Trackside with…

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:

When you’re there, find the time to check out Eric’s latest blog post on his main blog:

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:

Bayview Junction, Hamilton, ON Canada 8-16-86 PT 2

Superb video of some of Canada’s finest railroading. Lots of great LRC train footage and one train of Tempo coaches. For the VIAphile there’s lots of blue and yellow and MLW passenger power too. I’ve been lucky enough to do a little railfanning at Bayview but wish I could have at this time.

I see the same YouTube channel features several similar videos all from Hamilton and Toronto and all from the same date. Well worth watching if you havens spare few minutes.


Toronto railroading in the 70’s – now that’s what TV is for

I am slowly getting caught up on emails in my inbox and in that stack was an update from Trevor Marshall’s blog, titled Traintown Toronto. The post title was really catchy but I really couldn’t figure out what he was writing about. Never one to avoid this kind of temptation I took a look at the post and sure am glad I did. Trevor was introducing a video that Green Frog Productions have released featuring railroading around Toronto in the 1970’s. I’m not a huge collector of train movies and really haven’t spent much time researching them but this is one I’ll be adding to my collection for sure.

Here’s the link to the Green Frog website and also a quote from them describing the video:

The two friends came early and stayed late for a day, or maybe a few days, on the sunny side of the tracks of the Toronto Terminals Railway in the early 1970s, recording the passage of a wide spectrum of passenger trains, switching moves, and some freight traffic into and near the vibrant Beaux-Arts Toronto Union Station, opened in 1927.

Green Frog were kind enough to actually post a preview of the video on their website and you can watch it on Youtube:

Okay, so I was barely a minute into the video when a pair of Tempo RS18’s appear in the video and I’d already loaded the DVD into the website’s shopping cart. What else is in the preview?

GO Transit GP40TC shoving a short, three-car train of the single-level cars. The video promises shots of the self-propelled versions of these same cars.

The Empress of Agnicourt (CP’s RSD17) appears on a transfer move. I’ve seen photos of this unit working as far west as my beloved Hamilton and I sure wish this video chased one of these trips.

Of course, there’s also tons of pre-VIA passenger action too.

This evening didn’t start too well and about the time when I managed to drive my saw through it’s own cord I was starting to run out of expletives to aid in my narration of how things were going. Since then I’ve made a nice sandwich with some leftover beef from the weekend’s roast, watched a couple of episodes of Life on Mars and am finishing a lovely glass of port. Having discovered this cool DVD, things are turning around for sure!

New VIA Rail Book…and this is just the back cover!

…and this is just the back cover! Imagine what’s inside!

Eric Gagnon’s second book is almost ready. I purchased a copy of Trackside With VIA: The First 35 Years and really enjoy owning it. Page after page after page of train consists and details and then he’d gone and tucked some really enjoyable GO Transit Easter eggs inside. I find something new every time I flip through it and appreciate owning it that much more. In fact, having the first book is really the biggest reason as to why I’m looking forward to a second one.

VIA. It is that railroad company that just can’t stop being one of the most Canadian things out there and it’s how you take the train when you do so in most parts of this great country. Why a book about VIA? VIA was the kind of railroad company that could make even the most imaginative model railroader question just why they were still trying to freelance. In Eric word’s (you’ll want to visit his blog to see the picture he’s describing below):

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??

And then

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??

He’s writing the kind of book that you need to book a day or two off of work to sit home and really enjoy.

There’s a free preview online now. Time to stop reading this post and head right on over there to check out some great classic VIA action:

Via Rail Near Bowmanville Ont.

Not really so much as homesick or melancholic but I was thinking about when I was living in Bowmanville and a little about wandering down toward the yacht club to watch VIA trains near what I think was Beach Road(?) crossing.

I found this video shot just west of the location I was thinking about. Boy they sure do fly on the Kingston sub eh?!

Of course it’s been a very long time since I was there. I remember a mix of LRC engines and F40’s.

I wonder what else there is on YouTube from the area?

Check out this video on YouTube:


Saturday in Halifax

The weather is great down east and spring is really looking nice. We needed to get away for a bit so we wound up here in Halifax. I didn’t take much prodding from my wonderful wife to get me to go over to Maritime Hobby and Crafts. Man, I love visiting that shop. I’ve been including a stop to this store since I first started making my way over to Halifax. Spending a little time in a hobby shop is something everyone intersted in model railways should really do. If you’re lucky enough to have a hobby shop in your hometown, well, stop reading here and just get yourself on over there. Bring a coffee and spend some time in the company of others whom you share this great hobby with. Take a look at model trains, flip through some magazines and dream about the models you’ll build and the next new plans for your model railway. It’s good for the soul.

Mike and the folks at Maritime have been maintaining a stellar consingment section and over the years I’ve learned that it’s best if I get into that room first to make sure there isn’t some treasure in there I should be picking up. This trip was no different. I never fail to find something that has little to do with what I think I’m focussing my attention on at the time. This afternoon I discovered a great pile of vintage Tri-ang models and a really neat HO scale craftsman kit for a Rutland flanger. After a great deal of fretting i left those behind but I feel like I might be back for those soon. I love Tri-ang stuff and it doesn’t take much effort at all to sell some to me. That flanger was just neat. I did pick up some Peco switches and a pair of the new Micro-Trains CPR coaches. These cars are exquisite and a superb deal at only twenty-five dollars a piece. I’d like some more of these. As coaches go they’re really close enough (for me…) to the cars CP would have used in suburban service in Quebec and more excitingly to what CN used. Micro-Trains used to be very receptive to suggestions for potential paint schemes and I’d like them to offer these coaches in CN’s grey and black colours. Grey and black heavyweights were the backbone of CN’s Montreal suburban fleet and I’ve built a bunch of stand-ins based on old Lima and Model Power P70’s over the years. I can only imagine how nice a job the Micro-Trains folks could do with these superb new cars.

All in all this was a great trip.

Smiths Falls Station Build | VIA Rail

VIA just announced the opening of a new station for Smiths Falls. It’s a really a sharp looking design piece and I’d like to add it to my list of models I’d like to build for myself…someday.

Here’s a photo borrowed from the VIA website:

I think this works beyond just great fodder for the model railway builder but also in the way that it reflects a lot of my own design ethics. I like the way that it’s small but carries a lot of what are becoming signature VIA architectural details. It’s lines are modern but there are still a lot of great, classic, railroad station design queues to be seen on those lines. Beyond just those design moments it works well as a community piece, in their own words:

Smiths Falls station has also proved to be a great example of community partnership. VIA built the new station and will be responsible for repairs and upgrades. It also installed economical systems such as an electric strike and programmable time-clock system, which allows the small station to remain safely unmanned. Meanwhile, day to day operations such as snow-removal, janitorial services and landscaping are being managed by the city of Smiths Falls.

Perfect execution. Great work!