Friday, January 4, 2013

The Greenlaw-Gagnon Exchange

Funny story.  I had a nice email from someone who wanted to give copies of my two new VIA books to her husband for Christmas.  She'd be in Kingston for over the Christmas holidays, and could she pick up the copies personally? Sure.  I left her copies near my front door, and a few days before Christmas, Stacey rang the doorbell, and we had a short chat.  (Stacey knows a thing or two about trains, using the perjorative term 'rivet-counter' correctly.) Glancing briefly around, she exclaimed, "That's really funny, there's a copy of my husband's book!"
You see, I'd also received an email from Christopher Greenlaw, author of the 2007 MBI/Voyageur Press book on VIA Rail, who would also be in town visiting family and might stop by to pick up his own copies.  Ironic. And now, too late. Stacey and I discussed the possibility that Chris and I could get together over the holidays.  A couple more emails ensued.
On a snowy Friday, December 28, Chris and I met at Kingston's VIA station (where else?) over coffee.  We convened a VIA author's roundtable.  Imagine convening a roundtable discussion including VIA book authors Donald C. Lewis, Tom Nelligan, David Othen, Jason Shron, and Dale Wilson?  Well, the two of us would have to suffice, since the tables in the waiting room were really only big enough for an exchange between two of us.  (I stole the title of this post from the Lang & O'Leary Exchange on CBC News...triVIA tip of the hat to Tom Box: former Minister of Transport Otto Lang is Amanda's father)  I'm illustrating this post with views of VIA No 53 which headed west just before we met: 6410-3456-3361-3334-3317(Ren-rebuild) and some earlier VIA views, mostly winter-related, at Kingston.
Of course I was interested in Chris' views on his newly-acquired books.  Chris enjoyed seeing some photos and consists of the trains he remembered from his youth, including an apocryphal black & white static Superdome in Winnipeg.  The disposition information impressed him, and is unlike any other dispo info, including that found in the book by Lepkey & West.  The triVIA sidebars contain lots of unique information.  Wisely, Chris added, "It's your book!" Our approaches differed; Chris employing a more scholarly approach compared to my trackside, note-scribbling compendium.  We agreed that recording mundane observations, stories and consists is as important as photography in preserving railway history.
Looking through Chris' book, we discussed his memories of the photos therein.  I've always felt that this is one of his book's greatest strengths.  The variety of VIA trains across all eras between its covers is unparalleled.  We both revelled in recalling the peak of VIA's 'circus train era' in 1979, with trains comprising CN, CP and VIA-painted cars.  Also, the location of paper cups and water dispensers, the joys of walking through a consist of sleepers with their meandering aisles, and Chris' Ren recollection - he's had better sleeps on a warship!  His book's photo of the Amtrak Superliner consist at Portage la Prairie is not a pleasant memory for him - Chris and his brother were as sick as dogs that day.
From his perspective, creating a book was an opportunity to follow VIA's history, make some awesome contacts like Andreas Keller, Tim Reid, Brian West and access to the Coo collection, understand the care and feeding of contributors, the human face of history shown in some of his favourite photos, the inclusion  of Otto Vondrak's fine maps in helping to tell the story, and acknowledge the seminal nature of Tom Nelligan's initial book on VIA's first five years.  Surprises: Chris' at MBI's response and advance after his book proposal, and why you won't find our books on VIA's souvenir website.  Chris even promised not to include anything about grisly crashes or the sponsorship scandal in his book - still, no go!

On book creation, we recalled finding our books in unusual places, how the internet has inflated the values of used books making many unattainable, the supposed 'expert' status that a book confers upon one (at least in theory), and the importance of a realistic production timeline.  We mused about the majority of book projects that would likely never get completed or published, as well as those (I'll use the polite term 'tire-kickers') who try to poke holes in a published work.  There's always room for errata, we agreed.  Chris' print run was 7,500 compared to my much smaller locally-printed few boxes full.  
While we chatted, no trains passed, thereby not disturbing our discussions. But wouldn't it have been great if some earlier westbounds: FP9 6531 from the winter of 1981-82, LRC 6910 from December 1981 (both above), the breaking dawn LRC-Tempo combination from March 1985 or even a benoodled FPA4 (both below) had arrived to add historical credence to our rambling discourse.  Notice how the latter filled the entire platform at Kingston!

Multiple trivial points bobbed to the surface: how the Amroad decal applied to the CP F-unit pictured on the back of my book necessitated a complete unit repaint when removed, the I-series sleepers were bought by the Escanaba & Lake Superior RR mainly for their trucks, and kept in a very secure location.  The use of CN's London reclamation yard and Paris pit for scrapping, Chris' interesting interview with Robert Bandeen including the gory story of the VIA logo's genesis.
Thirty-six years earlier, 6533-6863-CN 3120 held the platform at Kingston just as 6410 did this morning.  We talked about our kids sapping our memory, the relative railfan pluses and minuses of Brantford and Kingston, the usefulness of VIA's new corridor station overpass walkways for railfanning, and ruminated on which version of Rapido Trains' Canadian would be the one to own.
Chris will continue working on his Master's on an early Great Western Railway pioneer, staying out of most arguments on Yahoo, watchfully awaiting the possibility of the privatization of  VIA's western operations as well as a Morning Sun Book on VIA, and tending to a future book project.  I hope we'll soon see Chris become a Trackside Treasure guest blogger. Though our conversation would likely have lasted several more hours, the coffee was gone and we parted ways after exchanging book inscriptions.  Truly a thrill to share a roundtable and lively discussion with another VIA book creator.  Thanks, Chris! 
Running extra...

Thanks to everyone who has submitted their Top Picks for potential posts in 2013, in the form of comments here, or by email.  PricewaterhouseCoopers is now tabulating the results, and I'll post the results here.  A   superb, sentimental smattering of suggestions spanning the spectrum.

Lake Superior State University's 2013 List of Banished Words includes: fiscal cliff, trending, double down, passion/passionate, spoiler alert and bucket list. Unfortunately, these will in turn be replaced with the 2014 List of Increasingly-Annoying Words. Fortunately, none of these words is dangerous to the hearer, merely annoying. For a more injurious and potentially dangerous word, sacred to its keepers, see Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Then again, even the knights changed, banishing their own sacred word!

My 2014 List of Railway-Related Words to Be Avoided, or more properly Words You Won't See on Trackside Treasure includes: DPU unit, top-and-tail, lashup, DCC-equipped and good catch!  Non-Railway-Related Words include Nicki Minaj, too funny, artisan bread and fracking!  


Canadian Train Geek said...

Sounds like you two had a great discussion... very cool.

So "good catch" is banned, but what about a great catch? ;) I agree about "DPU Unit", I thought about that at the ATM when I was putting my PIN number in.

Eric said...

Well, I'm not completely banning the words, Steve, for a couple of reasons. One, because I firmly believe in out freedoms/rights/responsibilities, and the second because I might use them by mistake, and someone will remind me! I'm merely suggesting that I'll avoid them.

You're right about the DPU unit, the PIN number, don't forget the ATM machine, and possibly the RCMP police and SALT talks.

It was very enjoyable meeting Chris. He's seen the post, and mentioned that our discussion led to some other memories over the days following. If any of the cool-ness of our get-together has been transmitted to readers, I'm pleased.

Thanks for your comments,

Chris Greenlaw said...

I'd have to add, "impacted" to the list. It's over-used and almost always out of context. The only things that can truly be 'impacted' are wisdom teeth and bowels. What people usually mean is effected. Oh - and "impactful" ... ugh... don't even get me started on that.

Also, yes, coffee and conversation were fun!

Eric said...

Chris, great to have you aboard, and I know this won't the last we hear from you on Trackside Treasure!

I've heard this make-a-noun-into-a-verb thing referred to as 'nouning' and it's indeed annoying. Usually impacted bowels start to die off, which some of these annoying words should also do.

Next time, we get Nelligan too?

Thanks very much for your comments,

Anonymous said...

A recent news story revealed that 'literally' is the most overused word. Hopefully you can try to avoid that one as well. Literally. :P

As well, lots of people seem to struggle with correct apostrophe use. fee's, employee's, Tim Horton's etc.

Eric said...

Good suggestion, A. So is 'Frankly'. I like to sprinkle my conversation with 'frankly' because it makes me sound very earnest. (Frank and Ernest was a comic strip.)

I'm not sure when Tim Horton lost his apostrophe. I added lots of apostrophes in my second VIA book, because I just didn't like typing things like FPA4s. Didn't look right. I also wrote a disclaimer about its use. It's in there in its own little spot.

Thanks for your comment,