapido GONE
Atlantic Limited with E8 GONE

But it's a TRAIN
Yeah it's a TRAIN
'Cause it's a TRAIN
Yeah it's a TRAIN

Comin' down the mainline
It's HEP ain't got no steamline
Not carryin' emotional baggage...CAR
You can join my club...CAR

Print your ticket get on board
Down the track you won't be bored
Doesn't matter which train you're on
Ride it like you're Jason Shron

But it's a TRAIN
Yeah it's a TRAIN
'Cause it's a TRAIN
Yeah it's a TRAIN

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Book Donation

Lyon Valley Northern blogger Chris Lyon recently posted a request for donations for a great cause. Eastern Ontario's largest model railroad show, the Ottawa Train Expo is coming up in May. A Draw Table is part of the event, where tickets are sold on items donated by participating vendors or in this case, VIA book creators. Proceeds from the Draw Table will go to Roger's House, an eight-bed pediatric hospice located on the grounds of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa.

Upon reading Chris' request, I was happy to donate a signed copy of Trackside with VIA - The First 35 Years. Here's hoping it will add to funds raised during the event. To find out more, simply click on

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Book Review Number 4

Canadian Railway Modeller's August-September edition (T18T2) includes a review of my book. VIA Train 4 is refuelled at Jasper, Alberta on the morning of May 30, 1986 (above):

Trackside with VIA will appeal to those who have an interest in knowing exactly what VIA passenger trains consisted of between the years 1976-2011. The professionally-printed, soft-cover, 114-page book will be most valued by modellers who wish to match and operate accurate consists of VIA locomotives and passenger cars to a specific-era train. It is an excellent reference guide and detailed history of this specific aspect of Canadian passenger train history.

Eric Gagnon's book follows the real meat-and-potatoes, 35-year history of VIA passenger trains after the 1976 'merger'. He admits it is not a coffee table book nor a corporate history. The book serves its purpose with lists of train consists as recorded by the author over the 35-year period. It is broken down into 6 specific eras, listing train consists within that time frame and shows how VIA progressed to where it is today. The book covers are in colour and there is a limited selection of black and white locomotive and passenger car photographs throughout the book, along with a brief explanation of the era following. Also included is a complete roster of locomotive and passenger cars used by VIA from its beginning, along with corridor schedules, paint transition data that will be of interest to modellers, and a recommended reading section. The foreword is written by Jason Shron, president of Rapido Trains, a VIA enthusiast himself.

Thanks to Canadian Railway Modeller's editor Morgan Turney and reviewer Russell Morgan. CRM is in their 19th year providing interesting information to Canadian modellers, and has been instrumental in growing the Canadian market, now well-served by Canadian and American model railway manufacturers.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Six More Things I've Learned

Here are six more things I've learned about creating a self-published book:

1. Give value for money. By doing so, people will be pleasantly surprised by what they're receiving for what they've paid.

2. Be responsive and nimble. Respond to emails, phone calls, and any other questions - promptly and politely. Be prepared to answer questions on every facet of your book, everything you did and why. Make deliveries if practicable, even to passing trains (this is the fun part).

3. Include more information and photos than you think you should. See also 1. It's very unlikely anyone will tell you there's toooo much good stuff in your book.

4. Think about the logisitics involved: shipping methods, marketing and pricing ahead of time. Never increase costs or prices once set or quoted.

5. Remember the "10% writing, 90% marketing" mantra. This kicks in right around the time your book is released. The writing is very important, but marketing becomes very, very important if you want anyone to know about this book you've just spent time creating.

6. Customers and readers really want you to succeed. If they're happy, they'll tell someone.
(I suppose if they're not happy, they'll tell ten people. Better to keep them happy.)


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Six Things I've Learned

Here are six things I've learned about creating a self-published book:

1. Write where you are: More frequently this is expressed as 'write what you know'. My version means that it's OK to publish a book and not know absolutely everything on that topic. Sometimes, what you have to share with others is more valuable than knowing everything on a topic. If everyone who creates a book had to know everything about the book's subject, most books would never make it to print. There's always more to learn. Find a micro-niche and expand on it.

2. Don't release your book in June. Statistically, June is the worst month in which to release a new book. (February is the worst month in which to release a Christmas book.)

3. Unexpected Canada Post lockout won't help 2. above. (My timing may have been a little bit off, but I was so happy to see my book in print and be able to share it with others, that I went ahead anyway!)

4. Customers always want more information than you've provided. This is OK. At least you'll have provided a starting point, and the requested information can often be researched and added later.

5. Find a good designer and printer. This is very important, as this is how readers "see" your book. I was happy to deal with Bryan Babcock Design and Allan Graphics, both local enterprises here in Kingston. Did I mention delivery of boxes of finished books to my door?

6. I don't have a 6. This is invariably something I haven't recognized or learned yet, or people have been too kind to bring it to my attention. I'll keep 6. open and I'm sure I'll learn it soon.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

1976 VIA consist analysis

Chris Mears, creator of the Prince Street Terminal blog, is another reader who's using the data in my new book. Chris is really taking it to the next level by entering the equipment on trains I observed into a brand-new database. From there, Chris is beginning to analyze individual locomotives, cars and RDC's, and their direction of travel and frequency.

This is a great application of the data the book contains. Read for yourself Chris' first post: VIA Rail consist summaries, second post: VIA consists and early observations, and the inevitable nexus of my book and Rapido Trains' fine products in N scale.

Sounds like Chris is onto something here, and while he kindly credits my book as the inspiration, he in turn deserves credit for synthesizing new secondary information from my primary data. Chris is definitely getting a...(wait for it)...


Friday, September 16, 2011

Book Signing at George's Trains

I did something new yesterday - a book signing. Dan Darnell of George's Trains in Markham (pictured at right, with me in front of the store - above) invited me to participate in George's annual Customer Appreciation Sale and Charity BBQ. This year's charity was Make-a-Wish Foundation. The event was well-attended, and the donation jar was full of a variety of colourful bills. Thanks to everyone's generosity, over $500 was raised at the event! It was great to sign copies of my new VIA Rail book, but even better, to donate a portion of the proceeds to Make-a-Wish. It was also rewarding to answer questions and inquiries about my book, and just talk trains for the afternoon. One of George's employees, S**t (sorry, I can't reveal his complete name due to some ongoing issues to do with online dating) was the genial BBQ operator, shown above with his helpers. S**t's friendly banter kept me and the customers amused (and abused in some cases) during the afternoon. I can't think of a better way to spend the afternoon - situated between a hobby store, an appetizing BBQ, CN's York Sub, and a steady stream of train enthusiasts and VIAphiles. It was great to see Matt Soknacki and John Riddell there, both of whom share my interest in rolling stock (you know, those rattly things behind the power.)
Needless to say, when CN decided to roll a freight through (three westbound and one eastbound during the event) I quickly doffed my chapeau, grabbed my camera and abandoned my station to take some notes and photos. The weather was definitely co-operating!
Thanks to Dan, Richard and all the staff of George's for making this a fun and worthwhile event, all the while helping out a great cause. It was great to meet so many of my fellow enthusiasts and spread the word about my book.



Thursday, September 15, 2011

Now arriving...train 55

I met VIA engineer Terry Brennan in Ottawa station on Labour Day weekend. We talked about my book, and in the ensuing week, we arranged to meet at Kingston station for Terry to pick up a copy. Terry made it easy, since he was working four different VIA trains along the Kingston Sub this weekend. Saturday afternoon, train 55 arrived with Terry at the controls of VIA engine 904, and we had a chance to meet and talk about railway books while Terry's mate handled the baggage.

Two things about our conversation stuck with me. Terry asked some questions about the book, specifically what the 8000's and 8100's were that appear early on, in 1976. These were CN baggage cars that VIA didn't acquire, and I actually mentioned them briefly in the roster at the back of the book. As I see it, this is part of the value of my book - the information I recorded can generate interest and discussion about the equipment that VIA was operating, especially in its early years. (More especially when the information resonates with a 23-year VIA employee.)

The other thing was that Terry mentioned was the possibility of recording his experiences working for VIA, as well as his colleagues and those who came before. Definitely a good idea. The most daunting part is actually starting; the rest will follow.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Book Review Number 3

A review of my book has just been published in the September issue of Bytown Railway Society's Branchline:

The author has taken a different path in looking at the history of VIA. This is not done by narrative, but there are brief write-ups, nor is it done by photographs, but a smattering of photos (50) are found throughout the volume. The author has taken an historical look at VIA by examining the equipment that could be found making up VIA trains.

The book is divided into six major time frames, and the book presents consists of VIA trains for each of these periods. Most of the spotting was done in Kingston, Ontario, but there are consists spotted on several tips to western Canada. The time frames used generally relate to major changes in equipment used by the company.

The book contains 114 pages and probably 90% of the volume is listing of consists. For the consist information the author presents: date, location, time, direction of passage, train number, locomotive(s), cars and any pertinent remarks. If you are interested in what could be found on VIA trains at pretty much any point in the history of the company, it can be found here, at least for the major trains in the corridor.

There is information on paint schemes, a roster of equipment and power and some schedule information. This volume is certainly aimed at the hard core VIA fan but it is extremely useful for the modeller who wishes to portray a specific VIA train in a certain year. With all the VIA and CN equipment available in the marketplace today, especially that from Rapido Trains Inc., this could be done accurately and without too much effort.

While I found the book interesting, it mainly covers the operations in Ontario. I did not note any coverage for Atlantic Canada, but then again I did not examine every consist so there may be a few entries. There are probably well over 4,000 consists listed in the book. This is a true labour of love and will be appreciated by the fan of passenger service in Canada since 1976.

Thanks to Paul Bown for writing this review, and to Branchline and BRS for supporting Canadian publications, restoration and education efforts. VIA train 3 is shown at Portage in 1980 (above).

Friday, September 2, 2011

Book Signing

George's Trains is holding their 14th annual Customer Appreciation Sale at their Markham store at 550 Alden Road, Unit 1 on Saturday, September 24. Dan Darnell from George's was kind enough to invite me to sign copies of my book at the sale.

The best part of this event is the fundraising aspect, with this year's chosen charity being the Make-a-Wish Foundation. To get into the spirit of things, we'll be donating $5 from each book sold on the 24th to Make-a-Wish.

Hope to see you there. Stop by to pick up a copy, have your copy signed, or just say 'hi' and talk about VIA. Thanks again to Dan for inviting me - it should be a great day. Oh, did I mention there's a BBQ?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

1993 Toronto Run-Throughs

Steve Roberts has been looking through his copy of Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years. I'm always interested to hear how customers are utilizing the book, putting the data to use in unique applications, and Steve provided me with his application. Steve models southwestern Ontario, which means that trains seen on the CN's Kingston Sub were running through Toronto to the area he models. These trains weren't all being shuttled to the Toronto Maintenance Centre - they would basically run-through in many cases, based on VIA's equipment cycles. Similar cycles existed at Ottawa and Montreal, keeping consists together since there was no need to turn the cars or change the length of the consist.

Steve sent two interesting examples of these cycles at Toronto, with each number being the VIA train number:

March 19, 1993
70 becomes 64
80 becomes 66
50 (loco & first 3 coaches/ via TMC) becomes 44
61 (cars & trailing loco) becomes 166
63 becomes 75
41 (loco & first 3 coaches/ via TMC) becomes 46
45 becomes 51
636 becomes 645 (wyed at TMC)
74 becomes 68
65 becomes 87

April 14, 1993
50 becomes 44
61 (cars & trailing loco) becomes 166
63 becomes 75
41 becomes 46
45 becomes 51
65 becomes 87

Steve adapted the above rotation from the April 1993 Rail & Transit, originally shared by Sean Robitaille. Indeed, based on the trains I saw at Kingston, it's possible to extrapolate these same consists into southwestern Ontario.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

The 'Bible' of Paint

A nice recommendation from VIAphile Mark Kaluza today. The question was posed on an online forum: Were all VIA's ex-CN cars wearing the VIA blue & yellow scheme by 1980?

Mark answered in a a subsequent post entitled 'The Bible of Paint'*: Many of VIA's fleet never received the blue & yellow treatment at all. I am going to suggest since VIA's fleet is so ginormous and too extensive to get into car by car, that you consult Eric's latest book. Jakob Mueller contributed a spreadsheet including just the information you're looking for, regarding individual cars and repaint (or not) dates. Exhaustive work on his part, and quite an interesting read for any sort of VIAphile out there.

Mark has helpfully identified one of the best parts of my book, and one of its most valuable uses, namely using Jakob's paint transition data for VIA's cars to answer just such a question. I included similar data for VIA's locomotives and RDC's based on my observations made during the transition era, when the shops were busiest covering over CP and CN paint.

That's VIA-CN 5217 at Kingston on December 24, 1976, likely the first Canadian Flyer car to wear the blue & yellow.

Watch for an announcement here in the next few days.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Guy Walks into a Hobby Shop...

Fellow VIAphile Jakob Mueller relayed an engaging story from Halifax recently. Seems a Swedish tourist happened into Maritime Hobbies, one of several fine hobby shops who've stocked my book. Anyway, turns out this guy absolutely loves VIA. He takes one look at the books for sale, grabs mine as a lucky find, and leaves. He had to get back onto the cruiseship that was soon to leave port.

Jakob visited Sweden in 2007, and mentioned while that VIA can't hold a candle to the Swedish system, although the blue and yellow (pre-Renaissance) colour scheme is something both systems have in common.

Speaking of fine hobby shops, here are a few more places you'll be able to find my book:

-Ware House Hobbies in Winnipeg
-Exporail in Saint-Constant
-Canadian Museum of Rail Travel in Cranbrook
-Ontario Electric Railway Historical Association in Milton

I'm still filling individual customer orders, usually next business day. As always, I appreciate the interest I'm receiving in my book. It's gratifying to know there are others who share my enthusiasm for the history of VIA thus far.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Blue and Yellow Crewe

This week a copy of Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years winged its way to Crewe in the United Kingdom. Terry Wynne, a fan of Canadian railways and British railroader for 40 years resides in Crewe, home of the Grand Junction Railway Crewe Works, which date from 1840 and are now operated by Canada's Bombardier Inc. Don't you think DRS 37038, shown here at Crewe, bears a resemblance to VIA's blue and yellow scheme?

Terry rode VIA from Vancouver to Toronto in 1990, including cab-rides from Blue River to Valemount BC and Melville, Saskatchewan to Brandon North, Manitoba. Sadly, the trip was interrupted by native blockades and was completed by air east of Winnipeg. Terry has travelled other VIA routes, and still wants to travel east of Montreal on VIA's Ocean. Firmly anchored in the VIA F40PH era, Terry also models Canadian railways and works on a club layout located in the signal box at the Crewe Heritage Centre.

I trust you'll enjoy the book, as much as you have your very varied VIA experiences, Terry!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Book Review Number 2

I just received a review of my book from Hugh McCormack. While Hugh's book travelled all the way to Newfoundland, he actually grew up near the Pickering GO station, later moving to the Ontario railfan hotspot of Newtonville. Hugh says he was always amazed by the amount of traffic on CN's Kingston Sub, and the sounds of Alcos chugging across the landscape are embedded deep in his memory. Thanks to Hugh for sharing his comments contained below.

Ex-CP 1418 at Calgary on train number 2 (above). Now here's book review number 2:

"My copy of Eric's book arrived in today's mail. For anyone seeking a reference for accurately modelling VIA trains, this book is what you need.

I am amazed at the amount of detail it contains and it is worth every penny of the $25 price. I am also amazed that a book of this size and quality can be produced in Canada for such a low price in this day and age.

Congratulations to Eric for this valuable piece of research."


Thursday, August 4, 2011

At Fine Hobby Shops Everywhere

Several fine hobby shops now stock my book. These include:
-Maritime Hobbies in Halifax
-Central Hobbies in Vancouver
-Hobby House in Ottawa
-Credit Valley Railway Company in Mississauga
-Larkspur Line in Merrickville
-George's Trains in Markham
-Kelly's Kaboose in Kamloops
-Leading Edge Hobbies in Kingston
-Al's Hobby Shop in Elmhurst, Illinois
If you don't see the book in your local hobby shop, ask the owner or email me at mile179kingstonATyahooDOTca.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Coast to Coast

I listed some of the destinations to which my book has been delivered in my July 5 post. Now I'm able to add the final Canadian province...Prince Edward Island. VIA didn't run trains in PEI, so above is a photo I took of CN 1751 at the ferry dock in Borden in 1982.

Fellow blogger Chris Mears picked up his copy this past weekend. As many customers tell me, Chris mentioned that the book looks great, and that he needs more time to digest it further. I completely understand why. There's so much information in the book that even if a customer wanted to read it cover-to-cover, sleep and meal breaks would get in the way.

So now, Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years has truly gone coast-to-coast, sort of like the classic 1965 National Film Board short comedy The Railrodder.


Saturday, July 23, 2011


Now that I've initiated another printing of my book, it's time to correct a few errors. As always, errors creep in despite best efforts. These will be corrected by Bryan at Allan Graphics in the new printing. If you already have your copy, here are five items listed by page number that you may wish to correct:

1. Page 56: May 18/84 1929 W Consist
-6798 should read 6789 (first locomotive)

2. Page 56: Sept 27/84 1500 W Consist:
-add "5" between Endeavour and Vice-Regal car 1

3. Page 85: June 15/10 Toronto Union Consist
-add "Manor" to "Douglas" so it reads "Douglas Manor"

4. Page 102: Club Galley section (car 654)
-change "St. James's Club" to "Saint James's Club"

5. Page 104 Sceneramic Dome section, (car 2703):
-change "Frazer" to "Fraser"

Let me know if you've come across other errors that may need correcting. My email address is listed in the Ordering Information in the sidebar.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Welcome CRO Readers

If you're reading this, you're interested in Canadian railroading. Thanks to editor Will Baird of Canadian Railway Observations, Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years, there's now a banner ad on CRO's main page, just under the photo of the June 2011 edition advertising my book, which will also interest you.

CRO is a must-read. Period. OK, you might say "I'm only interested in railroading of yesteryear, not of today". My favourite links in each issue are the Vignettes, where classic photos of Canadian railroading in each section can be enjoyed while wallowing in nostalgia. There's something for everyone: CN, CP, VIA, Shortlines, Modellers' Corner and much more.

Thanks Will, for advertising my book and also for working with your team of contributors each month to provide online news and features. CRO is one of many excellent websites, magazines and books on Canadian railroading that allow us to get informed, stay in touch and use information to further our modelling, knowledge and enjoyment of Canada's railways.


Monday, July 11, 2011

VIA down under

Another customer order fulfilled - down under in Australia. The farthest by far - Andreas Keller, VIAphile and model builder. In fact, Andreas built the LRC pictured above in 1987. The model was part of the 1989 RPM meet in Troy NY, and was featured in Canadian Railway Modeller magazine in 1995. Andreas, your copy is on its way, and thanks for reminding me about the spectacular train voyages of Australia: the Indian Pacific, the Ghan, the Sunlander and Spirit of the Outback.

What's next, a customer in Antarctica? So far, my only experience down under was photographing this LRC under me on a rocky outcrop at Kingston Mills. Oh, and hearing about Jason Shron and Dan Garcia crawling under various VIA equipment taking measurements for future Rapido Trains models.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Via Air Mail

Remember those red-and-blue striped air mail envelopes that used to say Via Air Mail - Par Avion? It's doubtful there's any mail on the ex-CP baggage car sandwiched between a VIA-painted CN business car and a VIA1 LRC car, shown above.

Now that book orders are flowing in after the forgettable Canada Post lockout, copies of my book have found their way to Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland; US states: New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, California, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Maine, New York, Texas, Virginia and Vermont.

Thanks to the easy-to-use Western Union funds transfer, my first international customer in Hungary is about to receive his copy. Now that's what I call VIA air mail.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Back to Work

"Our long national nightmare is over", intoned newly-inaugurated President Gerald Ford upon taking office and putting the Watergate area behind him in 1974. In 2011, this long national nightmare for me has been the Canada Post lockout.

Being completely dependent on Canada Post, the stream of incoming book orders trickled dry, and books ready to fulfill orders piled up here and have waited for the lockout to end, for over a week-and-a-half. A long week-and-a-half. A filibuster worthy of the lengthy parliamentary debates during the building of the CPR finally resulted in back to work legislation.

Canadian mail service will soon be restored. If you'd like to let the backlog disappear and save your mail for another couple of days, I'll be doing the same. But then it's 'game on'. Several of you have patiently emailed me during the lockout, and I will fulfill your orders upon receipt. Not to worry - I hope we can put this work disruption behind us and I can continue sharing my book with readers in Toronto, Toledo and Tokyo.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Book Review Number 1

I just received a review of my book from Steve Boyko. Steve is a Winnipeg railfan, photographer and blogger. Steve's blog Confessions of a Train Geek is located prominently in my sidebar on my main blog, Trackside Treasure. When he bought his copy, Steve said he'd review the book. I appreciate the thought Steve has put into his review, most of which follows in italics. Pictured above are VIA No 1 and No 2 at Winnipeg in 1980.

I'm going to start by saying what the book is not.
  • It is not a coffee table picture book.
  • It is not an exhaustive history of VIA Rail.
  • It is not a Greg McDonnell book.
So... what is it? Physically, it is a 114-page book, containing mostly text with some black and white photos, soft cover and perfect bound. Eric is selling it for $25 (including shipping in Canada). Trackside with VIA is divided into six sections, by "era", plus a bonus section:
  • 1976-81 / Beginnings
  • 1982-86 / Potpourri
  • 1987-90 / New Power
  • 1991-95 / End of Steam
  • 1996-00 / Transition
  • 2001-11 / Renaissance
  • Western Trips
Each section has a page of text talking about the changes in VIA during the period, together with a half dozen or so black-and-white photographs. The real meat of each section is a list of trains he saw during that period, with times and locations and all the engines and cars he noted for each train. We railfans call these "consists". These are a treasure trove for train researchers, as well as anyone wondering what kinds of engines and cars VIA hauled at various times in its life.

The book also includes a foreword by Jason Shron of Rapido Trains, paint transition data for the modeler, provided by Jakob Mueller, a brief VIA roster, train schedules in the Ontario-Quebec, the various Canadian/Super Continental routings, and recommended readings. I think Trackside with VIA is a book by a railfan, for railfans. This book will appeal to VIA Rail enthusiasts, and train enthusiasts in general. I don't think the "general public" (whoever that is) would really enjoy it, and they are not the intended audience.

The book is well written, with very few typos, well laid out, and it is professionally printed. I love the cover - it is very reminiscent of VIA timetables from days gone by.

This is a quality product.

I recommend Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years to anyone with a serious interest in railways, especially the history of VIA Rail. As Eric notes in his recommended reading section, there have been very few serious books on VIA Rail. Now there is one more.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Not such a Strange Request

Jordan McCallum is a VIA Rail engineer who emailed me this week with what he termed a strange but fitting request. He wondered if I could deliver a copy of Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years to VIA train 57, which Jordan would be one of the engineers on. Do fish swim?

My wife and I arrived ahead of 57, which soon arrived on the south track. After Jordan headed back to ex-CP 8609 to handle the baggage, and brought a snack back to the cab of 6440, it was time to make the delivery as my wife snapped a few photos.

Jordan, it was indeed a fitting way to deliver a copy of my book, especially to a VIA fan at Kingston, who is ALSO a VIA employee, who is ALSO operating a VIA train at the time.
Highball, Jordan!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Reviews and Deliveries

As the first and second waves of deliveries of my book are now being made, I'm receiving some welcome feedback from customers. Here are some samples:

"The book looks fantastic. It's a real treasure trove of information that I'm very happy to have. Your overviews of the different "eras" are straight to the point and give a great summary of what was happening in each period. And the consist lists...superb! As a VIAphile and modeller, having more details about typical consists is always a help. I'm quite familiar with the sorts of consists in the last decade. I've seen plenty of them whizzing by!. I must admit that my knowledge of the previous decades, perhaps the most interesting in VIA's history, is quite a bit more limited. So your book is fantastic for giving me an insight into the many years of VIA I missed (what with not being alive for many of them), and also having some well-documented records of consists in the more recent years to supplement my own observations.Thank you for putting in the effort on assembling this great resource. I'm sure I echo the sentiments of many VIAphiles and modellers when I say well done!" - Tim Hayman

"Perfectly packed, promptly sent, professionally printed and bound. And the contents? Tremendous! This book is not festooned with page after page of pictures (though there is a respectable number of them), but it is filled with detail and above all, years and years of VIA consists. It certainly equals and possibly exceeds Kalmbach's current effort on Amtrak's 40th anniversary. Anyone who has not yet ordered this book would be well served by doing so now. Eric - my congratulations. You should feel very proud. Thanks so much." - Derek Thompson

"My book arrived safe and sound. It looks great and I know I will spend many hours reading its contents! I really appreciate that you signed the book and the “bookmark” that you included is very much appreciated. It is a real keepsake. Thanks again and I hope the book sales continue to grow." - Steve Taylor

Many more customers kindly email me to say: Received the book in good condition - at first glance it looks interesting - I'll be looking at it in more detail over the coming hours/days /weeks. That's OK too - there's a lot of content in there - take the time to enjoy it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

F is for F-unit, F is for Fulfillment

This is the Trackside Treasure Publications mail room. Here, it's all about fulfilling customers' orders. These are the books I sent out Thursday morning, now in the capable hands of Canada Post. Notwithstanding the sporadic service disruptions due to its internal labour strife, copies of Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years are being sent and received.

This is fulfilling for my customers and also for me. Customers now have an intensely informative book in their hands that if not at first glance a page-turner, should prove to be an excellent reference resource when needed for VIA modelling or research, to delve into recent Canadian railway history, or just to settle an argument. It's fulfilling for me because this is how I envisioned the book creation process evolving - it really is 10% creating and 90% marketing. Oh, and it's humbling - so I thank you for orders and for your interest in this project.

I'm assessing the impact of Canada Post's labour problems. It's not fulfilling if someone's book is misdirected or in some sort of limbo. Books are shipped in padded mailers with cardboard stiffeners, and they're arriving in fine shape. So far, books have gone to: an Austrian rail dispatcher, a biker-railfan, a Trains magazine author, an American rail travel consultant, a VIA employee, and many others. Still others are stopping by the house for their copy, or jokingly asking if I can 'hoop up their copy' to their train at the Kingston VIA station.

I want the fulfillment process to be easy, stress-free and above all accountable to my customers. If you have any concerns or questions, as always email me at

(The plastic VIA FP9ARM is included to show you that the mailers do in fact contain books on VIA. And the mail room = our dining room table)


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Top Ten Questions about my Book

Here are the top ten questions most frequently asked about my book:

1. Can you reserve a copy for me in case you run out? No need - I can have as many copies printed as I require due to the incredibly customer-oriented Bryan Babcock at Allan Graphics. Printing will be kept ahead of the demand.
2. Can you sign my copy? Yes, just email me at and I would be pleased to do so, or write me a note on your order form.

3. I can't print the order form. What should I do? The order form makes it much easier for me to process your order. But don't tug all your hair out if it's just not working. What I really require is your mailing address, number of copies and method of payment. Unfortunately, Blogger software doesn't support pdf's, so I had to post the flyer and order form as jpg's.
4. Can I pay by PayPal? Unfortunately, I'm not set up for PayPal.

5. How can I pay? Canadian customers, cheque or money order. US customers, USPS International Money Order. International customers, please email me for total cost including shipping. If these options don't work for you, email me and we'll try to work something out.
6. Do I pay extra for shipping? No. Prices shown on my blog include free shipping.

7. What about the impending Canada Post mail strike? I've suspended outbound deliveries. I'm holding the packaged books until the strike is settled. I don't like the idea of customers' books being lost/misplaced while Canada Post gets its internal house in order. The moment the strike is settles, the copies will go out. I am still receiving orders and packaging them.

8. Can I buy the book at my Local Hobby Shop? So far, I'm handling individual customer orders, and that is keeping me very busy. If you're a customer of an LHS near you, and you'd like them to have the book in stock, simply ask them email me at the above email address - this will likely happen before I contact them. I am offering reasonable dealer terms.

(OK, that's only eight questions, so here are two more of my own.)

9. Is this book affordable and is there value for the money? I believe so, and I trust you will too. I've been committed to making it affordable. No hidden charges, no fluff, no pesky handling fees, and tons of content. I like to call the book "data-dense". I welcome your feedback once you've seen the book - I'll be posting feedback on this blog in the sidebar.

10. Where can I get more pictures like the ones in the book? As always, stop by my other blog, for a never-ending parade of posts and a plethora of photographs of CN, CP, VIA, and just about anything else on the Canadian railway scene.

Interestingly, no-one has asked too many questions about the content of the book. This may be due to customers reading this blog over the last seven months, and following the process as the book came together. It could also be due to the dearth of information on VIA elsewhere, especially over the entire life of VIA Rail Canada as an entity separate from CN and CP, leading to some pent-up demand for more data and information than is currently available. Regardless of this, I'm pleasantly surprised with the demand so far, and I humbly thank you all, both those who have expressed interest as well as those who have already ordered. Highball!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Now Available

Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years. I'm pleased to announce that this book, seven months in the making, is now available. This was a very enjoyable project to work on, and I trust it will be of use to VIA enthusiasts everywhere. Please see ordering information in the right sidebar.

Above you'll see colour scans of the front and rear covers. Below are three low-resolution scans of sample pages to give you an idea of what the inside of the book is like. Each era of VIA that I profile leads off with a description of VIA operations, equipment and a description of some of the trains I observed, plus some representative photos I took during that era. Here is one such page, which is from the 1996-2000 era, during which HEP2 cars were in service, and Rens were on the horizon. Click to enlarge:
This page is from the first era in the book, which some have called the transition era. This page represents the first runs I observed of the Canadian on the Kingston Sub. Each era has corresponding tabs in the margin. These consists are all original, previously-unpublished material. Click to enlarge:
One more scanned page - this is from a description of some of the trips I was able to take on VIA, again with some representative photos. Also included in this section are consists of trains I rode and observed, iterations (routings) of the Canadian and Super Continental, followed by rosters and paint transition data. Lots of information here to round out the book! Click to enlarge:
I'm excited to be able to share these sample pages of the book with you. I hope that you like what you see. It's self-published, but professionally-printed, and it's unlike any other book you've ever seen. I'm always interested in any feedback or suggestions you might have. I'll add it to the sidebar at right. Please email me with any questions you may have about the book or ordering:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Order Form

Click to enlarge:
This order form can be saved and printed from you computer. It's optional - if you'd prefer not to print the form, please include the information from the form with your payment.


Here's a flyer with more information on my book. This flyer can be saved to your computer, sent to a friend or family member, or printed. Click to enlarge:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ready for Departure

Just got word this morning about a delivery to be made later today! If all goes as planned, the Victoria Day weekend will include some announcements to be made on this blog, on Trackside Treasure and on Yahoogroups.

Like the Canadian at Calgary in November 1980 (above) - VIA unit removed for servicing, CP units ready to head west. Highball!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Thanks to Jason

I thought it would be cool to have a foreword written by someone else. Now, who to ask? Someone knowledgeable about VIA. Someone who is perhaps the uberVIAphile of VIAphiles, the Dalai Lama of the LRC, the Renaissance Man. Someone who's done much to promote accurate modelling and the history of VIA. Who else but one Jason Shron, President of Rapido Trains Inc.

Jason graciously agreed to write the foreword. Now, a foreword precedes everything else in a book, i.e. beFORE the WORD. But I asked Jason to write his before the book was completed, because I was trying to be proactive, and because I know Jason is an international businessman, who's just as likely to be jetting off to check production of Rapido's fine products in China as he is to be taking a day-trip with his family to Cobourg or somewhere else in VIA's Corridor. So he hadn't actually seen the words.

I really appreciated Jason's contribution, and it's given pride-of-place in the book...Page 1. Like my book, Jason's foreword covers the gamut of VIA's operations, history and equipment succintly, and it's a great lead-in to what follows. You know, kinda like a Rapido "Oh, So Steamy SGU" leading off the head-end of a VIA train.

Highball, Jason!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What's it Worth?

What's it worth to be in the open Dutch door of the Canadian, enjoying the fall colours and the blue and silver consist forward to the power and rearward to the Park car? Priceless.

I've had as many book-related questions about price as I have about content. I've committed to keeping it affordable from the project's inception last October, and I believe I've kept that commitment.

Now that printing and postage costs have been finalized, the price will be:

$25 to Canadian addresses (shipping included)
$29 to US addresses (shipping included)

International customers, please email for price including shipping to your country.

If you order this book (watch for the green blog background - it should be happening soon) I trust that the cost-to-contents ratio equals value to you.

Update: I just received the final proof copy today, including the extra photos. I'm very pleased with the result and trust you will be too.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cover and more photos

As part of the final proof, here's a cover shot. In addition, I selected 15 more photos to add. As I've already written, this is not a picture book. But the photos have reproduced so well that I thought it would be great to include some more.

Whatever magic Bryan is able to work with these photos, they cover the entire gamut of VIA operations, and they really add to the information presented in the book.

I'll be announcing pricing in the next few days. It will be affordable. Highball!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Proof, the Whole Proof.

I burned the late night oil last night. It all started with a knock on my door. It was Bryan with the proof copy that he'd just finished, and I am very pleased with the work he's done. There are a couple of minor text edits, and white space to fill with more photos. Memo to self: must include a Flexliner photo. At 2330 hours (a little earlier than the last Cavaliers, shown above in January 1990) I put the proof down for the night.

Coming in at a meaty but manageable 114 pages, the book has a good heft to it, while still keeping shipping costs reasonable. Next task is to set pricing and get some mailers ready.

As you can see in the sidebar, this project is now governed by signal indication. So the background is red - watch for it to turn green which means I have a stack of books ready for shipping. A true highball!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Going Without Knowing

This is my last post. For awhile. Waiting for my book proof to return from the printer, I'm going to indulge in the freedom that is blogging. Reflecting on this book project, I realize that like Abraham, at many stages I've been going without knowing. That is, embarking on a journey without reluctance and without questioning, trusting in the journey itself and where it might lead, like the track stretching out westward from the cab window of 6507 in 1982.

Considering content and page count, I decided to include everything and let the book take shape as it would. That resulted in 95% of all the VIA trains I've seen in 35 years being included. (Not a bad result.) I decided not to impose any self-limitation, letting the book grow organically.

The narrative of this book encapsulates my VIA experience, from trackside as well as onboard. I've included trips I made west on the Super Continental and the Canadian, perhaps self-indulgently, but also to give readers an idea what the pre-HEP Canadian experience was like.

More self-indulgence: recording all my VIA sightings together in one place. No matter where, the trains I observed as I observed them, plus additional detail so it makes sense to the reader. As I wait, I'm given to wonder where the next stage of the journey leads. We'll all find out together once the ink hits the pages. Waiting for the Highball?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

39 and Holding

Here's 6439 "third eye" holding its place at Belleville station during train 57's station stop.

Right now I'm also in a holding pattern while the book proof is finished. Like the travellers behind 6439, I'm anticipating the journey, since getting there is half the fun. Promotional material is taking shape, and I'm anticipating doing everything I can to get this book into readers' hands.

I'm receiving lots of inquiries about when and where. Answers: soon and here. I will be permanently posting ordering information in the sidebar as soon as I have it. I'll also include this information in a post.

While you're waiting, peruse the hopefully humorous information I've added to the sidebar. Thanks to those who've contributed comments, even my wife. Patience - while waiting for the inevitable...HIGHBALL!