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)