31, 32, 33,
40, 41, 42,
is well worth the full read
Enfield Loco memories from the 1970s and
My time at Delec/Enfield 01/64 - 11/69; 71 - 76, last 3
as Chargeman. Other chargemen at that time. Stan Smee,
Jack Le Blanc, Barry Miskel, Po Hayes, Vic ? (Fish
eyes) Joe Falzon (Acting, like me) and the
others I forget.
Lee Alsop was a bludger, fired for me on 80 hours, and I threatened to put him off, owing to him trying to call
me for a sucker, expected me to prepare the engines as
driver and then do his own coupling up, I showed him
what to do, and then he reckoned he forgot, I simply
said if he couldn't do it, he shouldn't be there, he
finally did couple up the 3 engines and then sat on
his butte, without doing any other checks, when I told
him to, he reckoned he did not have to, then it
Animal Smith, was the only person I know who get a golly
up from his toes, and a person guaranteed to clear a
meal room out with his eating habits, couldn't call him
a pig because they would attack you if they heard that.
Warren Bull, actually while he may have seemed hard, he
was a top bloke, he ran the railway picnic committee for
years and put in a lot of miles for enginemen. Cedric
Fraser was a top bloke as well, but was one of the
roaming gang with Jack Sparks and one other in the
late 60's as their positions were under threat. Cedric
passed me on several grades and when I had to re-sit
everything again after returning to the steam section in
1978 after 2 years on the ETR as my appointment. He was
NEIL: Thanks for taking the time to
write. If Vic was the Chargeman who was pretty old,
short, with dark rimmed glasses, and a kind of a crewcut/flat
top haircut, he was the Chargeman who didn't like
signing the Cleaner's sheets in time so they could catch
the bus to Strathfield. I mentioned about this earlier
in the thread. I couldn't recall his name but 'Vic'
rings a small bell. I never had a problem with any of
the inspectors. Cedric failed me first time on the
Safeworking when I went for Class 2, much to my
surprise, I thought I had memorised all 13 (or
however many reasons it was) that you could pass a
Home Signal at Stop, but evidently didn't know enough to
pass first time. I didn't blame him, I blamed me for
failing the first time. I was re-examined a short while
later and passed. Peter Parbo was an Inspector we
haven't mentioned here yet - he had a reputation for
being tough too, he struck fear into many a trainee
Fish eyes, his real name still eludes me, but he was about 6foot tall,
and around 16stone/100KG's The senior Chargeman was Percy
Whalan, and worked day shift in the chair only, Gordon Coulter was running shed foreman, was from the enginemens
and chargeman's ranks.|
I knew Peter Paabo well, seems he was one whose days as driver were well forgotten when he became inspector, his reputation was known through to WCK where I finished up at, he was at that time
primarily involved with the XPT, and rode trains trying to catch drivers out,
and hated by all and sundry, that was the similar task of the old
Jack Sparkes hit squad who were provided with Dept cars to tour anywhere they wanted to go around the state, they had power over both Loco
and traffic branch staff.
Tony Quatermain, I just knew him. Vic was Vic Simmons. Len Wylde became a chargeman whilst I was on the sparks.
I remember being with a driver on a garratt one evening on which we stuck up on a Ourimbah returning from BMD. On approach to Wyong, we would have the stoker just rotating with a trickle of coal going
in, just enough to keep the fire hot, and ready to pick when the Tuggerah up accept
The general and accepted practice was that when it cleared we would open the stoker further,
and get ready for steaming all the way to Lisarow, it was fairly taxing on 1100 tonne loads. Drivers would wait for use to give them the nod before opening up the regulator. On this night we had small dusty
and volatile Northern coal, that I had reported when prepping the engine at BMD, it was passed off, but
thankfully owing to it being top heating/steaming stuff, I was able to get around it. The problem was that it would provide a solid ash bed, as it would just burn
and drop into the ash pan.
As I was about to call out to him OK, we hit the slight left hand curve on Wyong platform
and he saw the stick go up to 2, with that, I had not had the usual time to get the main coal going into the fire, he set the screw into not far enough back that others did,
and with one rip of the regulator which was heavier than anything Schmidty could do, he opened it full. At that point I had a full boiler of water
and just under 200PSI of steam near blow off point.
When I heard the roar of the Garratt's exhaust, I looked at him in aghast,
and out the cab at the funnel, and it was roman candle time, I took a look into the firebox
and the whole of the front half of the fire was gone, out the funnel. I looked at him
and said look at what you just did, he shrugged and said nothing.
With that I had to get the long rake out, and try and force the burning
coal from under the door towards the front, but it would not take up. After we got past Tuggerah, I asked him to stop, give me 5 minutes to get the fire burning again,
and some water which was now just over half full, he refused. I kept trying but towards Ourimbah, near the orchads, I again asked him to stop, as the water was barelly visible in the glass
and down to less than 100psi bp. Again he refused
and just abused me for incompetance. and I just said well its on your head now as this is twice. I've asked.
Finally as we got past Ourimbah Station just past the up loop we cam to a stop as the pump stopped as not enough steam to keep it going resulting in the brakes coming on. At this point the steam was
barely 60Psi and no water in sight in the gauge. I was trying to manipulate to try
and ensure I did not burn the boiler. Well didn't he do a song
and dance over. What a place to stick up, we only had a mile or so to go
and we'd run into Gosford. I just said had we stopped when I first asked you, we would not be in this position
and probably not much further away than we are now.
At least with no draft on the fire, and a lot of green coal at the front,
and the majority of the back alight, I was able to get some steam up,
thankfully the water came up fairly quick, initially we could not see any sign of it, with a torch looking down. Once that happened he was looking for the pump to start up again
and try to go. I turned the pump off, and put the autobrake into lap, to hold the brakes on.
All up we were there for over 20 minutes, the guard was advised to stay put by whistle
code, and then we set sail with full boiler and 180PSI. He hammered the engine to
Gosford, and we had a reception party there when we changes engines. An ex Enfield Inspector who I knew well, who ended up at PTW, came over along with the SM as control wanted to know what happened. All Len wanted to do was abuse me,
and point out my incompetance, and I should not be allowed on
Garratts, and needed to travelled with. (we had not trouble with the
Garratt on the way to BMD) I pointed to the Chargeman the coal in the tender,
and told him, that I had also pointed it out at BMD, and
as events proved, it should never have been put in the tender of a
I had to make a statement at Enfield, and loco inspector Gill Bradshaw who passed me for
Garratts, on a few occassions, as whenever they had to ride locos for reporting that was how they entered things on the records, besides this was only a few weeks after along with Ken Groves that we had worked 6042 over the blue mountains on an RTM or ARHS tour that went to Portland,
and Gill was the inspector, no problems on the 1:33 at that time without assistance
and full load.
I told him as it it happened, and apparently there had been a report put in about the coal. I never heard anything back, but I was never one of Len Wyldes pin up boys, which came back on me when at PTK.
DRIVER 1 Continues
We used to work 9748 to Enfield and rostered home pass on the last train ex Waterfall at about 1150 at night, in fact there was a Delec crew rostered each night for the work as the train was steel that went to the Chullora industrial area. On this night we were pulled up at Thiroul
and asked by control would we work a set of light engines back instead of H/P. My mate
and discussed it and said we would do it if Delec could bring them out to at least South box, using the relief crew
and change over there no probs.
At Coal Cliff we received a message that Delec would do that
and we would change over at South box. It didn't happen, in fact the train was stowed
in the DDs, and we had to take the engines into Delec. At the sign on desk I asked the zona chargeman what was going on
and how we were to now get home. then the outdoor chargeman stuck his head in,
and said, you've got 3 48cl down the paddock to get ready
and then get out. When I then said what we were informed, he said stiff, just get over to them
and get out. The chargeman was the very same person who was the driver on the Ourimbah episode.
At that point I said I had been rostered HP, and that's what we'll be doing, we haven't had crib or anything
and I'm not doing local work in a foreign depot, being the AFULE branch vice president I reminded him of these conditions,
and that he was once a branch official of the Enfield AFULE. This caused a stir,
and he yelled at me, are you refusing duty? No! said I, I am prepared to do what I was rostered to do
that's all, and if you couldn't uphold your end of the agreement with control, then
that's what we'll do, the alternative is, you get the engines prepared
and ready to go as you should have our relief crew available to do it,
and we will take round trip crib break over in the meal room, come
and get us when its all ready, and we walked out.
About 25minutes later, he came over, Get your @#$*&@# buttes going
and get out of here! you'll hear more about this! and as he started to walk out, I calmly asked him, I gather
their prepared and ready to go, and could you tell me the engine numbers
and where they are please? He stopped and glared at me, talk about hatred in his eyes, mumbled the engine numbered, 2 departure road,
and I wont forget this, you haven't changed have you said he? My reply was simple, If you are referring to Ourimbah, then it also tells me, you haven't changed either, oh I also have one other thing I have to do with Zona's.
What's that he said. I have to send a zona as I am no on duty over 9hours,
and you should hope I don't bust. That was thankfully the last time I ever saw him. What a change, to a fellow who used to boast in the sign on room,
and fuel point humpy, laugh and carry on as one of the top
and best drivers.
Anyway, people like Cedric and even Warren Bull generally helped E/men in answering, were mainly fair,
and the big thing they wanted to see that, even if you did not know the whole answer, they could tell if you actually knew what the answer was. We had a fellow in the same ETR class as several of us, who actually failed the exam. In those days, we had to write everything down,
and were questioned but answers not in writing, during the 6 week school, we had revision tests so that the inspector could see how we were going, this bloke each time he answered would bury his head in his hands,
and then recite the answer. After the school was finished he said to us, that this fellow would not pass, because he did not know the answer. Oh he knew, how to answer as he did it perfectly, word for word, he had memorised it all, but he did not know what he was talking about.
It was interesting days, good days, dirty days, insociable days, but good days just the same. I have a life membership certificate
and badge from the AFULE, which I am proud of, but do not show it, as the signatories to it, were Noel Cox
and Michael Costa. The later, should never have been elected to Divisional president as he stuffed the union
and sold out to the railways. A working scab.
Quote: You fellows should both write a book, and maybe collaborate?
Should get the writing shoes on. It would be great for old railway souls to read. I reckon you blokes have the "knack".
From my first absence from the NSW railways of about 15 years, I used to devour old railwayman tales
(stories) about their experiences. It would make me feel right back in the cab again.
I would read them over many times and past the midnight oil. Like mentioned ex NSW Driver: Mark Tronson, various books he wrote. Ex V/R
and NSWGR Lloyd Holmes
(in various grades and positions like me) and even Bill "Swampy" Marsh with short stories he collected.
And yes; a lot of things have changed in last 30 odd years. From
post steam engines, then diesel crew and freight trains of 3
men (persons) to (2) two man freight train crew and even (1) one man crew. I witnessed one person driver only locomotive, jumping out of his engine,
(private freight train company) throwing the points over himself and even catching onto wagons and putting the air through.....yes a lot of things have changed.
I think the biggest change itself was the removal of the brake vans and two man crews with the driver and second persons. ie In NSW the merging of fireman and guards role.
(plus ground crews of the shunters/examiners merger)
Well unknown I really enjoyed your post about the Garratt and your run ins with that driver. Was an enjoyable read. The intricacies and disciplines of firing a steam engine is something I never knew, and never will. I thought it was hard enough just knowing when to open and shut the throttle and when to apply and release the brakes on a diesel hauled train ! The type of abrasive interactions you described between staff were not uncommon in those days. I hope you feel inclined to write more of your experiences.
I had written in my old 1977 notebook what the rates of pay were for a Trainee Engineman (Qualified)
I wrote this in to check my payslips to ensure the Timekeepers got it right, I probably copied it down from something posted up in the Sign On room.
Firing - $3.31 per hour
Cleaning - $2.06 per hour
Start between 6pm and 3.59am
Firing - 64 cents per hour
Cleaning - 32 cents per hour
Start between 4am and 5.30am
Firing - 55 cents per hour
Cleaning - 27.5 cents per hour
All above penalties paid for entire shift except no penalty rates paid between 12 midnight Saturday and 11.59pm Sunday or public holidays or after 8 hours
(as time and a half or double time was paid on those days/between those
Doesn't seem much by today's standards. But a Class 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc engineman got paid a much better hourly rate, and back in those days you could buy a new 3 bedroom brick house on land in the outer suburbs for
$25-30,000, which kind of puts it in perspective. You can see why the triple header allowance of $30 for 4 hours was so keenly sought.
I have to say that I do regret mentioning Len's name,
but whenever I think of the incident it leaves a sour
taste in my mouth. All that happened was a long time
ago, yet the events are still clear in my mind, I can
also remember the problem getting the Garratt hot in BMD
(Broadmeadows) yard was hard owing to the coal
and he knew it. This was the only time he showed some
consideration (in both the down trip and up trip)
When we were ready to depart and blew for road, I had
the jets turned on and ready to go with the stoker, and
as soon as I saw the signals come off, and turned the
stoker on, at a heavier rate than normal, I had set the
water lower than normal for that reason, and as the
steam came up I checked the fire, and all was burning
ok, yet the smoke was heavy, on went the injector. He
then actually asked me if I was right, and I nodded,
thankfully you had to ease through several crossovers
off the departure road, through the yard and onto the
main over more crossovers at Adamstown, that allowed the
firebox to get hot.
That was the thing with Garratts, you had to get the
whole firebox white hot, brick arches everything,
especially with the 1160tonne loads ex BMD standing
start. I am thankful that I never stuck up on mugs flat
at Kotara and this trip was an embarrassment to me. In
my career, I can count the drivers on my two hands whom
were not good, and on just one those who I did not like
to be with, overall it was a dirty job, but one I found
satisfying. I doubt if Len is still alive, and a reason
it gives me no pleasure to talk about him, but there
were others worse, much worse.
From my recollection the afternoon penalty rates applied
from 6.00pm - 10.00pm. If you worked a minimum of
30minutes into those hours it was paid for the whole
shift. The night shift which was the biggest paid was
for those who started after 10.00pm and again if you
worked at least half an hour into that time you got it
for the whole shift. I do tend to remember there was
another one also, and it was higher, which cut out at
Might check some of my old memo books, as I used to
record those in it.
One time I was firing for a driver who had a reputation
as a bit of a firebrand, but I always got on well with
him. We had had a rather long shift, and having cut off
our train, we were about to take our diesels into
'loco'. We had the road (a yellow 'dolly' signal),
and as we approached it, I noticed something was wrong.
I said to the driver, "Hang on, he's putting us
into the yard, not into loco". But by the time we
stopped, we had gone past the signal.
The driver blew his stack, and got onto the radio, and
started giving the signaller a serve. I hit the transmit
button on my radio in an attempt to jam his radio, but
the damage was done. The signaller hotly denied he had
made a mistake, and replied that we had gone past the
signal at stop. I managed to calm the driver down, and
told the signaller that we did have the road, but into
the yard, and not into loco. But he stuck to his guns,
and repeated that we had passed the signal at stop.
When we finally stabled the engines, as expected, an
inspector was waiting for us. The driver had calmed down
by this stage, but was still a bit rattled. So I
explained the situation to the inspector, and he asked
the driver if that was correct. The driver couldn't
remember the details, as he had blown his stack, and
said that it was probably as I had reported.
Anyway, next shift, we received a "bung", and
had to write up what had happened. The signalman of
course put on paper that we had passed the signal at
stop (to cover himself), so it was only my word against
his. He also had a reputation as being a bit of a
and not particularly fond of enginemen.
The inspector tried to talk me out of taking it any
further, as there would have been an inquiry in Sydney,
and a lot of paperwork for all concerned, and just to
cop it sweet. I finally agreed, but I was not very happy
about it. I think the inspector believed my side of the
story, and he probably felt bad about it, as I had a
clean record. He was always good to me afterwards, and
always smiled and nodded when he saw me, till he
retired. I never forgot the injustice, but I came to see
that it was probably easier just to cop it this once.
Dragging it on might have made a lot more strife.
That was the big problem with ground signals like that
one. So continuing the Ourimbah stick up episode. On the
way to BMD (Broadmeadows) with the same driver, we
arrived at GOSFORD, a single 46cl load, and on arrival
were told their were no engine for us, but it was coming
in on the next up train, and we would have to do the
relay. As we were on 3 platform and no other down
trains arriving no issue. The only other engines in the
depot was a 38cl for the paper train, and a freighter
for 269 pick up, the 38, at the chargemans office
When the up train hit the track the shunter came over to
detach us and we went over onto #1 platform for the
relay, changed over with the crew, and we proceeded into
loco, to take water and clean the ash pan. Coming off
the main, two sets of points were negotiated over the
two main and relief road, and there was just one
ground signal that took you into Gosford loco, which had
2 roads each point controlled from the box, the 38 was
in what we called the departure road. Usually the 46c
would go into the road next to it arrival, and crews
swap over. However both roads could be used for the same
As a garratt is quite long, and this was after midnight,
it was hard to see the lay of the roads, although we
expected to be routed to the normal arrival road, and
then reverse down into loco for water etc on the pit. It
was not required for the fireman to pilot the driver
until you were away from the box controlled points. We
were not going that fast but as I was watching out with
head out the window I noticed that the tank was not
going into the arrival road but into the departure road,
and onto the 38cl, I called out STOP_ HOLD HER. The
driver reacted with applying the brake and shutting
the regulator, and looked at me quizzically and I said
we going up the wrong road onto the 38cl, he tried to
reverse the Garratt but it was too late, and we hit the
38, thankfully I thought not hard.
With the impact and noise, everyone came out of the
rooms, and even cockroaches scattered. The Chargeman
looked at the damage and he got straight onto the
signalman, who admitted he put the engine up the wrong
road, thus we were absolved of responsibility. When we
got the dolly to go back and to inspect the damage,
there was nothing wrong with the Garratt, although we
had to go back very slow as the rail had turn over under
the front tank, as the spikes had been lifted out of the
sleepers. I guess with the amount of grease and oil
over the roads it was easy to understand.
We went down towards the pit area and dropped the pan
ash and put the column into the tank, and went up to
investigate. The 38 had not escaped as lightly though,
as the auto was sagging owing to the carrier plate
having the locking bolts broken on one side, which also
opened up a light water leak from the tender. Thus it
was deemed a failure and had to run Light Engine to BMD
for repairs, and the old freighter had to work the paper
train, making for a couple of happy Eveleigh men.
When we got onto the 46cl on the way home, I was told in
no uncertain manner by the driver. Don't expect me to
press the button, to which I simply said, "I
don't". As the vigos on the 46 where of the old
type of visual air gauge and warning whistle, I let it
go off occasionally just to annoy him. besides that,
somewhere between Gosford and the River where we got
the assistant engine he commented to me.
Two rotten incidents in two shifts, glaring at me as he
said them, with what I thought were warnings, and with a
lot of hate in them, especially with the sticking up at
Ourimbah. I just looked at him and smiled, then calmly
said, "Yeah! and to think we're not even half way
home from Gosford yet!" I forget his words but they
Graham, I enjoyed your story a lot. Signalmen.
Some would look after you, some wouldn't.
On the 'Pencil' roster which was also titled 'Rouseabout'
roster you never knew who you'd be working with, what
job, what time. 3 days in advance was as far as they
would ever fill it in ! After that it was blank, and
they'd fill it in slowly with pencil, to allow frequent
alterations. Some days when you signed off you didnt
know what time you were required next, you'd ring later
in the day to find out.
I've put a list below of all the drivers I fired for in
1977, and I was on rec leave for a month, and regular
mates with Ray Sullivan (the younger) for about 4 months
also. Nice bloke, very serious about his work, which is
why he became an Inspector I guess. Seems a long list,
but this was no where near all the drivers that were
based at Enfield, it was a big depot at that time. Some
names will ring a bell with some of you. Most are
retired, some may be still working but very few would
be, and those would be very close to retirement
Most are Delec, but there are a few from other depots, I
have listed them under depot. Some of these drivers on
the list I fired for more than once, or for a few weeks.
D. Mitchell (Dennis ?)
R. Hilton (Roy, Royce ?)
M. Eele (Mick ?)
G. Herzic (George ?)
A. Katon (Tony)
W. Tanner (Bill)
V. Vassiliou (Vassos, mostly
known as Vince)
D. Casson (Dale, union heavy)
R. Mack (Royce ?)
M. Bedson (Mick ?)
J. Rothwell (John ?)
A. Saville (Tony ?)
P. O'Brien (Pat ?)
W. Valich (Bill ?)
R. Sullivan (Ray, both of them)
T. McConville (Terry)
P. Cross (Peter)
D. Charleston (Desi)
N. Stapleton (Nev ?)
A. Wight (Athol)
G. Orr (George ?)
T. Provost (Terry)
J. Clyne (Jack ?)
B. Kelly (Brian)
B. Smith (Barry or Animal)
W. Mullholland (Bill ?)
V. Holloway (Vince ?)
H. Sundgren (Harry)
P. Zentsky (Pat)
K. Holt (Kenny ?)
J. Abberfield (Johnny ?)
G. Pugh (George ?)
W. Fisher (Wayne)
S. Shakoff (Stan ?)
| Valley Heights
E. Ciok (Eddie)
R. Cauldwell or Caldwell
R. Saw ?
Clyde Wagon Works
J. Sweeney (Jack ?)
J. Horseley (Jack ?)
F. Woods (Fred)
H. Cuell (Harry)
C. Cuell (Charlie ?)
Those with Polish
names were hard to pronounce and most of them gave the
English equivalent to their names. Even the name Hans,
is John, which the Goulburn E/men used to call him
Best foreign driver I ever fired for was a Lithgow
driver the following year. Don't know his name, and my
1978 Memo Book is in landfill at Nudgee tip, so guess I
will never know. I had to fire for him on multiple 46s
headed west to Lithgow. He was returning after barracks,
and his mate had been sick or something, so I was put on
the job at short notice. He was a great old guy, chatted
friendly the whole time. One advantage of 46 class was
you could have a conversation without needing to yell
too loudly, like in most diesels. He told great jokes,
and had this funny poem called 'Table Manners' which was
so funny I asked him to recite it slowly so I could
write it down. I can't remember it, other than the first
line which was "The gong was sounded for breakfast,
by the butler, so portly and stout" After that it
devolved into very funny crudity. He told me all about
all his philandering with "the fairer sex"
when he was a young man, and was altogether very
entertaining with his funny stories.
He said when he was a young single man he had made love
to every kind and colouration of woman, but his only
regret in life was never having made love to a redhead.
And now having been happily married for many years he
figured he never would get that opportunity. He seemed
to genuinely regret it. The way he talked about it
wasn't crude or in poor taste, he was just a very
humourous person. I can't recall how old he was but I'm
sure he was in the latter years of his working life.
It was getting very late in the evening as we headed
west in the darkness, and it became apparent I'd miss
the last Sydney bound passenger train out of Lithgow, as
we'd arrive in Lithgow after it had departed. The next
train was the first one out early the next morning. I
had resigned myself to a long cold wait in the Waiting
Room at Lithgow station during the dark hours. In those
days I doubt you'd even be able to buy a cup of coffee
or anything to eat, the town would have shut early back
then. Or maybe I could hitch a ride back in the rear cab
of a 46, provided there were any freights headed down
the mountain in the coming hours.
He said he'd let me off at Bell, so I could catch the
last train to Sydney. I hadn't expected this, and didn't
want him to take the risk of taking the train solo into
Lithgow, but he insisted. By risk, I meant should
anything happen (like a beakdown or derailment)
my absence might be noted, and a big "please
explain" would be needed. He was of course more
than competent enough to take the train anywhere without
a fireman, though an Inspector would have hit the roof.
He insisted the train would be stabled in Lithgow Yard
and he didn't have any need of me, so let me off. I was
very grateful for his kindness. Bell station was
unmanned so there were no traffic or other staff to
witness anything. Maybe 20 minutes of waiting at a
deserted Bell station and I was on the last train headed
The other best 'foreign' driver I worked for was Harry
Cuell at Narrabri. In this case though I was the
'foreigner' being a fireman on loan for a short time.
Many of the Narrabri drivers didn't think much of the
Sydney firemen that went up to work there, and showed
it, and I don't blame them much for their attitude
either, but Harry treated me alright.
Seeing I touched on Lithgow, and anyone who worked at
Delec in those days did plenty of trips up that way,
there are a few photos of LITHGOW
Loco Depot in PICTURES page.
Neil - your pencil
roster sounds a lot like the one at BMD. It had a
fortnight of rostered working, then three or four of
blank, one day at a time. Depending on when you signed
off, it might be posted, or otherwise you'd have to wait
till they rang you the next day.
Sometimes friends (not on the job) might say that
they were going out somewhere at the weekend, and some
couldn't believe that I wouldn't know if I could join
them till the day before. You might be booked off, or
have a local shift, or be away on a barracks job. It
made it hard to have much of a social life. You would
know what it's like!
Some 'hungry' guys would chase the overtime, and ask for
their next job when they signed off, but I generally
took it as it came. At one stage I was doing a course
every second Sunday for several months, and they helped
me out, if I agreed to make myself available for jobs at
short notice, which I did. Most roster clerks would work
in with you, if you had a genuine reason.
And as the 'pattern span' changed, they would lift you
up rather than lay you back, which was pretty silly.
After a few incidents, it was recommended a few times
that they lay you back, but this didn't happen till
after a coalie tail-ended another one. The poor guys had
done long shifts before this one, and probably hadn't
had enough quality rest time. You would often have a
book-off day which you spent most of asleep.
Abberfield (Johnny ?)
Unknown: It is indeed John, he started at Enfield
in 1964 and he is still on the job just not at Enfield
anymore. I'm his son.
That's neat, hope he is doing well. I checked my 1977 memo book and see that I worked with John just once that year, shed Fireman on the diesel side on 16th November, 6am - 2pm. I'm pretty sure I remember another time working with him. Must have been in winter 1978 (I chucked that memo book out in the 1990s) . We were sent to South Box Enfield to relieve a crew on a train that must have been on long hours. It was very early in the morning, long before sun-up, and it was a cold and wet walk to South Box from Delec. I don't recall how far it was but I think the walk to South Box would take maybe 15-20 minutes. We got to South Box, saw the signalman who said the train we were waiting for was not due in for a bit, so we waited in a nearby humpy, which was about the size of a garden shed. It had two bench seats running down either side, that were just long enough to lay down on, so we each laid on one, and shut the door to keep the cold and rain out. I think it may even have had an electric bar heater up on the wall. I reckon John must have seen me around when I was a T.E. in the shed taking the odd picture, as he started to tell me stories about firing in his days as a fireman. Not many drivers would talk about that, unless you specifically asked them, even then many had little to say. I dozed in the orange glow of the heater while he told a few stories, for maybe half an hour or longer. Damned if I can remember what the stories were now.
Neil - your pencil roster sounds a lot like the one at BMD.
Yeah I guess Delec wouldn't have been the only place to
have a pencil type of roster.
From memory I think there were 3 (or maybe 4) roster
sheets on large poster sized pieces of pale blue paper,
that the clerks hung up inside the glass sliding
windows, that fronted where they worked, at the Cosgrove
Road end of the Sign On room. 2 or 3 of the rosters were
'pen' rosters that had a number of jobs already written
in. These were for crews that had permanent mates and
the crews would "drop" or rotate down a line
each week, so they could look ahead and have some idea
what they would be doing in coming weeks and months, or
at least what weekends they could expect to have off.
The Pencil (or Rouse about) roster had enginemen who had
no regular mate, and some crews who were teamed up as
regular mates. Most of the drivers on this roster were
also newly made up as Acting Drivers, mostly Class 4's,
as most Class 3's were still rostered with Class 5's as
regular mates, and on the pen rosters, sharpening their
For a fireman you would be used wherever needed, which
was how I came to fire for a number of non Delec drivers
in 1977. If a Driver on the Pen roster's mate went sick,
you might be used as a mate for that Driver for a day or
two and maybe get to go north or west.
If you had a regular mate on the pencil roster you
didn't go north or west, as most of the Drivers on the
pencil roster (class 4's) were not qualified for those
jobs. The guys on the pen rosters still got rostered for
a lot of the more boring Shunting Yard, Trip or Diagram
trains, they just mostly knew well in advance what they
were doing on most days, and most importantly of all,
could foresee what weekends they would be rostered off
on. Still it could have been far worse. The short time I
was at Narrabri West, there was no roster, you just got
a Call Note telling you when to show up at work. Occasionally
when signing off, you might get told when
you were needed next, but the time may change before
then, or the job might get cancelled.
Hello unknown, looks like you knew all those drivers I
worked with. I recall a bit about some of them, many (except
for the real characters) I cant recall anything
Here is picture of 7301
fresh out of workshops by the look, picture taken
somewhere near Delec turntable. This picture of 7301
reminded me of another Delec crew story. The 73 class
had no Vigilance Control. All other main and branch line
locos did. The 73s were supposed to be just for shunting
yards so were exempted. However you sometimes had a 73
or even 2 x 73 on Trip trains which went around the
metro area. Trip trains mainly went on Goods lines, but
still used lines used by other traffic, and it still
seemed an odd omission not to have some kind of
warning/safety backup for the crew.
I recall an incident when a Call Truck had to be sent
out to wake up a crew in a 73 class that had apparently
fallen asleep at a signal. Trains and locos used to be
sent around a triangle at Chullora. This triangle was
part of the Goods Line network and started not far from
North Box. Sometimes delays might occur when waiting for
the road at some point around it. A signalman advised he
had told a loco crew waiting at a signal at Stop (via
the phone mounted on the signal) that they were in
for a long wait, and after a long time (maybe 40
minutes or an hour, maybe more), had given the crew
the road. I don't recall why there was a delay, possibly
there was a loco breakdown, derailment or point or
signal failure elsewhere that was creating delays for
all movements around the triangle. The signal was a
distance from the signal box, and the signalman couldn't
leave the box to go check why the train hadn't
The signal had been cleared for them for a long time and
they hadn't moved. Delec Sign On room was contacted and
a Call Truck (a Holden HZ Station Wagon) was sent
out to drive as close as possible to them, so the Call
Truck Driver could then walk to where they were and see
what was up. I think the consensus amongst the crews in
the Sign On room on Local was that the crew had probably
fallen asleep. It was the early hours of the morning
maybe 2am, and with no Vigilance Control there was
nothing to wake the crew up if they nodded off. I don't
know if there was any follow up with the crew or an
official "please explain". I'm sure they would
have cooked up a plausible excuse for the delay, the
Call Truck Driver would not have dobbed them in, and
being asleep would not be the reason for the delay that
they would have given the inspector.
On another occasion a foreign crew pulled up at Delec
platform on a diesel loco hauled train. This platform
was literally right outside the Sign On room, just a
driveway separated the platform and Sign On room. The
foreign crew was looking for relief, and two Delec
crewmen on Local were assigned to take over. The Delec
crew put their bags in the cab, sat down, the Driver
perhaps opened the little cover on the speedometer and
scribbled his initials, date and time on the Hasler
recording tape, released the brake, opened the throttle,
and the train moved off and stopped. The loco had not
left the platform. They had moved only metres. A quick
check found the cause was an empty fuel tank.
It was no easy matter to resolve, I'm not sure how it
was fixed now, and the incident was officially reported
as it resulted in delays and was investigated by a Loco
Inspector. The Inspector found the Delec crew had to
wear the bung and the blame, though they had crewed the
loco for perhaps a minute. This outcome was considered
an outrage by all the Delec enginemen, how could the
Delec crew be blamed for the loco running out of fuel.
The Inspector ruled that the crew should have checked
the fuel level, before taking over the loco, and then
refused to take over as it had insufficient fuel. This
outcome was considered BS and the foreign crew should
have worn the blame. It seemed a grave injustice.
I should add the fuel levels did not register inside the
cab, like on a car or truck, the fuel gauge was
external, mounted on the fuel tank. I might add these
were often very hard to read, with dust and grime
covering them. Even when cleaned they were hard to read,
being a series of little dots from top to bottom.
After this incident no Delec crewman ever relieved
another crew before checking the fuel level first. Rain,
hail, fog, midnight or heatwave, the Delec Driver always
checked the fuel level before even climbing onto the
Due to the locomotive shortage in the mid 1970s there
were some SAR locos 'hired' to make up the numbers. I
remember seeing 847, 848, and 849 Alcos around the
place. I recalled that 830 and 48's were the same, as were 930s and
44's. I think SAR 600's were the same as our 45's. Of
course there were small differences but these types were
basically the same. There was at least one of those SAR
600's running around NSW on loan in the 70s, but I don't
ever recall seeing it at Delec, but then I wasn't there
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so probably did come in
for refuel and check/brake adjustment at least a few
TONY: Yes, I remember seeing/firing
on them the 830's too in late 1980 or early 1981.
Something to do with a bumper wheat harvest if I do
recall. A couple of other big main line diesels did
arrive also at Delec from S.A. but we went back
because of some local (Enfield) AFULE agenda.
Quote Tony: A couple of other big main line diesels did arrive also at Delec from
S.A. but were went back because of some local (Enfield) AFULE agenda.
I think they were the type that were similar to 45 class. I recall there were issues with 45 class, the main one I recall was that the cab's were quite draughty, the heaters had a battle to warm them up when it was very cold. Probably there were other serious issues too... buggered if I can remember now.
I have compiled an updated list of the all Trainee Enginemen Unqualified, who started in 1976 or early 1977, that I can remember. There were many more whose faces I remember, but whose names are long forgotten.
If I'm reliably informed at least one on this list went on to be a Loco Inspector, at least one became a Driver Trainer, a few to be Drivers. The rest may have made it to Trainee Engineman Qualified, Class 1 or 2 Engineman. Some didn't get out of the shed not being able to pass the Trainee Engineman school.
While they were Trainee Enginemen, one or two transferred to clerical jobs, one transferred to Eveleigh. Some just quit because they
didn't like cleaning in the shed, or shiftwork, or both, and they saw no attraction in being on locos in the long term or short term.
Many more quit before they got as far as the schools to become Class 3 Enginemen
(Acting Drivers), for similar reasons: the hours, the
shiftwork, and not wanting to be doing that for the rest of their working days.
Many came from suburbs out west of Blacktown, almost all those that didn't came from other parts of the western suburbs.
Where I have used a ? it indicates I can't remember their First or Last Names
| Brian Campion
| ? Hinton.
? El Rafidi
Frank ? (Irish accent)
Wolfgang ? (German accent)
One whose name I have forgotten said that he had worked as an Engineman in South Africa, so was nicknamed Rhodesia. He had no accent. I can't recall his first or last name. Another whose name escapes me said he was
French also had no accent, nicknamed Frenchy.
There were many more 'rogues' of this vintage, just can't remember them all.
Thought I'd touch on Freebies (free stuff). Working for the Government meant you didn't get anything other than your pay and entitlements, and no one expected anything more than that.
Gloves: Protective gloves were not issued. Prepping locos, and shunting got your hands pretty grimey. Not so bad when you were in the Shed, as there was hand cleaner and sinks with hot and cold water, but when you were out somewhere and had to attach or detach a locomotive, not so good. We used do do trip trains made up of Containers between Chullora and White Bay at Balmain. These were called STC trains, typically called STC 7, STC 5, etc. Don't know what this stood for. The ASM who also acted as Shunter at White Bay would get the crew a pair of Container Terminal Gloves each, white cotton, with a leather inset in the palm, if you asked him. They wore out fast, but you were always pleased to get a pair.
Sweat rags: There was a stores area on 2 road in the Shed, from which the Fitters and Laborers signed tools out, and back in again. There were also bags of recycled rags, made up of old clothes from charity bins by the look of them, that were usually smelly, and you would use them for cleaning windows, waxing the locos etc. When a crew was prepping a loco for Departure they would always grab an armful of the least smelly rags to put in the loco, so they'd have something to wipe their hands on, or if they had to check in the engine room, also to wipe the fuel gauge clean, etc.
This store also had cotton 'sweat rags', which were off white, with a hemmed edge, and which were new and clean. Crews would ask for one and mostly the Storeman might issue you one. In hot weather, some old drivers folded these over the backs of the collars of their shirts, to help keep their collar clean I guess. Most drivers had one or two of these rags in their bag, with cutlery wrapped in them, and if having a brew or meal would use one of these rags as a kind of little tablecloth. These 'sweat rags' were hard wearing and with multiple washes became very soft.
Breakfast Cereal: It was said that if you shunted Kelloggs at Botany that you could usually score some boxes of free breakfast cereal. I recall seeing a Delec crew in the Sign On room, who were signing off, and they each had a huge sugar bag, each bulging with different boxes of breakfast cereals. I think they had one of every cereal that Kelloggs produced. I only shunted Kelloggs once, and my Driver was keen for some free cereal, but we got none. We asked and were turned down. So I never scored anything here
Biscuits: Arnotts was at North Strathfield and it was also said you could score packs of free biscuits if you asked. Finding someone to ask was the hard part, you'd be shunting and no Arnotts employees could be seen. One driver I was with went in and asked and was given one pack that was already open with several biscuits already missing. We had seen this packet sitting on a box, don't know how long it had been there and open. It wasn't much but they were chocolate mint, and went down well with a brew. Other than those few bikkies never scored anything else here.
Milk: Dairy Farmers at Darling Harbour had a siding and loading dock on one side at the end closest to Central, on the side of the yard furthest from Paddy's Markets. One driver I was with reckoned you'd get free milk if you asked, including flavoured milk. He went in and was told to rack off. The only other place was Dairy Farmers at Pippita. The worker's there had a mealroom, and a Driver told me we were permitted to go in there and get some milk. The milk was in a large chromed or stainless steel urn, for the worker's tea and coffee. I went in and asked permission, got it, then half filled my billy with milk. Best milk I've ever tasted, the driver reckoned it was unpasteurised and untreated, as it came from the cow, except chilled.
There may have been other freebies, but these were all I can recall.
Talking about Darling Harbour; we used to do a late night/early AM milk trip train.
There used to be a regular guard on this train. (a lot of freight train guards used to like the same type
rosters) Around 3am after placing some milk pots there,
the guard come up to our 48 class with a "billy" of fresh cream milk
straight from the milk pots. (wagon)
He invited us (driver & myself the fireman) for a drink of this milk.
My driver Vince didn't mind it, but I nearly threw up from the
thick warm creamy milk. The guard smiled but told me "it takes a while to get used to it,
but will make you sleep like a baby when you knock off and sleep during the day and also make your other stuff as soft as a baby when on the throne!!
I did not take up the offer of any more milk
Vince and I (as regular mates-driver/fireman) used to do a lot of trip train
rosters out to Port Botany. Because we used to wear the locomotive crew green uniforms,
we could be mistaken for truck drivers. Vince was told that at the big cafeteria at Port Botany container terminal,
was heavily subsidised by the Port Authorities, but for Port workers and truckies only.
My good old mate Vince was a good conversationalist and could convince anyone that the sky was black when it was a blue sky if you get my gist.
As soon as we walked into the cafeteria some of the girls asked are we
truckies or port workers. "Of course" said Vince and mention so and so and who we worked for.
It worked every time. So we sat down for the mixed grill
(bacon, eggs, sausages, toast etc) and ample big cups of tea, all at a very low price.
We never got challenged inside the cafeteria, but only once a big
Pacific Islander who worked on the big forklifts asked Vince outside for a
B&H cigarette (that what Vince smoked) He recognised us as railwayman but gave Vince a wink,
and told us "Mum's the word for you railwayman in the Ports Cafeteria
and won't tell anyone. You Train driver blokes are OK to use it, but not the railway freight train guards in the blue uniforms"
ANOTHER DRIVER'S INUT: I'm picturing the
same damn driver going into each place and asking.
Knowing some of the cheapskates/garbage gutses it
doesn't surprise me
ANOTHER DRIVER'S INPUT: Being at Delec I knew about the "fringe benefits". I never got anything from Kellogs, but did get a box of Tim Tams from Arnotts, regular cream milk from the tanks at Pipita, a bit of fruit from "the markets" and billies of rough wine from the dregs left in the "empty" tanks from McWilliams Wines near
NEIL: That cafeteria lurk sounded like a good one. If they were that worried about non port or truckie staff using the facilities they should have instituted a meal pass, or the need to show some kind of ID to prove where you worked. Jeez you'd think they would have extended the privilege to train crews anyway.
Quote: Neil: The guard come up to our 48 class with a "billy" of fresh cream milk
straight from the milk pots. (wagon) He invited us (driver & myself the fireman) for a drink of this milk.
My driver Vince didn't mine it, but I nearly threw up from the
thick warm creamy milk.
Maybe the Guard had liberated the milk earlier and let it warm up. And thought he'd give it to the loco crew before throwing it out . Or he got it from inside Dairy Farmers, rather than a milk pot wagon.
I may be wrong (I often am, just ask my wife) but I thought the milk in the milk pot wagons was put in at a temperature just above freezing, so that it would last the trip.
The milk pot wagons were unrefrigerated - two stainless steel vats mounted on a flat wagon. And this was why the milk trains always ran at night - to avoid the heat of day, so as to keep the milk cold.
I remember the empty milk pot wagons would get cleaned and sanitised at Pippita and the smell where they washed them out was something else - not as bad as the Homebush Saleyards, but all the old cream and milk would get washed out onto the ground and in the morning sun would get pretty stinky. I guess there were drains but that area still smelt bad.
Quote another driver: I'm picturing the same damn driver going into each place and asking. Knowing some of the cheapskates/garbage gutses it
doesn't surprise me
Ha - it does sound like I'm talking about the same driver, and your description is funny, and very apt for a few. It was actually different drivers, but I'm sure there were more than a few who went looking for free stuff often. I was mostly on "Rouse About" with a different driver most days. All drivers mentioned Kelloggs as being great
for free cereal, but I think we only had one Trip Train that went out there each day, which shunted everything at, and on the way to, Botany. And with the amount of crews at Delec you might only do this trip train once a year or less. I only ever did it once. This was before there was the big yard there that
Tony worked at.
Arnotts at North Strathfield could be shunted by a few different Trip Trains at Control's behest. Didn't shunt there very often, maybe a few times a year.
Darling Harbour was a regular port of call for Enfield Trip Trains, hardly a week went by that I wasn't there at least once, either via the Goods line, or via the tunnel just short of Central Station, and only the one driver I went there with ever went hunting for the free milk. Maybe he was one who went looking for stuff everywhere
Quote another driver: Being at Delec I knew about the "fringe benefits". I never got anything from Kellogs, but did get a box of Tim Tams from Arnotts, regular cream milk from the tanks at Pipita, a bit of fruit from "the markets" and billies of rough wine from the dregs left in the "empty" tanks from McWilliams Wines near Rozelle
I remember being told by a driver about those tankers of wine when doing Number 1 Shunter at Rozelle. He pointed them out, noting that they had no markings to differentiate them from any other type of tanker, in order to deter 'unauthourised decanting' of any of the contents.
While we're on the topic of freebies and milk, here is another story.
This was told to me by a driver, I did not witness the event myself so I cannot vouch for its accuracy.
Maybe its a story that's well known, I don't know. Here's how I came to be told it, and the story
I was firing on a train coming back after Barracks at Broadmeadow. We were put away in a loop somewhere, probably so that a faster/higher priority train could pass us. We were told by Control (via the phone on the signal) to have crib, while we waited. It was night or maybe around sunrise.
While we had crib, this driver told me that once he had been in this loop and told to have crib, when hauling a train of milk pots.
The guard used this break to open one of the milk tanks and dipped his billy in to get some fresh milk. This was of course unauthorised - in effect stealing AND potentially contaminating a food stuff. I was told the milk in these was unpasteurised and untreated, fresh from the farm, and would be processed at Dairy Farmers in Sydney.
When he dipped his billy in, he caught his wrist on the side, and his watch band, which must have been weakened, gave way, and his watch fell into the milk tank. Guards
(and drivers and firemen) were issued with a railway wrist watch, with a number engraved on the back, so they could keep account of the watches. This means the watch would be traced back to the Guard, when the milk was drained at Dairy Farmers. Dairy Farmers would quite rightly file a big complaint, and the Guard would probably expect to be dismissed.
The Guard knew this and knew he had to get his watch out. These milk pot tanks were much more shallow than a fuel tanker, but were still over a metre deep, perhaps about 1.5 metres
The Guard took all his clothes off and climbed into the milk tank, felt for the watch with his foot, then bent over to pick it up, and climbed out of the tank, grabbed his clothes and ran back to the Guards Van, as the train would have to leave as soon as they got the Signal to go.
The Driver said it was also a cold winters morning, and the milk in the tank would have extremely cold. It was a very funny story. He would have frozen his marbles solid, and would have been a sight, coated from head to toe in milk & cream from the tank.
However the thought of the naked Guard climbing into the fresh milk was enough to put anyone off Dairy products for awhile.
I don't know if the story is true as I heard it second hand. Knowing the types of rogues that worked for the railway I'd say the story could very well be true.
Neil, had to laugh about that milk pot story about the guard.
I also heard that story/yarn many years ago too. I read a Henry Lawson story (I
think) a similar yarn about the old stagecoaches "Cobb & Co"
This is my way of remembering the story between the "lines" It was out west between Hay, hell
and Booligal (Far west NSW) and it had been raining cats & dogs for a few hours. The Gravel road was a mud quagmire. A young lady at the Post /Telegraph Office told the Post Master, "that the stagecoach is coming, but hang on he has stopped for a minute about 1/4 mile down the
track". "What's he doing?" "It's OK now he is coming into town."
When the stagecoach arrived, the young post office lady made a comment to the Cobb & Co rider how he was still bone dry. "Easy my lady, I drive naked when it's raining and keep my clothes dry when coming into town"
Talkin' also about the rain (true story this time)
I was with my first regular driver Tony. We had a south coast coal train to run from the Blue Mountains. On the Enfield up though road, the Lithgow crew took the 3 x 46 class's to Delec and we put 3 x diesels on her. 2 x 44's each end and 1 x 45 in the guts.
(they come from another local job at Enfield)
It was bucketing down rain.! After we did the continuity test etc and gave the new guard our timesheets and he gave us the load of coalies, away we went.
Around Canterbury then again around Tempe, the rear 44 class had 2 ground relays, but not enough to fail her, but had fingers crossed. We gave her a bit of stick going up the Como bank, but because it was constant drizzle rain and the rail track was so greasy our leading 44 class started to have constant wheel slip.
Guess what. We had run out of sand, ie sand box empty. We nearly "stuck" up but luckily we made it to Sutherland but around 15 minutes in that section. ie Como to Sutherland hill, and now suburban trains slowed behind us. We had two greens at Sutherland so we kept going to Waterfall, who put us in the "hole". My driver mate went the Waterfall SM's office to talk to control about our engines.
(no phones on board then) We were told to wait there and 2 other relief engines would come up from the coast, but
remarshal the 45 class to stay on our train. (the 2 x 44 class taken away with the other
When the new crew did arrive with the 2 relief loco's the rain had still not yet stopped. I had recently bought a new "Kojak" Ray Morris leather work bag,
but had thrown out my old musty rain coat and forgot to order a new one, and my driver mate did not have a raincoat either!! Guess who got totally drenched in the pouring rain to
remarshal/shunt the locomotives around with the other fireman. "Yours Truly"
Soaked uniform greens all the way to W'Gong and back. So maybe I should have done it like the Cobb & Co driver. Do it in the "raw" and kept the uniforms in the cab.
NEIL: Tony, good little story of a typical not so good day at work
Quote: and gave the new guard our timesheets
You know that's a small detail of train working that had completely slipped my mind since I last did that work 33 odd years ago.
I remember sometimes if you got relieved, the relieving crew would move the train out slowly so your Driver could hand the relieving crews timesheet to the guard, and get his back.
Quote: had recently bought a new "Kojak" Ray Morris leather work bag
What is that ? Was it a brown leather Gladstone bag ? These bags were common amongst the old drivers. They were expensive but hard wearing. A few drivers had large wooden boxes, shaped like a large toolbox, but more square rather than rectangular shaped, with a wide sling attached, so they could hang it over their shoulder. These looked very awkward to walk any distance with, and Delec crews did a lot of walking, from the Sign On room to any part of Enfield Yard to relieve a crew, or vice versa. Not many Delec Drivers had these wooden boxes, mainly foreign crews had them. Might have been their 'Barracks Boxes'. They were said to be 'foreign order' made unofficially in railway workshops, on railway time, with railway tools and materials, and you had to know some one to get one made.
Most firemen and many young drivers just carried a zip up sports bag.
There were certainly some changes to the Delec from your pictures.
The '46 side' was unchanged from when I was last there in 1978.
The only change to that part is under 8 road. Under the walkway,
that's closest to the shed wall, the Fitters and Labourers had built a long narrow humpy, the length of the walkway. It had a lockable door, windows, long benches, lighting and power points. They had portable TVs, radios, toasters, kettles, electric heaters, electric fans etc, & centrefold pictures up on the wall, magazines, books, and when up to date with the work they would hang in there and read the paper, play cards, sleep etc - all the sorts of things that would get Trainee Enginemen sent home without pay and a bung. On nighshift they'd turn the lights out and sleep for hours. Yes I wished it was me
The Trainee Enginemen had no such amenities - and the 46 side was a cold spot to have to just hang out on nightshift in winter, draughty and open, despite a diesel fueled space heater. There was a wooden bench (not long enough to lay down on ) at the entrance next to 7 road and that was it for comfort.
Similar humpys existed under number 2 road, for the Fitters and
Labourers. I was told that a new District Locomotive Engineer came along after I'd left and made them demolish the lot, no evidence remains as your picture shows.
The Driver that told me this some years later, said it with some amusement, I guess he remembered what it was like to be one of the 'Bottom Feeders' (T.E.) in the swampy pond that was Delec Enfield.
Talking about some of the good and bad days at Delec, one Sunday I got rostered for an odd job in July 1977.
It was a 7.53am start, STN (Special Train Notice) 369. All the STN jobs for the week were printed on a long piece of paper, sometimes half a metre, even up to a metre long, called a Special Train Notice, and a new one came out every week. The latest batch would have a hole punched through them, with a piece of string threaded through, so you could tear off one to take. This was hanging on the wall in the Sign On room at Delec. These detailed all the planned maintenance work for the per way infrastructure, such as lines, overhead wiring, signals etc, and what requirements were need for wiring, ballast, & other special trains, timings, etc.
Mainly you didn't bother looking at the latest STN, unless you were rostered on an STN job. Drivers read these more, as it might affect your train if heading west or north, etc, due to the need for temporary single line working etc.
Today's job was an odd one. The overhead power was to be turned off on the Clyde to Carlingford line, for planned maintenance, for the whole day, from 10am till midnight.
On a Sunday this line was usually serviced by a two car doubledecker electric suburban train, which did a shuttle back and forwards between Clyde and Carlingford, all day and evening. This was a short line, of about 6 stations, and the Doubledeck electric took about 25 minutes to get there, same amount of time to get back.
Instead of buses to replace trains, a diesel locomotive was assigned to haul the train, to the normal Sunday timetable.
We prepped 4498 and whistled out from Delec Departure Road at 8.18am (10 minutes to sign on, and 15 minutes to walk to the loco and prep it).
We then went light engine to Clyde, and I attached us to the two car doubledeck electric
(with pantograph down) at the platform, whose timetable number was 102b. We then commenced to haul this train to Carlingford. This was a very unusual job for Delec crews, the only time I ever hauled a passenger train. Norm (or Nev?) Stapleton was the Driver.
When we got to Carlingford I cut us off, we went forward, changed points then ran around to the front, changed points again, I hung on the side of the 44 and I attached us to the double decker again, ready to head back to Clyde. On arrival at Clyde same again, ready to head back to Carlingford
This went on all day, I think we did 7 round trips, which meant I cut off the loco 14 times and reattached it 14 times ! Luckily it was a sunny winter's day, had it been raining I would have had a lousy day. Lucky it wasn't too hot either.
I also had to keep a lookout at any platforms where the passengers were getting on/off on my side of the loco, and get the all clear from the Guard, before telling the driver we were right to go. With a 2 car train this was fairly easy, and I recall passenger numbers were light that day.
We were relieved at Clyde by another Delec crew in the late afternoon, early evening.
I don't recall whether the driver let me catch the train home from Clyde or whether he made me travel back to Delec to sign off with him. (I didn't get a car till 1978).
We were on for about 8 hours when relieved, so we would definitely be signing off, we would not be usable for any other work.
The rule was, if on for less than 7 hours, we would be required to go on Local, which meant sitting around in the Sign On room at Delec until you had worked at least 7 hours. At 7 hours or more, if nothing was doing, drivers had the option to sign off and go home (and get paid for 7 hours, or actual hours at work). Most drivers chose to sign off if having worked between 7 and 8 hours, a few 'hungry' drivers would not leave, no matter how quiet, until they had at least 8 hours. Of course the fireman's name was on the Driver's sheet, so the fireman had to do what the driver wanted to do, you worked as a crew, not individuals, and the driver was the boss. Sometimes a driver might actually ask me what I wanted to do, more often he'd just tell me, regarding this 7-8 hours rule
This job was memorable for two reasons other than having hauled a dead electric all day.
One was due to someone taking some photos of our 44 hauling the electric, at Carlingford. I wrote a letter in to a railway magazine asking if anyone who had taken a picture of this train could send me a copy. The letter was published. A few weeks after that I was mailed a copy of the picture and a letter from the guy who sent it. I was very grateful for it. Sadly I long ago lost the letter and photo.
Secondly, days later I was in the Sign On room. Driver Stapleton was there too. We were not regular mates, though he seemed to be an OK driver, though was pretty quiet. The clerks must have rostered us on together on purpose, as a Loco Inspector wanted to talk to us.
Seems there was a bridge on this line. And the bridge was not rated for big mainline diesels like 44 class, it was rated for small branch line locos
(like 48 class) only ! The Inspector said in theory the bridge could have fallen down, luckily it was apparently 'over engineered' when it was built. This was the first time such a heavy locomotive
(110 tonnes) had been taken over this bridge, we had made history. In a bad way.
Engineers had to do thorough checks to ensure this bridge had not been damaged, weakened or compromised due to having the 44 trundle over it dozens of times on that Sunday.
Bridges were a very sensitive matter for the railway in 1977.
The Granville train disaster (Bold Street Bridge
collapse) had occurred only 6 months earlier, only a few hundred metres from Clyde station. Even though the circumstances were entirely different.
I didn't get a bung, I don't think the Driver did either.
(If there had been a bung I'm sure we both would have worn
it). I'm fairly certain that the STN had specified that a 44
(or mainline diesel) was required for the job. The Inspector expressed a little disappointment that the driver hadn't known the weight limitation of the bridge, but also acknowledged that the fact was little known. The fact that a 44 had been requested and rostered for the job was a good point in our favour. The blame would need to be shifted upwards
(for a change).
Thinking about the old canteen/shower block in the background of the 44 photo.
From memory these were pretty rough even by 1970s standards.
The canteen had a concrete floor, stained dark brown from a thousand dirty greasy safety boots tramping in and out.
It had long wooden tables with a thin scratched white veneer on top. And long wooden benches each side of every table. No actual chairs.
For amenities there was a hot water urn, and what was termed 'pie warmers', metal heated cabinets that you could put a meal in and keep it warm, provided it was in a metal container. There was also a metal water cooler, which provided chilled tap water.
Microwave ovens existed, but in the mid - late 70s, none were provided for staff.
There were also no fridges to keep your meals or drinks fresh or cool, if you had brought any in.
The canteen was non airconditioned, but I think it had electric metal bar heaters mounted high up the walls, and possibly there were some ceiling mounted electric fans.
First time I went in the canteen, I noticed a number of used teabags were stuck, upside down to the ceiling, the strings and tags hanging down. These had got there by being thrown hard underhand, after having been used to make tea with, so that they stuck. There were also several brown splatter marks on the ceiling from unsuccessful attempts. The whole ceiling area had that queasy brownish tinge that comes from nictotine filled smoke. The hanging bags were referred to as "Christmas Decorations". Other than the Christmas Decorations there was no form of adornment or decoration about the place. No pictures, posters, potted plants, of any kind. At Christmas no decorations were put up. There was no TV or radio. No vending machines. It was like a Depression era atmosphere, but Delec was only built in the 1950s or 60s, though the canteen looked decades older.
Later in my 20s I joined the army, and I never saw a mealroom or mess as uninviting as this anywhere I went, this was the benchmark for low.
On dayshift the canteen served food, being run by about 4 ladies from the railway refreshment branch, all in uniform, which included some kind of material thing in their hair, like an
American maid would wear in an old 1950s movie. Even in the 1970s it looked odd and out dated.
The food provided was in the form of pies and sausage rolls, sandwiches, and in winter cooked sausages and sometimes rissoles on rolls. They also sold flavoured milk, soft drinks, chocolate bars, potato crisps, a small variety of cakes, cigarettes and matches, and a small range of men's interest magazines, kept in a rack behind the counter to prevent browsing I guess. Everything was reasonably priced, if not exactly cheap.
The ladies were all old (so they seemed to me then) probably being in their 40s or early 50s. A younger girl did start at some stage, being in her 20s, who caught all the young T.E's eyes, but as far as I know no one ever asked her out. Right from the start she made it known she had a boyfriend or was engaged or something. One of the ladies was also married to one of the old Shunters from Enfield Yard. Some of the Fitters and Labourers used to joke and maybe try to flirt a bit with the head lady. She had a good sense of humour, and she was treated with a lot of respect, as all the ladies were. You could tell she wouldn't put up with any nonsense from any of them.
The food serving part of the canteen was only open on dayshift, Monday to Friday. Of an evening roller doors were pulled down and padlocked to protect the counter and stock. The dining table part of the mealroom was open 24/7/365 days a year.
Smoking was also permitted, no restriction applied at all, and cigarette butts and spent matches would be ground into the floor under tables, sometimes even extinguished on discarded newspapers left on the table. This used to annoy me when I was looking for a paper to read, especially if the page 3 girl's eyes were burnt out with the end of a lit cigarette, as some nutter used to regularly do.
The ladies locked up about 5pm, and this was teabreak time for the T.E.s on the 3pm cleaning shift.
Maybe 4 or 5 of us would be on this shift, and we'd be sitting at a table, probably playing cards, and if we were lucky, and not all the sandwiches had been sold, one of the ladies would give them to us, rather than throw them out. This was fantastic, I can remember getting free egg, baked bean, & ham and tomato sandwiches. We'd launch into them like seagulls on dropped chips, sometimes one or two would get knocked to the floor in the scramble.
I almost never bought any food in, though often hungry I seemed to survive my shifts with no food, or on a bit of junk food.
Later in the evening, and on weekends the Fitters had a little "shop" in the room next to the shower block which sold softdrinks, packs of potato crisps and chocolate bars. They'd open this on their tea & meal break to make some cash for their annual picnic day. This provided many a T.E.s meal, satisfying the dietary requirements of fats and sugars, but not much else.
It was in the canteen, on a day shift that about 6 T.E.s were caught by Benny playing cards, outside of a break time. I'd say someone had told him we were there, as he came prepared with his notebook.
When he walked in a T.E. named MacDonald (Macca) saw him first and dived under the table. There was no way in the world that Benny could not have seen him, ours was the only occupied table in the place. Benny told us all off for a few minutes, then sent us home without pay, and with the knowledge that a bung (fine) would also be coming our way. Macca never moved. The ladies behind the counter were in near hysterics watching as this silly pantomine was played out of Macca hiding, Benny knowing he was hiding, all the T.E.s knowing he was hiding, but no-one being prepared to
'dob' him in.
As a result, when Benny left we all got up to go to the Locker rooms to get our bags and go home. Macca crawled out from under the table and snuck back over to the shed to the diesel he was supposed to be waxing.
I don't know why Benny decided to spare him, maybe he admired his quick reaction, and sheer nerve to stay under the table. I'll never know why for sure. I caught up with Macca a lot a year later at Narrabri West when we were both on loan there, and funnily enough even after I had resigned I saw him on two further occasions years later, in 1980, I was going out with a girl who was friends with his girlfriend, both girls lived out Merrylands way, and another time in 1983 at Mt Druitt , turned out he was a friend of a mutual friend.
Another night on nightshift I was in this canteen on break at about 3am. There were 4 of us, and one of the T.E.s was a bit of a petty bully. He had long straight black hair that reached down to his jeans. He was very proud of his hair, he was often brushing it. He came from Ashfield I think. He was being a pain in the
arse trying to stir me up. He'd try this from time to time. I was ignoring him. Suddenly a quiet
T.E. who was reading a paper, lunged at him and knocked him to the floor, quick as lightning, then leapt onto him, grabbing him around the throat. The Ashfield guy was in sheer terror. His hair was in all the ash and butts on the floor I couldn't help but note. The quiet guy told him that if he ever gave me a hard time again, he'd kill him. The mouthy guy gasped out that he wouldn't and I never had any trouble from him again. I'd never asked for any help, and the help was unexpected, though not unwelcome.
The quiet guy was from out Mt Druitt way, and I'd never seen him say or do anything violent before then or after that event. He then picked up his paper and kept reading. The quiet guy never passed
T.E. school, so spent his days mopping engine room floors on 1 Road. He had white/blonde hair,
and possibly a faint pommy accent, I can't remember his name. This incident was in 1976, and he was still there on 1 road when I left at the end of 1978.
The mouthy guy made it as a Fireman he was always friendly after that incident. He resigned to work as a waiter in his parent's restaurant, within a year.
The locker and shower rooms were shabby too. Old beaten up lockers, rusty and dirty, some painted orange, some grey, some green. Same dirty concrete floor. No privacy in the showers, just rows of nozzles and taps like some kind of army barracks. As I mentioned, the showers were infected with a very nasty form of
tinea, that just about rotted the skin off your toes. I've never had footrot as bad before or since using those showers. Problem was that when I worked the spray pits I had to shower at the end of the day, it was impossible not to get filthy.
I once was reading the paper, and there was a series of articles for a a few weeks about
horseriding, for people interested in horses or who owned horses. That wasn't my interest, but reading the paper helped to pass the time.
One day the article was titled in large black block letters: END THIS HABIT OF PULLING. This was about the horse pulling back against the rider, and the article was about how to train a horse not to do it. This headline was too good to throw away. I cut it out and glued it to Greg Keenan's locker, and for good measure cut out letters to spell KEENAN and glued that under it. Yes it was a dumb immature thing to do, but I was fresh out of school, I don't think I was even old enough to shave back then.
All the T.E.s who saw it thought this was hilarious, Greg Keenan found it less so, ripping it off his locker as soon as he found it. We were mates so it was all good fun.
Another memory of the locos in the mid to late 1970s
The most common locomotive you would find yourself in, for Delec crews was the 48 class. This was mainly due to the fact that all the metro Trip Trains had a 48 class rostered for them, as did many of the Yard shunters we did. A couple of Trip Trains had a 73 class rostered, as did a few yards, such as Flemington and Sydney Yard which were Eveleigh crew
Most 48 class had very basic seats, always referred to as 'Back Breakers'.
Older drivers claimed these were the same seats that were in the old steam loco cabs, and were removed from the steam locos before they went to scrap and were re-used in locos such as 48 class.
Having never worked a steam loco I didn't know if this was just griping, or if it was true. If it were true I didn't know whether to be impressed at the railway's ability to recycle, or depressed that a new loco would be fitted out with old second hand seats.
These 'Back Breakers' had a flat padded seat, usually covered with dark green vinyl, and most had a low backrest, that fit into the middle of your back, sort of like a 1950s office chair. A better version had a higher back.
Many Drivers and the Union claimed these seats caused back injury. I was young with a good back, and still found the seats not very comfortable.
They were gradually being replaced with air-ride seating. These seats were much bigger and contoured and were a lot more comfortable.
The new seats were also a lot easier to fall asleep in, a good thing when you were on a yard shunter on a quiet night.
The floors of cabs were usually covered with a yellowish brown linoleum, about the same colour as baby poo. A few locos had linoleum tiles, in an off shade of white. Whether they had the yellow brown or off white tiles, the floors were pretty scuffed up, and didn't come up too good, even when mopped with hot water and eucalyptus. I'd usually add some degreaser as well to help remove greasy boot prints.
After having spent a long time in the shed cleaning, I was glad to get "out
on the road" and out of the shed as an Acting Fireman. The first regular mate I had was a good bloke, but he had one annoying habit. After he made a billy of tea in the cab,
(which was at least once on every shift) he'd pour the remnants all over the floor
(not the tea leaves) and use rags to clean the floor with the spilt tea ! After so long of mopping cab floors in the shed, the last thing I wanted to do was clean cab floors out on the road. He'd do his side of the cab, which would oblige me to then clean my side. I guess he couldn't have known I was heartily fed up with cleaning cabs, but at least he wasn't like Animal Smith !
I remember a couple of other Drivers I fired for, not on my 1977 list. This is because I must have fired for them in 1978, and my Memo Book from then is long gone.
One was Barry Boland. Other firemen warned me he was not a Driver you wanted to be rostered with, as he was a 'grumpy bastard'
and similar descriptions. I did fire for him a couple of times, and I know where they were coming from, though the description was a bit harsh, I found he never said a word to me the entire shift, even though I did a Book Off job with him. He always looked serious
and grim, and did seem to be in a permanent bad mood. Maybe he just didn't like being rostered with useless looking long haired young firemen
Another Driver that Firemen didn't like was named Laurie I think. I won't mention his last name. He was an old timer with short grey hair, and he used to say that long haired firemen looked like girls, and must be gay, and stuff along those lines.
Long hair only became widespread in the early 1970s and many older people didn't like it at all.
Firemen who had been rostered with him said he'd even keep that kind of talk up in the cab, and would say he was going to use them to warm up his bed in barracks, and many felt he must be gay to carry on that way. I fired with him on a Barracks job to Lithgow, and he tried to stir me up with the same banter
(as I had long hair) but I just ignored him. I doubt very much he was gay, I think he was just a stirrer, and enjoyed annoying long haired firemen. Lithgow Barracks had shared rooms. We were booked off in the hours of daylight and I recall the Barracks were not very dark of a daytime. Still I was wary and slept with one eye open that day, just in case.
One of the most unusual jobs I was rostered on in 1977, was on 04 September on an Eastern Suburbs Wiring Train. These trains were used by the electricians to put up the overhead wiring. The train's number was E.S. 29, and I was rostered on with
R. Griffiths. The wiring train (or trains) worked around the clock for a number of days
(or weeks) to get the overhead wiring up for the then uncompleted and unopened Eastern Suburbs line to Bondi Junction.
We had to relieve the crew in place, signed on at 10.14am at Delec, caught the bus to Strathfield, then suburban electric train to St James. I remember we didn't know exactly where the train was on the line, and no one could tell us. I hadn't been on this line, I'm not sure about the Driver.
We then caught a bus to Bondi Junction, then walked to Woolahra Cutting, looking for the train. We thought we saw what looked like an entrance to a tunnel under a building, and walked in, tradies just ignored us, but it turned out to be a construction site totally unrelated to the railway.
We walked the streets for some time, finally finding a way into the railway, and walked via a tunnel to Wooloomoolloo viaduct, where we found the train and relieved the crew. The train was headed by double 73 class, 7343 and 7341. We didn't move much. Someone was down on the street trying to take pictures of the train, I thought looking down that he couldn't see much.
After a time we became E.S 30 and hauled the train to Martin Plaza where I got a good look at the new, as yet unopened station. It was very modern looking. A film or TV camera was set up, with bright spotlights, filming the station and wire train.
We then hauled the train to Enfield, storing it there and taking the 73s light engine to Delec. Was a different sort of a job, and not a long shift signing off at 7.10pm
The Back-Breaker seat were still in the 46 class locos when I started at Delec. I only ever fell asleep once on them and woke shortly after with two severely "dead legs". NEVER AGAIN!
Yes I forgot about those awful seats in the 46 class, and they also had the most cramped cab. Only thing good was the visibilty as you were only sitting maybe half a metre from the front of the loco. You did have a small flat surface in front to put your mug or small stuff on, unlike most diesels that only had the control stand to rest stuff on, which was a lot less convenient as it was higher.
Another amusing thing I recall was changing sides in a 48 class, as you often did when on trip trains or when shunting. Once or twice the Driver went to quickly fit the Reversing handle, and dropped it, with it falling inside the slot surrounding where it was meant to fit, inside the Control Stand. This required getting the "shifter" out of the tool kit to quickly undo the small bolts that held the cover over the Control Stand to retrieve the handle, then bolt the cover back on.
Took a picture of ASM signalman named Kurt.
The photo with 4715 was taken in 1976, so I can't be 100% certain if that was Kurt in the picture, but he had hair something like that so I guess it is, and given the angle it looks like another picture taken at the little Signalbox not far from Lithgow station (not to be confused with the large Signalbox about 1km further east, which was much closer to Lithgow loco).
I last saw Kurt in 1984 by which time I was in Traffic Branch myself, he was a Relief ASM in the Lithgow district (as was I from 1983 to late 1984). Lithgow District stretched down as far as Lapstone station in those days (Emu Plains onwards belonged to Sydney for admin operations and staffing purposes). He lived in the Blue Mountains at the time, don't recall which part.
Yep, that was him
I thought so. He was a Legend on the job!
Yes Kurt was a great bloke, he was actually maybe a SWSA or Signalman when the photo was taken with 4715, not sure if he was an ASM in 1976. I knew him from when he must have been a SWSA at Kingswood station, when Kingswood had a frame in an old wooden building that worked Gates and Signals, and which also served as the Ticket Office. Even in the 1970s it looked ancient inside, more like something from the 1800s. He was always a good guy.
How I came to take some Lithgow photos that I've have up
here. When I was a T.E. cleaning in Delec shed,
(and after I gave up the dayshift only Spray Pits) we used to do roughly 1 week of day shift, 1 week of afternoon and 1 week of nightshift. After the last nightshift for the week I was frequently rostered for 4 days off. There was nothing worse than getting home after a nightshift, on days off and falling asleep, I preferred to try to stay awake all day to try to get back into a normal night time sleep pattern. I also hated the thought of wasting a precious day off by sleeping through it. Sometimes I'd catch an interurban home from Strathfield after the nightshift, and not get off at my stop, and continue on for the trip to Lithgow, which was a 2 or more hour ride. I'd maybe doze off a bit on the way. I'd get off at Lithgow station then get something to eat on the main street of Lithgow, and take some pictures around the place.
Once I was walking down, via the nearby road and Kurt called out from the small signal box. He must have remembered me from when I used to talk to him when he was at Kingswood. So a couple of the times I went to Lithgow I'd drop in and say G'day to him in the signal box and take a few pictures from there. As well as that I'd walk down to the loco depot and around town, and then catch an afternoon train back down the mountains, to home. Later when I was a relief ASM in Lithgow District I worked signal boxes, stations, and was often part of the safeworking staff and ticket working while one line was closed for maintenance, but
don't think I ever worked with him, but saw him about a couple of times.
Quote: It's a good thing you were able to
images. Not many others thought it was worthy at he time.
Yeah its hard to picture how much things will change, and when. When I was a teenager I couldn't conceive the changes that would come in over a couple of decades, I guess not many other people could either, or else there would have been a lot more pictures taken by others too.
I sold a few hundred images I'd taken in 1974/75, in 1976 to Kurt, cheaply, as I thought I could always take more or less the same photos again ! How wrong was I. I wonder if Kurt still has them, or if they were long ago lost, thrown out, given away or destroyed.
Anyway back to Delec and some more stuff from my shed days.
I recall one of the T.E. Cleaners came in on a Monday day shift, with a bit of a limp. I was assigned to work with him waxing a diesel and he told me he had had a bad fall rollerskating over the weekend, and was in a lot of pain, but came in to work, so that he could report he had fallen over at work ! That way work would pay all the medical expenses !
I've mentioned before that Tom was a Head Cleaner and he was extremely unpopular. Unlike Benny, or even Reg, he never even pretended to like any of the Trainee Enginemen. He was morose and angry looking, all the time, and seemed to be always on the verge of any angry outburst at any or all of us, and often did let fly.
Despite that he had one or two favourites. Lance was one. Lance was just an ordinary young T.E. from out St Marys way, as far as I could tell. He had a greyhound he was training. Because Tom favoured Lance, some of the other T.E's dreamt up all all sorts of unsavoury, and I'm certain totally unfounded rumours as to why Tom liked Lance. They used to write graffiti about this on the toilet walls, which Tom would see and remove with steel wool
(no wonder Tom got cranky!)
On Saturday day shift, Tom would sometimes be rostered on as our boss. There used to be a little outdoor area outside the shed, behind 8 road. It had a couple of crude benches, a couple of unkempt shrubs and was mowed semi regularly. It was kind of an alternate place to have your tea break or lunch, but I never knew anyone to use it. It could be accessed by car, though it wasn't actually a car parking area. It was quite a hidden and out of the way spot. Tom would park his car there, under shade of a large unkempt shrub, and often take a nap in it, or so I was told. T.E's would sneak around to see what he was up to, hoping to find Lance in the car with him. I think they were eternally disappointed, but some reckoned they saw him drinking booze in his car. I never went around there, so I don't know, I had sense enough to keep well away.
One T.E. who really hated Tom, told me he was going to write a note with the type of stuff they'd write on the toilet walls and put it in Tom's car. I talked him out of it, as I knew Tom would make us all pay if he got angry. I talked this guy out of it a few times, as he kept bringing the topic back up, he really hated Tom. Despite my best efforts he wrote the note and snuck up to the car, and went to drop it in through the window, which was partly down, when Tom woke up. That guy ran for his life, but the note was already dropped, and Tom read it and got very mad. Old Tom made all our lives even more of a misery from that day on.
Locos that had been in the shed for major work or an overhaul were often kept in 2 road. After the work was completed the loco might be taken for a test run, with a loco crew and a couple of fitters to check the loco's performance, and I guess to make adjustments or repairs if needed. These would often run Light Engine out to Penrith and back. These were mostly main line locos, with two cabs.
Occasionally cheeky cleaners would go along for the ride in the number two cab, depending who the driver was, as some wouldn't mind, T.Es were not their concern or problem. This was risky for two reasons. Firstly your absence might be noticed by the Head Cleaners, and secondly if anything went wrong on the test run, it could take a long time to get back. I longed to try this, but assayed the risks as being not worth it.
A couple of times T.E. cleaners bought their mates in to work, but usually only on a weekend nightshift. These mates were evidently 'gunzels'. On nighsthift on weekends there were few staff about. I remember a Chargeman quizzing who one guy was once, and not worrying about it, and on another
occasion a Chargeman on finding the person was not staff, angrily ordered them out of the place.
I bought a mate in once when I was on Departure Road. He was still in YR 11 or 12 at High School, and thinking of leaving and joining the railway, as I had done. The chargeman didn't bother about him. One night on Departure Road was enough to convince this guy to stay in school, probably the best thing he is now a Bank Manager. It was an easy night too.
One week there was a Sleeping Car from the Southern Aurora on the Wheel Lathe. One of the T.E.s suggest we check it out. It still had all the bedding, sheets etc, evidently from its last trip it hadn't been made up. He announced he was going to have a kip. This was very tempting, it was a cold winters night as well, but pretty risky, the Chargeman would be mighty unimpressed if he couldn't find him. The Chargeman spent most of the night in his office, but might check on the T.E.s now and then. I went back to Departure Road, the other T.E was on One Road cabs, I told him that if the Chargeman came looking for him, I'd say he had gone to the locker room or something, and then run over and wake him up.
The next night I slept in the Southern Aurora Car and he covered for me. I had the best and only long sleep I'd ever had at work. My greasy old workboots played havoc with the sheets, they were a mess, but I figured it was better than dirtying up the actual fittings, the sheets could be cleaned or thrown away.
Next time a passenger car was on the wheel lathe, all doors were locked !
Sometimes, after bringing down a train from Broadmeadow, we might have been on for long hours, and we looked forward to being relieved at Enfield. But if we didn't go into the yard, and were routed to the Delec platform, we anticipated being relieved by a local crew. But if there wasn't a crew in sight, things didn't look good.
Control might then tell us that we were to take the train on to Rozelle instead. I soon learned never to admit that you were qualified for Rozelle, so they had to find a relief crew instead.
Otherwise we could be on duty for a fair bit longer, and by the time we stabled our loco's, we could maybe miss our return working
(if rostered for one), and be stuck there for a while, waiting for another job home.
Interesting you say that. I'd been thinking how there were quite a few crews rostered on at various hours during the 24 hour day as 'Local' at Delec. This meant you had no rostered job, you were simply on Standby in the Sign On Room. One of the main reasons for this was to have a crew on hand to relieve other crews who were on long hours, be they Delec crews or foreign crews.
I think the rule was no more than 11 (or maybe 12) hours in the cab, and this was strictly adhered to.
I recall being told that if no relief could be had then the train was to be 'put away' into a yard or siding until relief came, though the organisation didn't see that occur often, at least I was unaware if it ever did.
If a Driver assessed that maybe they would 'break' (the term for exceeding the maximum hours in the
cab) they would stop and ring the Zona Chargeman or Clerk in the Sign On Room at Delec and let them know, or pass it on via Traffic staff. I still have the Zona Chargeman's number in my book - 37325, and most Drivers had enough nous to work out early on if they were going to 'break' and give plenty of notice to the Zona
If you worked more than 10 (or was it 11) hours you got 'the dollar' which was a meal allowance of about $1.20
(I can't recall the exact amount). Doesn't sound much but in 1977 it was worth a lot more, and probably would buy you a pie, softdrink, and chocolate bar.
The Zona Chargeman would then organise for a crew on Local to relieve the crew on long hours. This might be as easy as walking up to Enfield yard or onto Delec platform, or might involve being driven in a Call Truck
(a Holden Kingswood Station wagon) to a designated place to relieve the crew on long hours. I recall going by Call
truck as far as Maldon, Waterfall and Hurstville to relieve crews. Sometimes we took a relieving Guard with us.
I recall being sent west by interurban passenger train to relieve a crew on long hours coming off the west, with Control updating signal/station staff who updated the Guard, who updated us as we progressed west, where to get off to relieve the crew.
Or more often the Call Truck would take us to a yard in the metro area such as Clyde, Flemington Markets, Abbatoirs, Cooks River, etc to relieve the long hours crew, who would then usually be taken back in the same Call Truck.
Being rostered on Local was always a mystery. You might wind up going to Goulburn, or you might sit on your bum the whole shift, alternating between hanging out in the Sign On room and the meal room, for a cup of tea and a break. The Sign On Room was almost always full of crew, signing on or off, or on Local, and lots of banter and jokes and mostly good natured stirring went on. Sometimes things flared up a bit, but not often. It was a chance to catch up and talk to your fireman mates and exchange stories, sometimes for a few minutes or other times for hours, hanging outside in the dark, having a smoke and passing the time.
Some guys used to sit and study the rosters hanging up which was referred to by the old drivers as 'picking the eyes out of the roster'. Some guys would look at the roster and state that so-and-so was getting all the good jobs.
The Holiday Roster was hanging up which was randomly allocated, you had no say when you took your leave each year. If you didn't like when your leave was allocated and you could find someone willing to swap leave with you for their leave period, that was allowed, otherwise it was tough luck, you took your annual leave when it was rostered.
Seniority Lists hung up too, with every Driver from Number 1 down, this was updated every year or so.
I think there were Fishing Club Notices too, though I didn't know of anyone in the Fishing Club.
Also in the Sign On Room would be had written notices advertising Toranas, Monaros, motorbikes etc for sale, I remember one driver stating that as soon as overtime dried up a bit these notices multiplied where young firemen had borrowed more than they could pay back.
Local crews were also useful if a crew member rang in at short notice to say they were sick. The rule was you had to give 4 hours notice, but this didn't always happen. Also in case a crew member didn't turn up at all. On occasion a crew member might turn up in not a fit condition to work, especially with early AM starts on a weekend. The crew member would be told to go home, they would be listed as 'Sick' and no more was said about it. I remember on occasion enginemen who were very obviously not in a fit condition to work arguing the point and wanting to sign on, and being told firmly but not rudely that they were sick and had to go home.
Neil, your comments about
long hours and "breaking" reminded me of one
incident I had.
We were to take a train from Broadmeadow to Taree, and
we were told we had to shunt Gloucester dairy. As the NC
line was CTC, this required two hand-held radios on a
separate frequency to Control, so we wouldn't block the
channel. But there weren't any available when we signed
on. By the time we prepped our engines, made up the
train, and waited for some more wagons, we had been on
for some hours already. Before we left, I went in to the
roster clerk to warn him that we might be on long hours,
and to see if he had the special radios for us. He said
he didn't have any, but that we would be relieved at
Gloucester by a Taree crew, and they would have the
radios with them.
When we reached Gloucester, there was no sign of a
relief crew, and I got on to Control to notify him of
the situation. Turned out that no relief had been
arranged, and he asked me to shunt the dairy while he
got onto Taree to arrange for relief. As you can
imagine, we were pretty unimpressed by this, being on
duty for 12˝ hours by now, and no radios. I told him
this, and that we were entitled to shut the train down
on the main line till we were relieved.
We were quite within our rights to do this, but we
wouldn't have anyway, as we would have blocked the
section. Control assured us that relief was on the way,
and asked us if we would do the shunt. My mate and I
agreed, and said that we would take it further on our
return. (It wasn't his fault, and he was caught as
much as we were.) After we did the shunt, the
relief crew hadn't arrived, as it was a windy lot of
rural roads to get to us. Control asked us if we would
continue on to the next loop, as it would be quicker to
be relieved there than to remain where we were. We
agreed to do this, and at the next loop the relief crew
and the call truck were waiting.
The Taree crew said that they hadn't been notified that
we would require relief, and I think that they were
called out to fill the gap (it was around midnight by
this time). At that time you had to be signed off
for 7 hours on a barracks job, and we would have missed
our return job by this time anyway. We had quite a while
there before they had a job home for us, and at least we
had time for a decent sleep, and a good feed. Taree
barracks rooms were like motel suites, and it was one of
the better places to camp. When we arrived back at
Broad, there were apologies, and not long after, we
received a letter of apology from the train crewing
manager, saying that it would not happen again. And I
never had anything like that again, fortunately!
Graham that was an interesting about your long hours Taree incident. I guess the further away you get from Sydney, the harder relief becomes.
I had a few extra long shifts, they didn't worry me too much as I was mostly with Drivers who
didn't know me, so didn't or wouldn't ask me to assist with driving, so hardest part of my job was maybe staying awake and alert, particularly at night.
In my first month out on the road I did quite a few 10 + hour jobs. I was signed on at 6.00am for Local with driver J
Smythe, but this got changed to 709 SC (South Coast) hauled by 4883
and 48130. These were usually changeovers with Coast crews, but for once we got all the way to Port Kembla North without a changeover, then Home Passenger on a late afternoon passenger service, signing off after a 14 hours 35 minutes shift.
Looking through my notebook many of my "Locals" became South Coast jobs, and some of my rostered South Coast jobs got cancelled on the day, and became Locals instead.
But you could get 11 + hours without leaving the local area. A month later I was signed on for Local at 5.10am with Ray Sullivan
(the young one). We did a lot of hanging around then were sent
(walked) to Enfield North to relieve a crew on 4895 took the train into the yard, and the loco to
Delec. Then more waiting around the Sign On room, then relieved 464 South at Delec Platform, with 42107
and 48111, took it to Cooks River, then Light Engine to Eveleigh where we stabled the locos, then suburban train and bus back to Delec to sign off - 11 hours 55 minutes shift.
In fact most of my long hours shifts (10 + hours) occurred in the Sydney metro area.
My longest shift in 1977 was Thursday 22 December. Signed on at 5.31pm with Vassos Vassiliou
(aka Vince) to do 415 South to Goulburn & Home Passenger. Prepped 4205, took it light engine to Botany,
and attached to 415 South. Something was wrong with the Guards Van, and no spare van was available at Botany
(I didn't note what was wrong, bloody fussy guards ) so we had to take the train to Enfield, where the van was cut off, and another added. Then to Goulburn arriving sometime around very dark o'clock. We weren't prepared for barracks, we were too early to catch a more comfortable ride on 4 South
(Spirit of Progress) so hitched a ride back on 476 South, camped in the number two end of a 44 for the ride back, signing off 15 hours and 14 minutes after we had signed on.
Long days, fun days, all long gone
I beat you by 36' mins mate. ie 15 hours and 50 minutes longest shift for me,
(10 mins off 16 hours!) Enfield to Goulburn and backhome passenger train.
(came back home Goulburn to Strathfield on Spirit of Progress back loco
cab) I have also done 14 hours and 16 hours in Barracks waiting for my
rostered train home, and once after 12 hours, the call boy told my driver and me that our rostered train for us to work home out of barracks,
"disappeared" so we came home passenger from Goulburn on the XPT.
Ahhh yes long shifts and stuck in barracks, the joys of being a NSW State Rail engineman
(train crew) NB: The shortest shift for me was 4 hours neat. (inc 10 min sign on at Goulburn Station and sign off time at
Delec) The Driver: (Garry White) and myself out of the Goulburn Barracks.
worked an express freight high wheeler (100km/h runner) with a 421 class up front and green light signals all the way to the Delec platform and we got relieved there.
So we claimed the 6 hours mileage payment. Some shifts are rememerable especially with the rock
and rolling 421 class doing mostly track speed.
Yeah, I agree 15 hours 50 minutes is a looong shift. I also had it happen a few times that a Barracks job in Goulburn became Home Passenger. I still have the 'amended' entries in my book. Sometimes we were told outright when we signed off duty in
Goulburn and other times it was only when we were in Barracks and would be woken by a call boy advising our job home was running too late, so we were to go home, but this was after only 7 or 8 hours in Barracks, not your 12
(thankfully). It always seemed a waste to have a barracks job cancelled.
And from memory time spent in Barracks was paid at much less than your hourly rate, I cant remember what the rate was, but it was well under a dollar an hour, maybe 20 cents per hour or something like that.
It seemed to only happen with Goulburn to me, but then again it was our most common Barracks destination in those days. And the "Express" freights were often delayed, even though in theory their on time running was supposed to be as important as that of passenger services. I can recall leaving on Mayne Nickless Expresses three and four hours after their scheduled departure time from Enfield, probably as the train was incomplete, or still being loaded, but as you know many things could delay your departure: loco shortages, brake van shortage, waiting for a train examiner, waiting for a Guard, waiting for the road, etc, etc
In my time, train crew were also allowed to ride Home Passenger in passenger cars on any passenger train, the two exceptions being 1
and 2 South (Southern Aurora) and 1 and 2 West (Indian
Pacific). This was because these trains only had First Class seating/cabins, and staff could only ride free for work purposes in Second Class. I went home passenger on the Spirit a few times, sitting in an upright seat in Second
(or Economy) Class, catching a few winks on the way. You just showed your Delec issued free travel on public transport pass which identified you as an employee to the train staff if they asked to see your ticket. This was before uniforms were issued, so no one knew you were train crew. Maybe the rules changed later, or maybe your
driver just didn't want to sit in with all the pensioners
I had a few 6 hour shifts coming off Barracks in my book, but nothing as short as your 4, at least not in 1977.
Longest 'Home Passenger' trip I ever did was probably 15 hours or more, I
don't recall how long exactly, but I got on it in daylight, and got off it in daylight the next day. But it wasn't a paid shift. I went on loan to Narrabri when I was a Class 1 Engineman for the wheat season in 1977. Even when I arrived I was told the bulk of the work was over, and by the 4th week I was there I was getting a job about every 3rd day, so was only getting paid the 'Guarantee' of 40 hours per week. It would have been nice if I was looking to be semi-retired, but I was only 17 years old - a bit young for that.
I also was living in the Barracks at Narrabri West, which is a few kilometres out of Narrabri town, and had no
car and the boredom was killing me. The Barracks had no amenities other than beds, ablutions and a kitchen/mealroom, there was not even a TV or radio, and the nearest shop to get your smokes or a can of coke was a little service station on the way to Narrabri township, about 2 or 3 kilometres walk.
So I decided to ask the Roster Clerk if I could go home. He was happy to see me go, as it meant more work for everyone else. Later in the day he came over to the Barracks and said he had rung
and arranged for my transfer back to Delec, and I was now off Narrabri's Enginemen Roster, and to ring Delec Roster Clerks on 37167 as soon as I got home to get my next job. This was great, I packed my bag, and asked one of the other on loan guys to give me a lift to Narrabri Station so I could get the afternoon train to Sydney home. I didn't have a car at that stage.
I kind of forgot that there was a passenger service from Moree to Sydney only 3 or 4 days a week, and this day wasn't one of them. I
didn't want to waste another day in Narrabri. A mail only train ran in the passenger train's place on the days there was no passenger service, so I asked the Guard if I could hitch a lift in a mail van. The train was made up of several such vans. He was happy enough for me to get a lift, and pointed to one mail van that he said wouldn't be disturbed for the rest of the trip, as it was loaded with parcels and mail bags for Sydney.
So I arranged the mail bags into a lumpy bed and settled in for a very long trip. It was late October, and was quite cold for most of the trip after dark fell. Every time the train stopped
(which was at every station to pick up and drop off parcles and mail
bags) the slight lurch of the carriage would wake me up, and I'd notice how cold it was, particularly on the ranges. Sometimes I'd stand up and walk around to warm up, and look outside for the station name, and was always a bit amazed that every time I checked I expected to see a place name I knew, but every check revealed we were still a long way from Sydney. I
didn't quite realise how long this trip would take, and hadn't bought along anything to eat or drink. We stopped for quite a while at some spots, where a small mountain of mail and parcels would be piled up on the platform waiting to be loaded on this train. Eventually we arrived in Sydney, long after sun up, and caught a suburban train home. Worst 'passenger' trip ever, but I was glad to be back at
Not long after I was "on the road" as a fireman 1980 or 81
a lot of blokes at Delec and a couple of other depots too, were buying the large full leather barracks bags,
from Ray "kojak" Morris. $50 then but worth it.
Top bags to carry and much lighter than the "old style" metal box
some blokes used to carry to barracks, hence the name "box" jobs.
ie Barracks (rest, cook & stay)
Talking too about Barracks, as an engineman at Delec, because of the rosters I was on with my
regular drivers (Tony Ryan then Vince Jelley) we predominatly got the
"book off jobs" at Goulburn, and only a few at Broadmeadow, and only rare at Lithgow.
But the good thing about it was going to Goulburn for me, it was mostly an afternoon/early evening sign on at
Delec, and arrived at Goulburn around 10pm-3am. So we slept like normal dayworkers do,
and always got a "daytime" train coming home, after our min. 8 hours rest in Barracks.
Goulburn barracks was also pretty good, with quiet single rooms
double glazed windows and internal venetian blinds. Some of my older engineman mates while doing their road trials
to Goulburn, hated signing on at 6-7-8am and booking off at 2 or 3pm
and then coming home after 8 hours rest at 11pm or midnight. Daywork sign on's to Barracks was a killer for some.
About getting a lot of the southern line working. I'm pretty sure all my "regular mates" were not qualified for the North or West. They were all relatively young. You probably remember thats how it was in those days, a Driver only qualified for the North later, and the West last, I guess because it had the hardest grades to deal with.
And given that firemen had to qualify on the Southern & South Coast lines, to pass the Acting Driver's test it made sense to be rostered with a Driver who did a lot of that working, to become familiar with the signal locations, loops, sidings and grades.
I also spent a lot of time on the Pencil roster and fairly often was rostered with one old driver or another for western or northern jobs.
I remember coming home from Lithgow with one old driver, in a couple of 46s with a train of mixed wagons. My memory isn't perfect of how things were done back then, but I recall that the triple valves on the wagons had to be set so that the brakes were partly applied on all the wagons for much of the trip down the mountains, and at some point, when the worst of the grades were over, the triple valve levers had to be set to 'normal' where the brakes were no longer partly applied. This had to be done manually on each wagon, by the Guard.
Anyway coming down the mountain, we noticed a lot of smoke being generated, as the brakes were becoming very hot. The Driver made me stick my head out the window and watch the train, to let him know how it was going, and to check that sparks didnt set fire to the surrounding bush. This seemed pointless to me, but I kept him informed that with the amount of smoke being generated, particularly from some BBW (ballast wagons) that I couldn't tell if the bush was catching on fire, but many wagon bogies looked like they were on fire & were probably melting. He didn't find it very funny. We completely blanketed stations and passengers waiting on platforms with thick clouds of stinking burning smoke as we squealed and creaked our way down the mountains. A steam train couldn't have generated as much smoke as we were. I half expected to see the Bush Fire Brigade chasing after us.
Another time coming home after Barracks at Lithgow, we got down to Glenbrook, moving very slowly, and there was an attractive looking woman standing on the platform ahead. The Driver asked me if we should stop and give her a lift. I readily agreed, not that he needed my permission. I'd never had a Driver give a non railway person a lift before. The train groaned to a halt and he got me to open the door and ask her where she was going, which she said was Penrith, and did she want a lift. Surprisingly she agreed, and we put up the Inspector's seat for her. It was pleasant to have some pretty feminine company for a change, and we let her out at Penrith. I wished she could have rode with us the whole trip. This Driver's name was Laurie, the same one that used to make out he was gay to stir up his long haired firemen.
To digress, the only other time a Driver I was with (almost) invited a woman into the cab, was shunting STC container terminal at White Bay in a 48 class. You'd often sit idle for quite some time, with nothing to do, and my Driver called me over to his side of the cab to see a very attractive woman climb down from a big truck cab, parked nearby. She then walked over and spoke to another truckie and climbed up into his cab. Big rigs in that era often had sleeper compartments at the back with a bed and curtains. She was 'working', and a bit later she left the truck cab, saw us looking at her, and gave us a beaming smile and wandered over. I took off back to my side of the cab, and she chatted to the Driver. I was really hoping he wasn't going to invite her up, as there is no room and no privacy in a 48 cab. Fortunately nothing came of it !
Another time altogether I was rostered with Laurie, and we were running light engine in a 48 from Darling Harbour to Enfield, via Strathfield. It seems all drivers loved the stretch from Redfern to Strathfield when travelling light engine, and most drivers felt obliged to open the throttle up to get through it as fast as possible, as this same piece of perway was rated for high speed and also used by express passenger trains. For reasons best known to himself Laurie decided he was only going to use the train brake to slow and stop the 48, rather than the Engine Brake. As we were travelling light engine,
(without a train), there was no reason to be using the Train Brake.
Now I resigned before I did any of the Acting Driver's courses where you learn all the technicalities and
minutiae of operating and applying the Westinghouse air brakes, but I never before or since was rostered with a Driver who did this.
To explain, and forgive me if I oversimplify, or get it a bit wrong, as it was a long time ago,
and I only had some basic 'on the job training' from some Drivers, but The Engine Brake handle was used to apply and release the brakes on the locomotive.
The Train Brake handle is used to apply the brakes to all the wagons on the train.
When you apply the Train Brake it also automatically starts to gently apply the Engine Brake. You could see this by the slow creep of the needle on the
brake gauges. So it is possible to control a light engine with the train brake, but its not efficient, and there is no reason to do it this way.
So to actually slow and stop just the locomotive using the just the Train Brake, it had to be applied really hard and often, and around Strathfield we got a caution signal, so had to slow down quickly from around 100km per hour.
Laurie had to apply it full on in "Emergency" mode in order to make the Engine Brakes come on hard enough, instead of simply using the Engine Brake, which would have very quickly and efficiently slowed the locomotive.
When the Train Brake was fully applied the air escapes out of the back of the brake stand and makes a deafening noise, which due to to the direction it vents, seems much louder on the fireman's side of the cab.
It's actually loud enough to impair your hearing for a while after, and can be almost painful with the pitch and intensity of the sound as the compressed air exits.
Laurie knew this, but persisted all the way to Enfield with using just the Train Brake. He actually said it was more 'fun' or 'interesting' driving that way, even though I didn't question what he was doing or complain about it.
I figured he was just trying to get my goat, so didn't react. When I was back with my regular mate Vass a week later, I told him about Laurie's braking stunt, and he was actually more annoyed with Laurie than I was, he reckoned it was a low act, and I should have got stuck into him about it, but I got more pleasure from not taking the bait,
and not giving Laurie the satisfaction of a complaint, as it was evidently Laurie's favourite game to stir up long haired young firemen.
I guess the old drivers had to find some way to get back at those annoying long haired firemen back in the 70s
ANOTHER DRIVER'S INUT: When
driving multiple locos Light Engine, the brakes can be applied
faster on the trailing locos using the Auto. When only a single
loco, then it's a different story.
A lot of drivers used to do
"track speed" (or around 70km/h) from Darling Harbour.
(Redfern) to Strathfield with Locomotive Light Engines. I
was told we had to do it because train/traffic control would
report (bung) us if we went too slow, but I and most
others still only used the engine brakes only. But interesting
though. Even while shunting at Enfield with non air trains I
used to use both brakes, ie train and engine. Just thought I
would tell you that to confuse all the readers.
Thanks guys, interesting to know. I'm sure it was a single 48. But it was a long time ago.
I'm just about out of anything much else recountable about Delec, so might wind this one up.
I resigned at the end of 1978 and rejoined less than 2 years later, I might start a new
page about my second 'career' on the railway.
At the end of 1978, I resigned from the railway, leaving Delec as an Engineman Class 2. I had no desire to do any shiftwork related job again. I did a bit of travel, driving down through southern NSW, Victoria and South Australia. On returning back to western Sydney I started work at a Petroleum Depot mainly working the cash register. The hours were day time Monday to Friday which was great, but the pay was woeful. I was earning about 20% of what I was earning as an engineman. But I was working half the hours
and no shiftwork or weekends. The other people that worked at the Petroleum Depot kept to themselves, were mainly truck drivers and were older, and were not easy to get on with,
and there seemed to be no future here, so one day I resigned on the spot. I drove again down to South Australia to visit some relatives, then up to the Gold Coast, just enjoying the freedom for a few weeks.
On returning I got a job as an "office Johnny" for a large quarry group, who had their headquarters in the western suburbs at Greystanes. At first this was a bit better than the last job, I was now earning about 25% of my former wage, and still no weekend or shift work. After about 6 months it was getting quite boring. Petty office politics were also a drag. There were only a couple of people my age but they worked in other sections, so it was pretty well impossible to talk to them. Most people were twice, even three times my age, and we had nothing in common. It was a bit like being back as a Trainee Engineman Unqualified, I was again the bottom of the food chain, but unlike Delec I had no mates at the same level to talk to, and unlike Delec, there was no clear career path to advance yourself. I was still only 19. A job was internally advertised in Accounts, which was a step up, which I put in for, but it went to a boss' son.
One of my mates got it into his head to go to Western Australia for a look. It didn't take much to convince me to come along, so I resigned with minimum notice. The old women I worked with said I'd regret leaving such a good job, good jobs are hard to find, etc, but fact is I've never missed that job or them since I left it in 1979.
The trip to Perth was uneventful. On the way we called into the railways at Port Augusta in SA and found to our surprise that they were recruiting staff and would give us a start. I ascertained the positions were as Safe Working Station Assistants (though that may not have been the exact title) They told us we were certain starters if we wanted the positions, though they had yet to clarify a start date for training, but it would probably be in a month's time. They would put us through training and qualify us, then we would be 'Relief' and go where needed. I gave them my relatives address in Port Pirie and told them to send the letters to that address when they had the start date, so we'd know when to come back.
Neither me nor my mate wanted to hang out in Port Augusta or Port Pirie for a month waiting, we still wanted to see Perth. Before we left I asked the railway guy what would happen if we didn't pass the training. I figured having passed NSW training this would not be hard, but my mate had no railway knowledge. The railway guy, who wore a business shirt, not a uniform, said that was not a problem, he was one of the trainers, and he'd keep training, till everyone passed !
When we were in Perth I also enquired at WA railways, but they were not recruiting. They told me they had taken in some Trainee Enginemen a few months back, but had no future plans to take on more, or any other staff. Perth was nice enough, but our money was starting to run low, so we headed back to Port Pirie in South Australia. The letters had not arrived, we now only had enough money for petrol home & a few steak sandwiches on the way, so decided to head back home to NSW. Not long after we got back, my relatives in Port Pirie rang to say the letters with our start date for the railway training in Port Augusta had arrived. I'd lost interest in going back, as had my mate, so we told them to chuck the letters away. Port Augusta was not a very appealing looking place back then, and we knew no one there. My uncle told me I was weak, and should come back & take the job. I didn't even have the petrol money to get there !
I was needing a job & money, living back with my father was not much good. I'd tried the couple of day work jobs and they had turned out to be pretty awful, so I decided to give NSW railways a shot again. Despite my hatred of shiftwork. I decided I'd aim for traffic branch. Even though shiftwork could not be avoided in Traffic Branch, at least it was rostered 8 hour shifts, not like the Rouseabout Pencil roster at Delec.
By now it was April 1980. The railway recruitment office had moved down near Circular Quay. I lined up, spoke to someone who organised a medical, and started the paperwork. After the medical I had an interview. This was new, last time I signed up there was no interview. The guy who interviewed me wanted to ascertain why I'd left before. I told him due to shiftwork. He asked if I played football or some other sport that required weekends & evenings off for games & training. I told him no, I had just got fed up with working 12
and 13 days straight and up to 12 hours each day. He asked other questions and finally said he could give me a Monday to Friday day work job as a Station Assistant (SA). I hadn't expected this.
He told me I could start at Clyde Central Goods Yard, where SAs helped load and unload freight wagons, on a day shift Monday to Friday basis. This sounded great. He told me he had actually worked there at one stage
and it was a good spot. He was a rugby league player, and working there had allowed him evenings & weekends to play sport.
My employment application was finalised successfully on the spot, and I was told to front up on the next Monday at Central to a training room, for a half day induction training, then to catch the train to Clyde to start work after that.
I went home looking forward to the coming Monday. My railway life was kicking off again, but this time as one of those lousy traffic *****.