Sunday, December 23, 2012

100 Copies by Christmas

Is there interest in VIA Rail Canada?  You bet. Are there at least 100 people in North America who will order a book or two on VIA Rail in the first two months after it's released?  For sure.

I'm pleased to note that just in time for Christmas, over 100 copies of my newest VIA Rail book, Trackside with VIA: Cross-Canada Compendium have winged their way to customers all over Canada and the US since I released them in late-October. (Just today, a VIA fan's family member arrived on my doorstep to pick up two copies just in time for Christmas.) This number is sure to climb upwards as hobby shop sales build in the new year.

This is in no small part due to the contributions of ardent VIA enthusiasts and photographers like Gary Hadfield (photo of RDC-1 6107 - above) and Brian Schuff (photo of 1413 at Winnipeg - below) who generously supported me in this project.

Also closing in on 100 copies is my other new book, the Trackside with VIA: Cross-Canada Compendium Consist Companion . Ordered nearly one-for-one with the Compendium, customers are proving that there is indeed interest in VIA Rail train consist information. And why not?  Long overlooked, I believe this type of information is of great interest today, to modelers and enthusiasts alike.

If you haven't ordered yet and Santa left some cash in your stocking, please see the printable order form, top right sidebar of this blog. If you're reading this, please accept a small Christmas gift from me in the form of a Trackside Treasure (my main blog) post on VIA's Canadian in 1984, including photos and consists I recorded in Manitoba in that year.

Thanks to all for your support, your interest in my books, and may I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous year to come in 2013! 


Thursday, November 29, 2012

One Month In!

Here are five things I learned or re-learned since the release of my two new VIA books four weeks ago:

1. Strong consist book sales.  This surprised me a little.  Initial print runs were weighted 4:1 for my Cross-Canada Compendium relative to my Consist Companion.  Orders have come in very nearly one-for-one.  I'd like to think that customers see the value of train consist information, from the joint points of view of enthusiasts and modellers.  It simply is the best documentary information available for a given train on a given day at a given location.  With cross-Canada and cross-era information, there is definitely some useful information in here.

2. Price for perceived value, not cost.  Related to my first point, I believe sales of the consist book may have been largely due to its reasonable price.  All along, I've been as committed to reasonable price as a goal for creating any of my books.  From day one. I've said it before - I shy away from books I consider overpriced.  An authority on marketing suggested pricing on perceived value of the book not profit vs cost.  Well, if I perceive a book's value to be $50, it's still only my perception. It's like the value of a collectible item.  Perception of value must translate into finding a customer.  If not, it's all perception and no sales.  So I do base pricing on cost, with my belief that a reasonable price will indeed lead to sales.

3. Be prepared when asking for feedback.  This is a tough one - you really have to be prepared to leave the ego at the door.  No news may be good news, or no feedback may be just that...the absence of feedback.  Either because there's nothing to say, or maybe there's something that customers don't want to say.  Let's just say that when Earl Roberts, editor of Bytown Railway Society's Trackside Guide, emailed me some very constructed feedback in the form of observations and corrections, I was glad to receive it.  I might add that the observations (along with additional information updates that Earl supplied on a few topics) outnumbered the corrections.  I will be posting errata on this blog.

4. Be responsive, both in terms of time and availability.  Don't fire-and-forget.  Customers or those simply interested in your book want to communicate, and they may want to do so before placing an order.  I don't have a Blackberry, so I'm not checking in constantly. But I have found that good communication leads to more good communication.  And I think people have a right to that, when you're making something available to them.

5. Make connections.  The connections I've made through this first four weeks, plus those forged with my contributors, have been nothing short of amazing.  This is partly because the VIA enthusiast community possesses a rabid interest, and partly because it's a relatively small community, compared to the Pennsylvania Railroad community, for instance.  Shorter history, smaller country.  But a very manageable interest, with some amazing variety that's been thoroughly investigated by some real diggers and grinders.  I'm proud to be in their company, and if these books are even slightly of interest to them, as well as adding text, data and photographs previously unseen to the community information database, I'm very happy to be there.

Thanks to all for your interest in my books,

Check out that unique paint scheme on Angus-painted VIA 1418 at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba 1981.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Both my new books are now ready for you to order.

On this big day, I would like to publicly thank my principal contributors from all across Canada: Tom Box, Bruce Chapman, Gary Hadfield, Robin Lowrie, Jakob Mueller and Brian Schuff.  Each of these fine gentlemen were good enough to make major contributions to these books: consists, reviewing text, critical data, photographs, and plain old good advice.  

These books were a team effort.  Without these contributors, I would not have been able to collect and include the important and useful content these books contain. Though my contributors are also listed under Acknowledgements in my second book, I think it's important to thank them here for their contributions along the way.  I've been waiting a long time to say this, and rather than overdoing it with 60 pt font, marquee lights or other overdone web effects like flaming penguins, I'm just going to type it here, now. Are you ready? It's...finally...time...for...the...


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Flyer: Consist Companion

This flyer gives you the contents, contact information and pricing for my new (third) consist book plus my first book.  Click to see a larger version, to save, to print or to share.

Flyer: Trackside with VIA: Cross-Canada Compendium

This flyer gives you the contents, contact information and pricing for my new book.  Click to see a larger version, to save, to print or to share.

Three-Book Order Form

This order form can be saved and printed from your computer.  Its use is optional - if you'd prefer not to print the form, simply include the appropriate information from the form with your payment.  When ordering one, two or three copies of any book, each copy will be shipped separately.  (Four or more copies of any book will be shipped together.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Super Saturday!

The release of my second and third VIA Rail books will take place this Saturday.  If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you're as ready for this moment as I am!  If you're just tuning in, you're here at a good time - more than a year in the making, this project is about to get the highball!

Can't wait!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Now - 3 books!

I had to make a tough decision.  And I believe I made the right decision.  All along, my second VIA book was going to be big - maybe too big.  I was right.  Weighing in at over 520 grams, this book would cost over $10 to ship.  No way.  I wouldn't pay that, and neither should potential customers.  So something had to go.

Now, I'm happy to announce that I'll be completing a VIA trilogy:

V1 - Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years
My observations, interspersed with VIA history, photos and data. Published in 2011.

V2 - Trackside with VIA: Cross-Canada Compendium
VIA's equipment and operations, text, photos and data.  Complete - to be published October 2012.

V3 - Trackside with VIA: Cross-Canada Compendium Consist Companion
VIA's trains in consist format, from all across Canada, especially VIA's early years.  Also to be published October 2012.

I've split the consist section into a separate 52-page book.  Always curious to see if consists have caught on as a valuable source of information not available anywhere else, this book will be the test.  Did I mention VIA's early years, including eastern Canada, western Canada as well as the Corridor?  They are heavilly-represented here, and as time marches on, fewer of these consists seem to be available to us.  This book changes that.

Originally, I wanted all this VIA material between the same covers.  But the book grew to a size where that was not possible in the current format.  Don't worry, both books will be affordable, and both will give excellent value.  If you've read this far, you're interested enough in VIA to consider whether this information is valuable to you, whether you're a train enthusiast, interested specifically in passenger trains, or if you're a modeller.

Watch for more updates very soon.  V2 will be ready first, with V3 very close behind.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Preview Here for Free!

Here's a preview to show you what's in my second book Trackside with VIA: Cross-Canada Compendium.  The book contains a nice mix of text, photos and data.  (All the photos in this post are clickable - feel free to click on each one to inspect the contents in detail!) Compared to my last book, this is a huge change in content.  I've written the text by weaving numerous sources together on each topic.  Photos and some data has been contributed by my six contributors, as well as some other very helpful individuals.  I must say thank you to them all, for this book would be much diminished without their illustrious contributions.  The cover (above) features VIA rolling stock from various eras.  I never tire of seeing those blue & yellow cars!   There are over 50 colour photos in this book as well as over 220 black & white photos:

The colour page (above) features trains of Western Canada - transcontinentals and trains to Northern Manitoba to Prince Rupert.  I'm very pleased with the colour reproduction.  Bryan Babcock and Allan Graphics has nailed it.  There are a total of 8 colour pages, including cover covers front and rear.  The colour pages include ex-CP E & F-units, F40PH-2's and trains from all parts of VIA's network.  Here are some sample pages of the book's interior - the HEP program and its equipment:
Here's the last page of the section on VIA's motive power, its newest F40/P42 fleet, as well as the beginning of the VIA Motive Power Summary section, which includes snapshots of select VIA motive power in various eras, over several days in each era.  Throughout the books, small blocks of text that I've entitled triVIA highlight VIA factoids that didn't fit in anywhere else, but that I found interesting and I trust you will too:

VIA rostered many unique cars, and I've included information on them and photos where available.  It really gives us pause to reflect on the variety and diversity of VIA's fleet:

I kept tripping over information on the disposition of VIA's equipment.  Though I realize the equipment on CN's passenger fleet was included in other publications, I've never seen a listing with all types of VIA equipment...locomotives, RDC's , coaches and sleeping cars, and more.  This section ended up filling nine pages!

The back cover showcases more photos that I wanted to share...and serves as a bit of a teaser.  Notice the Amroad-painted CP F-units!  Just a snapshot of the equipment operating on and around the VIA Rail network, again, covering all eras.  I'm really pleased with the graphic design that Bryan has used, and the covers certainly maintain a 'family resemblance' to my first book.  Bravo Bryan!

So there you have our sneak peek.  Rest assured there are many more pages like this in the book.  I'm pleased with the photo reproduction inside, and the black & white photos look great on the heavyweight paper stock.  In this book, you'll find information and photos of VIA's trains that you absolutely have not seen anywhere else.  It's organized into sections, but if you're like me, you will find yourself flipping pages to see what's on the next page, and what's in the next section.  I trust this book will provide value for the price, as well as serving as a valuable and useful reference for the modeller, novice VIA enthusiast or the most seasoned VIAphile among us!


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Proof, Part 2, Dash 3

Four days ago I blogged here about the proof copy of my second book.  Having worked through it, and having sent some revisions to Bryan, I'm expecting a second proof tomorrow.  This time it will be the complete book - including all text, consists and colour sections.  

There may be another round of revisions to be made, because I want to make sure everything is as accurate and correct as I can get it, the first time around.

Which brings me to the Dash 3 in this post title.  Although I refer to VIA's 6400-class F40PH-2 locomotives throughout the book, some diesel experts refer to the refurbished Renaissance-painted units as F40PH-3s.  Though there's some debate as to which is the correct designation, I would note that all the refurbished units are in VIA's class GPA-30H, like 6437 at Kingston (above).  When it comes to diesels, details count.

Now, one more sleep 'til the proof.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

But look, we have proof!

Not long ago, I gave my printer a USB stick full of material for this second VIA book.  Then I waited, not so patiently.  There was pacing.  There was nail-biting.  There was more pacing, followed by finger-drumming.  Then, on Sunday, I received a fantastic proof from Bryan.  He has done a great job combining tables, text and photos*.  It's lookin' good, real good.

I had no idea how many pages the proof would total.  I thought 50 or 60.  How about 92?  That's 92 pages of solely VIA material! Is this a problem or an opportunity?  All along, I've wanted to include all types of material, including relevant consists from across Canada, especially from the early years of VIA.  Aside from colour photos, some consists are the only thing to be added, and now they've gone to the printer too.  How big is this thing going to end up being??

Bryan and I are working through some revisions, as I try to squeeze a few more VIA data-points into the proof, and we're also working on some formatting.  I'm eager to see the colour pages, and I've selected photos that will look best in colour, highlighting all the colours of VIA, from B&W to B&Y via Action Red and grey&blue, Renaissance greenish-bluish and even Amroad red.  Amroad red??

*Funny formatting story....Bryan was concerned that I'd included four of the same photos of a baggage car.  Was there some mistake?  Had I lost my mind, uploaded the wrong photo, gone VIA stir-crazy?  So he started counting the rivets.  He looked at the stripe pattern and the details of the cars in the photo.  He realized they were indeed different.  A railfan was born?  Well, not quite, but these photos showed four ex-CP baggage cars that languished at CP's Glen Yard in Montreal well into the VIA era.  And I wanted to include each and every one of them for just that reason.  Good eye, Bryan!

A word about price.  All along, I've also wanted to keep this book affordable.  I would much rather see my books in more readers' hands at a reasonable price, than inflate the price to increase the profits, making the book more exclusive to a smaller potential readership.  I often buy railway books based on price, and I know for many of you, this is also an important consideration.  Now that I'm working on pricing, I am indeed endeavouring to keep the price reasonable.  I want the information I've gathered to get out there, among those who are interested in VIA as I am.

Longest. Blog post. Ever.  Well, not quite, but can you sense my enthusiasm in my typing?  Seeing the proof after over a year of work is rewarding.  Knowing this project is almost complete is like waiting to board your favourite VIA train after waiting so long for the departure date to arrive.  You know what comes next,


Photo of No 1 Eng 6441 at Winnipeg, Manitoba by Manny Jacob, September 22, 2012.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Next stop...prochaine arret...Toronto!

I met a member of the Canadian Railway Historical Association's Toronto & York Division at last March's Kingston Rail-O-Rama, and he kindly asked if I'd be a presenter at an upcoming meeting.  Do fish swim?  Were VIA locomotive noses meant to be yellow!  Of course!  

Unlike the above image of slanted yellow nose FPA4 6768, I'll be arriving in Toronto behind a GO Transit 600-series MP40PH-3.  No, GO Transit has not been extended to Kingston, just to Oshawa.

My presentation will cover four main areas: VIA's Six Eras, My VIA Book(s), Why you should write a book, and triVIA.  By the way, I expect to hear some scintillating news from my printer this weekend about my Cross-Canada Compendium.

The Division meeting will be held at 1900 hours on October 11, at Metro Hall in beautiful downtown Toronto. Next stop...prochaine arret...Toronto!


Saturday, September 22, 2012

We Got a Pair!

Ex-CP E8 1802 was one of two surviving such CP units that were transferred to VIA.  Though built in the US, they were the only E's operated by a Canadian railway.  Sometimes they operated together in VIA service and/or with ex-CP F-units and/or ex-CP RS10's.  In Winnipeg, (shown in this partial photo, which will appear in full in my second book) they're pulling a train headed by an ex-CN baggage car eastbound.  I wonder if they're together??

This blog has split, like a cell dividing itself.  Part will be devoted to my first book, and part will be devoted to my second book, the latter getting the majority of the limelight.  A new joint order form and advertising is on the way.  The red background means the second book is close to completion.

Just like a green signal at the east end of Winnipeg station, when the green appears, you can probably guess by now, it's time to...


Friday, September 21, 2012


In spring 1974, long trains of CP* RDC's were operating in Montreal's West Island lakeshore commuter service.  Approaching Valois, station, the 'hockey-stick' or 'warpaint' scheme adorns the nose of the first of six Dayliners on a weekend run into Montreal.  Waiting on the platform (L.C. Gagnon photos) were two other Canadian classics, who had their debuts in 1961 and 1964:
*Today marks the birthday of the 1961 edition, who knew early on that CP rightfully stood for Canadian Pacific, but now thinks it means Collaborative Piano!  Oh well, deep down we both know that railways are absolutely the bedrock of modern North American society as we know it, and that all else is secondary, right?

I'd like to link these three years with 2012, and another birthday...that of the proof cover of Trackside with VIA: Cross-Canada Compendium, fresh from the designer's desk.  Bear in this mind this is a proof, but I like the way it's looking and hope you will, too.  The next step is to fill that space between the front and back covers...
And Happy birthday, sis!
Highball! (no, not the drink, but we can raise a glass to celebrate anyway, across the miles)
Baby Bro (Eric)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Things that are Red

Remember the show Password?  The category today is...things that are red*.  Clues: the New VIA Rail Book blog background, the CBC 40th anniversary F40, and my face.  Why, you ask?

This blog's background has gone from blue to red to signify that a significant amount of material has been sent to Bryan Babcock at Allan Graphics here in Kingston.  He puts it all in this computer thingie, fires it up and it spits out a book design.  Presto!  OK, it's not quite that easy, but the red signifies something is about to happen.  When the background turns green, the book is ready!!

I photographed the CBC F40, 6403 at Kingston station on a snowless December 22, 2002.  A problem with CN train No 363 ahead led to a backlog of VIA trains, so VIA trains 642 (left) and 60 (right) entered the station at the same time.  Reminds me of my book - once I receive a proof from the printer, I'll be adding a second section to bring my second VIA book up to fighting weight (I really mean mailing weight).  It's a getting two VIA trains in the same photo.
My face is red because I haven't mentioned Manny Jacob's VIA F40PH-2 site.  Manny has been busy documenting and photographing VIA's F40 fleet including 6403, and I think these units would make a great book all on their own.

Many readers have expressed surprise that I'm already at this stage with my second book.  Well, I surprised myself too, and now I can't wait to see the results! The proof will the proof.


*Hosted by Allen Ludden, who married twice-divorced Betty White, the show revolved around clues passed between contestant and celebrity, to identify specific words in a given category.  Ludden was born Allen Packard Ellsworth, and yes, I did check to see if Ellsworth was the name of an E-series sleeper.  It was not.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It's Ren-tastic!

I snapped this photo while boarding VIA train 59 at Ottawa Union Station.  The Ren consist fairly glints in the late-day sun, as the ultra-modern (back in the day) station cantilever rooflines frame the scene.  VIA's logo is at left, the track leads into the [literal] distance and [figurative] future at right.

That feeling of stepping aboard is what I feel now.

I just loaded a thumb-drive with 220+ photos and 35+ documents.

I'm going to see the printer about this second VIA book.

The feeling is really Ren-tastic!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gold Discovered in Winnipeg!

What do you notice about these two pictures?  What do they have in common?  What makes them different?  (This sounds like back-to-school time, doesn't it?)  Well, they're at about the same location - the timetable west end of Winnipeg Union Station.  Brian Schuff took both photos.  The Hotel Fort Garry looms over the nose of each locomotive.  Decades show how VIA has changed, from a standardized paint scheme to cool wraps, in this case exhorting Quebecers to donate a few more 'piastres' to the provincial government and maybe find the golden egg (Quebec provincial election tonight, politicos!  Tune in to SRC or CBC for the results!)

These photos also show how far this second book on VIA Rail has progressed.  Over the last year-and-a-half, it's gone from scribbled notes to completed computer files, nearly ready for the printer.  Photos have been sourced, selected, scanned, formatted and fully captioned.  I've received many, many messages of support, interest and offers of assistance that are altogether quite overwhelming.  Thanks to all!  Going with the school theme, this is what I did on my summer vacation.

Who said MLW's didn't make it to Winnipeg.  Duh, steaming!

I expect to have some more very good news, very shortly.

Second section...

My first book is now available at four new locations:
-Canadian Express Line, Brighton ON
-The Right Track, Bracebridge ON
-Doug's Trains, London ON
-Flying Yankee Enterprises, Littleton NH, USA
Thanks to these retailers for stocking my book.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Are 200 Photos Enough?

Well, it's crunch time.  Editing decisions being made amongst a sea of sticky-notes.  I'm making room for 200+ photos.  F's! F40's! P42's! Cars! RDC's! LRC's! Ren's! B&Y! S/S! IC3! Yikes! Even some VIA stuff I didn't know existed.

While this second book on VIA Rail is not primarily a 'picture book', it will be a book of pictures.  And text.  And data.  I've heard that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Well, here are 200,000 words!

The people have spoken.  And I hope to meet your expectations by honouring your requests for more photos.

Speaking of meets, that's VIA No 3 Eng 6519 meeting our VIA No 4 at Uncas AB, May 1986.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Great! It's Glenfraser!

Glenfraser came through town this week.  Fellow VIAphile Jakob Mueller happened to take a photo of this unique car on the tail end of a ten-car VIA No 57 hauled by two P42's during VIA's afternoon rush.

From CN to VIA to BC Rail to VIA again, Glenfraser is one-of-a-kind on VIA's roster.  I've been thinking about what will make Trackside with VIA: Cross-Canada Compendium unique.  I want readers to be interested in it for the same reason Jakob photographed's absolutely different, it has a distinctive look, and it tells a very interesting story.  

This book may have too much content.  When I started out over a year ago, I was endeavouring to include everything from VIA factoids, consists from all eras, rosters and dispositions.  It seemed like an insurmountable challenge to find it all.

Now, with the binder of text full and the photo file bulging, something may have to give.  Sage advice from a contributor this past week...more photos, fewer consists.  And that's exactly the way the balance will tip.  Perhaps a supplement of consists will follow.


Glenfraser photo by Jakob Mueller, Kingston ON August 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Houston...we have...a Title!

Until this morning, the working title of my second book on VIA has been 'V2'.  Now, I'm pleased to report that after much rumination, while sitting on my front porch, I am proud to announce that there is now a real title: Trackside with VIA : Cross-Canada Compendium.

I thought of giving up the 'Trackside with VIA' prefix, because now it sounds like the Lord of the Rings movie series, and they just keep adding suffixes.  However, this is very much a 'Trackside' book.  It's what an enthusiast or VIAphile would see passing by while trackside, and then be able to look up later.

'Cross-Canada' reflects the sea-to-sea information I've included.  From Prince Rupert and Vancouver, across the Prairies, through the wilds of northern Ontario and Quebec, to the mighty Atlantic.  If there's one thing I've heard loud and clear, it's that potential readers want all parts of Canada represented.  Check!  (The other thing I've heard loud and clear, is more pictures!  Check, too!)

'Compendium' describes the information to be contained herein, better than collection, collage, compilation, or any other alliterative 'C' words that I could have used.  This is a gathering-together, a concise compilation, a presentation of a body of knowledge from the delimited field of Canadian passenger train history. The Bible is a compendium, and it's done pretty well over the years.  Will this become the bible of VIA Rail?  It certainly has the potential.

So now you know...the rest of the story (Paul Harvey reference) and the title.


VIA No 4 on CN's Ashcroft Sub, September 1985 (above)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Photos, anyone?

Oh boy, that was fun!  I just finished preparing a sheaf of photos for my upcoming book on VIA Rail.  As I've mentioned before, when I start looking at photos representing all eras of VIA's history, I forget there's work to do.  Easily distracted, I've included a very, very small sample here.  The one-of-a-kind blue-roof CP-painted 1418 (above) and stainless steel ex-CN sleeper waiting for disposition (below):
And here's E-series sleeper Ernestown (below).  The funny thing is, these are pictures that you won't be seeing in the book.  These are unassigned, waiting on the back burner so to speak, as extras.  I have so many photos to include that some very, very difficult decisions had to be made.  The photos in my book will directly support the text, instead of just being random, under-captioned photos to fill white space.  I've selected enough photos to produce complete photo pages matching the text.  Seriously considering some colour...
This post comes at the end of a nine-hour work block.  It's been a good book day.  Photos are nearing readiness, and eastern Canada's VIA history is looking a lot more complete.  I've printed off and proof-read a lot of text, and this thing is really coming together!

Another first book is now available through Flying Yankee Enterprises in Littleton, Massachusetts.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dispo. Firsto. Lasto.

In the previous post, I mentioned that VIA 6300 was the last unit in my list of VIA equipment dispositions.  While I continue to refine the list for my second VIA book, I thought I'd include the first and last of the nine pages here, to show how this list of information continues to grow.

I've included storage, retirement, sale, re-sale and scrapping dates to paint a picture of VIA's fleet on a chronological basis.  Through the various rounds of cuts and fleet rationalization, new equipment comes online and older equipment is disposed of, while smaller railways, tourist operations, museums and scrappers benefit.

As you can see here, disposition has been ongoing throughout VIA's history, though the rate has certainly slowed down recently.  The last eight years, 2004 to 2011 require a mere eight lines, while the first four years, 1981 to 1984 fill a page.

I hope book customers will find this information as engrossing as I do, and that you might find it a useful reference source while reading all about VIA, its trains and its routes over the past thirty-plus years.  Click to read all the fine print!


Monday, July 16, 2012

Dispo Facto

FP9AU 6300 is wearing a new paint scheme.  That unit is fresh in my memory, since it's the last unit currently shown in my VIA disposition of equipment information that I'm including in my second book on VIA.  Used as a VMC shop switcher occasionally, then victim of a generator flashover, 6300 was recently donated to the NRHS BC Chapter.  Andy Cassidy kindly shared the photo above after the unit's repainting.

What happened to all those locomotives and cars after VIA was finished with them?  Well, many took on new lives, successfully serving tourist operators in the US and Canada, Canadian railways, and even foreign assignments.  Others were scrapped or stored.  I find this information fascinating, and while some disposition information is available in Bytown Railway Society's unparalleled Canadian Trackside Guide, it's not grouped together, nor available chronologically.

Now the facto part...once one starts looking into dispostion information, it's sometimes difficult to comb through data that is confusing, incomplete and sometimes contradictory. But I will present what I've gathered, secure in the knowledge that other VIAphiles will be able to add to what I've presented.

In the near future, I'll be providing some preliminary disposition information right here, as a book bonus.  Please feel free to give me your thoughts on its presentation and how you might find it useful.

More can now find copies of my book for sale through Ron's Books in Danbury, Connecticut and the Hobby Depot in Sudbury.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

It's a pre-VIA! It's a non-VIA! It's VIA!

What's one to do when one comes across train information from just before the VIA era or non-VIA trains?  (While not strictly speaking VIA trains, they either included equipment soon to be assimilated into VIA Rail, ran concurrently with VIA trains, or included ex-VIA equipment.)  The answer?  Keep track of them, and I did.  There will be a section in my second book including those trains...CN, CP, Amtrak, Rocky Mountaineer, heck even GO and ONR will be included.  These trains are relevant to VIA - the progression to VIA was a slow one, and the disposition of VIA cars was also a slow process.  In fact, when the cars from the 1981 cuts were disposed of, there was space for the cars from the 1990 cuts.

In other news, my first book will soon also be available at two more locations - Trains and Lattes in the ex-CN station in Jasper, Alberta and Hobby Vermont & Essex in Montreal.

More printer is ready to fire up the (digital) press.  When required.  I had a nice email back from Bryan Babcock at Allan Graphics this week.  He still can't figure out why people are interested in the numbers and minutiae of passenger trains, but a second book is helping him understand.  In the days to come, he and I will be talking about page counts, photos, fonts, formatting and even a colour section.  


Pre-VIA westbound Turbo, spring 1974 at Mi 182 Kingston Sub, L.C. Gagnon photo (above).

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Transcription Description

My previous post listed contents of this new book on VIA.  The good news is, most of these text pieces and spreadsheets are now complete.  My printer will find a heads-up email from me in his Monday morning inbox, because this project is on the move.  The daunting (not necessarily bad) news is that transcription is now beginning. 
I could describe trains until I run out of paper, but nothing encapsulates a depiction of a train better than a train consist.  How else can you capture the interrelationship of equipment in a train?  Quite often, that is what we are interested in.  We all know that Park Cars, coaches, Chateau sleepers and diners operated behind CP F's, VIA F's and VIA F40PH-2's, but were they coupled together in that order?  Well, no, not always, but it could happen, especially if a Park car was deadheading...  But I digress.

Consists show a date, location, motive power, cars, and sometimes extra information about a train.  They are free of speculation, generalities, and (I hope) inaccuracies.  They are pure data without extrapolation or embroidery.  They happened.  They existed.  Photographs did too, but consist information augments what's visible in a photograph, adding rich detail that is of interest to VIAphiles and modellers alike.  That's why they will be included in this book. Train consist information shows the incredible variety of combinations and permutations on a particular route over a period of time.  

Now, to get trains from all eras of VIA from all across Canada shoehorned into spreadsheets for you the reader...

VIA No 693 photo by David Maiers

Saturday, June 9, 2012

New Book Contents

Here are some of the contents that will be included in my as-yet untitled, second book on VIA.  As I've mentioned before, the two biggest improvements to this second book will be more cross-Canada coverage and more photos.  What better way to portray both than to include some of the photos I'm able to include.  Above: MLW's did make it to Winnipeg.  6772 braves the 'Winterpeg' cold while stopped at Union Station nearly in the shadow of the Hotel Fort Garry.

Here are the contents in the works so far:
-VIA's motive power fleet: including the 6300's, switchers, F40PH-2's and P42DC's
-the LRC program
-the HEP program
-the Renaissance program
-VIA's leased power
-Eastern consists
-Western consists
-Corridor consists
-my experiences riding VIA trains
-VIA's special trains
-notable VIA derailments
-Operation Axle
-rescue units and hospital trains
-western RDC runs: Vancouver Island, Edmonton-Calgary, Sudbry-White River
-VIA history: 1981 cuts, 1985 reinstatements, 1990 cuts
-VIA's more unique cars
-the Corridor in the 1980's
-VIA motive power studies: Northern Ontario, Windsor, Ottawa, Toronto
-VIA's shops
-motive power home shop assignments
-some early, slightly pre-VIA CN & CP consists
-disposition of VIA equipment: cars, RDC's and locomotives,up to the LRC locomotives
-CP equipment acquired by VIA.  

For this last one, I've taken a special interest in the ex-CP E's and F's, non-stainless steel coaches and baggage cars, and RDC's that VIA acquired from CP Rail and their painting, renumbering and assimilation into the VIA fleet.  Weathered CP 8579, seen below at Calgary during a motive power swap:
It bears repeating that all of the above will be richly supported by photos.  I also hope to have some colour photos in the body of the book, as long as the cost of the book can be kept reasonable.  I've been most fortunate to have the support of like-minded individuals who have supplied me with some awesome photos.  Sometimes I sit chair-bound, flipping through the photos.  Then I shake my head vigorously and remember that four-letter word...WORK.

This will be a book from an enthusiast's viewpoint, as was my first book.  At times, I think there's enough material here for two books.  Then I shake my head again and remember that four letter word...EDIT. Content under the above headings will be carefully chosen, retaining a gold-mine worth of information for voracious VIAphiles while leaving ample room for photos.
This has been my clearest description so far of what my second book will be like.  And much, much more, to use that over-used infomercial phrase.  But it's true.  I want there to be enough information in this book that you'll have to use a VIA stepbox to get aboard it!  I hope you can sense my enthusiasm for this book.


Monday, May 28, 2012

'Twas A Year Ago

It happened one year ago.  Email from printer.  Boxes arriving at door. Eagerly unpacked.  Blog background turning from red to green. Emails and orders coming in, by morning from as far away as South Australia.  Wow - there are more VIA fans out there than I thought! A couple of mornings later, this was the scene as copies were going in the mail:
While I have a few copies left for sale, I'm working hard on the next volume.  I've rounded a bend, but I'm still on the same track. There's a lot more VIA information I want to share, and I'm convinced a year from now (or less) I'll be repeating the above paragraph.  Meanwhile, I can't thank customers enough, as well as those who have offered support for my next book.  Thanks to all!

Oh, and did I mention photos to share too?  Lots and lots of photos.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Living La Vida Loco

VIA's locomotive fleet has got my full attention right now.  What hauled which cars when and where?  As usual, I do believe that a properly-sourced consist is worth 'a thousand words' because it gives the date, location, direction, and a concise representation of an entire VIA train.

It's really difficult to answer questions like the one recently posed...could a VIA unrebuilt F-unit still be operating in the Corridor in 1995? Well, could it?  Probably not, but can I say so definitively?  Generalizations can lead to one observer bringing forward one instance that quickly devalues that information.  I've done it myself, and felt pretty clever at the time.  So it's important to provide credible information that still leaves room for individual sightings.  Consists allow just that.

VIA did have a varied fleet, its own plus leased, begged or borrowed units from CN and CP, especially in the earlier decades of its existence, and it's exactly what I'm working on for my second book right now.  

Thanks to everyone who's asking how the book's coming along. Not fast enough for my caffeinated-squirrel attention span, but a week on vacation allowed me to recharge my batteries and consider the direction the book is taking.  I'm convinced it's the right one, and I trust you will too.  Soon, transcription!


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ticket to Ride

What was it like to ride VIA Rail in its early days?  Lots of people want to know.  I'll be including some stories in my new book.  Train consists, rosters, numbers and dates are one thing, but a railfan travelling on VIA and his experiences are something else entirely.

How about riding a Skyline between Montreal and Ottawa in 1985?  A ride that included a sing-along with a group of seniors travelling from Nova Scotia to North Bay.  Upon arrival at Ottawa Union, the group seems to have headed downstairs to stretch their legs, get some fresh air, or perhaps have a cup of tea.

While this book won't be everything to everyone, there will be something in it for everyone.  

Even one VIAphile's travelogue across Canada and back: picking berries on the way to Prince Rupert, a map-wielding Dutch seatmate and Dutch doors, and a Sudbury Saturday night.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

GO Figure !

This is a GO train, 1974-style at Toronto Union Station, two years before trains bearing the VIA logo appeared on Toronto Terminals Railway tracks.  GO was leasing ONR streamlined Polar Bear Express coaches, each emblazoned with a small GO logo.  CN provided the motive power, passenger service-geared GP40 4016 and a steam generator.   

Let's do some math illustrating some of the trains running out of Toronto in the 1970's and 1980's: CN + ONR = GO.  GO + Tempo = GO.  GO + VIA = VIA.  CP + CN = VIA.  CN + ONR = VIA.

As VIA began its history, passenger trains provided a rich cornucopia of combinations in a continuum.  The introduction of VIA and its synthesis from CN and CP was gradual.  I hesitate to use the term 'pre-VIA' because that implies there was a definite VIA era.  But the pre-VIA era includes the above photo, and you can expect to see similar deliciously intriguing trains referred to in my upcoming book.  They are entirely topical and genuinely germane to any discussion of VIA's early years.

Thanks to Brian (photo), Christopher and Tom for your support this week.  Much appreciated!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Is this train special?

What makes a special train special? The range of non-scheduled passenger trains throughout VIA's history is surprisingly wide.  These include:
-VIA display trains for publicity purposes
-VIA equipment with special paint schemes i.e. Home Hardware, Budweiser
-VIA trains chartered by commercial enterprises or individuals
-VIA equipment rented by railways for special events including steam excursions
-railways using their own remaining passenger equipment for special events
-shared equipment and services, short and long term i.e. CN/VIA/ONR, CN/VIA/GO
-VIA equipment leased by commuter agencies i.e. VIA/AMT
-derailments and equipment failures resulting in the operation of rescue, makeup and hospital trains
The mind boggles.  There are so many special trains combinations and permutations.  Then there are 'Easter eggs'.  Fun stuff just slightly non-VIA in nature, but operating in VIA's operational milieu. And when you find one or many of these trains, as I have while researching my second book, passenger train operations become much more interesting and unpredictable.  

Monday, April 2, 2012


Getting the Space Shuttle into orbit required different types of fuel, for use during different phases of the launch sequence before entering Earth's orbit.  Similarly, I've found that different types of fuelling are required for a book project like this.  First comes the fuel of inspiration.  Next, the fuel of contemplation as the scope of the project takes shape and is organized.  Then, propelling the project forward in some electronic format, and finally, fuelling the whole assembly with data and information.

While there were some issues early on with each of these steps, it's now safe to say that the final stages of the fuelling process are underway.  While my first book was six months in the making, this one has taken a little longer, with about six months already elapsed.  That doesn't mean the project is running short of fuel, in fact the potential energy is building quickly now, while my first book still has plenty of life in it.

Watch for future posts that will describe some of the information this project is being filled (or fuelled) with.  It's gonna be a gas!


Mark Walton photo - 6785 at Ottawa station's fuel rack, December 1983