Thursday, May 25, 2017

CANADA 150 Wraps - The List!

I've been busy fulfilling orders for Trackside with VIA - Research & Recollections. At the same time, I've been scrambling to complete my list of two-sided CANADA 150-wrapped VIA equipment, as the four-month wrap program wraps up (pun intended). As always, click for a larger version. 

I believe this list is unique, and is just the kind of trackside research I've enjoyed putting together in each of my books. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Will the Circle be Unbroken?

Some things you just cannot predict. When we lived in Lachine, QC we would often travel to the south shore to visit the Canadian Railway Museum at Delson. Dad was a Canadian Railway Historical Association member and had complimentary admission. At the time, the museum was in its formative stages, with much equipment stored outside and pole barns not yet built. My siblings on ties in September, 1964 (above) - no benches, either! I was at home, only a few months old when this photo was taken by my Dad.

Now renamed Exporail at St-Constant, the CRHA has done much to keep the museum improving. Recently, I had a nice email from Mylene Belanger, archivist at Exporail, requesting a complete set of my books for the museum's archives. The books are currently on their way to Exporail!

I think my Dad would be pretty proud to have his son's books in the archives and to see the museum flourishing over fifty years later. Things really do come full circle and the circle is unbroken.
and thanks, Dad!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

First book review!

As soon as I could, I ordered Eric Gagnon's fourth VIA Rail book, "Trackside with VIA: Research and Recollections". Eric had been writing about his upcoming book for a while at his book blog, and my anticipation was growing and growing. Eric is a good salesman!
[Book Creator's note: I'm really pleased to publish Steve's realistic and balanced review. from his long-standing Confessions of a Train Greek blog. Steve has also been a long-standing blog partner on my main Canadian railway blog, Trackside Treasure. Please read on...]

I placed my order and paid via e-transfer (his first!) and in a few days the book arrived in the mail. As requested Eric had signed the interior, and to my surprise it was numbered Copy #001.

Research and Recollections is a soft-cover perfect bound book with 124 pages plus the title page and table of contents page. The book contains a lot of text, as well as numerous small photos (mostly black and white) and a number of tables. This is not a coffee-table picture book, but it is very accessible and easy to read.

After several introductory pages (including a foreword by Tim Hayman and a dedication to the author's father) the book launches into a series of trip reports. These really set the tone for the book and draw the reader into the world of VIA Rail in the 1980s. Eric is a meticulous record keeper and it shows in his stories. The level of detail - what he ate, what he paid for it, for example - is impressive, yet it doesn't detract from the stories. In fact, I would say the details add to the stories and really place you in the moment.

These stories take up about 40% of the book, and include black and white photos related to the stories, as well as several "triVIA" boxes featuring.. well, trivia about VIA Rail.

After the stories are numerous research articles, from vice-regal cars to sleeper car swaps in Winnipeg to the IC3 Flexliner trial, and much more. Maybe the book title should really be Recollections and Research to be in the proper order! These articles are very engaging and each could easily be expanded into a quality magazine article.

Guest contributors Tim Hayman, Don McQueen, Mark Sampson and Mark Perry have their own sections in the book. Maybe in book five Eric might invite a transplanted Easterner to contribute... what do you think? ;)

After the guest contributions follows what is, in my opinion, the weakest part of the book. There are 26 pages of consist information, a full 20% of the book. I know Eric loves consists, and so do many other railfans, but for me that was 26 pages of fast forwarding. Maybe that's why I read the book so fast the first time!

This section is followed by 10 pages of colour photos, six per page. Many are Eric's but other photographers are also represented. Full advantage is taken of the colour to show VIA's many wraps, from Home Hardware VIA 6429 to the Grey Cup train to today's Canada 150 wraps. A huge variety of VIA equipment is shown, including F units, RDCs, the blue and yellow fleet, Renaissance... VIA certainly has had quite a variety!

The final few pages of the book include some reference material and tables to finish it off.

I think by now you can tell that I really like Research and Recollections. The stories at the front really give a good flavour for what travelling on VIA Rail was like in the 1980s, and the many research pieces and photos - especially the colour ones - provide a great deal of deep information on many aspects of VIA past and present. I'm not interested in the consist tables, but I'm sure many people are. Even if those pages were completely blank, I'd still recommend this book!
[So there you have it. Thanks very much, Steve! I now have two projects. The first is to get Steve involved in my next book project. And here's my pledge - Steve will be on page one. (Steve, you heard it here first, my friend!) The second is to get him more interested in the incredibly intensely-interesting intricacies and  importance of train consist information!]


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Repeat Customers are Satisfied Customers...

...and this is a repeat customer. Looking back, this purchaser of my latest book not only felt moved to post this to Yahoogroups just now, but also was one of the first 10 purchasers of each of my four books. Thank you Derek Thompson for your kind words about Trackside with VIA: Research & Recollections

"I received your book today, Eric, and I see that I am now set for reading material throughout the summer. 

As good as your previous offerings were, this is a cut above that, and already I am having difficulty putting it down. There are several bonuses, not the least of which are photos of Tim Hayman's terrific HO models. 

It is evident that a tremendous amount of effort went into this release and I, for one, am grateful that you took the time. 

I highly recommend the book to anyone with even a passing interest in Canadian passenger rail. Not only is it a treasure trove of information, with a wonderful array of photos, the price is also remarkably low. At about half the outlay for - say, a Morning Sun book (in Canada), it has many times more in value, at least to me. 

Thank you, Eric!"

Highball, Derek! 
Just like the two westbounds waiting to leave Toronto Union! (above)