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, you will escape the present world, and all its difficulties, to the 1950s. Once in awhile, you find a part of the past in the present day—such as when the CPR re-activated Hudson 2816 or the recent tour of UP Big Boy 4014. But the engines are like a fish out of water—the irreplaceable environment of their heyday is gone. Most attempts to re-create the past in the present day (be they steam excursions, museum displays, model railways) lose the essence of former times.

Every famous author is inextricably linked to a place and an era. For readers of Ian Wilson’s books, that place is Ontario, in the Dominion of Canada, during the 1950s. Through the pages of Ian’s books depicting steam railway operations, you’ll immerse yourself in an era when the Canadian Red Ensign is the official flag. A romanticized view of a strong, robust, traditional Canada, less than a century old? Certainly.

If you would like to visit a romanticized Canada pre-1960s, then you’ve come to the right place! 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!’

As an author, Ian Wilson is not connected to any particular entity or institution. All of his efforts to depict the steam era, however, depend upon the goodwill and resources of individual readers and fans. Whatever enjoyment you derive from Ian’s books has come about because people like you come forward and shared your resources (steam era photographs, archival material, train registers and time books, etc.) and connections (groups of which you are a member or otherwise affiliated with).

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. If you’re interested in the diesel era (beyond the transition years) or current-day steam operations, look elsewhere (there are many excellent authors covering such topics). 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. Again, if you’re looking for a treatment of other Canadian locales, or railways, seek works on those subjects elsewhere.

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 pretty much all that is left in terms of book 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 (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!