Monday, December 26, 2016


This is only a mock-up of a potential cover for my new book, coming spring 2017. The cover that my graphic designer Bryan will produce will look much more professional! However, I do want all books in this series on Canada's VIA Rail to have a family resemblance.

Highball into Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Houston...We Have a Title

Well, at least it's a working title. Trackside with VIA: Research and Recollections. Keeping the same prefix as the rest of the series, but the second part changes. Alliterative. Meaningful to me, because that is how I can classify just about everything that's going into this book. 

Research - done by me or my knowledgeable contributors. Summaries of data, delving into a bit of VIA history, finding a niche undiscovered. Not necessarily scientific research, but data-mining and presentation in useful form.

Recollections - this part is a little less clinical and a lot more personal. Trips and trains, trackside and on board. Things that are in my recall and that should be shared.

So there we have it. Research and Recollections! It somewhat rrrrrrrolls off the tongue.


Word written Excel accelerated

With many of my text pieces for my upcoming fourth book on VIA Rail now finished, it's time to turn my attention to data. Spreadsheets. Original and contributed. I need three facets working together to make my books a success: text (gotta have lots of good content), photos (a picture truly is worth a thousand words, though these will never be coffee-table books) and data (to substantiate the first two).

So now that words have been written in Word, it's time to compile data in a coherent, readable form. Rosters, paint schemes, refurbishing and first sightings will fill the spreadsheets with material that has not been shared before.

And then, the fun of sifting through photos to include will begin!
If I don't post again before, have a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

35 Years in 3 Days

How is this possible, you ask? How can 35 years be covered in three days? Well, as part of the 'Recollections' piece of my fourth book on VIA Rail, I'm doing a deep recall of my trip aboard VIA in 1981. Interestingly, I travelled from Kingston to Winnipeg over CN lines on the Super Continental. All blue & yellow consist on a curve out of Capreol. Lookin' fine!

With a combination of a pre-written journal of subdivisions, mileages, schedule, dates and trains and good ole-fashioned pencil and paper note-taking, I'm reconstructing not only the trip west and then the trip east from Calgary through Winnipeg to Sudbury, Ottawa and Montreal aboard CP. Now I've finally transcribed it into a readable account. Travelling home from Montreal aboard exx-Reading Crusader coach 303? Amazing.

Spanning the decades resulted in three days' work. It was enjoyable entertainment. It was a remarkable reverie. It will be shared.


A 134-car CP grain train stabs the Super at West Tower on August 26, 1981. Someone was asking for photos of the former CP Express building. Here is one (top photo).

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Can I have a Word with you?

How about 38 Word documents? That's the count as of today. All of them are going into my fourth book on VIA Rail. They cover a range of VIA topics from a range of eras. They cover stations, routes, trains, equipment, trips and more.

Of course there will be more documents. And photos. And data. 


Friday, November 11, 2016

Colour FTW!

Blue. Yellow. Red. Grey. White. Renaissance Green. These colours are part of VIA's palette. Not to mention the background colours of scenery, stations, trackage and passengers. Having completed an informal survey, I've decided my upcoming, fourth book on VIA Rail WILL HAVE a colour section. Woot!

I really appreciate everyone's voluminous input on this topic. There will be something for the B&W fans and the colour fans. Many responses centred on depicting standard photos in black and white, but to really use the colour section for photos that 'pop' in that format. The people have spoken. The VIAphiles have voted. Notice the colour in use on a selection of VIA books (top photo)?

I'm glad I asked now, because I'm deep in data and text preparation. Photo selection will follow and I will be using the above criteria to guide that very enjoyable process. 

Thank you and...

Friday, November 4, 2016

What 's Colour Worth to YOU?

Is it worth 33% more? Would you buy a book that features 10 pages of colour photos and pay a third more? If it was Norfolk Southern, Penn Central or even CN zebra stripes, you'd probably say no. But what if it's the yellow, blue, green, silver and red of VIA? My fourth book will include lots of photos.

In this season of political polling, this is...publishing polling. I'm trying to decide if my fourth book should include a colour section. If you have my last book, you can reflect on this question first hand, with the Cross-Canada Compendium in hand.

This is your chance to vote or comment. I truly appreciate your input on this!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A New Book on Track!

The glare of the headlight has picked up a new book on track! The fourth in the Trackside with VIA series.
Stay tuned here for updates on this exciting new project!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Blog Partners Partnering

Two of my valued blog partners, Chris Mears and Steve Boyko, and I were recently commenting on one of Chris' thought-provoking posts. The topic was the nexus of  enthusiasts studying prototype railways for model railway inspiration, and the resources available for those who are modelling from memories of others. 

"... talking about the future I couldn’t resist the urge to ask where we’ll find our inspiration as our relationship with real trains gets further distanced. I’ve met so many new modellers who are doing really great work yet don’t have that rich history with real railroading that so many of our model railway forefathers had." --Chris

"It’s harder to get to a train for many of us and when we get there it isn’t as easy to get as deeply involved as we once might have been able to."  --Chris

"People like Eric Gagnon who publish what is a little unconventional – basically masses of data in some cases – are doing a great service to today’s and tomorrow’s modellers and historians by sharing valuable information. This kind of data is useful to modellers who don’t have that direct experience. For example, I can’t model the 1980 Canadian based on my experience – I never saw it – but I could model it pretty accurately based on photos, consists from Eric and others, books, and so forth. We live in magical times." --Steve
"Eric’s books stand as an equally unique and truly wonderful resource for the prototype modeller. I’ve spent so many hours happily combing through those consists and mapping patterns waiting to be found. I feel like I’ve learned so much about VIA just from observing it and it leaves a sentiment that feels like the one I might have had, if I’d had the chance to be there trackside." --Chris
Validation. Confirmation. Realization. Animation. Action. Documentation. I like Steve's term 'masses of data'. I'll keep amassing because someone, somewhere will be looking for it somehow, someday!
Highball! Eric
 Memories (top photo) and Reality...VIA Nos 47 and 42 at Kingston, December 2014.

Friday, July 8, 2016

It's 1979 in Brockville!

Pennsylvania's Jeremy Plant visited Brockville, ON on August 11, 1979. That same evening, I was trackside in Kingston. Jeremy recently posted some of his Brockville photos on Facebook, and two are published here with his permission. An Ottawa-Toronto VIA train negotiates the final CP Rail trackage into Brockville, before gaining CN's Kingston Sub for the remainder of its trip to Toronto. Of the nine-car consist, I was able to record five cars at speed at Kingston. Power was 6793-6633, and I noted lead baggage 9649, cafe-bar lounge 2500, University Club, coach 5495 and tail-end baggage 9652.

VIA 2500 and 6793 retained CN colours into 1981, though 9649 was in VIA paint next year, in 1980.

I really enjoy being able to indulge in this type of sleuthing, matching retro photos to consist information I diligently recorded and much later, published on paper. Anyone looking at this photo might glean a locomotive number or two, and draw some conclusion about the train's consist, but to have useable consist information to apply 37 years later is remarkable.

Here, the train is accelerating west from Brockville, reaching Kingston after sunset.
I'm glad Jeremy visited Canada, taking and sharing these fine photos, and I'm also glad to have some small part in interpreting this bit of early-era VIA history!


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Compendium Compensation Conversation

I recently took part in an eye-opening conversation on Facebook. A VIAphile had his copy of Trackside with VIA: CrossCanada Compendium...stolen. Stolen! At work! Who would steal a book about VIA's trains, operations and history? Someone with good taste? Someone with an interest in VIA? Someone who believes in stealing anything not nailed down? The only thing I steal at work is steal coffee break!

This was a surely a situation that needed rapid-response remedial rectification. 

That's why tomorrow, a brand new, complimentary copy will be winging its way to this violated VIAphile for his viewing pleasure. 

Now, don't go around stealing each other's copies - I'm not running a charity here. Or maybe I am!


Thursday, April 21, 2016

I Got Picked Up at a Train Show!

That perhaps-provocative title is for real. A pick-me-up and a pickup. Allow me to explain...

That fount of all things new and happening (Facebook of course) sent me a posting from Nicholas Luton who just this week attended a train show. He photographed his finds. One looked familiar. I purposely don't usually share my train show finds because such photos will reveal just what a bottom-feeder I am. ("Hey, what's in the box under your table there?")

Allow me to explain some more...Nicholas titled this photo "Train Show Finds". At top right is my first book, Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years. It's in august company with two Bytown Railway Society Canadian Trackside Guides and an assortment of clearly Canadian scale rolling stock.

Seeing my book still out there, still getting picked up in the hands of VIA enthusiasts, is a real pick-me-up. If I needed one. And might I add...something of its immediate utility in the hands of said enthusiast: 

Nicholas has already used it to find a specific consist, that this book proves, did in fact happen!


Friday, January 29, 2016

Big Books!

When I purchased Greg McDonnell's Signatures in Steel, it was the biggest, most expensive and only coffee-table Canadian railway book I'd ever seen. And I had to have it. Covering multiple Canadian railways at locations from coast to coast, Signatures is THE seminal volume encapsulating Canadian railroading at its finest.

Arriving in today's mail was an inscribed image wrap cover copy of Raymond S Farand's Steel Passageways 'Up The Valley' - Trains of the Ottawa Valley Volume 2. This book is the biggest, most expensive and most interesting coffee-table book I've ever seen. It covers CN's operations in detail, featuring prototype paperwork, informative and detailed text, and photography from across several decades. Ray's Volume 1 covered CP, but I'm much more familiar with CN's Kingston Sub here, and in fact most of the trains that were running from Ottawa to North Bay ended up here after that line was removed.

Ray's Volume 2 includes many views of CN and VIA passenger trains through Ottawa, and I need to read up on his coverage and photos of VIA's short-lived use of the line through Ottawa to North Bay, before it moved to CP rails west of Ottawa. The photos, maps, text, editing and layout make this book a real page-turner with in-depth coverage along the line. Ray notes that many railroaders from the Ottawa area have given good feedback on his book - that has to be very satisfying after creating this historical record of this difficult, scenic and utterly Canadian trackage

And a huge teaser - Volume 3 just might cover VIA! Blurb periodically offers discount codes of up to 20% on direct online purchases. More information on the Blurb website and a free preview.

I can heartily recommend Ray's books.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Head End of 2016

What does the coming year hold? Like the head end of a train, what follows behind is not known until it comes to pass. the same is true of 2016. Here are three things I can tell you about my life as a VIAphile in 2016:
The January-February 2016 issue of Bytown Railway Society's Branchline newsmagazine will feature an article on Operation Axle, the little-known four-month period in 1992 when the LRC car fleet was pulled from service due to axle problems. My main Canadian railway blog Trackside Treasure will host a three-part series on Op Axle including photos, consists and mock-ups. 
I continue to amass consists, locomotive and rolling stock data, and operational details from throughout VIA's various eras. What this will become is as yet unknown. A potential future project? For the time being, I've contented myself with some night photography at VIA's Kingston station, included in this post. I was positively channelling photographer Jim Shaughnessy as I converted these in-camera images to black & white. VIA No 55 on January 1 (top 2 photos) and VIA No 66 on January 2 with bonus baggage car (these two photos).
My thinning and subsequent organization of my VIA Rail collection went very well, with other VIAphiles adding to their VIA paper collections while I downsized mine, in what I called VIA Paper by the Pound! A few surplus items remain - email me if interested. Of course, I'm keeping these vintage VIA transcon hat-checks!
Hoping 2016 will be great for all of us, as always...