I remember reading my copy of Eric Gagnon’s first book on VIA Rail in a hotel room in the early morning hours of the day in the company of a friendly mug of hotel coffee, quietly as the sun rose and privately while the city considered how it might start its day. The book had arrived just in time to tag along on a road trip and I remember vividly how exciting it was to leaf through page-after-page of train consist data. I love exploring data. Any data. On the surface “the data” can sound like such a dry and uninteresting commodity yet it comes alive once you spend some time getting to know it. The more patiently you listen, the more passionate that once emotionless voice becomes as it rises to tell its story like the breathe that effortlessly becomes a opera. I remember how exciting it was to pick a particular car number and then search through the book to see how often it would appear on that particular train or if it ever appeared on another service. With each reading and then re-reading, I’d discover some new treasure like the many special consists Eric included – who knew that tucked neatly into the pages of a book dedicated to VIA Rail trains I’d find consists belonging to commuter train consists from Montreal or Toronto?!
In the years since that first book was released Eric has continued to tell this story. Where the first book was dedicated entirely to sharing Eric’s listings of train consists the follow-up books have so beautifully built on each preceding volume’s work and each time, contributing once more voice telling the story of VIA Rail’s operations through the eyes of the railfan. And it’s not just Eric, it’s amazing how the books have become a party attended by all the cool kids from the VIA Rail(fan) community.
This spring and purely by chance I found myself in a familiar place. The room changed but the hotel and the city? All old friends together again. With another mug of Cambridge Suites’ finest hotel room coffee in hand I was ready to attend the first pages of Eric’s most recent book. These books work so very well together and many times I find myself pausing so I can excitedly cross-reference an observation from one against a line from the other book. Just as Eric’s inclusion of the commuter train consists felt like a personal treat, this latest book’s chapter on VIA Rail yard operations feels especially special – thank you.
The books represent a truly rich collection of information published on the railway and I consider owning copies, a fortunate privilege. Just as the joy of travel by train is often described as one experienced as much in the destination as in the experience of the travel itself, these books are not simply something to own and have read but to read, to study, and to indulge in.
Thank you for investing in these Eric and making them available for us to enjoy. Like watching a trip unfold through the windows of a train car, I’m looking ahead hoping to catch a glimpse of what’s to come.
Eric maintains a blog dedicated to his books. I’m such a goofball that I can’t imagine you’re reading this and haven’t heard of it. If you find you haven’t you can remedy this by clicking on this link: newviarailbook.blogspot.ca
When you’re there, find the time to check out Eric’s latest blog post on his main blog: tracksidetreasure.blogspot.ca
Wait! No trip is complete without a visit to Tim Hayman’s blog to check out his latest travels. He’s a superb modeller of all things Canadian passenger rail and a fellow fan of the Canadian commuter rail scene: timstraintravels.blogspot.ca
Living so close to the railroad in Dartmouth provides a great chance to see it regularly. A privilege I really haven’t had since the 1980’s. While I have no plans to interpret what I see in any literal form, in miniature at home, it does me a chance to explore questions I’ve had.
Starting in July I started photographing the track. Different locations, angles, and other perspectives. Not so much of the specific details like tie plates, rail weights, or ballast profile but to help me understand how track relates to the landscape.
Last winter I was playing around with several tests of colours on some lengths of track I had. I was questioning the base colour I’ve been considered my “go to”. Yet, looking at sections like the above I can’t help but see a familiar cast of browns. Maybe because it’s what’s there and maybe just because that’s what I want to see.
Just some random photo links I’m forwarding to myself for the someday file and a tea break well spent.
Each link follows the same format:
Photo caption as a direct quote
Bob Kise CR 7567 North Heading up the old Cornwall RR connection
Seth Eberly East penn rail way had to bring in the Middletown & New Jersey # 2 because Tropical storm Lee washed out the trackbed.
Seth Eberly M&NJ #2 idels away after just shifting some tank cars around at farrel gas.
Paul Koprowski After many years of working in upstate New York as the only active locomotive on the line, Middletown & New Jersey 2 now lives a quieter life of shifting tank cars at the East Penn’s Manheim operation.
Paul Koprowski The only markings left that tell of this unit’s history with the Middletown & New Jersey Railway in upstate New York.
Paul Koprowski The East Penn Railroad’s Manheim operation has received some new power in the form of ex-SP B30-7 7874. Built by GE in 1979, it was moved here from the ESPN Lancaster Northern line to work with MNJ 44-ton 2 on former Reading rails. Seen from the Manheim Community Park which borders the tracks.
Kevin Painter ESPN 7874
Kevin Painter MNJ2
Ken Sherta This switcher is used by an oil company to move cars on a spur that was the Lebanon branch of the former Columbia & Reading.
Traipsing around town, the thought occurred to me: It’s not getting to see the thing that’s so exciting as the moment you are first invited to. That moment when you don’t have to decide if, whatever it is, is important or not.
I promise there’s model railway content coming shortly but for now I’m between errands and wanted to express that thought.
Coffee and an almond croissant from Two if by Sea and a park bench overlooking the marina. The backdrop is the Dartmouth yard. Train 407 just tied on its power and 511’s crew will leave shortly to drag another load of gypsum hoppers from Milford to Wright’s Cove. The yard is packed with autoracks and all is right with the world.
My walk after work today brought me to Atlantic News, on Morris Street, here in Halifax. There amongst a generous assortment of model railway magazines were three copies of Model Railway Journal number 254. For the first time ever, I have just bought myself a copy of this magazine in person! Every copy of this that I have arrived in the mail. Often by way of exceptionally generous help of friends in England.
It probably sounds silly to confess, but it just feels so cool to just wander into a store and buy a copy of this like it was any other magazine.
More random thoughts…
I don’t always care for MRJ. That’s okay because it’s just a magazine. Regardless of whether or not I liked the copy, the fact that I probably only have it thanks to the generous help of a friend instills in each copy a memory of that relationship, which in turn makes each copy pretty darn good.
I hadn’t even intended to go for the walk. I was sort of cranky (really…a bit anxious and a little melancholic just for fun) after work today and thought I should probably just see what some wandering and sunshine might do. Stop number one was my first visit to The Wired Monk for coffee and a slice of carrot cake. First time visit to this really pleasant little coffee shop and it was delightful. I’m looking forward to going back soon.