Ian wilson, canadian branchline and our readers

We invite you to take a trip to the past

Ian Wilson (through his Canadian Branchline brand) tells the story of steam railway operations in the province of Ontario during the 1950s.

Don’t just learn about the steam railway era of the 1950s in Ontario

Go there and see for yourself! Open one of Ian Wilson’s books and take a trip to the past—and make your own discoveries and memories in the process. Take the journey, savour the adventure—see, experience, discover things impossible to witness in the present day.  By turning the clock back, visiting a moment in time, you are free from the constraints of “reality”. Engage your imagination!

You enjoy a personal trip to the past, with all its discoveries, through the pages of Ian Wilson’s books

It’s all about the moment—say at 12:10 p.m. on Tuesday, July 23, 1957 when Canadian Pacific Ten Wheeler 1004 crosses the CNR diamond at Harriston Junction.

Through the pages of Ian Wilson’s books depicting steam railway operations, you will escape the present world, and all its difficulties, to the strong, robust, traditional Canada of the 1950s.

Lose yourself in a story, a blissful trance, of a personal visit to the past

See the action unfolding in your mind’s eye like a motion picture on a big screen. When your delightful escape is over (until you reach for one of the books again!), you’ll say to yourself, ‘It feels as if I have been there!’

We’ll be honest with you—Ian Wilson’s brand covers a narrow era and locale

It begins after the Second World War (with occasional forays back to immediately pre-war) and ends with the final regular service CNR and CPR steam operations in 1960. With the odd exception (such as an upcoming book on CPR steam operations in New Brunswick), the milieu for Ian Wilson’s Canadian Branchline series of books is the CNR and CPR steam era lines in Ontario and Quebec.

Depending on how things unfold, we may explore the diesel era (beyond the transition years) or current-day steam operations in future titles.

Physical print books—as opposed to eBooks or low-resolution digital images shared on a myriad of social media websites—are permanent

You can hold them in your hands. And, given the scarcity of Ian Wilson’s out-of-print titles, they are sound investments. Your books packaged with the utmost care by Wilson family members and we personally strive to maintain a long and healthy relationship with you as a reader—on a firstname basis!

Make no mistake—the superior quality books we produce in short print runs carry a shelf price indicative of the care that goes into producing them

If you shop for books on price alone, head to your nearest mass-market online retailer or chain bookstore. We are proud to say that we print and bind our books at carefully-selected Ontario suppliers (with whom we have worked for decades), not offshore like most other publishers.

Ian Wilson’s books are for those readers with the ability to concentrate and imagine—for those are the traits a blissful journey to the past demands!

Nowadays, Ian Wilson is one of the few book authors/publishers producing new, original content on Canadian steam railway operations—a last refuge for those who value a fine tradition

We know of no other author who presents readers with the nuts-and-bolts of how steam era railways actually ran. Otherwise, how can you forge a dynamic picture of that wonderful age in your imagination?

With the railway steam age receding decades into the past—close to an entire human lifetime now—the lasting record of that era in Ontario now lies on the printed pages of Ian Wilson’s books. And who’s to say what the reality is anymore—is the reality a world beyond your comprehension or the world depicted in Speed Graphics and Steam 1957!?


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.

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 dedicated to telling the story of the 1950s railway steam era in Ontario, Canada (and now expanding to include Quebec). 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 Readers

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’ve informally referred to those really dedicated readers, who collect every volume (sometimes in multiple copies!) as Mainliners.

There is another category of reader we recognize as a valued Contributor. These people you will get to know through photo credits and the last page of each volume, known as the Afterword.

We issue email broadcasts usually every week or two. During online launches, these updates are more frequent (daily or more often) for a few days. Please subscribe to our email list (find the sign-up box on any page on this site), as we frequently table exclusive offers to subscribers only.

Lapsed readers

If you have not purchased a book (or other publication) from us directly over the past two years, we remove your name from our postal mailing list (although you will still receive emails if you are a subscriber). All of our recent customers receive special offers by postal mail if they do not take advantage of online options.

If you're new here, we invite you to peruse our website, download and read any PDF samples 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, we put you on our email and postal mail distribution list (you may readily unsuscribe from either).


Branchliners have purchased at least one book directly from us over the past two years. Branchliners enjoy regular email updates, 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, 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.


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 consider you to be a Mainliner.

Mainliners enjoy the all the privileges of Branchliners. Also, Mainliners occasionally enjoy exclusive opportunities. 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. Mainliners help shape decisions regarding new book releases and other offerings.

Advancing and Lapsing

At the beginning of January each year, we advance readers to higher tiers on a yearly basis,  and also drop “lapsed” readers down in the tiers. With no hard feelings! If you have purchased any book directly from us in the past 24 months you are automatically a Branchliner.

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).




Don't be shy!

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