Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I spent a few days last autumn on my front porch, with a cold drink at hand.  I was distilling.  Not a potent potable, rather I was distilling reading material into information to include in my next book.  Post-it notes and various other sticky office products were attached to pages.  Piles formed, boxes filled.

Now, over six months later, I've distilled that material down again. Pen scribbled, notebooks filled.

The third round of distillation will follow soon.  This will involve a computer.  Spreadsheet cells formatted, Word documents saved.

Every step of the distilling process involves inherent risks and technical details, but the product, when it is finally ready, can be powerfully sweet and intoxicating.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Another New Book On Track!

I'd like to make an announcement.  Just as this P42DC is about to appear beside an HEP-II coach, a new book is about to appear beside my current Trackside with VIA - The First 35 Years.  

At first, the thought of producing another book seemed at the least, daunting, and at most, highly unlikely.  Having thought about this for awhile, I realized there was still a desire for more information on VIA's equipment, trains, and routes.  I wanted to honour some of the questions that potential customers asked early in my last project:

1. Do you have any information on train such-and-such back in 19-whenever?

2. Can you include lots of photos?

3. Will it be affordable? If so, I might be interested in one.

Short answers, yes to all of the above.  This book will include observations and train information from across Canada, from all eras of VIA, and I hope to cover every train on every route in every era.  Whew! I'll be including data, photos, history, more data, and whatever else I can cram into a reasonably-sized book.  Price will only increase if content does.

This new book, as yet untitled, will share a 'family' appearance with my first book, and will be a companion volume, meaning there will be little duplication.  Although I'm announcing it now, I don't yet have a firm release date in mind.  My best suggestion to potential customers would be...stay tuned right here.  Of course, I'm completely enjoying my work on this project so far - one more trip down VIA's memory lane.

I'm committed to three things: it will be affordable, it will be very useful, and as I've shown with my first book, it will happen.  The target audience will be the same as my first book, and I want this book to have stronger regional appeal than I was able to offer in that book.

In the near future, I'll be releasing information on contents and contributors, but rest assured this book will be equipment-focused and data-dense.

Once again, I'm interested in your thoughts/suggestions/comments.

That's it for now.  I've got to get back to work on this thing.  I'm still able to keep the same domain name.  Convenient, eh?  Please roll along with me here,  for updates and more details.

Highball! (a second time)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Useless car numbers?

Well, it had to happen sooner or later.  I received an email recently from a disappointed customer, which included the following:

"79 pages of useless car numbers in a book of 116 pages"
"no discussion of the Renaissance car program"
"no value for $25.00"

The Renaissance program has expanded to involve refurbishing of LRC coaches, plus the purchase of P42DC locomotives and assembling Nightstar equipment from the United Kingdom for Corridor service, and the program signals a bright future for passenger rail transportation in Canada.  While I could have provided more information on a variety of topics, Rens included, I gave a lot of thought to what to include and had some difficult choices to make.  Given this was not a corporate history of VIA, merely the observations of a VIAphile, is this a valid point to raise?

I can't agree that my book does not give value for the money.

I have asked for suggestions from this customer as to how to resolve this situation satisfactorily, and I hope we can find some common ground.  I would also like to thank the many, many customers who have been so overwhelmingly positive in their reactions to my book.  I know the vast majority of you are interested in those 'car numbers' and find them more useful than useless.

UPDATE...haven't heard a word from the customer mentioned in this post.  But today I received kind comments from a customer in Alberta, who appreciated the VIA details and congratulated me on my book.  So -1 plus +1 brings us to par.  Enough said, keeping it positive,


Thursday, March 15, 2012

On Track

Something new and exciting.

What's down the track, under the overpass, around the curve and up the hill to the next mileboard? The pent-up potential energy of the train, the expectations of those onboard, and the unending rails stretching to the horizon propel our thoughts inexorably forward. 

I'm looking down the track figuratively right now.  With a successful train show just past and sales of my first book on track, it's time to focus on what's next.  I know.  Well, I think I know.  I'm getting a few thoughts in order, and in a few days I'll be ready to say something here that's more definitive.

So, I'm almost ready to give my usual Highball!  But not quite.  That high-pitched sound in my ears is the 'pheeeeep-pheeeeep' of the air whistle before the train throttles up, leaving the station.  Or the "Closed and secure, VIA 61" in more recent radio-transmission terms.  Passengers are still finding their seats, there's baggage to be loaded, tickets to be taken and the journey continues....


Sunday, March 11, 2012

It's Show Time !

I'm getting my train show gear together for this weekend's Rail-O-Rama, the hometown premiere of my book.  Checklist...copies of my book, table display, flyers to distribute and my VIA stepbox. Now, I don't expect to be up on my stepbox giving a speech (I'd need a soapbox for that), although I am looking forward to talking trains at the show.

Although I've sent the book to customers across Canada, the US and around the world, this will be a great venue to sell the book locally, to others who've watched VIA roar up and down the Kingston Sub like I have.  If you're able to make it to show, I'll see you there!

Sunday evening post-show...The show was enjoyable.  I got to talk to many attendees about trains, sold some more copies and tried to encourage several people who had something to share to get it in print or online.  We all agreed the benefits can be tremendous, and making information available to a greater number of interested people is always good.  My show neighbours Bob, Paul, John, Paul, Doug and Paul were most helpful and great to talk to.