Sunday, January 29, 2023
Friday, January 20, 2023
Jakob and I exchanged many, many emails. Perhaps more than Hillary Clinton and WikiLeaks! Emails about a variety of rail-related topics, from Kingston to consists. But always consists. His interest in seeing early-VIA consists was the main impetus for setting me on this publishing path. When I was mulling publishing in 2010 I didn't think Jakob had any idea that I'd scrape together 2,700 of them for my first book.
Until he said that, I knew Bryan worked at Allan Graphics as a graphic designer, but I didn't know he could help me create a book! For awhile, I was one of their best customers, because self-published autobiographies, family histories or poetry anthologies might only have single- or double-digit press runs. They referred to me as the guy with the train books. Perhaps the only thrill bigger than seeing a Proof Copy in my email inbox from Bryan was getting cases of books. Bryan even delivered them on his way home! Now that's customer service! Dave and his team at Allan Graphics published the books so professionally - I always looked through each copy before I mailed it and enjoyed doing so.
Bryan thought it was odd when I mentioned to him I wanted a strict upper page count, thereby shipping weight, for my book. He said most people just have a story to tell, and it takes as many pages as it takes. I knew that based on Canada Post rates for Oversize Lettermail, that a 500 gram shipping weight was flat rate, and one gram over that meant we were in Parcel rate, with its inherent distance-based differences and fuel surcharges. As it was, I absorbed costs along the way. The rate for that Oversize Lettermail almost doubled. Padded mailers went up slightly, though still one of the best deals at Dollarama! I raised prices once, in 2014.
For each book I published, I started a blog. Usually, the next book idea and blog were begun as soon as the current book was printed. It was a handy way to document my progress, and perhaps to drum up some pent-up demand. After publication, I added reviews and connections made to each blog. For my VIA books, I used the generic handle "NEWVIARAILBOOK" because I didn't know how many I'd end up with.
The First 35 Years was a grandiose-sounding title. It's no wonder that hobby shops across the country were contacting me to send copies. My first book was published in June, 2011 and was birthed during a Canada Post labour dispute. I tried to be up-front about the book being mostly valuable consists, a little history. It was all useful information. But it was never a coffee-table book. Jakob and Jason were valued contributors. Perhaps the consist-heavy format worked against me and sales of my later books. Cross-Canada - 24 copies to Halifax, 20 to Vancouver, 12 each to Ottawa, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Merrickville, 20 to Mississauga. Those hobby shop orders would be halved for my next book.
Cross-Canada Compendium, published in October of 2012, was conceived because I was getting emails looking for more content from across the VIA network. But I could only publish what I had. So I needed more. Contacting contributors like Gary Hadfield, Robin Lowrie, Tom Box, Brian Schuff, Bruce Chapman and Jakob helped me do that. Brian sent me so many photos that we'd have weekly phone calls to talk about them. He has an encyclopedic memory that includes the photographer, date and location. Come to think of it, many of my contributors were the yin to my yang. Considering that part of the reason for publishing was a personal pursuit of preserving data and photos in some easy-to-find format, it helped to have input that was already well-balanced. The night that I woke up to 24 emails from Bruce Chapman was especially noteworthy.
Bryan kindly makes a delivery of my second book (above). Colour sections in my two later VIA books made my cost 33% more, but how could I tell the stories of the riotous F40 wraps, the early-VIA rainbow years, and other kaleidoscopic kolours in black & white?
Did I get rich doing this? Or was it all about existentialism and filling the ether with VIA? At one point, a back-of-the-envelope calculation led me to believe I'd paid for a year of progeny post-secondary tuition. Sounds like a lot! Considering, however, that all that post-secondary education cost us well north of $100K, I wouldn't call that getting rich. But I was rich in satisfaction and pride - both publishing and parental pride. And it had been a good ride, on both accounts.
Cookbooks and novels sell, and I'm sure the Tibetan cookbook shelf even exceeds the VIA one. E-books, who knows? The limited success of non-fungible tokens and crypto-currency shows me that we're still living in a literal, hold-in-my-hand world. At least until the holographic, device-driven world finally displaces Gutenberg's glory.
The VIA book shelf remained a short one when 2022 rolled around. Kevin Holland had published his Morning Sun Books and VIA Historical Association books, and that extended the shelf. Otherwise, we still had Nelligan, Greenlaw, Shron and Gagnon. And during a Rapido Live, it was Shron who said, "Gagnon has published a few things", when hyping the upcoming VHA book, and I was watching. Fellow VIA book creator Chris Greenlaw and his dad Tom, chez Gagnon:
Publishing books makes you two things. An expert, and a target. An expert because people apparently think you must know everything about a topic when you put it on paper. Obviously not the case, when you believe like I do that 'the more you know, the more you realize you don't know'. I'm happy to wear the trappings of an expert, but they often feel like the emperor's new clothes. A target because people want to keep you humble, and to prove you aren't an expert, even in some small, seemingly trivial way. There are fun-loving VIAphiles, and then there are pedantic, poker-faced keyboard kurmudgeons who are the devils in the details.
If you have an interest, or experiences that you've always thought would make a good book, or even a blog, wait no longer! Don't let anything you read in this post discourage you. I've had phone calls and emails about people considering their own book, and I've encouraged them. I know of one who has taken my advice, and some great photography of Kingston's Third Crossing bridge, all the way to the shipping dock. Success!
Fellow bloggers, magazines and newsletters kindly printed reviews (top photo from a review by Steve Boyko). I was invited to give pre-pandemic presentations in Ottawa, Toronto, Morrisburg and pandemic Zoom presentations to Winnipeg, Toronto and worldwide audiences, (because one never knows who's watching). It is said publishing is 10% writing, 90% promotion. I didn't spend a cent on advertising, though the promotion part was absolutely my least favourite part of the book creation process. Final totals of copies sold: 606, 352, 281 and 208, totalling 1,447.
The number of copies I now have on hand would not exceed the average LRC train length. Only Research & Recollections is completely sold out, thanks to Lystra and Jason's order! There will be no more printed. I want to thank Jakob, Jason, Bryan, Dave Allan and all of you who have been on this journey with me. It all seems like the Canadian on that cold winter's day in January, 1990 - a silvery, serpentine stream of escaping steam leaving behind years of wonderful memories.
When I someday write my memoirs, this post can serve as the chapter entitled, "I Could Write a Book!".
Fredrik Backman's book A Man Called Ove became Tom Hanks' latest vehicle, a film named 'A Man Called Otto.' You'll never guess how we got to the theatre - by auto to Otto. We thought we ought to. It was National Popcorn Day. Thanks, Cineplex Odeon Gardiners Cinemas, for the free small popcorn to help us celebrate!
No-one should ever agree to take a trip with Tom Hanks. His spacecraft had major problems, his ships are taken by pirates, and if he gets out of the airport at all, one of his planes crashes on a desert island, while the other lands in the Hudson River. Definitely something to Sully ones filmography!
Saturday, January 14, 2023
|CNSU 002 on former well car CN 0002 - westbound December 1|
|FURX 5563 on 5-unit CN No 305 from G3 Limoilou to G3 Leader, SK elevator - December 1|
|A second BMEX unit eastbound early on December 2|
|Bridge girder on OTTX 132026 westbound - December 4|
|Prestige Class Chateau Varennes trailing VIA No 42 - December 5|
|Blair Manor buffer car on VIA No 52 with CN No 518 on north track - December 8|
|Former Sask Pool WFRX 850820 westbound - December 8|
|Bluebonnet IC 2466 with mismatched hood and evaluation car CNIS 412011 - December 11|
|Blue BC Rail 4648 - December 13|
|Family Lines CSXT 252389 with five CSX covered hoppers - December 13|
|Herzog HAGX 1750 trailing CN No 369 - December 13|
|MPM VII/HZGX 175 trails six well cars|
|OTTX 132038 with an RBT (Really Big Thing) also on CN No 369 - December 13|
|NDYX 857135 with awesome tiger graffiti - December 16|
|Unconventionally-lettered Drummond Manor VIA No 41 buffer car - December 17|
|Breeding pair of CNNA map units 2508-2521 (that paint!) on CN No 369 - December 19|
|Unusual DTTX 885203 'K' Line Rail Bridge 5-pak on CN No 123 - December 22|
|GATX 00306-00322 for Brockville - December 27|
|The 'Blue Train' - BCOL 4646 DPU on CN No 322 - December 27|
|CP 7057 made at least three trips over three days on the Kingston Sub - here trailing three CN units on CN No 377 - December 27|
|QTTX 131437 one of three westbound girder loads, each with CN idler flat - December 29|
|Atlanta quadcam surprise - railfan capturing UP 1995 C&NW heritage unit - Jan. 2|
Sunday, January 8, 2023
|NOKL 550001 with the 'Julius Pringle' - October 28|
|BCOL 6148- November 1|
|DWC 558571 - November 1|
|UP 465301 - November 1|
|TPCX 190630 with two GFL trash-haulers WB - November 5|
|12 CSXT/HKRX/MWNX flood-loaded coal hoppers EB - November 7|
|NS 9768 with 4 units EB - November 7|
|New UP 700276 - November 8|
|ACFX 48644 on ITTX 974277 - November 9|
|QNSL 410-407 WB - November 9|
|CNIS 412011 inspection car - November 10|
|Several cars of 'pipes' on No 305 - November 13|
|VIA 6443-6445L from No 2 trailing No 42 - November 13|
|NOKL 360321 - November 16|
|Refurbished diner Frontenac and coach 8101 trailing No 63 - November 16|
|CN (EJ&E Heritage unit) 3023 leads WB intermodal - November 19|
|Meet in front of the camera - November 21|
|CN 3950 leads former Deathstar IC 1037 on No 372 - November 22|
|VIA 8517-8137 trailing No 42 - November 22|
|Quadcam surprise - Virginian heritage unit 1069 on Atlanta cam - November 23|
|Mid-Iowa Corp. covered hopper - November 25|
|Combination-door CN 598140 with rare small 'CN' - November 26|
|Rio Tinto BMEX 522 on CN No 306 - November 28|
In Part 2, we see what December brought!