Ian wilson, canadian branchline and our readers


Ian Wilson

Ian grew up in nearby Barrie and stoked his fascination for Ontario’s pre-1960 steam railway era through boyhood encounters with CNR excursion engines 6167 and 6218. He graduated from Queen’s University with a degree in civil engineering in 1984. Ian began his publishing career with Steam at Allandale in 1998. A homeschooling dad, he lives with his wife Mary-Jo and sons Spencer and Duncan in Orillia, Ontario.

Canadian Branchline

Ian Wilson began his Canadian Branchline brand in 1997 while researching his first book, entitled Steam at Allandale.

Canadian Branchline denotes a collection of books (now 15 and counting) dedicated to telling the story of the 1950s railway steam era in Ontario, Canada. Through a unique narrative style combined with photographs and illustrations, the books put the reader back in time, in the moment, so that he experiences the late steam era firsthand.

Think of your author, Ian Wilson, as your Canadian Branchline tour guide, your conductor, your director, for a trip back in time to the 1950s steam era on Ontario railways.

Our Invitation to You

There are no other books (or media) that depict 1950s Canadian steam railway operations as effectively as those written and produced by Ian Wilson and Canadian Branchline. Would you like to enjoy that journey, or would you prefer to stay on the sidelines?

Our Reader Tiers

Although a few select retailers carry our books, we make the vast majority of our sales direct to our readers. Since 1997, we have cultivated a community around those readers, whom we originally called Branchliners. That name evokes the strong branchline theme that runs through all Ian Wilson’s books.

Lately, we have introduced another tier of readers we call Mainliners. If you do not fit into either of these categories at the moment, it’s because you are either a valued Contributor to the series of books or an observer from the sidelines, which we label a Trainee. These tiers describe your level of support for the projects of, the visions of, and the movement we call, Canadian Branchline.

Our regular email broadcasts and postal mail communications are tailored specifically for you based upon whether you are a Contributor, Mainliner, Branchliner or Trainee (and Trainees do not receive anything from us by postal mail).


Trainees are people who share our interest in Canadian steam railway operations of the 1950s, but have not purchased a book from us directly over the past two years (lapsed Branchliners become Trainees!). If you are a Trainee, you receive a minimum amount of information concerning upcoming releases by email on an infrequent basis. Trainees receive no coupons, bonuses or special offers by postal mail.

If you are a Trainee, we invite you (as a minimum) to peruse our website, download and read any PDF samples of books you find, and sign up to our email list (look for that box near the bottom of any page on the site). We then invite you to purchase a book of your choice (please email us for personal recommendations). The moment you purchase any book directly from us, either online or by mail, you become a Branchliner!


Branchliners are those readers who have purchased at least one book directly from us over the past two years (yes, we keep track of these things monthly!). Branchliners enjoy regular email updates (generally on a weekly basis) of projects, and receive all of our circulars and special offers by email and postal mail. As a Branchliner, you enjoy the opportunity to take advantage of periodic specials for book purchases.

If you are a Branchliner (which you’ll know by the nature of our email and postal mail communication with you), we invite you to fill out your collection with some titles you do not already own, or support the Canadian Branchline movement by purchasing additional copies for others. At the start of each month, we recognize new Mainliners with a personal email advising them of the news!


Mainliners are presently our top tier of readers—our marquee clients. Generally speaking, if you have consistently purchased each new release (or an equivalent in backlist titles) over the past two years, we have invited you into the Mainliners tier.

Mainliners enjoy the all the privileges of Branchliners. Additionally, Mainliners receive advance notice of special offers. Also, Mainliners enjoy exclusive opportunities—such as the opportunity to acquire DVDs of 1950s Ontario steam railway movies captured by some of our Contributors. From time to time, we present Mainliners with a token of appreciation (perhaps an item enclosed with a book shipment). We consult our Mainliners directly for suggestions of future projects—and take them most seriously because Mainliners have demonstrated a high level of support for our publications. Most importantly, the Mainliners will help shape decisions regarding new book releases and other offerings. We will tailor those new products (or experiences) with your specific interests in mind.

If you are a Mainliner, we invite you to respond in a detailed manner to our questions we put to you by email or postal mail when we advised you of your status. That’s because we are primarily in the business of serving you, our most valued reader, and would value your suggestions of future projects or directions for Canadian Branchline.

Advancing and Lapsing

While we advance readers to higher tiers on a monthly basis, we only drop “lapsed” readers down in the tiers once a year. With no hard feelings! At the beginning of January each year, we advise anyone of impending lapsed status by email and postal mail. To illustrate, as long as you have purchased any book directly from us in the past 24 months you are automatically a Branchliner. On January 1, 2020 (for instance) you would remain a Branchliner if at that time you had purchased any book directly from us from 2018 onward.

Our Visions

Ian Wilson and Canadian Branchline have been researching, writing and publishing books since 1997. Recently, we’ve been working on visions for the future—in terms of how we can better serve our readers AND in what larger contribution we can make toward our shared interest of 1950s Canadian steam railway operations.

All great things start with an idea that is worked into a vision, then a plan to achieve that vision. What do we see a few years from now, in our wildest dreams? A Canadian Branchline roundhouse with at least six Canadian steam locomotives inside (all of them restored to operating condition). Like the Age of Steam Roundhouse is doing in Sugarcreek, Ohio.




Don't be shy!

Ian loves to hear from his readers. Head over to the Contact page and say hello!