well worth the full read
|Delec Enfield Loco
memories from the 1970s and 80s
I worked as an engineman
at Delec from early 1976 to late 1978, when
Later worked in Traffic Branch from 1980 to
1984, but that's another story.
I've lived out of the state since 1984, and have
really never been back, except to pass through.
I sometimes wonder about some of the people I used
to know and enjoy working with, and what became of
some of them. Some would have retired many moons
ago, some may still be working on the railway.
When I started the Head Cleaners were Reg and Tom,
and a bit later Benny. These were all old guys near
retirement. Reg and Tom were both fairly serious ,
Benny used to greet everyone with 'Hello shagger' or
'ya gettin any ?'
In those days Trainee Enginemen were recruited in
large numbers and often. Trainee Enginemen schools
were sometimes run every month, or at worst every
few months, to qualify a new batch of Trainee
Enginemen (Unqualified), to Trainee Enginemen
(Other) which allowed them to commence 'going on the
road' with Drivers, and building up their all
important first 500 hours on the road, to allow them
to become Enginemen Class 1. Turnover of staff was
huge, and a lot of drivers were nearing retirement.
Qualifying as a driver (Class 5) took years in those
days, it was all based on hours on the road and
seniority. The merit principle was an unknown
Some of the guys who started around when I did whose
names I recall were Steve Lukehurst, Gary A'Beckett,
Brad Longhurst, Greg Keenan, Wayne O'Mara, Dave
Watkins and Keith Bourke. There were many others
whose faces and personalities I recall, but not
their names. Only one I kept in touch with was Keith
Bourke, he went on to the ETR, then back to Delec as
a Driver Trainer, long after I'd gone, and he
resigned in the early 90s. He is no longer alive
I can't remember the names of some of the other guys
who started around that time, but I do remember some
of their nicknames. They were Mountain Man, Speed,
Pigsy, Kojak (also sometimes called Friar Tuck),
John the Baptist, Rhodesia, and Simple Rodney.
Some of the drivers were characters. One was Barry
'Animal' Smith. Desi Charleston was another. I can't
recall the names of others who were also real
I was mostly on the 'Rouseabout' roster with a
different driver every day for many months. I later
had Vass (Vince) Vassiliou as a regular driver for
some time, and also was rostered with Ray Sullivan
for a time, and another guy named Peter Cross, all
Up at the fuel point was Mongrel Mick the fuelman,
who apparently only knew one word of "English",
which he used often and it was his response to
shed drivers and firemen, when not moving locos
around Delec, hung out in the mealroom at the fuel
point, often playing cards with Mongrel Mick for
small change. I think it may have been 2 cents a
hand to be 'in' and with 6 or more playing there
were frequent arguments over someone not putting in
their 2 cents, and no one ever admitting to it. In
the end a grid was drawn on the white plastic
mealroom tabletop with a kind of grid to place your
2 cents in, to ensure everyone did put in.
I was there the same time but in
reverse roles. ie Traffic Branch 1977-1980 Rail Stations and Signal
Box (signalman) then internal transfer to the
Locomotive Branch 1980-1984. (Delec Enfield)
Unqualified Trainee Engineman as a cleaner (few
weeks) Trainee Engineman 500 hours, (few
Class One 1,000 hours (about 1 year) then
fireman/observer Class Two (thereafter about two
years) up to the Class Three acting drivers school.
Yes a lot of characters there at DELEC.
At first I did not like Benny "the head
cleaner" but he "stuck up" for me
after a Broadmeadow engine crew out of barracks,
wanted me to clean the front outside windows of a
couple of 44 class engines on the departure road. I
was young, raw and green then as trainee
engineman/cleaner and slipped off the nose on the
outside of a 44 class right into the six foot. (wet
hands from cleaning the windows of the first 44
Benny let 'em have it in his squeaky voice and told
them off that if they wanted windows cleaned on the
outside of locomotives to see him first and the shed
crew to pilot the diesels back into the shed for
cleaning and with the shed ramps. The Broadmeadow
engine blokes ducked for cover.
Benny made me the "kit" cleaner after that
which was an easy job (bucket safety
equipment-flags, chocks, det's etc) Found out later that he was an ex steam driver, but
had a major accident, and RMO would not allow Benny back
out on the road I was told. Only Head Cleaner on
Drivers wages, but Top Bloke I found out.
"Freddy" was the other head cleaner on the
alternate shifts. Quiet nice fellow. I Never
had "Reg or Tom" but only the Lenny Wilde
on my back as the Shed chargeman (more for me
as the shed fireman)
I went out on the road in late 1980 (out of the
sheds at DELEC) I kept a log book the whole time
I was there till I left of every locomotive and driver
I worked with, but lost or threw the personal log
books out. Silly me!
I did fire for short stints for Barry Mosley, and
Terry Crowe before he transferred to Yerongopilly. (No not Russel
Crowe!!) Then fired for Tony Ryan and Vince Jelley for
nearly 3 years combined. (both RIP Engineman
Barracks in Heaven now)
I know of or have worked with some of the fella's
names you have mentioned, especially on the pencil
Rouseabout roster with no regular mate. (perm.
ie a different driver every day. Some were good,
some not so good. Human nature I suppose.
I come back in the year 2000 as shunter/examiner at
Botany. There was some new faces on the engine crews
from Delec, but still a lot of the older blokes who
were still there, (and did not go to City Rail or
Ray "Kojak" was still there. On the two
way radio......"Oveeeeeer" but good
John the Baptist, (stopped driving the taxi though
on his days off) had a long conversations with
him in the meal rooms.
Johnny Richards was also there (red haired) and top
bloke; and some of the old DELEC faithful.
I suppose I can go on all night, but better not.
It's vigilance button time now. (other wise an
"all night sitter" and bore you to tears
on a shunting engine )
That's right Benny Cooper (head cleaner Delec, ex
steam driver Enfield)
Hans Schmidt (most senior steam/diesel driver in NSW
> 50 years)
Few others I remember
: George Montgomery.
: Toby (one wooden leg driver on the Enfield Yard
: Jack Patterson AFULE state president (fired for
him for a while as a senior DELEC fireman on the cab
: Lee Allsop (AFULE Delec Union man)
I did not much conversations out of him as his
fireman, but he did mention at the time, ie. early
1980's that he and AFULE where proposing a max. 6
hour shift as the diesel engineman in cabs of
locomotives in traffic, (service) over a 7 hour
shift and a 35 hour week. (similar at the time as
the Sydney Ports crane drivers)
That never got off the ground with the NSW State
Rail. (David Hill)
He also said that the AFULE where proposing getting
rid of Barracks work. ie. Going to another location
to rest for a min of 8 hours. and bring in more
relay train crews in more locations. ie. shorter
distances travelled but was an uproar from the rank
and file engineman, because a lot liked barracks
work and long distance work (and away from the
missus and kids for 24-36/48 hours)
Also Mongel Mick or "Mad Mick" the fuelman
and a lot of stories there too about large diesel
fuel spills near the humpy, or the Delec train
driver who pinched the diesel fuel for his old
landrover and probably wrecked his old landrover
engine/motor at the same time Aaahh well the
good old "mischievous" days hey mate
Nice to hear your memories, funny how
our loco/traffic service was almost the same, but
re Benny and the Head Cleaners. Reg and Tom were
old, they must have retired in the late 1970s.
Benny was alright, with his bald head, Shunter's grey
felt hat, bib and brace overalls, wrinkled old face
and boxer's nose, but he was at times a lot harder on
the Trainee Enginemen (Unqualified) than Reg or Tom.
Both Reg and Tom used to growl at us a lot but were
otherwise harmless. I'll explain.
In 1976 there were a lot of Trainee Enginemen both
unqualified, and qualified. The qualified ones rarely
did cleaning in the shed, as there was a shortage of
enginemen qualified to 'go on the road' as was the
term used back then.
Those qualified Trainee Enginemen rostered on cleaning
in the shed rarely did a full shift cleaning,
invariably after an hour or two they'd be summoned
over the loudspeaker system to the sign on room, when
a fireman (as anyone qualified to ride on a loco was
still commonly called) had failed to turn up, or had
rung in sick on very short notice for his rostered
Most of the Trainee Enginemen (unqualified) were
rostered on day shift, with with either a 6.00am or
7.20am start. A handful were rostered on afternoon
shift (2pm and 3pm start) and nightshift (10pm and
Some of the Trainee Enginemen might have to wait some
months before they could become qualified, and were
kept employed doing various cleaning jobs.
Benny (Tom and Reg) only worked the dayshift, for the
other shifts the Shed Chargeman supervised the Trainee
Enginemen on shed cleaning duties.
There were never really enough jobs for all the
Trainee Enginemen (or T.E.s) on dayshift.
(1) be allocated to clean loco cabs on the
departure road with a mop and bucket.
(2) be allocated to clean diesel loco cabs on
number 1 road in the shed (with mop and bucket)
(3) be allocated to clean diesel loco windows on
number 1 road in the shed
(4) be allocated to vaccuum diesel loco cabs on
number 1 road in the shed (particularly the ashtrays
which were always overflowing with bumpers)
(5) be allocated to clean 46 class cabs with mop
(6) be allocated to clean 46 class windows
(7) be allocated to kits on the diesels
(8) be allocated to kits on 46 class
(9) be allocated to buckets on the 46 class (the
46 class had no water storage or wash basin for the
crew, so a metal bucket of water had to be placed in
the engine room, this needed to be refilled)
Two would be allocated to the spray pits, to steam
pressure spray the underside of diesel locos,
specifically the traction motor covers and cables, so
the fitters wouldn't get greasy. Locos only went to
the spray pit when they were due for a service or
The rest of the T.E's would be allocated to wax and
polish various locos in number 2 road and another road
near the Chargeman's office where locos were in for a
while for varying degrees of overhaul. This could be a
dozen more T.E.s, sometimes more, on dayshift, other
than those on the other cleaning jobs.
Anyone rostered on the cleaning cabs and windows jobs
listed usually did them fairly conscientiously and
well, but "wax and polish" duties was a
different matter. There was a real feeling of
"mission impossible" when allocated to wax
and polish a grimy old 44 class, or just about any of
the locos. The wax we were given was a thick soupy
white stuff, and we were given recycled rags to apply
the stuff with and buff it off. It was very difficult
to remove the grime, mostly the wax was applied over
the grime and buffed off, in effect putting a shine on
422 and 421 locos were mostly pretty clean, so if
you had to wax and polish one of them it wasn't too
bad. I was told by T.E.s that had worked at Eveleigh
that this was because these loco types were frequently
used on south bound passenger services Spirit of
Progress, Intercapital Daylight, Southern Aurora) and
the Eveleigh T.E.s were made to do a good job on them,
but they could rest in the meal room, talking,
smoking, playing cards, reading the paper, once they
had finished waxing, and the Head Cleaner would then
know where to find them when he needed them. Seemed
like a good system to me, hard work rewarded.
In Delec it was different. The T.E.s skulked in the
shed the whole working day, only being permitted to go
to the canteen for morning tea or lunch break. In
theory we were not permitted to sit down in a loco or
anywhere else, but in practice we frequently did,
always being on the lookout for Reg, Tom or Benny, who
would prowl around at unpredictable times, and growl
at us if they caught us sitting down or not actually
I read recently that 34% of Australians smoked in
1980. I don't know what the figure was in the late
1970s, but 95% of Trainee Enginemen smoked, and I
reckon about 90% of all Enginemen smoked back then.
Frequent unofficial smoke breaks were had, either
standing around in the shed, or sitting in loco cabs (with the loco mirrors set to see anyone approaching
One day I was assigned with two other T.E.s to wax and
polish a 422 class in a quiet road near the
Chargeman's office. Benny surprised us in the cab
sitting down, chatting and smoking and sent us home (without pay for the rest of the
shift). I got a bung
a few days later written in official wording advising
of the fact that I had been found sitting in the cab
of 422xx (I cant recall the number and don't have the
bung anymore) and had 3 charges, the first being
"Idling my Time", I don't recall the second,
and the third charge being "Misconduct within the
meaning of the term". I was given a fine of maybe
$10 or $25 as well. Fair cop I suppose, but this was a
rare penalty, to be sent home without pay, and fined,
in reality a dozen T.E.s should have been sent home
every working day.
On another occassion I was in the canteen outside of
the official lunch or morning tea break with a group
of other T.E.s and Benny again signed us off duty and
another similar bung and fine followed.
I bore no grudge, though I'd like to have seen the
penalties be a bit more evenly applied, or not applied
at all. Possibly he had warned me, or others on
previous occasions, I don't recall now. On at least
one occasion after Benny gave me a lift to Lidcombe
station after work. He advised he lived somewhere near
The rumour that was common knowledge back then as to
how Benny came to be Head Cleaner was very different
to what you heard. I won't repeat it here as it would
seem a bit mean spirited, and fact is I don't know what
the truth was. He would be quite old now and is very
likely in an old folks home or no longer with us at
I think the whole culture in Delec probably changed
into the 1980s. I kept contact with a driver long
after I'd gone, who advised a new DLE (District
Locomotive Engineer) came along who put a new broom
through a lot of things there, including how the
fitters and labourers worked, demolishing their humpys
under number 2 road fitted out with benches and TVs,
among other things.
Even by 1977 cleaners were starting to be employed to
take over some of the cleaning jobs in the shed that
were being done by T.E.s
Like you I also almost came a gutser on the Departure
I also had to clean windows on Departure Road once. My
first day at work was directly after the Easter long
weekend in 1976 and Departure Road was chock a block
with locos of all kinds. Me and another T.E. were
given the job of cleaning the windows. At that stage
we had to mix white powder with water into a thin
solution in a bucket, apply it on the window with a
rag, then wait till it dried, then remove it with a
The other T.E. applied the solution to all the loco
windows, and armed with rags I had to follow behind
and wipe it off. It was awkward clambering onto the
noses of the 42, 43, 44 and 421 classes to get at the
windows, without the benefit of any kind of raised
walkway, like existed in the shed. I didn't come a
gutser that day, but a few weeks later I was assigned
to clean cabs on Departure Road. This required you to
stand around with mop and bucket near the south end of
number 1 road outside the shed as this was close to
where the shed crews parked and prepped departing
I looked down the departure road and saw a 42 class,
number 2 end leading coming slowly in my direction on
the road parallel to the departure road. Nothing odd
about that. I must have become distracted, and saw a
rag laying between the rails, in the 4 foot of that
road just in front of me. The Head Cleaners were
always growling at us about rags laying around, so I
took a few steps forward leant over and picked it up.
Just as I started to straighten up I was hit by the
42, hard in the shoulder. As I was already moving
backwards, the hit pushed me back harder, away from
the loco, spinning me around.
My shoulder really hurt, and I felt really embarrassed
as it was such a stupid thing to have done. I had seen
the 42 approaching but had momentarily forgotten all
about it when I saw the rag. I wondered, if I had
leant forward a couple of seconds later, whether the
hit would have propelled me forward and fully into the
path of the loco. No one seemed to have witnessed the incident, and
there was no way I was going to report it. My shoulder
was stiff and sore for a few days, but that was it. In
all my time on the railway that was the closest call I
The afternoon and nightshifts were better, as there
was never any 'wax and polish' just a few guys,
divided between the departure road, 1 road, and
"the 46 side", as it was called.
Most of the Chargemen were alright, except one, who
often refused to sign our daily work sheets till
exactly the sign off time. Most Chargemen were a bit
of a pain about this, as the sign off times were on
the half hour (e.g. 10.30pm) but the bus to take you
to Strathfield station always left at 25 past the hour
(e.g. 10.25pm) so we would always try to get them
signed at 10.20pm, to allow us time to get to the bus,
otherwise another half hour wait ensued. Most of the
T.E.s unqualified were teenagers and many of us did
not have cars, except older guys like Kojak and John
The Baptist who had cars.
On at least a couple of occasions a rostered shed
driver, in the Chargemans office to get a listing of
what loco needed to be moved where, would stick up for
the humble T.E.s and tell the Chargeman to stop acting
like a bastard (or words to that effect) and sign our
I can't recall a single Chargeman's name now, except
possibly one was named Stan Smee, (unless I'm getting
that named mixed up with a loco inspectors). He was
alright, I don't think he ever made anyone miss the
bus, though he'd usually sign the sheet growling.
Chargemen were all ex drivers, and in the later stages
of their working lives. I was told they had given
driving away due to the long and unpredictable hours
that driving provided, preferring the stability of
fixed shifts and rosters. I don't know if any had
given away driving for medical or other reasons.
I remember being on kits too. Best job for a T.E. in
the shed. You had to be qualified back then to be put
on it. Checking the kits of all the locos on Departure
Road and adding what ever was missing. There used to
be a locked cupboard underneath 1-2 road at the south
end of the shed with all the kit spares. And you'd
have a key on a large brass ring for the cupboard, it
had to be kept locked, too many thieves around !
Yes; If I do
recall Stan Smee was a Chargeman
not loco inspector.
There was another Chargeman Jack (not Jack Patterson)
Cedric Fraser was the chief Loco Inspector at Enfield
but a couple more too; but names I cannot remember.
Bob........put me through Trainee Engineman on the
road and Class One. John "someone" for Class
Two (permanent fireman)
The TE cleaners hours were still the same. 6am,
7:20am, 2pm, 3pm and backshifts 10pm 11pm, ie 8 hours
and 20 mins shift with unpaid 20" meal break. I'm
not sure when you were there, but we did not sign off
anymore with chargeman. We were given tokens from the
Engineman sign on room and handed them back in at the
end of each shift. Names recorded via the roster
clerks or Zona chargeman.
But luckily for me only three weeks in the shed
cleaning fulltime, then TE training school and most
shifts after that "on the road" as a fireman
either on the engineman pencil roster or called out
of the shed.
I met a young driver (Tony Ryan) who I was shed firing
for the day. I asked him if he was looking for a regular
mate. After he agreed, Eric Kidd the senior Roster
Clerk put as together as regular Driver/Fireman
Was only a Class One Engineman on my 1,000 hours (first
year) but always on the engineman roster, not
They also had a shortage of trainees and fireman at
Delec in 1980 so I was there at the right time.
A couple of blokes I met at the TE school were at
Eveleigh. They said they were always in the shed
cleaning. (wanted to be a fireman on the diesel
passenger trains-high wheelers)
I told them about Enfield Delec and it was one of the
quickest depots in NSW to get your hours up to become
a perm fireman because of shortage. So they both transferred to DELEC and never looked
Benny was OK to me (at first he put me on the 46 class
wax and polish) and hated him for it but changed my
mind after my incident cleaning the windows.
I left Delec and State Rail in the mid 1980's. Was
going through a ID crisis as senior fireman/acting
drivers school ie itinerant 24/7 shift work was
starting to wear me down, and yes, missed my
mates/girls on weekends Fri nights etc. I was also
witnessed (as a fireman) two level crossing incidents.
Not our fault but still started thinking about it a
I asked the DLE (District Manager D.M) at Delec for
time off-unpaid leave (after using all my holiday and
sick pay up) He told me "no" but did tell
me, "come back when I want and told me he would
put me back as a TE again within a year or two"
ie no questions asked.
I did regret leaving about 1 year later and went back
to see him. He wasn't there anymore and asked the new
DM about it, and told me "no vacancies--either
TE, cleaners or shed staff.
I was "kicking" myself and tried
unsuccessful to get back on with the new
"criteria" exams. (previous rail experience
no advantage) It was like a HSC exam paper. (David
Hill bought it in) So only the best of the best got
A lot of would be/could be train driver University drop outs
were recruited off the street (after media ad's) But
was told later a lot started falling away like flies
after a year or two. The fun and glamour driving
choo choo trains soon wears off.
I did come back eventually many years later, but
become redundant after privatisation with FreightCorp
P/N, but before I left I found a list of drivers names
at Enfield (2005)
I will show you later a list of the then 2005 Enfield
Interesting to read your
recollections, it stirs many memories
Regarding the sign off sheets for the T.E.s we also had round brass tokens, with numbers stamped
unevenly onto them. Mine was 155.
When you were a T.E, on arrival for the day you had to
ask the Sign On Clerk in the Sign On room for your
token, by number, through a little sliding window. The
Sign On Clerk sat next to the Zona Clerk, and Zona
Chargeman (Zona Chargeman was a totally different role
and location to the Shed Chargeman)
I believe by 1980 or not long after a new Sign On Room
had been built next to the Canteen/Mealroom, on what
was a patch of grass. When I left at the end of 1978
this was starting to be dug up. The old sign on room
was at the front of an old single level brick building
that also held the DLE's office, other admin staff's
office, and of course the Roster Clerks.
The Pay clerks who calculated all staff's fortnightly
pay sat in old fibro or weatherboard buildings behind
the car park, not far from Departure Road.
Sometimes the Sign On Clerks were in a bad mood, and
would make you wait for your token, even though they
were all hanging in a little wooden frame within arms
reach of his seat. You also had to hand in your token
to the Sign On Clerk when going on meal break and
collect it back when meal break was finished, and
finally hand it in again at the end of the day. Again
a Sign On Clerk might be in a stroppy mood and refuse
to take your token, slamming the window shut and
making you wait. As a T.E. you were left in no doubt
that you were bottom of the food chain in the large
pond that was Delec.
The Head Cleaners only worked day shift, after
collecting your token, locking your bag in your locker
in the change/shower block, you would then walk to the
Head Cleaner's 'Office' which was a small brick
building near number 5 road I think, outside the north
end of the shed.
Here you would be allocated your (cleaning) job for
You also had to fill in a piece of printed paper with
your name, token number, level, (Trainee Engineman
Qualified, Unqualified, etc) date and time started and
finished, time of meal break, and what cleaning job
you did. Wax and Polish was usually written as 'Diesel
Panels' with the loco or locos numbers that you had
polished. This sheet had to be signed by someone in
authority and handed in at the end of your shift, with
your brass token, as this sheet went to the Pay Clerks
to calculate your pay. No signed sheet meant no pay
for that day.
For end of dayshift a Head Cleaner signed it. For the
end of Nightshift a Head Cleaner was there to sign it.
Only for afternoon shift was the Chargeman needed to
One particular Chargeman too often refused to sign the
sheet for T.E.s who had a 10.30pm or 11.30pm finish,
till the actual minute was reached. This meant the
next bus was 10.55 or 11.55pm. Train services were
pretty lousy at that time of night in the mid 1970s.
Many of the young T.E.s lived way out west,
Campbelltown area, Penrith area etc, one or two lived
in the Blue Mountains. Waiting the extra half hour for
the bus could add an hour or more to the actual time
you arrived home (for what was already a long trip on
an all stations train). On a Saturday or Sunday night,
if catching the 11.55 bus it was not possible to get
home at all till the first train the next morning many
I checked the T.E.s roster one week and saw I was on
the 3pm to 11.30pm shift on a weekend and saw I would
not be able to get home if that Chargeman was on.
Other T.E.s agreed it was bad and that I should see a
union rep. The union was very powerful in those days,
with 100% membership and popular, I doubt anyone would
have elected to leave it even if membership wasn't
compulsory (how times have changed).
Union Leaders from the AFULE were sometimes on the
nightly news, and when one was suspended from driving
for some reason, TV news film crews came to Delec to
interview him and make a news story about it.
A number of Union heavyweights worked at Delec. One of
the T.E.s pointed out one on the Union Leaders who was
on 'Local' (which meant a crew on Standby to relieve
any crew on long hours, or to do any other job that
came up). He was sympathetic when I explained the
issue, and put his arm around my shoulder like a
father and took me straight in to the Head Roster
Clerk, explained that it "was unsafe for a boy my
age to be made to wait from Midnight to Dawn on a
deserted railway station for a train home". The
Head Roster Clerk immediately changed the roster so
that I finished at 10.30pm, so that even if I did miss
the 10.25pm bus I would at least still get home that
night. Next time the Head Roster Clerk saw me he said
to just ask him if I had a problem with the roster, no
need to get the union involved. He was probably right,
and I didn't like to go to the union, but I felt I had
no authority, no influence and no power on my own.
A few weeks later I decided to try settle the matter,
so that it would no longer be an issue. There was no
way even the union could get the bus timetable
changed, so our finishing times would have to change.
We had to do an 8 hour shift, with unpaid time for a
break added on, so I wrote a letter asking that the
meal break be reduced from 30 to 20 minutes, so that
our finish time would be 20 past the hour, leaving 5
minutes to spare to catch the bus. The change was duly
implemented, the Head Cleaners seemed impressed with
my initiative. Not so some of the T.E.s who were
pretty mad at only getting a 20 minute meal break. The
angry ones all had cars.
Regarding wax and polishing 46 class. Actully I
recall these were the dirtiest of all locos. The
greenish brown grime on the roof washed down the sides
when they were operating in the wet. You could often
barely read the painted on number on the front for
grime. And they were painted a dull red over metal,
and the paint and metal was often deeply pitted,
making it hard to wax. Whereas 422 and 44 class had
what seemed to be fibreglass coated panels on the
sides which was easier to get clean. Maybe it wasn't
fibreglass but the side panels seemed to flex when
pressure was applied, and they were was easier to get
Like you I had little hard covered log books that you
picked up off the Sign On Clerk called Memo Books, and
recorded a lot of detail in them. In 1992 I moved
house and my wife urged me to be unscrupulous and
throw lots of 'junk' out, and these books got thrown,
all bar one. Now seems to have been silly to have
thrown them out, they took up little space.
I did the 2 week Trainee Enginemen school (all theory
mainly concentrated on safe working) conducted by Loco
Inspector Warren Bull, in a very old training room in
an old building somewhere near Museum station, in the
City. Warren Bull was a great guy. All the T.E.s in my
group were teenagers, one or two were maybe 21 years
I had a Staff Exam the following Monday at 8.00am
conducted by Cedric Fraser at Delec, and passed. Then
Tuesday and Wednesday consisted of 2 days of Ground
Instruction by Inspector H.Wright, which involved
coupling and uncoupling locos, hooking up the air
hoses, jumper leads etc, more of less 2 days of being
a Shed Fireman under H.Wright's watchful eye, and he
For Thursday and Friday I had 2 days of 'A' Trials.
This meant two days of being a 'fireman' with a
Driver, again accompanied by an Inspector, this time
Stan Shaw. He had a reputation of being hard on young
T.E.s but I got through OK, I don't think I gave him
cause to yell at me once. Day 1 saw me rostered on at
6.45am for 733 Diagram, 500 West Local, which was
light engine with 4436 from Delec to Clyde, then took
a train (don't recall what but may have been empty oil
pots) to Botany, then back to Clyde, where relieved,
then call truck back to Delec. A trip to Botany was
always included on your A Trial, as it required the
fireman to ring for and get an electric staff from the
machine at Marrickville Loop Staff hut, for the single
line section. You then had to affix it to a cane and
leather loop and harness to hand it out to a Shunter
at Cooks River as you went past. We must have done
shunting or had a lot of idle time at Botany, as total
hours worked that day were 9 hours even.
Friday I was rostered on at 6.40am for 734 Diagram,
again with a driver and Inspector Stan Shaw. This day
we went call truck to Pippita, relieved the crew of 37
Trip on 48147. 37 Trip that day went from Pippita to
Clyde, Clyde to Chullora, Chullora to North
Strathfield, North Strathfield to Darling Harbour.
There must have been some shunting and drop off or
pickup of loading at those locations but I don't recall
now. There we were relieved and went back to Delec for
8 hours 25 minutes worked. Stan Shaw told me I had
successfully passed. I was now a Trainee Engineman
Qualified, sometimes referred to as Trainee Engineman
Crew shortages saw me immediately rostered on the next
day, Saturday and Sunday, and worked the next 7 days
straight, which in effect was 12 days straight, given
the 5 days of training and tests that preceded it. I
then had 1 day off, 1 day on (which was an 11 hour
plus shift), another day off, then another 12 straight
This was the pattern for the next couple of years. I
was frequently rostered for 12 straight days, then 2
days off, then 12 straight days again. Often I would
be rung to come in on one of my days off, and
dutifully did, so was actually working 13 days
straight each fortnight. Often days off were wryly
referred to as "Pyjama Book Offs" as you
might finish at 4am on your day off, and be rostered
back on 1am the next day. In effect you had to spend
your day off sleeping. A typical day in loco at Delec
was between 8 and 12 hours long
Like you Tony, I was young and knew all my friends
were going out on Friday and Saturday nights, meeting
girls, and having fun, while I seemed to constantly be
at work. The money was great, but there was more to
life than money, particularly when you are that young.
I resigned at the end of 1978. I rejoined in 1984 in
the Traffic Branch. I figured that even though shiftwork
was involved in Traffic Branch, that most shifts would
be 8 hours with predictable start and finish times and
predictable rostering which would allow some social
life and free time. There was no way I was going back
to the pencil roster at Delec.
Thought it advisable to write a bit
more, while I have some spare time and am in the frame
of mind to write about it.
Regarding your comments about the later T.E. recruits
being university undergrads, etc in the 1980s.
In the mid to late 70s almost all T.E.s were in their
teens or early twenties. There were always a
sprinkling of older guys who were doing a "career
change" later in life, but these were always the
minority, 1 in 10 or less. Kojak and John The Baptist
were the only two that I clearly recall as being
already over 30 years old. Dave Watkins was a little
older than most (I was told he later made Loco
Inspector) but he said his parents insisted he learn a
trade as his first priority after leaving school. He
was maybe mid twenties.
I do recall another guy named Neil who was also mid
twenties, who came from somewhere out St Marys way. He
had long dark hair and beard. He was doing a Dentistry
Degree, and for some reason had a year off, and joined
the railway as a T.E. in Delec. In those days it took
a about full year from the day you started to get to
Engineman Class 1. He passed his 'B' Trials to become
a Class 1 Enginemen and resigned the next week. He
told me if he failed his last year of Dentistry he'd
be back. He must have passed, he didn't come back.
Guys like this were not the norm. Most of the
Trainee Enginemen might just as easily have been
apprentices. Probably many applied as Apprentices and
lucked out and were offered T.E. jobs. Few had senior
education (Year 12), quite a few hadn't completed
junior (Year 10). As a result some of them were pretty
rough around the edges. Long hair was all the rage
back then, and it was long, mostly shoulder length or
longer, and some had facial hair as well. Tattoos and
earrings were also sported by a few. Unlike today when
it seems that everyone under 35 has tattoos as some kind
of personality or fashion statement, in those days
tattoos were for tough guys, army or navy servicemen,
bikies, or people who'd done prison time. Few if any
had any love of locomotives, or railways in general.
If any did they kept it to themselves. Some talked
about drugs, but I never saw any at work, used at
work, or anyone obviously affected by drugs at work.
A couple of T.E.s got the sack while I was in the
shed. Back then a criminal record would exclude you
from public service jobs, and some didn't declare it
when they joined up. When the police checks eventually
came back (no computers in those days) they were
summoned to the DLE's office and sacked. No use going
to the union if you had form. One guy from Mt Druitt
called Wayne tried unsuccessfully to appeal his
sacking. Another guy from Mt Druitt named Steve
apparently had a more minor conviction as the DLE
spared him, after a talking to. He was embarrassed by
it and wouldn't tell me what he'd been done for when I
A bit of bullying occurred amongst the T.Es, from time
to time. This usually was resolved by other tougher
T.Es who would pull the bully or bullies into line.
The toughest guys didn't like to see the weaker guys
being picked on.
I recall also hearing of drivers 'knocking off' diesel
for 4 wheel drives, and the dire predictions it would
ruin their engines. I have no idea if there was any
truth in the thefts or the damage it might do.
Mongrel Micks only word was too rude to put to print, but it was his
only phrase of English. I found it amusing that it was
his answer to everything, the louder he said it
indicated whether it was his used in as a friendly
greeting, a non committal comment or a curse. He was a
real character, shaped like a non festive Santa Claus.
One thing that did occur often, was loco crew's cars
were stolen from the car park. Several disappeared
Lots of Trainee.Engineman quit in the first year or two. Similar
reasons to myself I think, the 12-13 day fortnights,
and long shifts of commencing and finishing any hour
of night or day wore them down. Generally anyone who
stayed long enough to make it to Class 3 Engineman was
then in for the long haul.
Most Class 3 Enginemen (and above) were married, so
possibly they were already more settled, though the
hours must have put quite a strain on many of them.
The pay was very good though, so this may have been a
compensating factor. At that time (1970s) many wives
made a professional life of being a homemaker and
mother, though at least a few of the drivers wive's
had their own careers.
At the north end of Delec, in Chullora there was a low
rise complex of flats or units, 2 or 3 small blocks in
total if I recall correctly, owned by the railway.
These were for Delec drivers, their wives and
children, in effect they were 'Married Quarters' like
they have for military personnel. There was a waiting
list to get a unit. They had the twin attractions of
being 5 minutes from work and were very cheap, the
rent being subsidised. They looked very unattractive,
like 1960s housing commission flats, but there was
never a shortage of drivers wanting to live there.
They were commonly referred to as "Peyton
Place" by older drivers. Drivers who didn't live
there claimed that with driver's irregular and long
hours there was a lot of "extra marital"
activities going on there. I have no idea if it was
just groundless rumours, or there was any truth in it.
It was said that Railway Detectives would 'set up' opportunities
to catch thieves amongst the staff at many
locations, including Delec. A common trap was said to
be a brand new car battery left unattended somewhere
around the shed on a weekend or after the day shift
had gone home. The 'D's would place it somewhere they
could see it at a distance, 'stake it out' and wait
for someone to be tempted to pick it up and put it in
the boot of their car. They would then swoop, and nail
the guy. Many drivers swore this had occurred. This
would very likely get the culprit the sack.
Once on afternoon shift, a new looking car battery did
appear near number 1 road. I thought it curious,
having heard the rumour. One of the rostered Shed (loco) crew saw it, and sought to foil the sting. He
picked it up and ran as fast as he could with it,
direct to the Loco Chargeman's Office to report he had
found an unsecured car battery and wanted to turn it
in so it could be properly secured. The D's hadn't
expected anyone to run into the shed with the battery,
so got out of their car, hidden amongst the driver's
cars in the carpark and gave chase, arriving at the
Chargeman's office just as the Driver had plonked the
battery on the Chargeman's desk and made his 'sincere'
statement. Nothing the D's could do to such an honest
conscientious Driver, they left with their battery. I
hadn't run to the Chargeman's office, I was staying
well clear, but heard the story of what happened there
Regarding your list of Drivers from 2005. I'd be happy
to see it.
I don't actually recall any of the drivers you listed.
I don't think I fired for any of them, but there were
so many drivers at Delec its not surprising. One Union heavyweight who I was rostered on with once
or twice was Dale Casson. The President of the AFULE
was also at Delec, but was not the same guy you wrote
of. I can't recall his name now but it will come to
me. I'm pretty sure there was another union heavy with
the surname of Stanaway, but I may be wrong.
Regarding Hans Schmidt. I don't recall him, but going
through my only remaining log book, I was rostered
with him at least once. Sunday 4th December 1977 I was
rostered on at 8.16am for N93, STN 690, Spent Ballast
Recovery train. We prepped 48154 at Delec, light
engine to Pippita, shunted Pippita, then took N93 from
Pippita to Thornleigh. I don't recall what N93 looked
like, but spent ballast recovery trains usually
consisted of flat wooden decked 4 wheel wagons, much
like an 'S' truck without any sides or ends. We then
were relieved on site later in the day, returning via
public transport to Delec, signing off for a 7 hours
22 minutes long shift. Appears that at least one rail
line or both were closed for this work as we had to
catch a bus from Hornsby to Epping, then back on the
train to Strathfield, then bus to Delec.
Time for "crib", I'll write more later
for reducing the 30 minute unpaid crib break to 20
mins! I actually enjoyed it!!--Should have been a paid
meal break, coming from the Traffic Branch (Stations/Signal
Boxes) we all enjoyed paid 20 minute
meal breaks on the straight 8 hour shift.
Same when I got on the road as a TE, all paid 20 min
Crib only on the spare occasion back in the shed did I
have to do the 20 min crib my own time...ahhh them's
the breaks hey.
Lived at Oatley at the time so always drove my car
to Delec. I could do it in a 20-30 min's so no big
deal. Only once (car in for repair) I went by rail all the
way Oatley-Redfern-Stathfield-Bus-Delec. (nearly
90min's) so that's why I always went by car. PS: I
conned a call truck driver to take me home at the end
of my shift
I was a young feller at the time. (19-24 years of age
at Delec) I had a bit of a friendly but larrikin
personality and got on well with most blokes there,
inc drivers, fireman, chargeman, Loco Inspectors and
shed staff (fitters and mates) So never had any
problems or clashes with others at the time.
Wow matey! You have a good memory. Unfortunately mine
is not is good as it should be (and I should be doing
more crosswords or brain training etc) but a "lot of water" has passed under the
bridge since then, and various jobs.
I think Ray Morris AKA as "Kojak" was just
appointed driver (3 or 5) and John the Baptist as a
Class three when I first started (1980) ie newer
drivers/mature or older age group than me.
I remember a Neil Bickerton but transferred to South
Grafton (SOG) with my old mate Tony Ryan--so probably
not same Neil. Dave Watkins rings a bell.
Yes most Class Three's were there for the good.
Married with kid's or with girl partners etc, so they
did not mind the Overtime. I worked with a few
drivers/guards who lived at "Peyton Place"
My first regular driver Tony Ryan wasn't an overtime bloke, so
we just did our shifts as required on the roster. But
my second regular driver Vince Jelley loved the OT, so I
was making big bucks (as a perm fireman) but not much
social. Inc 13 day fortnights and sometimes 26 days
straight. (one day off beginning of 1st fortnight and
other end of 2nd fortnight)
After while with Vince I dropped doing all the OT he
was doing, but sometimes I then had to wait a day or
two to get back with him on the roster. (but Vince
knew I needed social life as young batchlor)
The Uni or well educated Train Crew (Trainee Drivers
for second persons) only started appearing after I
left in the mid 1980's with David Hill OIC. (new
recruitment guidelines--best educated only, thank you!)
If I had of stayed on and been appointed as a Class 5
Engineman Driver; I would have been in the last batch
of Fireman/Observers to be appointed from the
Locomotive Branch. (3 man train crew) Not long after
that the brake vans disappeared and guards and
observers become second persons. (2 man train crew)
The Traffic Branch/Locomotive Branch merged.
I am trying to find the 2005 Enfield Drivers Roster in
my paper files, and will show it as soon as I find it
Mick was a chapter of his own if there
was a book written for this period.
"Special Class" , "Tender
first" and "deal 'em up"
were the sum total of his English
vocabulary. I often saw him leaving
Platform 9 (Whelan's ) prior to him
catching the old V8 petrol Leyland bus
to work. I know his son quite well and
he is a top bloke and worked in the
traffic branch and was the SM at Nth
Sydney in the 90's.
"Handlebars" and "Castaknackers
" are other fuelman I recall, both
being infamous for different reasons.
The latter arrived at work immaculately
attired in a suit complete with
briefcase and changed into his filthy
overalls to work his shift. As for
personalities, the list would be endless
in the driving ranks. Mainly all
champion blokes though. Stan
Szuszkiewicz springs to mind, Henry
Kielkivicz, Stan Karnavicz, Wally
Raudonikus (Tommy's dad) Edgar Strauss,
Charlie Burns, Ron Ostara, Bill Valich,
Ray Sullivan (The Cardinal) Harry and
Jack Sungren, Jack Pittman, Kerry Jones,
Bob Thiele, Ken Groves (pick a box) Joe
Buttegig, George Sullivan, Pat Shanahan
Charlie Morris are just a few I can
You wouldn't believe it; I
cannot find that Enfield Drivers Roster of 2005! But
will keep looking for it.
I will tell you a "funny confessional
I was out on the road as TE qualified for a few
months. (in 1980) I was nearly ready for the Class
One fireman trials (Emu Plains to Wolli Creek gravel
trip train with norm of 2 x 48 class)
But because I was was put back in the shed for a few
days/nights I was sort of in "easy street"
ie only mop/sweep the departure road loco's when
requested by train crews as a senior TE. (>500
hours) I was actually rostered on a particular Sunday night
backshift cleaners shift with no Benny or head
cleaners to hunt me down. A mate invited me to a
club before I signed on for a party drinks for his
Normally, I would not touch a drop before work, esp
before a fireman's shift out on the road, but
thought that only in the shed that night as a TE
qual. senior cleaner, it would do no harm just
having a "few"
Well; then when I went to work on the 2200 hrs
(10pm) backshift, I got the biggest surprise of my
life. I only had my cleaning T shirt and stubbie
shorts on as it was mid summer and a hot night. The
roster clerk told me that I am going to Broadmeadow
and camp! (barracks job) with a Polish driver name
(such and such)
Even though I desperately wanted to go North to
Newcastle (Broadmeadow) as I had never been there by
freight trains or barracks there, I said to the
roster clerk I have no barracks "Tucker
box" (food/billy-tea/coffee to take) or my
engineman "prison" greens on (Drivers and
Firemans Engineman green uniform) and trying
to cover up my indiscretion with a few drinks before
He told me go home ASAP and get 'em!! I told him by
the time I get back it will nearly 1 hour. He said
no problem as there is no more relief fireman's
available, and the driver does not sign on till 2300
(11pm) (The other perm fireman who was rostered to
go to Barracks with the Polish driver rung up sick
So after going home and back ASAP in the call boy
truck in less< 1hour it was a hot night and I was
very sober by now! (and very fearful what the night
would bring) Back at Delec I had to couple up 3x46
electric class loco's to whistle out with. ie Six
Heavy jumper couplings to join up ie 3x2=6. (and
very hard weight and heavy to position in as most
engineman knew) I was a ball of sweat with my loco
greens on (long sleeve shirt and trousers) but
finally left Delec and Enfield Yard on time.
We got as far as Gosford and then onto Broadmeadow
with 3 diesels.(change over from 46 class electrics
to diesels there) I never got one word off the "Polish"
driver the whole shift except when I first
introduced myself to him, and once near Gosford and
told me not to use the whistle late at night on the
level crossings there. He also made me hit the
"vigo" button all night from the fireman's
He probably smelt the amber liquid on me and Man!
wasn't I getting punished unofficially for it. (naughty
boy) Finally got Broadmeadow barracks just before sunrise
and a nice cool shower to ease my mind and body off
before sleeping. Yes; first experience at Broadmeadow Barracks job. (and first and last being a naughty boy at the job
at Delec...I think)
OK I do remember Mongrel Mick
had a few more phrases now. When loco crews on shed
duty would give him some cheek, he would call them
'special class' as some sort of mockery, at least
that's how I saw it. I do remember him impatiently saying 'deal em up' re
the card games too. I don't remember 'tenderfirst'. He
had another phrase he would say all the time that was
three swear words pronounced as a single word. You'd
hear this every time he'd look at the hand he had been
dealt. You'd hear him say it as a reply for any
occasion at all.
I remember Casternackers but I didn't know that was
his name. I remember him well in his suit with his
briefcase, as all the others just dressed casually to
leave work. Some of the young T.Es would mock him a
bit when going down to the bus stop after day shift,
but not too obviously.
I remember most of those names on your list and worked
with about half of them, for at least one or two
shifts. I'd agree they were all top blokes. Bill
Valich was very unpopular with the young firemen.
Usual reason a driver was unpopular was because he
either told them off for some reason, made them push
the vigilance button, or wouldn't let them sleep, or
all 3 reasons.
Most of those guys were near retirement even in those
days, if still alive they'd be very senior citizens by
I was told Kenny Groves was a steam enthusiast and had
published some books on the topic. I fired for him
once. I think he told me had visited England, and
loved the place and the lifestyle. He also liked the
BBC TV channels, he reckoned they had much better
programming than we had here.
A few others were George Herzic, Roy Hilton, Bill
Tanner, Royce Mack, A Griskauskis, Athol Wight, Brian
Kelly, Bill Mullholland, Pat Zentsky, Johnny
Abberfield, Stan Shakoff, W Ogrodniewicz.
What about Turbo Torrens ? He was a well known
Quote: Thanks for reducing the 30 minute unpaid crib break to 20
I was told that some of the T.Es were "going to
get me" (that meant beat me up) for getting the
meal break reduced. I didn't worry about it and
Yes I think the T.E. job was the only one I ever had
on the railway that had an unpaid meal break.
Quote: I will tell you blokes a "funny
LOL again. That was a great anecdote. Expecting a
sleepy night in the shed, and wind up in Broadmeadow
instead. I remember how hard those 46 jumper couplers
were to put in, the diesel jumpers just slid in and
were easy by comparison.
I remember once going to Broadmeadow for a Barracks
job with a well known grumpy driver. He wasn't an old
guy, maybe 40. He was very serious and unsmiling when
ever you saw him, lean with long limbs, with fair
hair, I think his wife was a school teacher. He had a
reputation amongst the firemen for being very
unpleasant to work with.
Can't recall his name and that job is in one of the
memo books I threw away, so can't look it up. He made
me push the Vigilance Button the whole trip, which was
no big deal, most drivers expected this, but if I
lapsed and let the light flash even once, he would
yell at me from the other side of the cab. I think it
was one of the longest trips I ever had, the whole
trip done in the hours of night, and with the type of
rostering we were on (the 12 days straight) I was
exhausted. It was one of those nights where I had no
idea how I was going to manage to stop from falling
asleep. He was the only driver I ever worked with who
drank coffee in the cab. Every other driver brewed up
a billy of tea on the hotplate, not this guy. He drank
his coffee black and made cups frequently, and so did
I that night, he was thoughtful enough to offer me a
cup each time, though in those days coffee make me
feel sick, but feeling sick was preferable to getting
abuse and threats from this guy.
On a couple of occasions I had to fire for out of
depot drivers, at short notice, when their fireman
went sick in barracks. One was a Goulburn Driver. At
that stage we had a T.E. in the shed who was a First
Grade Rugby League footballer. He had just been signed
to Wests Rugby League Club (when Wests played at
Lidcombe and the Club was at Ashfield), and he had
come up to Sydney from Goulburn. In those days
footballers were not 'professional' and had to have a
regular job, the money paid to play football was
closer to beer and cigarette money, particularly as
this guy was 'new talent' and yet to prove himself in
First Grade. So this guy joined the railway as a T.E
at Delec Enfield. This guy was mentioned a lot as a
new star in the Sports sections of the newspapers, he
was big news. I used to wax and polish with this guy
in the shed. On breaks he'd sometimes jog down
Departure Road to South Box and back.
I asked the Goulburn Driver if he knew of this guy, He
said of course he knew of him, everyone did. I told
the Goulburn Driver that he was working as a T.E. at
Delec Enfield and he flatly refused to believe it. I
couldn't convince him otherwise, he reckoned if I
wasn't lying, then I was mistaken.
He went on to be a player of some repute, including
one State of Origin appearance. Gavin Miller. He has
an entry in Wikipedia, but it doesn't mention his
Delec days, not surprisingly http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gavin_Miller.
I don't think he lasted long at Delec, probably 6
months, the shift work in the shed must have affected
his training days, being on the road would have been
impossible. I spoke to someone who hailed from
Goulburn a few years ago, and they said he owned a pub
in Goulburn these days
All these names have started the
memory bell back.
I'm a bit shy now to tell you and the audience my
name; but our/my trademark was "Jippor" or
"Jack Jippor" in full.
Tony Ryan gave me that. Not sure what it really meant,
but we left our/my trademark in ink pen, on most
diesels we worked on. Naughty boys again. I also had another called the "Oatley Boy or
Oatley Rissole King" from the drivers/father and
son of M and D Ritchie. I'm still nicknamed Jack, right even upto now.
blokes do not realise it's my nickname.
I don't recall your mate Tony Ryan, someone told me he also started back in 1976, a couple of
months before me. I guess I probably knew him, but
my memory has a lot of leaks. Unique sounding
nickname he gave you Did you keep in touch
with Tony ?
I remember inside the nose area of locos was written
in chalk the word JET, in a highly stylised old
fashioned capital letters. I was told this was a
fitter's nickname. He must have been a Delec fitter
because I dont think I ever saw a loco in Delec
without JET written in it.
I remembered the name of the President of the AFULE
when I was at Delec, he was a Delec driver named Joe
Booth. I worked with him at least once, he was an OK
Remembered working with another driver named Athol.
He was a nice old guy. I recall shunting at Darling
Harbour one Saturday afternoon and being in a quiet
mood, because I was working another weekend, when
I'd much rather have been somewhere else. I remember
Athol was trying to cheer me up, or so it seemed, by
trying to make a bit of conversation while we were
sitting idle, but I wasn't much interested in
talking. I asked about Athol some years later, from
a Delec driver I kept in touch with and was told he
was no longer alive. Seems he had been terminally
ill for some time, but kept working and didn't tell
anyone, and kept working till he was no longer
able. Finding that out put my imagined problems into
a bit of perspective. I rightly felt like a heel,
here was a terminally ill driver trying to cheer me
up ! He was all class, no doubt about it.
One driver that put the wind up firemen was Desi
Desi had an ex-boxers face. He was quite short, but
not unfit looking. He wasn't young, but he wasn't
old enough to be harmless either.
It was well known he hated long haired young
firemen. As I posted earlier, most firemen had long
hair in the 70s. Many of my fireman mates had
stories about him. Seems Desi would wait until the
loco was in a total darkness, particularly in a
tunnel, then would turn out all the cab lights if
they were on, and the headlight, and in total
darkness would sneak over to the fireman's side of
the cab, and without warning would punch the
fireman. Not a king hit, or an incapacitating heavy
blow, but a sharp jab, that would still hurt, and
hurt a lot.
He would then go back to his seat, leaving the
fireman bewildered, if not terrified, and when the
loco emerged back into the light, Desi would be
sitting in his seat as if nothing had happened. He
was infamous for this. Jobs down the south coast with Desi were the worst
as there was one long dark single track tunnel in
those days, at Stanwell Park I think. I've been told
its since been replaced.
Some firemen said that when all the lights went out
in a tunnel, Desi would throw something at them,
like some rags, but not punch them.
I was rostered on a coast job with Desi, in multiple
48s. I was aware of what might happen, and was
braced to try to anticipate and avoid any attack.
Desi snuck over, and I felt a soft tap on my upper
arm with a finger, nothing more. When back in
daylight, Desi was back in his seat as if he had
never left it. He was definitely an odd one.
INFO: Just a quick note on some of those fella's
you have mention.
Old Hans retired round 5 years ago, John Abberfield is up in the NW workin for El Zorro last
I heard. John the Baptist is still at Enfield after leavin DELEC a while back to work with
ARG. 'JR' John Richards is still at
Enfield. Kojak retired maybe 3 years ago as did Paul Butler, Pat Zensky is at Chullora for PN
Intermodal. A few other senior men that are still at Enfield are Jim Bruce, Ian Frost, Bob Swhager, Steve Foldhazy, Brian Sullivan and PC Hall just to name a few who are still around. And NUTS n BOLTS is on City Rail somewhere!
Yes, even the electrics get the grime
from the pantographs to the overhead. (like mentioned
first day for me TE on the 46 class clean/wax!)
and 4201 was still running around while I was there in
Green and Yellow colours with 4836 (125th years
NSWGR) and a couple more 42's around.
But found out to be careful climbing in the cabs after
a heavy night.
I did also move the last 43 class as the shed fireman,
from the paddock to the departure road, after that
unknown address, prob. Chullora. (last 43 class retired that day and went out of
I know Warren Bull was very particular in the block
schools, with also Cedric Fraser in Safeworking.
I think at the time V/R engineman only had to know the
as the V/R fitters etc went travelling/mobile to any
defect on the engines/air.
But when I came back as a Terminal Operator (TO) as
The Examiners course was condensed into 3 weeks from
the old 8 week
Car and Wagon examiners schools.
Not only we had to trace the air all the way through
the wagons and different wagon types, but they
expected us to be a "wagon engineer".
Thank goodness we had two patient and understanding
But in real life at FreightCorp as an examiner doing
FX1's, we were only doing minor wagon repairers or cut
the "air" out, any other problem out of
Botany it was the green/orange carded for Enfield or
Red Carded left in the repair Sleigh or Loco siding.
But still even today they expect Train and Ground
crews in NSW to know everything back to front and inside out.
Loco's and Wagons)
Talk about 3 ground relays in the brain! (Snap )
I remember Animal Smith was unpopular
due to his habit of expectorating frequently. Many
claimed he did it inside the cab, down behind the
brake stand. I worked with him a couple of times, but
I don't recall him doing that. He did have some cheap
gold plated (probably brass plated) chains in his
pocket that he had picked up cheaply somewhere he was
trying to flog them off for a few bucks each. He
"guaranteed" that if I bought one and gave
it my girlfriend I'd get "a naughty for sure".
He reckoned any sheila would give you a naughty for one
of these chains. What a character ! I passed up the
amazing opportunity to buy one of these chains from
him. His salesmanship gave me a great laugh, I think
he knew he was doing a good impression of a
comedian/conman. He later was trying to sell one of
these chains to the shunters at Rozelle yard, with the
same sales pitch. Sorry to hear he has passed on.
I remember the Driver Seniority lists used to be
pinned up in the sign on room, on several sheets of
quarto sized paper, every driver listed from Number 1
down. Every so often (maybe once a year) the list was
revised, and a new one put up.
Back when I was at DELEC, in the mid-late 70s, the
'Fireman' was the term given to the second man in the
cab, obviously throwing back to the not long departed
Many drivers harped on a bit about how tough they had
had it shovelling coal for 8 or 10 hours when they were
Firemen, and what a bludge Firemen now had. This seemed
to be why some of the drivers seemed to strongly dislike
Sometimes the Fireman was called an 'Observer', which
was not common but kind of apt as the main use of the
non driving person in the cab, when shunting was to
relay the hand signals being given by the Shunter or
Guard when they couldn't be seen from the Drivers side
of the cab, particularly when forward of back vision was
restricted, as on the 48 and 45 class diesels. Out on
the road you would call out the trackside signals, again
for the locos with restricted frontal views, as with 48
and 45 class locos, particularly when they were long end
leading. You were supposed to be learning the roads,
knowing where all the signals were.
Two greens was called out as 'TWO' (usually loudly
over the noise of the loco) Green over yellow was
'ONE AND A HALF', Green over red was 'ONE'. I'd usually
hold up one or two fingers just to be sure I was
One Driver and Fireman wound up being reduced for 3
months as a penalty for going through a signal at stop.
The Driver was put back as a fireman, and the Fireman as
a Cleaner. I knew them both well, I later was the
regular mate of the Driver.
This was an unwelcome penalty as their pay rates were
I knew the Fireman well, and eventually he told me what
happened. He was driving on the Goods line between
Rozelle and Enfield. He was only a Class Two and should
not have been driving, but some drivers did let their
Fireman who were not qualified as Acting Drivers, drive
if they trusted them.
(As another driver once said to me, who insisted I
drive, even though I was a Class Two Enginememan,
"how else are you going to learn ?". I'm
pleased that I never made a mistake that got myself or
my driver into any trouble while driving when I should
not have been. I left when I was a Class 2 Enginemen.
Only Class 3 enginemen (and above) who had been through
Acting Driver's Schools and passed the tests were
permitted to drive.)
Somewhere near Dulwich Hill they got a warning that a
track gang was working, probably they ran over some
detonators. Then saw a flagman standing in front of a
colour light signal holding a red flag and they stopped
their train. After a short time the track gang had
stopped what they were doing and stood aside with their
tools. The flagman then gave them a yellow flag to
proceed. The fireman released the brake, and opened the
throttle. They cleared the section the track gang was
working on and were stopped at the next colour light
signal which was red. After sitting at a signal at stop
for a while the fireman would usually climb down from
the loco and ring the phone attached to the signal to
talk to the signal box that controlled it. He did this
and was then asked why he had passed the last signal
when it was at stop. I don't know the exact
conversation, but the Fireman was made to realise that
the flagman with the yellow flag was not authorised, nor
was he authorising, for a signal at stop to be passed.
He was merely indicating that the track gang was clear
of the track. The loco needed a green flag to pass a
signal at stop.
The Signalman reported the incident officially, and a
Loco Inspector interviewed the Driver and Fireman. The
Driver hadn't been able to see the Signal or Flagman, (I
think it was a 48 class long end leading) he had
trusted his Fireman, that was his only mistake. The
Fireman had got them both in serious trouble. Had either
of them told the truth to the Inspector the Driver would
have been in more trouble, so he kept his mouth shut.
And looked like he had made a very fundamental and embarrassing error. Word soon got around the other crews
what had happened. Maybe this was another reason that
some drivers hated long haired young firemen !!
This Driver was a good bloke and I was on the Pencil
Roster with him as a regular mate for a few months,
about 6 months after he had served his penalty, been re
examined for safeworking, and resumed as a Driver. We
were headed south with a 422 leading a 421, on what used
to be called a Mayne Nickless Express bound for
Melbourne, on a dayshift. We would only take it to
Goulburn, being relieved there. This was a high priority
train, which was supposed to not be blocked or allowed
to run late. I don't have the details of the trip as it
was in a memo book I threw away some years ago, but I
remember a lot about this one. This was a cream trip,
much better than scrabbling around in shunting yard in a
48, or doing the little Trip trains between Clyde,
Pippita, Homebush Saleyards, Darling Harbour, Cooks
River and Enfield which was what we got rostered to do
most of the time. He had bought his younger brother
along, (unofficially) who was a Junior Station
Assistant. We were motoring along at a high rate of
knots past Campbelltown. I don't remember how many
signals were not fully cleared, before a signal at Stop
loomed into view. We saw it at the same time, having
good forward vision in the 422, but the Driver hadn't
been anticipating it, maybe having his brother along was
a distraction, for him or for both of us. He had his
large leather overnight bag on his lap, and when he
tried to shut the throttle, which was in 8 notch (fully
open) the bag prevented him from moving it. He then
hastily tried to get the bag off his lap, but in his
haste he was fumbling, it got wedged, and too late he
got it off his lap, closed the throttle, and applied the
braked hard. We sailed past the signal at stop, both
locos and a few long bogie wagons being past the signal.
It was a Home Signal I think. Back then the line down
past Campbelltown and Glenlee was purely pastoral, just
cow paddocks and gum trees, I guess its all housing
The Driver seemed unflustered, though he always kept a
very calm exterior. He told me to climb down and ring
the signalbox. I was quietly crapping myself. As I
sprinted back I already knew there was no way I was
going to say the driver had been unable to shut off the
throttle because he was going through his bag looking
for something, and it got stuck. I rang the signalbox
and someone answered. I don't recall our exact exchange
of words, but he said he knew we had passed the signal
from his diagram board , and asked why. I explained we
had only just passed it, just enough for a wheel to
register on the mark. I don't recall what else was said
but he was OK about it, and advised me that Number 13
(a passenger train) was ahead of us, so to wait for a
couple of minutes then proceed carefully on to the next
signal, as it may not be clear yet.
When I walked back to the loco and climbed into the cab
I couldn't resist stating that the Signalman said we
were in deep trouble, to remain where we were, and a
crew would be sent out to relieve us. The Driver's
little brother looked like he was going to have kittens.
He volunteered to climb out of the cab and walk to the
next railway station and go home. The Driver refused to
believe my story, so I told him what the signalman had
said, and we set off again, kind of relieved that all
But this wasn't the end of an 'interesting' day.
South of Campbelltown the track gradient begins to rise
into the Southern Highlands. Though the 422 was making a
deafening racket in 8 notch, we were not moving at a
great speed. The Driver thought something must be wrong
with the 421, hooked up behind the 422. Maybe a jumper
cable had come loose or had failed. He told me has going
back to look, and to sit in the driver's seat while he
did. He walked through the engine room looked out the
back windows of the 422 at the 421, then walked back
through the engine room to me in the Driver's seat. He
said he was going to have go back to the 421 to check
it. I was aghast. There was no direct access or door or
walkway, he would need to open the side door of the 422,
reach back for the handrail that runs across the front,
and pull himself around. The 421 was number one end
forward, so no easy access into it either, if it had
been number 2 end forward there was an entry door. So I
was going to have to drive, with his little brother as
my fireman, while he did a 'Runaway Train' type of
scramble out the side of the loco and into the other. I
should add that this driver was a real short and stocky
guy, with short arms and legs to match. I was 6 foot
with long arms and legs, and I knew it would have been
hard enough for me to do what he was going to attempt. I
was unfamiliar with the gradients and the signal
locations so being an unsupervised driver was not
welcome news. It was clear to me he could easily fall
while trying to get into the 421. This was going to be
hard to explain, if the worst happened, but he was the
Driver, best I could do to help, was do what he told me
to do. No use me going back instead, though he didn't
even suggest this, I didn't have the knowledge to
troubleshoot what might be wrong with the 421.
As the minutes grew from single to double digits, I sat
in the Drivers seat of the 422, with the throttle in 8
notch the whole time, as we were just crawling along. I
was becoming increasingly worried that the Driver had
slipped and fallen, and was thinking I'd have to stop
the train at the next attended station and report he had
gone missing. Not sure how I was going to explain how
that had happened. Being unfamiliar with the road we
were on, and being a unnerved about the passed signal at
stop back near Campbelltown, I also was paranoid about a
repeat of that happening while I was in control.
I'd done a small amount of shunting driving in yards and
on Trip trains at low speeds along familiar roads in 48s
and 73s running light engine, but under constant
supervision by my Driver, but here I was a totally
unqualified , inexperienced and unsupervised teenager
in control of a Mayne Nickless Express with an untrained
Junior Station Assistant as my mate.
When I'd given just about given up hope, he re-appeared
through the engine room door. I gladly gave him his seat
back. He explained the 421 had shut down and he couldn't
restart it. He said we should cut it off first chance we
got. No good dragging it dead to Goulburn it had to go
back to Delec for inspection and fix. The next available
place to do that was Bargo, which had a small siding or
loop. We cut off the 421, updated its log book that it
had shut down, and off we went again. We arrived in
Goulburn well behind schedule, and were relieved by a
A few days later a Delec crew in the Sign On room told
us they were headed north on a freight (after a night
in Goulburn Baracks) and had been told by Control to
stop at Bargo and pick up the 421. They tried
desperately to start it as they were already on a
doubleheader, and three locos hauling a train attracted
a "triple header allowance" which was about
$30 extra in your pay, which was a lot of money in 1977.
They advised us that sadly they couldn't get it started,
so hauled it dead attached.
About a week later a loco inspector approached us when
we were signing on. He wanted to know why we had shut
the 421 down. The fitters had examined the 421 and found
nothing wrong with it, except flat batteries. The Driver
explained we didn't shut it down, it shut itself down.
The Inspector pointed out that written in the log book
was "loco shut down", so why did we shut it
down. The Driver said he had written in the fact that
the loco had 'shut down' he wasn't saying he had shut it
down himself. The Inspector looked at us doubtfully,
pursued his point for a bit longer, then gave up, and
that was the last we heard about that rather eventful
I read some good yarns you wrote of your
railway memories on this website. I think its worthwhile
passing on some good old yarns from the recent past.
I worked with Greg Keenan my second day on the job. He
was working the Spray Pits. Didn't work with him for
very long, but thought he was a great bloke. He still
wore his grey school trousers at work. Soon after he
went to Trainee Engineman school to become 'Qualified'
and Cuthbert advised he went on to become Loco Inspector
I spent more than 2 years on the pencil roster, only
about 9 months in total of that time was with a few
different permanent mates, I was with a different driver
almost every shift the rest of the time. And with the
pencil roster you only knew 3 days ahead at most, what
you would be doing. Sometimes when you finished a shift
in the morning you didn't know what time you were
required next - the roster was still being updated, and
you had to ring back later in the day to find out !
It was like an unobtainable dream to be on the pen
roster where you knew what you'd be doing for a whole
week ahead, sometimes longer. Those rosters had all the
best jobs on them too, all the north and western
freights, written in days and weeks ahead. The pencil
roster seemed to have most of the smeggy jobs.
Someone mentioned a driver's name he was a well
known driver at Enfield. I fired for him at least once.
I won't mention his name.
Long after I left, and was living in another state, I
saw he made front page news in one or more of the Sydney
tabloid newspapers. The headline said "13 year old
boy drove this train" with a photo of a big diesel
hauled coal train underneath. It had a small photo of
the driver and his name. He was a well known Delec
The only Driver I kept in touch with from Delec visited
me a year or so later when he was on holidays. I asked
him about this story. He told me that the Driver in the
story had bought his son along, on a Glenlee coal train.
He had let him sit at the controls for a while, maybe
telling him to open the throttle, apply the brake etc
while the train was in operation. Everyone knows this
was breaking the rules. I couldn't imagine the boy was
unwatched and unsupervised for even a second, and I
don't know how long he was in the driver's seat, but
somehow doubt it was for long. He wouldn't have been the
first or last person to have done this. This event would not have come to light, but the fireman
reported what happened, and made an official complaint.
The "stuff" hit the fan big time, particularly
as the media found out about it.
This Driver was not very popular, when I was at Delec,
and over the years that had not changed. He was known to
be a bit of a mouth, and known to be quick to have a go
at other people if he perceived they were less than
perfect. However, apparently most of the loco crew in
Delec were firmly behind him, due to the fact that he
had been 'dobbed in' by his mate. That was a big no no.
The loco crews in Delec were very dirty on the fireman.
The Driver involved copped his penalty (cant remember
what it was) and evidently is still driving. Not
sure what became of his fireman.
And another short anecdote that I
have remembered, maybe others heard it too, I think its
This was not my own experience, but was told to me by
one of the old drivers (who had originated from
Europe) or someone who had fired for one of the old
Europeans, I cant remember which.
They were hauling a freight train in the Blue Mountains,
hauled by at least one 46 class.
The rails were wet and slippery, and having been stopped
at a signal, they were now having trouble getting the
train moving. The loco wheels couldn't get traction and
kept slipping, they had a heavy load and were on an
They were moving at barely walking pace, and the driver
got down and saw that the sand wasn't coming out of all
the sand pipes (a spray of sand being directed at the
rail just in front of each wheel onto the rail head, to
assist the wheels with gaining traction).
The Driver got back into the cab, and removed the Train
Brake handle from the brake stand. The Train Brake
handle was quite heavy and solid being made of brass and
told the fireman to get down and use the handle like a
hammer to tap the sand pipes to free any clogged sand,
so that they would work better, all the time while the
loco and train were moving at walking pace.
The Fireman bent down and commenced to tap away. The
outlet for this pipe is only an inch or two from the
wheel and rail. After a few taps, he dropped the handle.
And the wheel ran over it, destroying it. Without this
handle the train brake cannot be applied.....this is one
hell of a situation to be in hauling a heavy freight in
the Blue Mountains - the mountains are a series of up
and downhill gradients and the train would be
uncontrollable without the Train Brake handle, even on
level ground, and the nearest replacement would be at
Lithgow, Valley Heights or Delec.
I think they must have been a doubleheader, and had to
quickly scramble into the second unit cab to get its
Train Brake handle.
I think that's the last time either of that crew used a
Train Brake handle as a hammer.
Those 3 colour torches started to be issued in 1977 or
1978. Before that it was just the big heavy orange
handlamp, one being handed over for each loco before you
whistled out, and had to be handed back in when you
bought a loco into the fuelpoint. Glad to hear
that decent jackets, and gloves started to be issued.
In the mid-late
70s, loco crews didn't have a uniform of any kind, and
as far as I know, never had in the past either.
Loco crews could dress as they wished. Few dressed well,
as it was only work, and pretty hard not to get at least
a bit dirty or greasy during the day. Coupling up
locomotives, made your hands dirty as did putting in the
jumper couplers, hands were easy enough to get clean.
Getting down between the locos to join the brake pipe,
main reservoir and the two loco brake air hoses just
about guaranteed you'd brush your back on something, and
that something was always grimey, - much harder to get
Ratting around in the front nose area of a 44 or 48 (or
any loco) to check the kit was also a good way to get
some muck on your clothes, the insides of these were
often quite grimey. The big locos, 42s 44s etc had an
internal walkway right around the engine. Most
submarines had more walkway room than what existed in
these, and everything was filthy inside, again, very
hard to stay clean if you had to go in there. A labourer
was employed 24/7 on 1 road in Delec shed to mop the
engine room floors free of oil and grease, and also to
wipe the worst of the oil leaks off the side of the
engine but it didn't make much difference.
Many enginemen wore a blue boiler suit, (full set of
overalls) to work. If it was winter they might wear
jeans/trousers and a shirt underneath, if it was summer
maybe a pair of stubbies and a T Shirt underneath. Some
enginemen preferred bib and brace overalls, not many. A
few older drivers wore dust coats over their clothes,
though this made them look a bit like inspectors. Some
never wore any protective gear, so would go home with
grease, dust or oil marks on their clothes.
It was announced that all enginemen would be issued with
uniforms. I'm not sure if the union played a part in
this or not, but in those days the unions seemed to do a
lot of good for their members. This news was greeted as
long overdue, particularly as Guards, Shunters etc had
always had uniforms.
It took ages for the railway to get around to decide
what the uniforms would be, and as far as I know no
ordinary enginemen were included in the decision making
progress, and there was a lot of unsupported speculation
as to what they might look like. The first depot to get
them was Port Kembla. A lot of Delec Drivers I worked
with disliked Port Kembla crews. They were usually
referred to as "Coast C****".
It was considered typical that "Coast C****"
would be the first to get the uniforms. When some of our
crews relieved coast crews and saw the uniforms for the
first time, there was major disappointment from most.
The uniforms were dark green 100% polyester King Gee off
the shelf work gear. The same as you could buy from a
shop. Truck Drivers commonly wore this gear. No markings
or anything to indicate who you were employed by. The
jacket wasn't even lined, just one thickness of thin
material, not much use in the cold.
Even though most crews seemed to think the uniforms were
cheap, ill fitting, uncomfortable and generally smeggy,
they were still happy enough to get them.
Some drivers, stated that this was the exact same gear
given to guests in Her Majesty's NSW Prisons. When I
asked how they knew what was worn in prison, they said
one or two Delec men had served time. I don't know how
that came about given I knew Trainee Enginemen who had
been sacked for having a criminal record.
Later a lighter green shirt was issued to replace the
dark green, which improved the look of the outfit a bit.
Another item that was never issued was gloves to protect
Some Enfield trip trains would take containers to what
was called White Bay, a container terminal a bit past
Rozelle. An ASM had an office or humpy there, and if you
asked him, he would get 2 pair of gloves for the loco
crew from the container terminal operator. These were
issued to terminal workers on a daily basis - they got a
fresh pair as often as they needed them, and when worn
out thrown away. The gloves were white cotton, with a
pale blue chamois like material stitched into the palms.
They were perfect for giving shunting directions with,
as being mainly white they were highly visible. They
were not very well made and didn't last long. They were
a sought after item, you never failed to ask for a pair
when shunting White Bay. I don't know how or why gloves
were not issued to Enginemen.
Hats were never issued. I don't know why, Shunters were
issued felt brimmed hats. Guards were issued the rather
useless hats as worn by station staff, but as most
Guards had been Shunters at some stage most had a grey
felt hat that gave some protection from sun and rain.
These hats were hard wearing, lasted for years.
later issued heavier jackets were good,
with yellow or dark green artificial
'fleecy' lining. These were great for
winter nights, and draughty locos, and
chilly barracks jobs. Some of them had
the 'L7' and 'State Rail' on a front
pocket, and new ones often had their
lower back curl up like a duck's tail.
Strange, I thought, but on washing it
settled down. An interesting design, as
the makers must have known that the
lining would shrink more than the main
We were also issued with cotton
gardening-type gloves, which you could
request at sign-on. Also at sign-on you
could ask for 2 D cells for your
3-colour torch. Many enginemen had a
particular brand of AM/FM radio that
also took 2 D cells. When I bought my
radio, the shop assistant said, "I
bet I know where you work"!
Funnily enough, the demand for D cells
was very high around Christmas time. The
authorities soon twigged, and they would
only issue new batteries if you traded
in your old ones.
I spoke to a guy who was recruited in 1990 as a
trainee engineman. He advised he had to pass a maths and
His memory isn't fantastic of all the events, even
though it was only 21 years ago, but he advised the
He did no shed cleaning, from day one did two weeks
theoretical training at Petersham. Back in the 1970s
early 80s this was run and maintained by the Traffic
Branch and Shunter Training Schools were held there
regularly (I did a 3 week course there in 1980 or 81,
the practical learning done with a string of old wagons,
moved about with an X102 shunting tractor).
They then did a bus trip to Goulburn and Newcastle
stopping at all the sidings along the way to learn the
frames, points etc, as this was after Guards were gotten
rid of, pick up and drop off enroute was now the job of
the fireman (makes me realise I joined in the
"golden age" when I neither had to shovel
coal, or leave a warm loco cab at night to do the
He advises they stayed in Barracks in Goulburn and
Broadmeadow, where they enjoyed a few lemonades and
This guy advised that he then thinks he did 2 weeks in
the shed at Delec as a shed fireman, and was then passed
to "go on the road".
He only stayed for about a year, then resigned.
back--seems only yesterday now, but sad to see old Delec
has gone now. I think you should write a book or memoirs mate, you
have a better memory than mine, but here is some from
When I transferred from Traffic to Loco branch (1980) I
wasn't a real gunzel (never even heard that name then) I
liked the diesels but not a fanatic--and never carried a
camera with me---but looking back now--I should have and
kept all my diaries etc.
Uniforms: After the transfer from traffic to locomotive
branch, I swapped the traffic branch "blues"
light blue shirt, navy trousers etc, to the locomotive
As you mentioned it was all dark green at first, ie
shirts, trousers and thin jacket. If I remember rightly
(maybe wrong) it was not compulsory at the time and only
half the engineman wore it--or variants. (some only wore
the trousers/jackets and flannelet shirts etc) They did
get rid of the dark green shirts for the light greens,
and later the thicker weatherproof jackets. (I was lucky
still having the half duffle coat jacket issued to
traffic-station staff and 3/4 duffle coat shunters
jacket and was great in frosty Goulburn/Lithgow)
The best times: High Wheelers and green lights to camp.
Relief on the trip trains after 7 hours. Interesting
conversations. (esp old steam drivers)
Bacon/eggs/sausages on the frypan engine or barracks
The worst times. All night sitters. Stuck in barracks (or sent home pass. after
that) Stuck up drivers./lazy
brake van guards. Big fella Shunters All Traffic
Branch esp train control, senior SM's and Traffic
Inspectors Eveleigh drivers, Goulburn, Coast and
Broadmeadow. (them fighting words Bro. ) But Moss Vale,
Lithgow and Thirroul engineman were all OK ie did not
pinch all our work/or pick and choose it.
Best experience: first daylight express to Broadmeadow
and Goulburn. Worst experience; "Stuck Up"
coalie on a coast train, in teaming down rain, one
diesel failed, other two in consist wheel slip--had to
arrange for relief engines. Memorable; I suppose most shifts there are all pretty
good, but I did laugh taking an x100 class Delec/Enfield
to Clyde down yard.
Taking 4201 in it's green and yellow livery on a empty
wheat train. We were supposed to have a brand new air/cond
80 class engine in a hot summer day, but a someone in
train control/gunzel overided the Delec Chargeman so we
We picked up the empty wheatie at North Strathfield and
got as far as Menangle/Douglas Park--but had 3 ground
relays and failed her.
Another time we had one and a half engines going south,
Enfield to Goulburn. ie One main line diesel (I think a
442 and 48 class behind it) The 48 class would not
"pick up" from the front engine via the
jumpers, So I had to drive her (48 class) from the
shafts; with the Train Driver: Vince Jelley's hand
signal from the "Jumbo" 442, when to pick her
up into eight notch and when to let her go/ease her up
back into 1 notch. (no radios then)
Great to read some more of your memories
Tony, your memories have jogged a few of mine.
I recall that most Delec drivers had one big hate - and that was Guards. Most drivers saw these guys as bludgers having a sleep at the back of the train. On some trips guards may have had a bit of a snooze, but on the Trip Trains or long distance trains, when shunting, picking up or dropping off anywhere outside of a large yard, the guard was doing all the running around on the ground, and doing the paperwork of adding up the tonnages etc. The guards were paid less than drivers but not a real lot less, and many drivers resented this. Of course in my era
(diesels) the fireman didn't do much either, and as I've mentioned before, some drivers also resented this, but at least we were enginemen. Only a few drivers had a strong dislike of firemen, and some firemen were probably more disliked than others.
Time evidently resolved the Guard/Driver issue, when the guard's job ad brake vans were gotten rid of and the guard became the fireman. I wonder how some of the drivers reacted to that change when it was new, but that was after I'd left.
was resolved really badly. The jobs that
attracted tonnage payment were split
50/50, Firemen/Guards! There may have
been 50 guards, but there was 150
Firemen/Drivers (as an example) for the
Second Person seat on a tonnage job and
say 40 tonnage jobs. So, you guessed it,
the guards lost their job, and without
remorse, took away 50% of the good
working. It should have been pro-rata,
not 50/50. Although it wasn't the
individual guards that decided the
split, it caused great animosity toward
them from most Drivers and Firemen!
Eventually, the Guards that were left on
freight, transferred to be Trainee
Drivers and the Guards that Stagnated -
I never envied the guard, on his own at the back of the train. When I was a Shunter I'd been in every type of guards van, and they were all uniformly dusty and dull. They usually had at least one long bench seat the width of the van that you could lay on, but being at the back of the train the inside usually had a heavy layer of fine brake dust. Of course there was no heating or cooling that I recall except to open or shut a door !
There was a general shortage of brake vans in the late 1970s and early 1980s. When I was a shunter at Enfield, on some days, complete trains were delayed, sometimes for hours for need of a brake van. When a train arrived and was broken up, the van was quickly rolled down to a water point, which was a large gauge water tap with a long rubber hose, and this was jammed onto the water intake pipe on the van, and as soon as it overflowed, indicating the water tank was full, the van would be shunted down to the back of its waiting train.
There was also a shortage of locos. On many days there was a greater need for locos than were actually arriving at
Every morning, very early before 'sparrows fart' , a list was made of locomotives forecast for the day for various scheduled trains, passenger and freight. This list was typewritten, with several copies made, in an office at Central station. The list had a specific name, which I
can't recall. One of the junior clerks in the sign on room at Delec had to go in and pick it up at Central, then return to Delec with it. One copy went to the Shed Chargeman. He would update a blackboard in his office with the needs for the next 24 hours.
INFO: Would that list be called
the"AMBA"? Had to think long and hard to remember this one, but I may be wrong.
I used to have that job of obtaining this list from Central when I was a Call Boy at Eveleigh in the early 80's.
The list would state loco types needed as '44' or '48'.
'44' meant a mainline diesel was needed, not specifically a 44 class, so a 42, 421, 422, 43, 44, 442 or 45 class diesel could be allocated to that train.
'48' meant a branchline locomotive, so any of a 47, 48 or 49 class could be allocated. As the 47 and 49 class home depots were out west and up north they were very rarely seen, in practice at Delec, 48 meant 48.
The loco(s) need was based on tonnage of the day's trains, and where they were headed. A 1400 tonne train headed south would need a different amount of horsepower to a train headed north. In those days Delec crews also ran trains west and on the south coast line.
The list might look in part a bit like this
423S 7.55am Cooks River - Dynon 44 x 2,
711SC 8.12am Enfield - Port Kembla 44 x 1, 48 x 1
89G 8.24am Enfield - Glenlee - 44 x 1
503W 9.05am Enfield - Broken Hill - 46 x 3 and so on to fill an entire page or more for the entire days
I think alternatives were given too, for example; 44 x 2, or 44 x 1
and 48 x 2.
I'm not saying the list looked exactly like this, but was along those lines. It may also have had the projected tonnage of each train on the list.
A copy of this list went to the Shed Chargeman. He updated his own list
and a blackboard in his office by inserting in actual loco numbers, so he might allocate 42210 and 4206 to 423S as they were in the paddock, having arrived, fueled, sanded, checked by the fitters in the shed on 1 road, and cleaned, kits checked and replenished, and were ready to go.
The Chargeman might also allocate 4426, 48121, 48162 to 711SC, those locos also being in a similar state of preparedness. He'd obviously keep the Sign
On clerks advised as to what locos were on what job, as they'd write the loco numbers on the Driver's Sheet for him to pick up when he 'signed on', so he'd know which locos were his. The Driver would
also be told if his loco(s) were already prepped or not.
When preparing the list the Chargeman also had to ensure that none of the 42, 421, or 422 class locos went west or north. 43 and 45 were supposed to be rostered for the north where possible. 44 class could be sent in any direction. Of course there were exceptions to the rules at times, and over the decades the loco types had differing rules.
One rule that never changed was no more than 3 locos on the front of a train. This was an unbreakable rule, involving the union.
The Chargeman would make his own list of specific locos on hand and their required departure times, and this would be passed to the shift's Shed Drivers
(and firemen) and they would assemble the locos on Departure Road in correct departure order. The list would be updated continuously as locos left, and new ones arrived. There was a constant trickle
(some shifts more like a rush) of locos arriving for refuel and a check, before being moved to Departure Road, or if not
immediately needed, to The Paddock.
Sometimes the shed crew would also be asked to 'prep' the
departing locos, to save the crew who were taking the locos out, some time. This involved putting in the jumper couplings, doing up the
air hoses, testing the air and jumpers were working correctly, filling the water tanks
(which were for the crew to wash with, not drinking
water). Each locomotive had a metal rack with an empty glass wine flagon, this was topped up with water from a tap on the Departure Road. This lukewarm water was all the crew had to drink or make tea with.
(no Air Conditioning, no fridges, not even a fan on any loco in those
days). The toilets in the locos were also abominable, always smelly and filthy.
Delec was very busy a lot of the time in those days. 4 shed crews
(8 men) would be allocated to the Diesels for most shifts, and 1 shed crew
(2 men) for the Electrics, which were only 46 class at that time.
As crews 'whistled out' (as the term still was) with their locos on Departure Road, heading down towards South Box, the shed crews would move the other waiting locos down a bit further along the Departure Road to make room to add more.
The crews could be kept very busy, sometimes for most of the shift. Some days or nights there was a fair amount of time spent lounging around in the refueler's humpy.
When it was very busy (and no bosses were about on nightshift or a public
holiday) my Driver might get me to make simple loco movements on my own, while he did likewise, for example we might each move a single loco from the fuel point to the entry of number 1 road in the shed, following each other down. If points needed to be thrown we'd work as a team, me hanging off the side, him driving. It could be a very busy 8 hours, taking locos to the shed, into the shed, out of the shed, to the
Departure Road, paddock, spray pit, wheel lathe road, or other roads in and around the shed. 42, 43 and 45 class locos might have to be turned on the turntable to make sure they were facing Number 1 end leading for their trip to
Broadmeadow, Gouldburn or wherever. On quiet shifts a driver might ask me to move some locos down to the shed, so that he could finish his round of cards with Mongrel Mick and the others, or finish his brew, or smoke.
Despite the careful planning there were not always enough locos, particularly in 1978. There was a
'hierachy' or priority, and at the time Glenlee coals were lowest, and they would go unallocated if there were not enough locos.
I can recall on some shifts being rostered on a Glenlee Coal. These basically did a run to Glenlee empty. They loaded at
Glenlee, then went to Rozelle (via Enfield, or the goods line at
Delec) where you dropped the loaded train, then coupled up to an empty coal train, then back to
Glenlee, and repeat. This would go on 24/7 at times, and you would usually relieve a crew at Delec platform on their way to
Rozelle. A mainline loco was usually rostered for these jobs, like a 44 or sometimes a 46 class. The same 44 would do this run for a few days till low fuel meant it had to come into Delec for refuel and a check. Then it could be rostered for anywhere. There might be more than one Glenlee coal train doing this circuit
(though not too many or they'd hold each other up)
I can remember being rostered on Glenlee coals and sitting in the Sign On room for 8 hours doing nothing, as there was no loco available. This was not an uncommon occurrence.
Quote: Would that list be called
the"AMBA"? Had to think long and hard to remember this one, but I may be wrong.
I used to have that job of obtaining this list from Central when I was a Call Boy at Eveleigh in the early 80's.
Well remembered ! I think that is what it was called. Definitely rings a bell with me.
I'm pretty sure that all the loco hauled passenger trains were on it too.
(Number 2 South, 4 South etc). I think many of the locos that arrived in Central of a morning
(like 1 South, 3 South etc) wound up at Eveleigh, where they went through a similar process as locos at Delec, then were allocated back onto loco hauled passenger services leaving Central that evening.
I can also recall at times having to take mainline diesels, light engine, from Delec to Eveleigh of a daytime for evening passenger services.
Quote: Guards that Stagnated - well ????????????
I guess they wound up as ETR (Electric Train Running) Guards.
Delec drivers contemptuously referred to electric train drivers as Horizontal Lift Drivers, which makes the Guards the Lift Door Captains ?.
When in Traffic Branch in the 1980s I was an Electric Train Guard at Punchbowl, for about a year and that has to have been the most boring year of my life to date. I actually tried to get back as a Shunter at Enfield but the powers refused my request. But all that is another story.
Quote: It was resolved really badly. The jobs that attracted tonnage payment were split 50/50, Firemen/Guards!...
That sounds a bit divisive alright. Back before this,
(in my time in the late 70s) tonnage payments existed. I
can't recall the exact rules now, but there was an additional payment for double header
and triple header loco working
(as the expectation was that only heavy tonnage trains needed multiple
units). To get the maximum payment for either the double or triple, you had to actually be crewing the train for a minimum of 4 hours. I think for a Double the payment was around $16 and for a triple it was around $30. This was a fair amount of money in the mid-late 1970s.
If crewing for less than 4 hours you still got a payment but it was quite a lot less, only a few dollars.
I'm not sure if the guards got this multiple unit allowance or not, Back then the heaviest trains were 2000 tonne coalies. I guess much heavier trains run these days
This brings me to one reason why South Coast crews were intensely disliked by Delec crews.
In those days there was a lot of freight running between Wollongong/Port Kembla and Sydney/Enfield. Much of this working was multiple unit, in particular triple header working.
For some reason, many of the freights heading down the coast were what was called 'Changeover' working. Delec crews almost never Booked Off at Barracks down the South Coast.
(we only had one regular job where that occurred, a night time milk
train) This meant that the Roster Clerks at both locations would look at trains departing from Port Kembla and Enfield at about the same time, with the idea being that the crews would 'Changeover'
(swap trains) about half way. In theory this was a good idea. In practice it almost always worked out to South Coast crew's advantage,
For example 713 SC might be scheduled to depart Enfield at 7.00am, destination Port
Kembla. Down at Port Kembla 720 SC might be scheduled to depart at 7.10am
and head to Enfield.
Both trains in theory would meet about half way down/up the coast, the crews would change over, and head back to their own depots.
In reality the Delec crew might still be sitting in Enfield yard at 10am, waiting for loading from another train that hadn't arrived, waiting for a brake van, waiting for a brake examiner, waiting for a guard, waiting for another locomotive, always held up by something.
Meanwhile the coast crews never seemed to get these delays, they left on time, had a fast run up the coast, so you would do the Changeover in the yard, not having been anywhere, but also not having turned a wheel, so not making up the 4 hours minimum needed to get multiple unit allowance !
I often never left the yard, or maybe got as far as Meeks Road (Marrickville) to be stopped at a signal, then climbed down to ring the phone, to be told by the Signalman
"your changeover is approaching". Aside from the money, coast trips were popular as it was quite a scenic journey
(that you had missed out on), and a welcome change from the rather dull shunting trips around the yards in the metro area.
And most important for a fireman, you were not getting experience of the road/gradients/signal locations which was essential. Acting Drivers qualified and were examined by loco inspectors on the South Coast and Southern lines, so you needed to know them well. And the sooner the better.
It wasn't the coast crew's fault. But we disliked them anyway.
I've tidied up some images. I
can't get them much sharper in focus, they were only
a Kodak Instamatic, so were never high quality, and 35
years in bad storage hasn't helped either.
CLICK HERE TO
VIEW SOME OLD
TAKEN AT DELEC/ENFIELD
Most of the big overhaul jobs on locos was done at Chullora, but a few were done in Delec.
With a big overhaul, the pistons would be removed, and sometimes were left laying about. Even without the conrod attached these were huge
and heavy. Some had flat tops and some had a slightly concave top
(one was Alco the other GM). Some of the T.E's thought the concave topped ones would make good ashtrays. As the concavity was quite shallow, I didn't agree, but this didn't stop these things being stolen, on at least two occasions that I recall, to be taken home and used as 'ashtrays'. I remember one of the T.E's picking a piston up, wrapped in rags, and taking it to the locker room, where he put it in his bag, then walked down to the bus stop with it after work, awkwardly under his arm, as the handles of the bag would snap if he tried to carry it normally. He had to keep it hidden, as several fitters and labourers would also be walking down to catch the bus. I now wonder how long these things were used as "ashtrays", I think the novelty would have worn off pretty quick.
I was asked to do the Spray Pit, almost from the day I started. It was an unpopular job. No one wanted to do it. One of the incumbents, Greg Keenan was going to Trainee Engineman school, so another inductee was needed. The Spray Pits had advantages and disadvantages. The advantages were that it was Monday to Friday only, 6am start, so no weekend or shift work. The Spray Pit crew were also 'protected' - when there was nothing to do, they were sanctioned to sit in a loco and do nothing. It also paid adult labourer's wages. The disadvantages were it was a very dirty job, and somewhat claustrophobic. On most of the other jobs in the shed you could probably go home without needing a shower or change of clothes. On Spray Pit you always needed a shower and to wash your hair, and change of clothes before you went home.
The day started at 6am and there would always already be a mainline loco parked on the spray pit. The pit was a very shallow concrete trench underneath the loco, with 3 steps either end to climb in and out of. There was very little space between the steps and the start of the loco, the shed crew didn't always place the loco exactly in the middle of the pit. I sometimes could barely squeeze in, and if the loco had moved a few
centimeters I'd be crushed. The locomotives were often left idling when parked on the pit. The trench was shallow, less than a metre deep, when a loco was parked on top you could only move about down on your haunches. The sides of the pit were lit by fluorescent tubes behind dirty scratched perspex along its length, but in mid winter it was still totally dark at 6am. There were drains with grates covering them the length of the trench, so that it couldn't fill up with water. Despite this it still sometimes filled to a few inches while you were
working due to the high water pressure hoses we used, when gunk or maybe a rag might partially block the drains
You would turn on a steam pressure spray, which also drew degreaser from a cut off 200 litre drum, and climb down the 3 steps into the pit and make your way along the underneath of the loco till you got to the set of wheels and traction motor closest to the fuel tank. Your job was then to steam pressure spray all the grease, oil and gunk off the traction motor and the cables that lead from the traction motor up into the body of the loco.
It was difficult work, no safety gear was supplied other than gloves to protect your hands from the primitive steam pressure spray. There were goggles to wear but they were useless, condensation and water made them impossible to see out of once you got going. Great clouds of steam would obscure your view in the darkness, and the spray was very powerful, it took a lot of tensed muscles to control its direction, it was like a fire hose in diameter, and was attached to some kind of mechanical pump that gave it a pulsing, pumping action. The spray created a lot of noise which added to the discomfort of being in a shallow trench under an idling 100 tonne locomotive. You were spraying a metre or two from your body, and inevitably hot pressurised water would sometimes deflect back and you'd cop a face full of very hot water, and greasy gunk. You would do all 3 traction motors on the bogie, working your way backwards from the middle to the steps
At the same time you had another spray pit cleaner working at the other end, on the other bogie, also starting at the traction motor closest to the fuel tank, and working his way back. This meant you were actually spraying in each other's general direction. Sometimes while trying to clean the underneath of the traction motor you'd hear a scream from the other end and you'd know that some of the water and steam
(and gunk) had deflected on to your mate working on the other bogie. Then he'd retaliate by giving you a blast of the same. If I felt it was justified I might give another intentional blast back, so we'd both be screaming and cursing at each other. I'm not sure teenagers had the right temperament for this kind of work, but they couldn't get anyone else to do it, anyone with a bad back would do their back in, and I reckon a year of this kind of work would turn a healthy back to a bad one. This is why the job had its little privileges of no shift work, adult pay and protected resting status. And why people who did it for a while
un-volunteered themselves from the Spray Pit.
After you were done, you'd be wet, and dirty, being flecked in bits of grease and muck, from head to toe. You'd turn off the steam spray, and go and see the Head Cleaner, most often Reg, and he'd come out with a torch and check out your work. You'd have to go back into the pit with him and stand under the still dripping loco while he'd run a finger on the top of the traction motors, and behind the cables, which couldn't be seen in the cramped space under the loco, and if they came up dirty, it meant you had to do it again. These parts had to be as clean as possible for the fitters who would be dismantling them for Bogie Overhauls. Many of these were not being overhauled at Delec, but at Chullora, and a fitter from Chullora would also come out and give it another check, and if he didn't like it, you'd be made to do it again. All up you might do 3 mainline locos a day, usually being finished by lunch, often before if there were less locos to do. Going home time was 2.30pm so it made the day go fairly fast.
If there was a report that a loco had hit a cow or other livestock you also had to spray the loco before the fitters would look at it. I was not looking forward to seeing guts and gore, but there was usually little mess underneath. The mess either didn't get much underneath the loco or 'fell off' along the way. You might have some hair or fur stuck to the underneath of the traction motors or some brown stuff splashed about to hose off. Only once I saw a length of what was probably intestine stuck underneath but it was all dried out looking so wasn't hard to deal with.
I had a rubber hand I'd bought from a Novelty Shop. After I'd finished spraying I put the hand on top of a traction motor, after Reg had checked it, but before the Fitter from Chullora had arrived. I had to go under with the Fitter so would know where to respray if there was any part he didn't like. He almost screamed when he put his hand on it and looked up and saw the fingers. It was a dumb trick on my part but he took it well.
There was one other lousy job that came with the Spray Pits, that luckily we rarely had to do. When mainline locos were going for a full overhaul, the bodies were removed from the engines. Some of the locos built up a lot of greasy gunk on the roof, around the exhaust outlet. On some this gunk was like tar or bitumen, a couple of
centimeters thick and spread over several square metres. The Fitters wanted this removed before they would accept the loco.
To do this we would have to climb onto the roof of the loco, which was parked in a covered open ended shed, next to the Spray Pit shed. We had leather harness around our waists. From these were attached two ropes with rings on them. These rings were attached to 2 parallel rails above the loco that ran the length of the shed. This harness was to save you from falling off the loco if you slipped. It was a very awkward way to get around on the roof. It also meant you couldn't get past each other. However this harness was really needed, as there was nothing else to stop us falling off the roof if we slipped.
We had scrapers with long handles that we had to use to chip the built up tar-like grease off the roof . This was very difficult. We also hauled up 10 litre buckets of degreaser with diluted caustic soda in it and with coarse brooms would scrub the tar and surrounding areas of the roof, trying to loosen the gunk. This also made the roof very slippery. Reg would be trying to supervise from the walkway in this shed but he was metres below us, and couldn't actually see what was being achieved. Being on a 44 was bad enough, but 42s and
421's had a more pronounced curve in the roof, so the whole job was difficult on these types of loco. The caustic soda also produced strong fumes which didn't help. If we were not careful enough, and spread too much around, the caustic degreaser would run down the sides of the loco ruining the paint. This happened a couple of times, the
Indian red of the sides of a 421 or 44 becoming streaked with pink. The yellow number on the side being bleached with white streaks. Reg would yell and grizzle and turn a hose onto the sides to wash it off but the damage was done. It was altogether a poor method to get the roof clean. We'd do our best and the loco would be grudgingly accepted, probably because it was thought we'd only damage the paint job more !
anyway below is a picture of one side of the front of a traction motor, this one on 4514 in Number 1 Road.
Number 1 Road had full depth pits that you could stand up in, for the Fitters, unlike the Spray Pits shallow grave style of pit. I did have pictures taken inside the spray pit, but none have survived.
When we were up to date we would sit in a loco on or near the spray pits so Reg could find us easily. One day we were sitting in number 2 end of a 44 which was idling, and my mate decided to mess with the Staff Exchanger, lowering and raising it several times. Later in the day Reg angrily asked us if we had been messing with the Staff Exchanger. We knew this was leading somewhere bad. Seems we had left the exchanger down, the Shed Crew
hadn't noticed, and when they drove it out of the Spray Pit shed it became badly damaged on the Spray Pit shed
Staunton. Reg pointed to the loco sitting outside Number 1 Road with the Staff Exchanger now being held in place with fencing wire.
Reg yelled at us to have a shower get changed and get home out of his sight, or something like that. Fortunately it was time to have a shower and go home anyway.
INFO: The shots of Delec are very much appreciated, and bring back memories!
Being based at Bmd, we would often have to prep mostly electric locos, and often the 'kit' was short. Although we weren't meant to, we would often have to scrounge bits from other loco's, if the appropriate staff weren't available to issue any missing bits.
As well as stabling trains at Delec / Enfield Yard, we would also leave our loads or pick up at Homebush Saleyards, Rozelle, and sometimes pick up a train at Clyde.
Quote: Being based at
Bmd, we would often have to prep mostly electric locos, and often the 'kit' was short. Although we weren't meant to, we would often have to scrounge bits from other
loco's, if the appropriate staff weren't available to issue any missing
I often wondered where all the bits went too. Most of the stuff had no practical use outside of the railway, and was engraved NSWGR or NSWPTC anyway. One night when I was on Diesel Kits for a few hours at Delec. I kept note of all the locos I checked and what was missing, still have this in my note book from 1977. Of 14 locos checked, only 5 had complete kits.
Quote: As well as stabling trains at Delec / Enfield Yard, we would also leave our loads or pick up at Homebush
Saleyards, Rozelle, and sometimes pick up a train at Clyde.
Almost all my pictures were taken when I was a Trainee Engineman Unqualified. Mostly taken late in the afternoon, early in the morning, or on a weekend or public holiday when not many staff were around. Taking pictures was not considered cool. I wish I'd taken more pictures, and of all those places that don't even exist anymore or have changed totally, like Homebush Saleyards
(hated shunting there, that place always stunk), Pippita, Darling Harbour, Darling Island, Rozelle, White Bay, etc. Once I was out on the road with drivers I stopped taking pictures. It was common to leave or pick up a train at the locations you mentioned, as well as Flemington Markets, Darling Harbour
and Cooks River.
I take it BMD is Broadmeadow. I remember being at Barracks there, and being woken up an hour before we were due to leave and having time to get something to eat at the staff canteen at the depot there. I was able to buy a burger
(they didn't make burgers at Delec canteen, just sandwiches and boiled sausages on a bread roll, pies and sausage
rolls) and at Broadmeadow they put yellow pickle spread on the burger. Like the 3Rs brand. It wasn't bad on a burger and is the only burger I've ever had anywhere that had pickle spread on it. I think Port Waratah had just opened and I went around the balloon loop for the first time, in 1977 or 78.
I suppose I was lucky as a diesel fireman (observer) in the 1980's.
Most drivers would give me a turn driving (unofficially) to point
if I did NOT do it, I was bludging on my driver mate. "Here are the controls mate--it's your turn now".
But I also liked (loved) to hear the stories and yarns from the "old school"
drivers. They were the ones from the steam era.
The experiences and stories they told
me....I wish I had a small recorder in my pocket or wrote it all down.
Most of them started in the >1950's when the steam was still king, but the change was already on with the first breed of diesels.
Some liked the diesels straight away, some didn't. The steam locomotive was "alive"--like a beast you had to master,
but the "beast" become your friend when you got to know it. The diesels were just a big engine with cabs and to too easy.
Great for bludging they said. Some rushed for diesels straight away from the back breaking work
as a steam coal fireman, but they told me, the old steam drivers
from their era did not embrace the diesels with favour.
It's like an old fella learning new tricks. Not their cup of tea.
But eventually they all got trained in diesel loco's. They told me a lot of 'em put on weight within months
of full diesel running. The only real exercise and sweat the old drivers and fireman did
was on the steam engines. (or holding the bar up when in barracks )
That was their lifestyle on NSWGR Locomotive "Mechanical" Branch.
Not much sport off duty on itinerant 24/7 shift work. (or maybe a round of golf if they were lucky and into
Yes; good to hear all the "yarns too".