Saturday, November 14, 2015

VIA Paper by the Pound!

Throughout its history, VIA Rail Canada has published a plethora of paper items in a variety of formats: from pocket-sized regional timetables to glossy travel brochures. I can remember station racks of tri-folded 8x11 size brochures advertising charter trips, destinations, services, special fares and onboard services. Colourful, attractive and informative.

Some of these formats were holdovers from the days of CN and CP passenger services; as VIA grew, new formats appeared. Some useful, some not. Then there were other paper items - ticket folders, schedule cards, hat-checks and many more.

Having acquired my own plethora of VIA paper items, it's time to downsize and avoid duplication. I'm calling it VIA Paper by the Pound. Don't worry, I'm keeping one of everything! Email me at address at top of right sidebar if you're interested in a pound.

Highball!
Eric

Monday, October 12, 2015

Shronians at Kingston Station

Shronians! What are they? They may be VIAphiles, or they may not. But they all appreciate the chutzpah of Jason Shron and his company, Rapido Trains Inc. This weekend, Rapido organized a VIA Rail charter from Toronto-Montreal return aboard VIA Rail. Lucky passengers - Shronians!! - attended the Rapido product announcement at Exporail - the Icons of Canadian Steam launch. Observing and videotaping Skyline 8501's deadhead move to Toronto, and lucky to have my wife and daughter record its eastbound passing on VIA No 52 on Sunday, I was able to catch the westbound charter cars on No 69 at Kingston tonight, tailed by Business Class car 3477 and Skyline 8501.
For a couple of reasons, unable to ride the charter, I decided I'd be one Earth-bound VIAphile that, in the event of a Shronian repossession to the Spadina Mothership, would remain to tell the story of VIA throughout its various eras. I photographed Jason Shron speaking to the Shronians during the Kingston platform stop (above and below) and enthusiastically exhorting them to wave just before departure (top photo).
This was not the first opportunity I'd had to meet Jason at Kingston. Back in June 2011, Jason was on a cross-Canada hobby shop tour when he briefly alighted at Kingston. Jason wrote the foreword for my first book on VIA Rail, and has been very supportive of my efforts, and I remain so of his. Jason's quality models of Canadian passenger trains, and my writing about them, go together...like A and B units.
Too soon, VIA No 69 headed west, with Jason giving a friendly wave!
Highball!
Eric

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Leading off the September October edition of Branchline!

At the OVAR meeting in June, I gave a presentation on Kingston Platform Scenes. After the meeting, I was asked by a member of the new editorial team for Bytown Railway Society's Branchline to submit some articles. Canada's Rail News Magazine is switching to a bimonthly publication schedule, as well as an exciting new format inside. 

Off I went to electronically scribble an article about being trackside with VIA Rail along CN's Kingston Subdivision. Stitching together consist information, early-80s photos and operational details from 1976 to the new millennium was enjoyable and challenging.

Fortunately for me, Malcolm, Earl and the other members of the editorial team were very helpful and gave great feedback. Little did I know the article would lead off the first new-format Branchline, the September-October 2015 issue!

It's been a pleasure sharing some trackside treasure from throughout VIA's various eras. Watch for more articles. I think I'm on a roll.

Highball!
Eric

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Dark and Seamy Side of Sharing


Here's a cautionary tale for authors, creators and sharers. This grain elevator photo is one of my all-time favourites. Standing tall and proud at Forgan, SK in 1986, these two elevators are now gone. I visited the area, southwest of Saskatoon, specifically to photograph wooden grain elevators. I shared the photo two years ago on my Canadian railway blog, Trackside Treasure

Imagine my surprise this past week when I came face-to-face with this picture, again. It was in a Facebook group posting advertising a 2016 calendar (below). There was my picture! It was the cover photo! That's cool! No, it's not. I've removed identifying marks from the calendar, and I am purposely refraining from identifying the product or those responsible for its production, marketing and profits. I had stumbled upon the dark and seamy side of sharing.
I was surprised - no, shocked. Not only had I not received a courtesy request to use the photo by the calendar's production team, but there was no photo credit to me. Worse yet, I discovered the photo was credited to the person who supplied the photo to the production team - someone I have never even heard of! 

Now let me be very, very clear here. I want to make it crystal clear why I'm blogging about this:
  • I am fully aware that once something is shared online, a quick PrintScreen, or Right-Click-Save-As enables a viewer to download the photo.
  • by sharing material online, we are enabling the above.
  • I could use watermarks to prevent or at least discourage the use of photos, but I don't.
  • I am not perfect (candid admission, eh?) and I've downloaded photos from online sources, though I'm not seeking a profit from them nor claiming them as my own.
  • I'm not suggesting you don't write, create and share, online or in print. Do so. But be prepared for unforeseen events by some other less-than-scrupulous creators. They're out there.
  • Though this practice clearly represents copyright infringement, I don't think lawyers would ever touch it. It's small potatoes to them, but it looms large when it's your original material
  • I'm not whining, just sharing...

The posting also showed the back cover of the calendar. Another surprise on this dark and seamy side. Another of my photos had been used - Lewvan, SK taken the previous year (circled above and original photo, below). Taken on a dark, overcast and cold day, the production team had not even tried to edit or brighten up the photo! This is apparently credited to me, though again without any request to me to use the photo.
So, what to do? I immediately commented on the promotional posting...asking about the source of the photos used? Crickets. Silence. I then sent a FB message to the poster, and we had a short online discussion:
Two of the photos are mine, including the cover. Did you give me photo credit?
Actually i put --- who I got it from
Lewvan. I also took that one.
That one I do have your name on.
But...                                                                                                   
Did you ask my permission to use the Lewvan photo?
I think I did
I don't have it in my email, I checked.
Weird thought i did! Sorry about that
Publishing a product for profit using material that's not your own, nor properly credited, means you are making money from someone else's work. Copyright infringement.
True
Sincere apologies for that screwup.
I had a similar experience during the creation of my Cross-Canada Compendium. I had bought some photo prints, three of which I scanned and included in my book because they represented some seldom-photographed VIA operations. In both cases, I captioned the photos as Author's Collection and then included the name of the photographer. Remember, these were purchased, not downloaded from online. One of the two photographers later contacted me, and we agreed that I would send him a free copy of my second book. Which I promptly did. This is fairly standard practice, and my actual book contributors who willingly shared data and/or photos for the book's creation received free copies at the time of publication. And I made sure their photos were properly credited, even if the original photo was from a photographer other than the contributor.

Whether unrepentant or simply unaware that the calendar (and website) are based on the use of unacceptable practices, it was surprising to find the following messages posted to the Facebook group by the production team:

I always credit the photographers be it myself or someone else. It's the way things are done!

I appreciate updates and photos of present and historical grain elevators that may be used in future projects with the poster's permission. I try and find the proper photographer but sometimes mistakes can happen. Especially as it is myself (Jim A Pearson) working on it.
Please note: I am changing one rule,,, if you do not want your photos to be used in outside sources, please do not post them or use a watermark for your identification purposes.
It's really very simple...change your practices. It's what the vast majority of respondents to this incident have said.

The production team has told me that they will send me a free copy of the calendar. I'll post an update if/when that happens! UPDATE - the calendars arrived. One photo caption had a sticky-label applied over the cutline, crediting the photo to me. Oddly, three of the photos have the same caption - January, 1981 and in none of them is there snow...on the Prairies. And there's green grass. The captioning and research match the photo permission and credit procedure - not a tightly-run ship.

I repeat - change your practices. Improve them. Strive to do better, and you might just do your best!

Highball regardless!
-Eric

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Advice for Creating Your Book

I just read an excellent precis by Bernard Kempinski in which he discusses the general topic of getting published. It's entitled Thoughts about Writing for Model Railroad Press.

This passage caught my eye:
The other drawback to self-published books, at least the ones I have seen so far, is that they have lower production values. That means the photos are dull looking, the page layouts are crude, and graphics are rudimentary. Very few of us are all world class modelers, expert photographers, talented writers, capable editors, professional graphic artists, and whizzes at page layout. 

But self-published books can be very useful for niche topics. For example, a book just about modeling the railroads of the civil war will probably never be published by a major house. I know because I floated that idea and it was rejected by the publishers. But I may still do it as a self-published book. 

Another good topic for a self-published book would be your model railroad. The late Dan Zugeleter did just that. He wrote a book about his own HO scale C&O layout. He tried to tie in as much prototype information as possible, but in the end it as a paean to his layout. He hired several photographers, including Paul Dolkos and I, out of his own pocket to take the photos. Through pure dint of will he got a publisher to print and sell it, an amazing achievement. Afterwards, the publisher told me he would not do another book like that because it did not sell well. 

However, a book like that is ideal for self-publishing. Some less generous people call it vanity press. In any case there are no unhappy publishers to deal with. It would be a great record of your work and who knows, it could take off. Just don’t bother with vanity publishers that require large upfront fees. 

The entire article is included on Bernard's blog here. He discusses the use of established publishers, self-publishing, writing for magazines, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Originally prepared as a presentation for a meeting, his thoughts are from someone who knows about what he writes!

I have maintained, throughout the process of creating my three books on VIA Rail, that if I can do it, anyone can. That means you, gentle reader!

Highball!
Eric

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Join the Club(s)


Today's VIA No 40 included five, that's right, five Business Class cars on the tail end. I call that a mass class migration! Consist was July 5, 2015: 6402-6410-3459-3338-3314-3473-3466-3474-3452-3477. At Kingston, ON on time, with thanks to Dave for the heads-up.

Better yet, enjoy it on Youtube.

Highball, Business Class!
Eric

Saturday, June 27, 2015

OVAR Best by Far!

The room was full. The conversation was percolating. The talk was of all things railway - both prototype and model. The bar was open. The stage was set at this welcoming venue in Little Italy. The Ottawa Valley Associated Railroaders had invited me to speak to their June meeting and I gladly accepted. After a delicious buffet dinner and a short business meeting, my 45-minute PowerPoint entitled Kingston Platform Scenes followed.
Who wouldn't like the chance to talk trains? I could have gone all night, but then again, no. While my talk focused on Kingston, it also covered travels across Canada on VIA Rail and would not have been possible without the surprising success of my three books on VIA Rail.
My genial host Peter Jackson kept me on track (pun intended) and I had the chance to meet Ottawa railfans like the well-versed Earl Roberts of BRS Canadian Trackside Guide fame:
A visit to Parliament Hill capped off a very enjoyable visit to our nation's capital!
Thanks again to Peter and OVAR for extending such a kind invitation and being gracious hosts of a very enjoyable evening!

Highball,
Eric

Saturday, May 23, 2015

On to Ottawa!

I'm looking forward to visiting the nation's capital on Tuesday, June 9. I've been asked to speak to the Ottawa Valley Associated Railroaders' June meeting. The topic I've chosen to present is Kingston Platform Scenes. Not only will I cover railfanning Kingston's stations, I'll also link it to how these experiences and the observations I made led to the creation of my books on VIA Rail! Not to mention departing the platform on trips across Canada and doing my darnedest to inspire those in attendance to create their own projects, be they in scale, in print or online.

I'm looking forward to meeting the group at the St Anthony's Soccer Club Hall, for dinner and train talk. I'll try to stay on track and on schedule. I like the sound of the collaborative nature of the OVAR - tying together myriad interests across the railroading spectrum - model and prototype. They have a great online newsletter, I might add!

Of course I'll be bringing copies of my books on VIA Rail along for the ride. My sincere thanks to the group for this opportunity. According to the OVAR's Peter Jackson, as a speaker I join a most august group who have made presentations and I'm honoured to be able to make this trip.

Highball!
Eric

(Photo - VIA No 655 Eng 910 approaches Napanee West at 0708 on May 23, 2015 having just made its Napanee stop)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

NOT Out of Print

Saved from the ignominy of being Out of Print. I'm pleased to say that my printer has just delivered more copies of my second book on VIA Rail. I'm planning for an upcoming speaking engagement and realized that there was absolutely no point showing up without some copies on hand!  Not to mention ongoing mail orders.

VIA's Enterprise (pictured above at Kingston) ended but this book lives on!

Highball!
Eric

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Out of Print?

By the time you read this, the last copy in print of my Trackside with VIA: Cross-Canada Compendium may have been sold. This pleasantly successful book published in October 2012, was fun to create and has proved to be an interesting discussion-starter and argument-settler on many occasions for many readers.

But we're now in a much different book-selling environment than when I published Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years back in June, 2011. The number of book shops and hobby shops has drastically declined. The appetite for paper books in the midst of e-books has had an impact. Printing and postage costs have increased. We are spending less time with books and more time online.

So, the last few copies I had on hand may have been the last. The prospect of unsold copies has always been an unsavoury one to me. If you've been considering ordering, please do so. It may be that this will soon be listed as Out of Print Volume!

Highball!
Eric