This book intentionally looks at the gone and nearly-gone elements of railroading in Canada. Semaphores, passenger trains, 40-foot grain boxcars, Prarie branchlines, the Spadina Avenue Roundhouse, paint schemes, nothing that lives on short time seems to have escaped the cameras of Mr. McDonnell or his henchmen. From crisp black and whites of steam engines in a roundhouse, juxtaposed with a scrapper cutting one of them apart a year later to GMD1s tiptoeing across the Prarie to the BC Rail M630 recovered from the bottom of a lake, this book wears nostalgia on its sleeve. I never got a sense of melancholy or loss in the writing, but rather celebration of recording "what is" while understanding that it is soon to become "what was." The book made me more aware that I need to record certain things for my own collection of posterity before there are no more chances left. One other thing to mention---this is the rare volume that devotes more space to the Maritimes than to British Columbia. Not that I have anything BC, y'understand, I've vacationed there three times, it's just that *no one* goes to the Maritimes and *everyone* goes to BC.
Photo selection is extremely strong. There is an excellent blend of scenic shots, where the train is distant, as well as close-ups. There are many night shots, plus quite a few inside roundhouses, where lighting conditions are challenging. Mr. McDonnell's own contributions were notable, stylistically, because of a tendency to frame the train or other subject from within a building (looking out a window, for example). I liked the shot on page 125 of a string of 40-foot boxcars on a soon-to-be-abandoned branch shot from inside a collapsed farm building. The human element is certainly not ignored, and there are several strong photos of dispatchers, engine crewmen, even a guy loading a grain box. Reproduction is uniformly excellent.
"Passing Trains" should be your next purchase if you don't already have it, your next read if you've bought it and haven't read it yet, or your next re-read when you wonder why you should get out of bed at 4 a.m. to drive to BFE, Indiana. This book is why.