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Old S.A.R. Shunter's Memories

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N. S. W. G. R.

(New South Wales Government Railways)


Pages:   1,   2,   3,   4,   5,   6,   7,   8,   9,   10,   111213141516.


Page 1

This is well worth the full read


A few people suggested I should write a "memoirs" etc, about my railway experiences. I am not really into this sort of thing. Well, here goes. I decided not to mention some names of the people I use to work with and I have not included them, just in case people still get "hot under the collar" using their identities without their permission. Even though it is over 30 odd years ago!

I was born in Sydney in Feb 1961. My parents were living at Greenacre (in Sydney: Bankstown region) It was only about a 1 mile (or 1.6km) from my parents to the famous or should I say "infamous" Enfield Railway Marshalling Yard. It used to have the fame as being the biggest shunting and marshalling railway yard in the Southern Hemisphere.
As a youngster I would just stay there for ages looking down at the Enfield Yard from the Punchbowl Rd Bridge (I used to call it the Tip Top Bakery Bridge) looking northwards (NW) to the whole view of the Steam Depot and most of the Yard.

My Dad was a "truckie" working for Caltex driving the big rigs (semi trailers) petrol and oil semi-trucks. He'd jokingly say to me "you will follow me in my footsteps and become a truckie one day" but always replied back. "NO WAY: Train Driver." When he used to take me to the "Tip Top Bakery Bridge" he could probably see why. He would take me on his Caltex Mack B61 sometimes on weekends, but still would not convince me otherwise.

I would watch there for ages watching the steam engines doing the shunts, or the gravity feed bang and crash with a shunter hanging on the side of a wagon using his feet on the handbrake to slow it down. I was also impressed with the "new" NSWGR diesels, in the early 1960's especially the nose-hooded type, the 43 and 44 class or 42 and 421's. A real eye opener for me, but was always puzzled why they had different humming and throttle up noises. (found out later in years to come the Alco 4 strokes and the Big GM's 2 stroke of the 42 and 421's).

I did not stay long enough at Greenacre to really appreciate Enfield Yard. My parents decided in 1965 to move next door to my relatives at Oatley. Lucky for me it was a battle axe block in Oatley Parade and our back fence was next to the main Illawarra line. I found out later it was parallel - opposite to the "Oatley Up Accept Signal" It used to have a billboard next to our back fence saying "Tetley Tea 84 miles to Nowra". If you had not already guessed, I was about 300 metres south of the Oatley Railway Station, (end of the platform- track distance) ie. In the Oatley to Como signalling section. I would watch all the suburban and freight trains going past. I soon found out later that a lot of goods trains with their screeching of the brakes kept stopping in the "down ie south direction" We had a retired Station Master living next door. He explained to me one day that because the "old Como bridge" was only a single line, and also a big hill from the bridge to climb up towards Sutherland, the train driver of the goods train had to stop at a signal not far from us and had to wait there for the "full clear, or two green lights" which he tried to explain to me that it was a "tonnage signal". That meant getting enough steam or power and getting up the Como "bank hill" without having to stop. If the goods train would have stopped at the bottom of the hill, the train would not be able to get up the hill. (enough power from a standing start)

As a youngster I used to listen to Gary O Callaghan on 2UE in the mornings before school. (he used to have that comedy sketch with Sammy the Sparrow in a helicopter ride too.!! which some of the older folk might remember.) One morning he announced because of train failure or derailment on the "main South" was blocked, because of that the "Southern Aurora and Spirit of Progress" interstate trains in the Sydney direction are going down the hill the Illawarra Mountain (Moss Vale-Roberston Unanderra) then up the main South Coast Illawarra line.  I waited patiently before school at my two wire back railway fence, and then: way it come, the first one being the Southern Aurora with it's silver carriages. I was waving frantically at the driver. And he responded back with a short wave and the loco whistle back. (their was a crowd in the front cab too--probably a loco inspector and a the local Wollongong men to pilot the Goulburn men through the Illawarra South Coast line). A few minutes after that "The Spirit of Progress" came through with its "V.R. blue carriages" Again I was waving like mad and again, they replied back with a wave and a short blast of the Klaxon's loco whistle. I think it was two diesels with each train, but it was too much excitement to really take notice which NSWGR class diesel they were or how many.

I think I was only 8-9 years of age. I got on my "dragster mustang" pushbike and pedalled so fast to school. I could not wait to tell my school mates and teachers, but I think that day I did not let any school education sink in, I was sort of over the moon and daydreaming it over and over in my head. DIESEL LOCOMOTIVE DRIVER for sure--that's my vocation.

Page 2

My Railway Employment.

Pre Railway Employment. 
Like I said, I was interested with the NSW Railways, especially the Diesel Locomotives.  When I had finished primary school at Oatley (4th class 1970) I had to finish my senior primary and high school (secondary)  at Mortdale. (Years 5-10)  I had a free NSW school rail pass to go from Oatley- Mortdale. I used to take the 7:45am train from Oatley. The train itself came from the city and terminated at Oatley. The Station Master had to work the signal box there and I used to watch him from outside using the different type of red, blue and black levers. He also used the party line signal box telephones, with the crank handle and the different ringing type to answer that phone call. eg two longs and a short. (or party line though) I was very fascinated with it. From High School I could still see the railway tracks and trains because it was parallel to each other. Always having a look from the windows or at recess, especially when a "goods train-freight train" going through. See: I never far from the NSW Railway tracks-- either at home, or at High School!! Destined to work for them. 

Two Naughty Things that I should NOT have done. 
1)  At High School (early 1970's) All the Train Drivers went on strike.  So no trains working at all. I encouraged two of my school mates (and with my fascination of the railway infrastructure to) decided to walk home back from Mortdale to Oatley on the railway tracks. The three of us walked just past the Mortdale station and signal box with no attention from other rail staff who were still on duty. 
Score 1 

We also walked past on the Main Illawarra line past the Mortdale Maintenance and Storage Sheds. Still no attention from any one. 
Score 2. 
Yes very happy 

We walked through the cutting and got as far as the Oatley Down Accept or Home signal. Oohh no. There is a young station assistant picking up paper and debris from the tracks. (about 200 metres north of Oatley station) He noticed us, he went straight to a signal post and used the phone there to bring us in for punishment. The Station Master (SM) from Oatley came running out and then gave us the third degree. I took the rap for it and told the SM it was my idea and my two other mates did not give a hoot about the NSW Railways. He thought we maybe up to no good, eg: putting rocks or ballast on the rail line, or interfering with signal equipment or just vandalising etc. 
Score back to Zero!! 

He got our free NSW Rail Pass and got our names and High Schools I.D.  He was very cross with us and said he will contact the High School, then proceeded to give me "clip over the ear" for doing it. My first thoughts were like this. NO, please do not do that, it may jeopardise my chance of getting a job on the NSWGR and a record held against me, not to think also the embarrassment from the School Principle and my Parents. I waited from the High School principle to put me over "the coals" but to my great relief the SM at Oatley did not proceed any more with it. I was very happy. 
TICK One.~ 

2) When I was about 14 (1975) my friend and I decided to go into the City (Sydney) to go and watch a cinema movie. We got on a "red rattler" at Oatley. My best mate Laurie was with me (but a NON RAIL FAN) He decided to walk through the train and ended up in a spare guard's compartment--with the driver's cab door locked.  Between Tempe and Sydenham my mate decided to mess around with the internal handbrake inside the guards compartment. I said to Laurie "do not do that", he then went into devil mode and reached for the emergency lever cock. I was pleading with Laurie not to touch it. It's the emergency brake!!! He ignored me and just gave it a small on and off application of it. Immediately the train brakes came on, then off for a few seconds. The railway guard then came running from his "dogbox" and grabbed both of us back to his compartment. (like convicts with both his arms around our shoulders behind us) At arrival at Sydenham station he gave us over to the SM at Sydenham. He got our names and address, and told us this will be passed onto the Railway Police and also the state NSW Police. My mate Laurie decided to take the rap for it and owned up to it. The SM told me though I was an accessory to the fact and would also be charged too. -----talk about being so nervous and fear upon me. "You will both being going to the Children's Court and Magistrate, the SM informed us. So how's that for stupidity he told us." I actually felt sick in the stomach. A real twisted stomach. There goes my railway career ahead of me!!!  For the next few weeks both Laurie and myself were waiting very impatiently and with fear and bad expectations for the NSW or Railway Police to visit or ring us. As time went by, NOTHING!! We gave it another two months, and again NOTHING!!. I myself and Laurie had a 'good' suspicion that the SM at Sydenham put the "fear of god" upon us, and I think it worked. After three months we both agreed that the SM decided not to go on with it. I was so glad and happy. I already gave my "best" mate an earful and he conceded he was in the wrong and never do it again. I told him if he went into a spare guards compartment I will not be going into it with him. !!!  After those two incidents, I kept a "clean slate" NO more getting into trouble, especially the NSW Railways I  wanted to work for. 

Tick Two~~"OFF THE HOOK" 

Railway Employment. 
Oh well, I have been to the railway sin confessional (in the Railway Church) and now time for my Railway Employment and Experiences. 
It is in about 4 sections, 
Railway Stations. 
Signal Boxes. 
Locomotive Engineman. 
Shunter and Train-brake examiner. 

Page 3

Railway Stations.

I left school in 1976 and I visited the NSW Railway Head Office a couple of times re: employment. I left my name down for either a Trainee Locomotive Engineman or Junior Station Assistant (JSA) and my railway trespassing and sins were not recorded against me thank God. They did tell me there was a long wait for Trainee Locomotive Engineman and normally take them from the Traffic Branch (Stations etc) or from the Per Way branch (fettlers etc) or the workshops etc. So that idea of a trainee engineman went out the door. I then asked for any Railway Station vacancy and go from there. 

At the time, my Dad had left Caltex and started up a company with another person in a partnership. The Business itself was into a Venetian blind cleaning and repairs. It had 3 different trucks to do this on site (homes or offices) using the trucks as a mobile venture. My Dad asked me to join him as an offsider. The business itself become a "gold mine". My Dad and his partner had a "trademark patent" on it and no one else in Australia could copy this patent. But unfortunately the other partner was also a compulsive gambler and he just left town with a lot of debts for my Dad to service. He decided to sell off the Trademark Patent and had to lay myself and 5 other people off.  I wasn't angry with my Dad as I knew these things do happen. 

I had a few weeks off and then rang up the Railways to see how my application is going. I think the "Good Man" upstairs were looking down at me. The person from the employment section told that they were going to contact me anyway!!. They had vacancies on the stations and asked if I was interested. In a lightning flash I went into their office and went through the quick interview and a basic test, then medical and THEN I WAS IN!!  They offered me the position as a Junior Station Assistant (JSA) at Home Station Caringbah on what they called "General Relief Staff" I did not know what they called a General Relief meant-- but hey! I was in the door at the age of 16 years of age. 

I started officially on the 26th April 1977. I went straight into a training school for a couple of weeks. It was downstairs from the Sydney Country Platform Number 1. It showed us how to sell tickets-using the old ticket machine. How to do the book and paper work and how to do all types of parcels and stamps with waybills. I graduated in May 1977, and then into practical training mode at Miranda, selling the tickets and the barriers (ticket collecting). It was a new experience for me. The NSWGR. Actually it changed it's name to the NSW Public Transport Commission which also included the NSW owned buses and ferries. 

Inside the railway station itself, it had the standard mustard colour type flooring, "brasso" ticket plate and the clock. (most stations had that valuable collectors item of the NSW Railways Large Regulator Clock) It was all "full on" NSW Railways. Everything was NSW Govt. The tickets, the parcels, the paper work forms from the Govt printer and so on. It also had NSWGR or NSWTD. The Station Master himself was a very cool and nice gentleman. Mr ----. In those days any one in a higher grade than you, especially Station Masters you firstly addressed with them their surname. I did get valuable training there for one week and then went to Caringbah for one week to concentrate on the barriers work. (my parents come by train one day to just have a look see at me and I collected their ticket. LOL!)  

After my two weeks of training the SM at Caringbah explained to me what "General Relief" meant. It was to fill any short or long vacancies on any railway station in Sydney. (a) because of some one else is sick or on holidays, or, (b) a vacancy in a railway station with no person yet to fill that position. He explained to me the bonus though with the time travelling from Caringbah (my home station) to any other station I was posted into. (even if I drove there by car) I checked the rail timetables to match up the time I started and I finished my shifts. He had "bad news" for me with a frown on his face. The staff relief (organisers) in the City has told him, to post me over to Waterfall (JSA) because of a vacancy there. He was in a apologetic mood but told me to book an extra 2 hours each way in travelling time. 1 hour before the shift and another 1 hour after it. (total of 10 hours each shift.)  Actually I was overjoyed. Waterfall was still like a "bush" railway station, and to travel from my hometown at Oatley to Sutherland by train then get onboard the "Tin Hares" CPH rail motors. Sutho to Waterfall. 

Waterfall in 1977 was then with out electric suburban trains. (No over head wiring) It was in a real sense a country town station. They had a pot belly stove\wood heater in the signal box, it had both track block and automatic system going towards Heathcote-- the Up line. And the Track Block double line from Waterfall to Helensburgh. Talk about railways in the "old days" A gunzel or rail enthusiast's delight. A lever controlled signal box. Heaps of signal telephones with the crank handle. and I think a Block Telegraph device in the signal box too. Semaphore signals in some spots PLUS a locomotive turntable and elevated water tank in the Yard. 

I was in "heaven" (told you the good man upstairs was looking down on me) The passenger trains were either the CPH tin hares or the mostly diesel hauled carriages. (mostly 48 class engines) We also got the South Coast daylight express. (Sydney to Nowra) with the Bud set carriages. There were freight trains everywhere too. 442 class, 44 class, 48 class locomotives and so on. The shifts I was doing was either day work (6AM) or afternoon shift of (I think 1:30pm) A real variety of train workings there. I LOVED IT! I was selling a only a handful tickets on each shifts, so no worry too much with the paper work. Cleaning the station and toilets were a breeze, because it was rarely used!! 

One particular night, it had been raining. (cold and wet) The freight train crew on the up line pulled up short to get a "billy" of hot water. The ASM (assistant SM) told the driver (a big boy too) to not waste any time as he (ASM) had already gave him the home and starting signal to get going. (another train behind it) The driver got the message and got back into his two double header of two 44 class engines. Wow!! I had never seen any thing like that. The driver (probably in protest) gave it the gun. He must have just put it straight into eight notch throttle. (full throttle) Because it was dark I could actually see a large flame from the first engine. Flame and sooty oil everywhere. Luckily I wasn't close by otherwise I would probably covered with oil from the 44 class exhaust stack. The locomotive wheels were going through a workout too-- slipping and sliding on the wet tracks. Heaps of sand going everywhere. The ASM at Waterfall wasn't impressed. He looked at me and just said in swear words about drivers and fireman from the locomotive branch-- but I was enjoying the whole show. 

On a different shift (day work) I was told by the SM in charge, to get the oil signal lights out from the shed. Make sure he told me that the wick was cleaned and trimmed and enough oil in the light to change them over. He told me I am going to Helensburgh on a CPH to service a few signal lights. No other trains will be behind you or coming the other way. Track Block Device Blocked and Closed. I grabbed a few and away I went. On the "Tin Hare" I met the driver Mal Ritchie. (Sutherland CPH driver) We ended (with his son too) becoming good friends. Mal knew where to stop, and just told me to check the signal for the oil and wick. (man I was getting paid for this) Up I went with caution climbing the signal posts. Enough time too see all the scenery of the National Park etc. I then after surveying the site got down - for more punishment. And so way we went to a couple of others. Eventually arriving at Helensburgh were I met the SM there. 
The SM worked the signal box and gave Mal the points crossover and signal for us to go back to Waterfall. Wasn't I having fun. I asked the SM at Waterfall of my chances of applying for the full time JSA there at Waterfall. (I was there about 3-4 months already) I told him I did not care about the travelling expenses I was getting. He told me in a sympathetic way, I should have applied for it only about a few weeks before hand. Another young fellow "from the coast" was successful in applying for it. He showed me the "Weekly Notice" in his room all the vacancies, but apologise for not telling me. He thought I was after the 2 hours each day travelling money. ie 10 hour days a shift (8+2=10) 

A few weeks after that the new fellow started and I showed him around. I was told by The SM and staff control (relief) my next post will be at Jannali as a JSA (for a full time vacancy--the existing JSA to a promotion elsewhere
This time I will keep "my ears to the ground" if I liked working there at Jannali. 

Page 4

Railway Stations.

I was informed by the Railway Staff Office the details of the next shift of mine at Jannali. I was told to be there at 6:30am to "learn" the station. The JSA shifts at Jannali were 6:30am and 1pm Mon-Fri. And the Sat. shift 7am and 12:30pm. The Jannali Railway Station itself was not the "usual" Island station that most double track stations had. It had one platform on the down side, and the other platform on the Up side. The down side platform also had a small office for the JSA's, (inc parcels) and the Up side platform had the main office for the SM's, ASM and Senior Station Assistant. (SA Class 1) The real peculiarity about Jannali Station was, (and still is) if any passenger did want to go from one platform to another, they had to exit the railway property area and walk through the council footpaths and parks, and then over a road bridge to the other side. (a very long detour) No railway steps to walk over as a short cut. Us rail workers had the convenience of the "boardwalk" across the railway tracks, but it was with a lot of caution. A lot of trains coming from Sutherland going top speed of about 70kmh (non stop) used to come tearing through the cutting and appear "out of nowhere" I witnessed a couple of close calls which were too close for comfort. 

When I started doing the "barrier" work on the down side during the afternoon shift, we used to get the average once a week a train from the City, which used to have the wrong indicator sign and destination from it's origin. There used to be one that was a fast express in the PM peak, which I think was City, Central, Redfern, Sydenham, then Jannali, followed by another train behind it going normal stops to Hurstville and so on. The problem was, that sometimes the platform staff in the City put the wrong indicator display for the train for normal stops to Hurstville, was actually the fast express train to Jannali. The passengers got on the wrong train, AND It was all express. The passengers who "got" on the wrong train (for the slower) service ended up at Jannali. "Man" I used to get abused from the irate passengers. To make matters worse they had to walk out the exit ramp, through the streetscape, over the road bridge, and enter the City platform (Up Platform) on the other side. On the average too, they had to wait at least 10-20 minutes for the next City train service to go homebound. Any formal complaints went to afternoon ASM on the Up platform.! I felt real sorry for them though. Some passengers were supposed to get off anywhere from Rockdale, Kogarah, Hurstville, and all stations and so on. And had to make their own way back again from Jannali.   

When I first started at Jannali, the SM (OIC) told me there was a bit of a misunderstanding. He explained that the resident JSA went on holidays and just turned 18 years of age. He applied for an adult position at another station (with more pay) but he decided not to take up the offer. He liked working at Jannali. (I will tell you why later) The SM told me he would try and get him to change the other fellows mind when he come back from holidays (of 5 weeks). As a JSA they said you can stay in that position till you are 21 years of age, but are eligible for another promotion as Station Assistant (adult) in a different category range. Class Three, Two, One, Special or Safeworking Station Assistants. (now called Customer Service Attendants

At Jannali itself, it was a pretty busy station. Nothing nice and quiet like Waterfall. We used to sell a lot of tickets on the down side, and after that shift to do the "handover" with all the ticket numbers recorded in order of the sale. After the afternoon shift you had to do both handover + the daily "classificational book". (a big blue ledger book for the day
Both AM and PM shifts had to add up. If not, you had to find out why?? It was a long and tedious process, but we got used to it. But on the better side of things, after the peak hour trains, we had only one train every half hour (30 mins) to relax and do other things like walk the platform, some cleaning and also "check out the scenery" 

Now I found out why the other JSA did want to leave Jannali. He would only get a 50 cent an hour payrise at another station, but the other bonus was the female company type.! At Jannali there was (is) 2 female high schools and this other fellow was well known by a lot of the senior female high school students. They kept asking me "where is -------??"  When I finally met HIM, he wasn't a real overboard handsome bloke, so it must have been in the "gift of the gab" Who knows?? But when he resumed back at Jannali after his holidays he refused to "take up" the adult S.A. class 3 at another Station. (I think it was at Hurstville) I suppose I don't blame him. He lived at Jannali too. But that was my exit for a while from Jannali. 
I was still on general relief staff. Not fixed at one station. 

Page 5

Railway Stations.

My next adventure and posting on The "General Relief Staff".  I was actually a bit excited to be posted there, being a St George and Sutherland Shire "boy". Working only a few hundred metres from the "famous" Cronulla Surfing beaches and golden sands... and the teenage bikini girls...... (me being still a teenage young man

I was told by the relief staff "telephone and wire" to report to the Cronulla SM at 1100 the following shift.  After I reported the next day at 11am, I was told it was a "barrier and cleaning position" (as a JSA). I thought to myself "that's cool " but then I was told some other bad news.  I was told after I did 2 hours at Cronulla (till 1300 or 1pm) I then must go back "up the line" to Kirrawee-daily, and do the single line platform and toilet cleaning, as part of my shift till about 3pm, them make my own way back to Cronulla by 1600 or 4pm to then do the PM peak "barrier duties." after my "crib break (meal break).  Oh well, cannot have it all my own way. I made myself comfortable at both Cronulla and Kirrawee for about one month. In my daily schedule, I would start at Cronulla at 11am. a bit of platform and barrier work. Was over the moon with a lot of the "beach girls" and they sort of felt more comfortable talking to a "man in uniform" but alas dates or even a telephone numbers!!  
After my first two hours at Cronulla, I would get the "Up" train to Kirrawee, and do the mandatory platform sweep (which was only a single line platform) and to "my" relief the male/female toilets where generally, nice and clean because they used to have a locked door approach---ie key only available when requested. I would have a bit of a yarn with the senior Kirrawee SA there, and then get the train around 4pm back to Cronulla. I would then have my "crib" break (and occasionally a quick "look see" at Cronulla beach or the shops) and then the "serious" barrier work at the PM (Mon-Fri) Cronulla station. I was told to be very "smart" and wear my tie by the SM.** There was (and still is) a lot of senior NSW Govt and Railway officials who live at Cronulla......I soon found that out with all the politicians and NSWGR gold pass badges being shown at me for a quick glance at the barrier. In summer months (spring till Autumn) it was only optional, but it was still a good idea to listen to the high class SM at Cronulla!! 

At Cronulla Railway Station itself, it is the length of over 16 railway carriages (to fit it two--2 train lengths of eight carriages each). We had to man both platform barriers with a fence or cage between each platform. Cronulla station is the terminus on the "Sutherland to Cronulla" branch line. At times it was or could be challenging with amount of people going through the turnstyle or barriers there at Cronulla. But I did enjoy it while I was there. In the late 1970's while I was there it was single line only, with two large or long crossing loops at Gymea and Caringbah stations. It was a single line track control from Sutherland Signal box. They had remote "cut in" signal boxes at Gymea and Caringbah (emergency) and also the other "in use" signal box at Cronulla which was worked by the resident SM ASM or SWSA on the backshift. It was all the small toggle type signal box frame. ***Sutherland, Kirrawee, Gymea, Miranda, Caringbah, Woolaware then Cronulla. I met a few characters too while I was there both Rail Staff including drivers and guards and a few Cronulla locals. All in all a good railway station to work at. (inc Kirrawee.) 

Page 6

Railway Stations.

I was told by the Staff Relief office my next holiday relief was to go at Oatley. Yippie! my home town. It was for a female station assistant who was taking both holidays and also long service leave. (about two months) I was told to report to the SM at Oatley at 11am. (loving the late morning starts with a sleep in and afternoon penalty rates
On the first day I was a bit apprehensive meeting the SM and ASM at Oatley, because of my railway misdemeanors before hand as a young teenager. BUT to my relief, they were all new Oatley station staff. So I was off the hook.!! They Did not know me. PHEW!! I found out they were all friendly people too at Oatley. The SM (OIC) and the two afternoon ASM's. I will not mention their names but treated me well and the favour of being an Oatley local. The SM lived at Helensburgh. We had an "Irish" ASM who lived at Miranda and also another ASM who lived local too. (Mortdale)  Actually the other ASM had a few stories to tell and how he became an ASM (Assistant Station Master). 

Previous before getting promoted, he was just a "dinky di Aussie" working as a senior shunter at Cooks River Goods Railway Yard (near the Sydney Airport). I am not sure if he was conscripted or went as a volunteer to Vietnam in the early 1970's while working as a shunter. He did his time there over in "Nam". When he came back the NSW Railways rewarded all the "Vietnam Veterans" or "Vets" with a promotion. He told me he "never even worked in a railway station before, as when he started with the NSW Railways, he just started up as a "sprag" ie a new chum shunter at Cooks River." After he returned they put him through the full NSW safeworking school, and then after that into the "Station Masters school" to graduate out as an Assistant Station Master at Oatley!!! Never even sold a railway passenger ticket in his life, before coming an ASM. That's like the Mortdale Signal Box poster stating: "I could not even spell signalmen--but now I is one" 


One afternoon I was manning the afternoon Oatley barriers and platform. A train come in from the City and was waiting in the "down side" platform for the train to depart. (Oatley platforms are on a curve too) The barriers at Oatley are near the far end of the "Up direction" or Northern-City end, just before the steps going down to the subway. Oatley is an "Island type platform" ie Up line and Down line separated, with the station platform. I heard this sort of screeching and yelling from around the 5th last carriage in a red rattler 8 carriage set. I left my post at the barriers to see what was happening. The guard on the train also took attention and gave the driver the bell code that he was leaving his "dog box" (I think it was two short bells). (He was in the approx 4th carriage or middle of the train) When we both arrived the same time, most of the passengers on that carriage had decided to step off the train onto the platform. The afternoon ASM also came out of his office to investigate the problem. The three of us the same time found an elderly but big size gentleman having a severe "epileptic fit" (did not realise at first). The ASM rushed back into his office and rang the local ambulance and also the Sydney Metropolitan "traffic trouble" Traffic Trouble used to monitor all delays in the Sydney Metro area. Because Oatley was on a standard Up and Down double line section, no trains could overtake it and decided to leave that train there by the emergency procedures, even though it was in the full afternoon peak rush with a train every 5-10 minutes apart. The train driver himself come down to have a look. We could not move the train till the ambulance officers arrived. (all the Illawarra line trains behind it was now at a stand still) The ambo's arrived approx 10 minutes after the phone call. The afternoon ASM was told not to move or touch the "patient" till they arrived. The two ambulance officers went into the carriage to tend with the elderly gentleman. He was convulsing and "foam" coming from his mouth. 

It scared the "living daylights" out of me. I have never witnessed before a person with an epileptic fit. To tell you the truth it was like a "horror movie" with someone who has been "possessed" (sorry to be rude that how it was for me). The ambo officer gave him something to calm him down, but it was taking it's time. The ambo officers decided to strap him down onto a stretcher and then wheel him away to the emergency vehicle. The problem was the "patient" was not really responding to the antidote, and was moving his arms around like some one who was severely drunk. (with swinging blows going everywhere.) Six of us, (the two ambos, the ASM, myself, and the train guard and driver) had to try to pin his arms down to go under the stretcher straps. It was really unbelievable the strength of one human being while having a severe epileptic fit. Imagine that, six of us to pin him down. We finally got him on the platform. The ambo's took the patient away with the late arrival of the local police. (too late to really help us!!) The train was nearly 30 minutes now at the Oatley platform. It finally got away and with a backlog of trains now trying to get into the platform. Most passengers on the backlog train were told the details and gave me a few sympathetic looks instead of the red angry faces we normally get when there is train delays. 

A few weeks after the "incident" he came back "the patient" and thanked us and apologised for making the "scene". He told us he "run out medicine that morning" and was on the way home to see his local doctor and chemist. He gave us all a Box of Chocolates, and to the ASM a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label. The ASM had to convince him they could not accept the Scotch Whisky though--even though it was nice and clean gesture. 


I enjoyed working there. I used to also witness the afternoon train that terminated there and the afternoon ASM used to "work" the signal box. He gave me a "turn" moving the levers, and like something I was trying to do since I was a kid. The red levers were fine (the signal lever) or the blue locking lever, but the black lever (for the points) were very stiff and 
some difficulty moving them across. The ASM would laugh and say I need some more "milo" or vegemite. 
Working at Oatley too had its advantages, I only lived a 5 minute walk home and I recognised a lot of the Oatley locals. (I lived there since I was a young boy mid 1960's) Really enjoyed myself there, but as all good things come to an end, I was still on "General Relief Staff" duties. The female SA came back from her break and I was told to move on. 

I did one shift at Circular Quay Station (City Circle) and another at Sydenham and Tempe stations. (all barrier ticket collecting and cleaning) the another shift at Auburn Station on the "Main West Line" I had a "go" at the staff control sending me that far out from my local area. He must had some sympathy with me and said he would look after me. He told me just go back to Oatley on a standby basis and then go from there every day till any other phone calls for if some one else is sick. (Standby relief). Then my dream came through. The Juniour Station Assistant at Jannali decided to move on (took the adult SA job at Hurstville---SA3) With The SM Jannali's prompting. There was a vacancy there to fill. I went back to Jannali with open arms, and then put my name down with the SM at Jannali to fill the vacancy on a "permanent fixed" Station. (no more relief staff work). I did not even care about the travelling expenses I would stay at Jannali on a fixed roster. (the "white" timesheet" vs the "pink" relief staff timesheets) I just wanted to work there again till I am at least 18 years of age. (maybe even stay till I am 21 if I have my way) So back To Jannali I went............ 

Page 7

JANNALI--- (1977-79) 

I was successful with the transfer to Jannali, from the General Relief Staff to Permanent Fixed at Jannali. (Hooray!)  I settled in very comfortable at Jannali. (thank you very much). The hours were good, only daywork and afternoon shifts. 6:30am and 1pm (Mon-Fri) 7am and 12:30pm (weekends) Jannali was only three stations from my home at Oatley. 
Got my licence in 1978 (17 years of age) and got myself a "souped up" 1953 FJ Holden. 138 cubic inch motor (small extractors) Red Car paint job with 14x8 mag chrome wheels. A restored leather seating. (maybe impress the Jannali girls Hey!!) (LOL)  I would leave it at the Oatley Station carpark (employees), and then get the train down to Jannali. But occasionally on the Saturdays I would drive it to work at Jannali and go out socialising from there after work. (trying my best anyway for a teenager

The Station Staff at Jannali were good. We had one OIC SM. Two afternoon ASM's and two other JSA's on my roster. Made good friends with them all and still in contact with some of them now, 30 years on. Basically like I mentioned about Jannali before, the JSA looked after the separated down side platform, with it's little small wooden office-next door to the "waiting room" and adjoining ticket window. We had the old ticket rack to sell the train tickets with the old date stamp device. On the average though we still made about $30-$50 each shift. This was recorded with the handover and classification book daily. (good way of fine tuning my maths and additions as I never used calculators then. each shift and ticket sold must all "add up correct".) 

Except for the PM peak hour, most train stopping on the down side only came every 30 minutes. The SM and ASM were never really on our backs. (non taskmasters) We did the basic platform and toilet cleaning between the trains. If not just browse through the newspapers or look out the down side "Box Rd" window--which is directly in good view from our office. (but had mesh over it for property protection). A lot of the Jannali "locals" both young and old got to know me. I met my first girlfriend there, but alas it did not last very long. I think she was more interested in my Old 1953 FJ Holden than me. But another JSA mate of mine, met a nice Jannali girl "fell in love" and got married a couple of years later. I went to their wedding and they are still together 30 years on, with 3 teenage kid's, a dog and cat and live in the same town that I do now. Any of you up and coming teenagers or young Adults...(both male and female) get a job on a Railway Station. You probably won't regret it. A great job to meet other people. 


At my "downside Jannali station office" we also had a small parcel office bench to send and receive the NSWGR and PTC railway parcels. We had the "parcel van": once or twice a day. It originated from Darling Harbour and went most stations on the Illawarra line to pick up or set down parcels. It used to come to Jannali, "mid morning"  then proceed to Sutherland and then onto Cronulla, terminate and then back to Darling Harbour via the Hurstville Parcels and Goods Shed. 

One particular afternoon, this young female "chemist attendant" came to my office to send off from small parcels around Sydney. She used to come often and told me it was both cheaper and quicker than using Australia Post. (even though it only went as far as a railway station--not door to door) She would of only be about my age of 17 and was tempted to "ask her out", but never got the courage---silly me!! LOL. Well, this particular afternoon, she was sending a small parcel to Penrith. I collected it and then wrote out the "parcel waybill". It was only a small charge of I think about .30 cents. (railway stamp) Just as I was signing the "parcel waybill" one for her and a copy for us, a "downside Cronulla train arrived" I could not ask her to wait outside the office to collect the passenger tickets, as I thought it would be rude. I cannot do two things at the same time. I would of also had to lock the office door because of the money till too. 

I decided to let that train go without collecting the tickets. I finished the parcel paperwork with the young chemist attendant, and just as she left my office side door, a man with a suit and tie looked through my ticket window office. I asked him "could I serve you" he just gave me a grumpy look at me and just left the Jannali Station without saying a word. (I did not know if he got off the train or just waiting for the next one). A few minutes after that the SM and ASM buzzed me on the internal phone. "The SM had some bad news for me" " A up and coming Traffic Inspector from the City, viewed you,--chatting up a girl in your office, he wants to stand you down because you were not doing your platform duties and collecting the tickets!!"  I had real good news for him. I told the SM the details of the parcel with a signed parcel waybill even with the date and time!!  I then crossed the tracks to the main Up side building. I gave the Traffic Inspector and my SM and ASM my evidence of the parcel waybill. The SM and ASM had big grins on their faces. The Traffic Inspector told me I should have asked the young female chemist attendant to pop outside and do the ticket barriers. NO WAY said the SM, would you ask any parcel client to leave an office half way through the transaction. The Traffic Inspector--sort of shrugged his shoulders red faced and left the building and walked to far end of the platform to get the next train back to the City. Sounds out he was only "a trainee Traffic Inspector" but was out to make a name for himself. We never heard or saw him again.!! We had a good laugh and chuckle when he left the building, 


On another quiet Saturday afternoon, (On the Jannali down side) I got the internal phone buzzer from the afternoon ASM. (who was in the main building on the other side of the tracks) He told me: "this is an emergency, I have been robbed from a man with a gun and balaclava. He is running across the road bridge and his coming your way. Just look outside your window to get an idea of his body type etc. The Sutherland and Railway Police have been contacted". (emergency under counter button) I tried to see him and he just run quickly up the main street of Jannali (Box Rd) but could not get a real good look at him. I then in my young and 17 year old bravado run outside to the main street to "check him out more" He was bolting madly up the main street. I then decided to chase more "just to get a look". He saw me, and turned around. I hid between the PMG telephone box and he just got out of site. I waited for a few minutes and the "coast was clear" I cautiously walked back the railway station. 

In a flash the Sutherland Highway Patrol "In the Valiant Charger" recognised me as I flagged them down, he said get in. The excitement inside me was incredible!!. He just told me to see if I notice him again. BUT if I do "keep my head down" as he may be armed. (had a gun at the main ticket window at Jannali) We also screeched up the main street but with no luck. The Highway Patrolman did a few rounds of Jannali shops and local streets but the thief was not to be found. He took me back to the main building at the Railway Office. When I arrived the SM and ASM were there. (SM was called back from home--as he was a Jannali local) The Police Inspector and a few Sutherland Police interviewed me and also the afternoon shift ASM. This went on for hours. The Railway Police also arrived by train and wanted to get their "part of the action". Ended up being who is in first and demarcation between the NSW state Police and The Railway "Narks" Police. 

After all the Police left, The SM (who was normally a good bloke) told me to pick a pen off the ground. I did and then he simulated a "kick in the backside" of what I did chasing the thief. I was a bit red faced. BUT, he also told me, now that kick in the backside is over, I recommending you for an award from the NSW Railway Commissioner in what you done ABOVE what is DUE in your normal area of work. (like a bravery award or something like that). My young teenage chest was sort of "puffed up" with pride. It was getting late in the Saturday evening. I was soon to turn my 18th birthday, and The SM and ASM took me down to the "Jannali Inn" (Hotel) and primed me the rest of the night with free good cheer. (all of us to relax and unwind after the robbery and eventful afternoon) I ended up getting a taxi home from there and left my FJ Holden at the Oatley Station all that night!!  To cut a long story short. The next week, myself and the ASM went to both Sutherland and The Central Detective Police Stations to check out the "mug shots" of convicted criminals. We both could not recognise any of them. A few months after that "That thief" got caught at a Cronulla laundromat in an armed hold up. The police this time were too quick for him. He confessed to Jannali Railway Station and about half a dozen more. I think he got about 8 years in prison with a non parole period of 6 years. SOME good excitement being a "Railway Porter" hey!! 

Page 8

Exit from Jannali (with regrets)  
Allawah Station and Hurstville (goods shed

I was actually "Stationed" at Jannali for about a year then when this robbery occurred. (ie permanent fixed at Jannali) Not long after I turned 18 years of age, the OIC SM asked me if I would like to take a promotion elsewhere to get a higher rate of pay.  The reason for this, once we turned 18 as junior station assistant JSA we could apply for an adult position as a Station Assistant Class 3, 2, or 1, but we could also stay as JSA till we turned 21 if we liked. I told the SM I liked working at Jannali and there was no rush. He encouraged me to do a correspondence "NSW Railways-Goods and Coaching Course" It is like full passenger and ticket sales "Coaching" and documentation, and Freight Goods documentation which are both used as an requirement to become an Assistant Station Master (ASM). It was in a double sided thick folder, which when completed once a week, it was sent to the City by train with their address on one side of the folder, and my home station (Jannali) and my name on the other side of the folder. They would check my tests papers and return the folder back to me. I think I did one level only, as I think that department of the railways was "phased out". 

One day I noticed in the NSW Railways "Weekly Notice" They advertised for Trainee Locomotive Engineman at Eveleigh" (near Central Station in Sydney which was all diesel passenger trains) When my OIC SM found out that I did applied for it, HE HIT THE ROOF, then gave me a 10-15 minute lecture about going to the locomotive branch and silly train driver work. Never home and 24/7 itinerant shift work etc, and no social life. (later I found out it was all true!!--and should have listened to him! ) He told me to stay in "The Traffic Branch" and your world is your Oyster. He told me I could make a Traffic Inspector or District Superintendent one day, if you keep your head screwed on the right way. He told me how he did had "apprenticeship" as young man as NSWGR junior porter, adult porter, he travelled all NSW as an assistant station master then OIC Station Master when he received Jannali as still only a 35 year old man. (there used to be a lot of promotional steps and grades then NSW Railways and was all seniority and he had to travel NSW to get to those grades and promotions

He then told me he would NOT process my application-trainee engineman and then he was concerned about me. ( I did not want to differ him) He found out there was a vacancy at Allawah Railway Station as an adult Station Assistant Class One (SA1)--which was a big leap frog promotion. (by-pass SA 3 and SA 2) and about $1 dollar an hour more He knew a lot of "tricks" and pulled the "ropes for me" to get the position at Allawah as SA Class One for me. I could not say "No". It was actually on relief staff again (but not permanent fixed), but was on what they call "A Reducing Time Roster" which meant I did 8 shifts a fortnight at Allawah for the two other permanent fixed SA1's on their days off, (4x2 shifts) and the other two shifts a fortnight at Hurstville Goods Shed. (freight centre). Making the 10 day fortnight for me. I took the "promotion" but reluctantly leaving Jannali. The SA1 shifts at Allawah were 5:30am and 1:30pm 7 days. It was actually selling all the main ticket window (which was very busy) and doing the barrier (ticket collecting) when time permitted. Before or After the peak hour rush, the Allawah SM would relieve us of the ticket windows to do the station cleaning. 

Allawah is one station before Hurstville on the City side, but had four platforms, ie two double island station platforms. It has the both up and down "main" Illawarra line, plus the two up and down "local" Illawarra lines. (making four rail lines) The local trains used to service Allawah going to or from the City. They used to be the "all Stations Trains" (not express). The four railway lines would merge into two at Hurstville Station going south. The Monday morning was like a "Nightmare" till I got used to do it. Always a large queue of people and passengers. A lot of passengers would buy the "Weekly Tickets" about $3.60 then, Allawah to the City. ($4.10 from Jannali to City) I would be there for a few hours just selling weekly ticket after weekly ticket in a mundane rush. We had to put the weekly stamp on it for that week which was put in a notice the week for before us, so they could not be used over and over each week. (different weekly code stamp

I had been on the railways about 2 years by then. I had learnt the "correct way" of dealing with cash and change amounts. Eg A $20 note tendered to us, we would put in view of the passenger on the desk near the money tray and "spell out" the change amount. Eg A Weekly ticket Allawah to City of $3:60. with a $20 note. ie. 40 cents make $4 dollars, $1 dollar make $5 dollars, another $15 dollars make $20 dollars. So the change amount was $16:40. (.40 + $1 + $15) If we made an error WE HAD TO PAY OURSELVES THE wrong change. They did not have automatic ticket machines like today. We had to sign for each shift we did working at the ticket window. If we make a mistake, we had to pay it ourselves. All NSW Railway tickets at that time had a numbered order and had to "ADD UP" in the end of our shift. (Handover and Classification Book

One particular Monday Morning, my mind was in sort of a "trance". A young lady passenger asked the normal request. "Weekly Ticket to the City" I got the ticket, dated it and the weekly stamped it. (Code for that week). I then gave her change of $20. I just forgot to put the $20 Note on the desk, but put it straight into the money till. She took her Weekly Ticket and the Change I gave her and then bolted downstairs (Allawah Booking Office was elevated on a bridge over the Rail Platforms and the rail tracks.) A City Train just arrived. I then realised out my "trance", that she only gave me a $10 note, not a $20. I locked the window and rushed downstairs to grab her. The train was about to depart, and I then challenged her. "I asked her what note did you give me at the window." She replied looking at her change still in her hand, "A $20" with a silly sheepish look. "I just told her you are wrong" and she replied to me "Tough Luck, you made the mistake not me" and then with a snug look on her face and made her way into the train. 

On the end of my shift, guess what, the handover balance account was $10 down. That woman made me pay out my own pocket the amount. That's how it was on those days on the NSW Railways. But I got my own back. She lived at Allawah. On the following week on the afternoon shift, I signalled her out and made sure she had the right weekly code number. I also told her "I had to pay for your thieving ways out of my pocket" She looked a bit disturbed at first. I thought to myself she may dig out the other $10 out of her handbag /purse. But NO. She kept walking. I did not ever see her again though. I had a real suspicion she started getting her train journeys from Hurstville after that. "GUILT ALL OVER HER FACE" but good riddance for me. Aahh The Joys of being a Railway Station Assistant. But at least after that, I made sure I left the $ Note on the desk, not into the money till and always "spelt out the money change" no more in a rush for the passengers trying to bolt to the arriving train. It's their fault their running late, not me. 


As some a lot of people on the Railways find out, there are a lot of drunks around, especially, Friday and Saturdays nights. On trains, on stations and also just trespassing onto the railway lines. (not only the "sober Gunzells" LOL ) Some like jumping the railway tracks for a short cut. Some in an intoxicated state just like walking in or around the railway lines or rail corridor. While I was still working at Jannali, a young teenager was hit by a fast city bound service while "jumping the tracks at Jannali." A few hundred metres from the station towards Como. Unfortunately he was hit "straight on" at was killed instantly. I did not witness it but found out on the Sunday morning after the Saturday night it happened. The police were still there taking photos at daylight etc for their report. 

On another Saturday night, I DID witness another but with a small twist. (was not killed but could of) I was on the Saturday Afternoon shift at Allawah (1:30-9:30pm) A train guard come running up the Station steps to see me around 8pm. It was in mid winter time and pitch black by then. A middle aged man decided to take a short cut or something like that at Allawah (even though we had a passenger bridge from side to another). He had "jumped the railway fence for some unknown reason" then crossed the down main Illawarra Line. When he did this he must have tripped over the first stock rail of the line (4 foot eight and half) then his head must of hit the other stock rail and knocked himself out cold. When I got there he was semi-conscious and a large head wound and also bleeding from the mouth but breathing OK. He was lying in the "middle of the tracks!" I could "smell" the drink on him (alcohol). But not talking, just moaning. The guard and myself moved him very gently just off the down main Illawarra line to the end of the platform. The guard himself was on the other down local line but was seen by the driver of the local service. (luckily for him because the main down is used for the fast express trains which do not stop at Allawah!!) I rang the emergency number (ambo's) to come. Next to him was an small overnight bag containing two bottles of wine. One full and the other nearly empty. He had no ID on him but only his "plonk". The ambo's came within a few minutes from St George KOGARAH, and treated his head wounds with bandages and took him to hospital. I had to write it down in the Railway diary incident. It was just happened but did not really much take a real note of it but to say "He was lucky a fast express non-stop train did not hit him on the down Illawarra main line sprawled across the tracks". 

A few onlookers were watching the man get treated by the ambo's. One of them recognised him as being a Saturday afternoon drinker, at the Local Allawah Hotel--just over the road from the Railway Station. He then told me he is a bit of a "drunk" But always bumming for a cigarette or a few 20 cent pieces for the "next one." Bit of a nuisance character at Allawah Hotel. But normally harmless. That other fellow knew his first name, and told me he was on a invalid pension and lived at the Hurstville Boarding House. He had been "Barred" at both hotels at Hurstville and then made Allawah Pub his local. The fellow went back to Allawah local and then came back with the night manager of the Pub. He told me he was loitering around the "drive through Bottle O" but did not make a purchase. A short term later the Bottle Shop attendant found two bottles of his wine had been taken off his shelf. The bottle shop attendant realised that because he was working alone that night and a lot of "drive through cars". The night manager told me "the drunk must have knocked it off while the bottle o' attendant was busy serving the cars--but told me has already learnt his lesson and did want it to go anymore further with it, but he added when he recovers, he will also be "barred at the Allawah Hotel too." Now I realise why he must have jumped the railway fence, (which is on an embankment and rather difficult fence to climb over). He probably did not want to be recognised around the Allawah Railway Station after his misdemeanor. Probably jump the fence and then waited for sign of the first train going back to Hurstville on the Local line and jump the tracks to get it. I felt a bit sorry for him though. Being a "wino or alcho" normally has a sad story in the past to get them to that state. I never noticed him again so he probably went the other way to Penshurst Pub for his "liquid refreshments" when he got over the "near miss". 


Every fortnight I had to go two days there to fill in the two spare days. I actually liked it there. It more informal than the stations. The hours were pretty nice. 7AM to 3PM. I would drive from Oatley and leave my FJ Holden in the "Hurstville Yard". I could see first hand the minature "dolly" signals there. (the type with the retractable short arm). I also saw my first look at hand shunting movements, without even a locomotive attached. The other "goods station assistant" Ian ..... showed me how to it. He explained to me "At night the local diesel goods trip train leaves four coupled up covered goods vans there" In the morning Ian had to separate them with "the auto lever pin", bleed the air out of the air reservoir and let the handbrake off the vehicle he wanted to move. It was pretty flat siding, so Ian had to use a "pinch bar to get the process moving" COOL HEY. Sometimes he had to keep "pinching them" if they had "squarer wheels!" 

After each goods van was Full of freight, he would send down another to get loaded up. (A total of four a day) It did get busy at times, but also had it dull periods so Ian and the other head goods station Assistant and myself had a great yarns in the "Hurstville Goods Shed" Both of them started on the Stations, but decided to take the "Freight Goods Shed" away from the silly passengers! All day work too--Mon to Fri. A lot of road side couriers also used the Goods Trains as a sort of sub contractor of moving freight around Sydney, NSW or Australia. Done on the Cheap I think! Hurstville also had a large Parcel Office and on the same siding but I never had much contact with them. I was a "Good's Station Assistant" for the day, not a parcel boy!! 

Page 9

NEXT MOVE: Safe Working Station Assistant (Signalman) 

While working at Allawah for about 6-8 months, I started to get unsettled. Working at Jannali, I used to witness the "big" freight or coal trains climbing with strain up the Como-Sutherland Hill. They used to be in full throttle or notch eight, but from the platform level only. (only one view) At Allawah, I could actually see the "roof" of them with their exhaust stack, or a different view from the Allawah booking office bridge. A lot of them used to slow down or stop on the Illawarra Down Line at the Hurstville "Down Accept Signal", meaning I could see it all from the Allawah Booking Office Bridge. 
I could feel my "locomotive diesel train appetite" inside me.! 

Just prior before my 19th birthday (1980) I reapplied for "The Locomotive Branch as a Trainee Engineman" again at Eveleigh. My OIC SM at Allawah was a bit surprised but just processed it and went in the "despatch bag" to the City by train. About a fortnight later I received a letter confirming my acceptance as a "Trainee Engineman" (but at a lower hourly rate of pay). My SM at Allawah must have decided to ring my prevoius SM a Jannali about this situation (behind my back) and then next thing the SM from Jannali rocks up to Allawah to have a long talk to me. He again convinced me "not to go on with The Trainee Engineman job at Eveleigh" and told me "Why don't I apply for a Safe Working Station Assistant (SWSA) jobs that are advertised in the Weekly Notice." He told me, "it is only one step away from then becoming an Assistant Station Master (ASM) and told me you will be soon 19 years of age (as the min age of a SWSA) He also told me reluctantly, "If you DO decide to transfer over to the Locomotive Branch as a Trainee Engineman--don't go to Eveleigh as you will never get on the road as an engineman, you will be in the shed for ages there doing locomotive cleaning, go to Enfield DELEC which is the fastest depot in NSW to become a Trainee Locomotive Engineman with training and experience". I remembered all of that. 

He then showed me the NSW Rail Weekly Notice for the Safe Working Station Assistants jobs. (3 vacancies) Dombarton (on the Illawarra Mountain line, Moss Vale to Unanderra) Whipporie (north of Grafton a Staff Station Crossing Loop -before Casino) the other at Dunheved (on the St Mary's to Ropes Creek line in western Sydney). He convinced me to "rip up the Locomotive Transfer"--I then had to advise the Staff Office too. And I then applied for the three positions for the SWSA in any category order (no preference). I did not mind going "bush" if I got the Dombarton or Whipporie Stations, (signal boxes) bit excited too if I went to the rural NSW. I also applied for Dunheved. 

A few weeks later: I was successful at Dunheved. I did not do any research about Dunheved only to look on a railway map where it was. (ie did not check out the hours of duty or other pro and cons) I just went in "full barrell's loaded" to get promotion and next step to become a young "assistant station master" by my 21st birthday. Or if I liked, becoming a fully fledged Signal Man (grade) A safe working station assistant has many roles. Basically they are the lowest paid signalman (signaller), but also may or must do other railway station duties if required, eg selling tickets, barrier-ticket collecting, cleaning and also hand signaller (flag man as a traffic officer if needed) The official signalman grades DO NOT do station work, except signal box roles and tidy-clean signal box if no "telephone boys" are there". 

So as a SWSA you are a railway "jack of all trades, but master of none" But decided to take the promotion at Dunheved and left Allawah. (and Hurstville Goods Shed). It was only about .50 cents more an hour than my SA1 at Allawah, but who cares. A PROMOTION for me in a quiet little station and signal box. (did not realise it was all Mon-Fri all day work and no penalty rates, and had to work a 8 hour shift over 10 hours and 2 hour unpaid meal break. I ended up "losing money" overall.!!) I went into training at the Sydney Safe Working School. Because the position was "full time fixed" at Dunheved, the safe working requirements for that signal box was NSW "Track Block and Automatic" Some of the other applicants did all NSW Rail "All Systems". (including the exciting Electric Staff and Instruments and Ordinary Staff and Ticket which is used on single line systems) I completed the course in a couple of weeks (Inc handsignaller-flagman too) and then was told by telegraph wire to report to the OIC Station Master at St Mary's the following Monday at 6:35am. I "did not know" what I was getting myself into. 

Page 10


By this time I had sold my "souped up 1953 FJ Holden and "pranged" my original Special 1955 FJ Holden on Canterbury Rd at Punchbowl near the old "Sundowners Hotel" So I got myself a 1959 FC Holden. Living at Oatley to get to Dunheved was a pretty long journey, via back of Liverpool, up Mamre Rd which in 1980 was no Expressways around and took around 80-90 minutes for me in the old 59 FC Holden. 

I arrived very early at St Marys Station to meet and greet the SM there, (as the wire telegram told me). BUT alas he was a very indifferent person to say the least. Just told me "the way out of the door and Dunheved up the road" --he was that sort of person who wouldn't even give you the time of day! (tell you the truth one of the worst railwayman I ever worked with--) So just checked my road map again and arrived at Dunheved Railway Station on time for the first train to go from St Marys to Ropes Creek via Dunheved. The relief SWSA sort of gave me a bit of a mock laugh. "Why did you take Dunheved? it has been vacant for a long time, and you will find out real soon why?? The hours (6:35am to 4:35pm Mon-Fri and no penalty rates etc plus no OT or travelling expenses that he was on. He was on General Relief Staff as a SWSA and was getting about 2 hours extra a day in travelling money and also booked the full ten hours a day on his time sheet for his full shift. (relief staff did not have unpaid meal breaks)---so he was laughing all the way to the bank. WHAT A SUCKER I was, no research or homework!! BUT there was more he told me about the SM at St Marys. (which I was already finding out about). I said to myself "What have I got myself into" HELP!!! 

But at least my other buddy "Ivan" who we did the safeworking school together he took the Ropes Creek signal box (Station) vacancy the same time I did for Dunheved, so at least we were in it together!! (better two on a sinking ship than one) Because it was so far to travel from my place at Oatley (plus a 10 hour work day) I decided to board and lodge at my relatives place at Penrith. ie Monday night till Thursday night and drive back to Oatley Friday nights. My uncle (Was/IS) a very intelligent man and did night time law school himself. (now a solicitor) But he had no TV in his home (and my other young cousins I shared the place with.) He wanted them to become very good students and TV was an evil detour. So I was in bed by 8:30pm with nothing else to do but either read a book or sleep. 

At Werrington, as part of my daily SWSA duties I had to check the level crossing lights and bells. The female station assistant asked me once "why I was so bright eyed and bushy tailed person" I told her my predicament at Penrith and my excess sleep, and she laughed why I was always a "White clear Eyed Person" I started to settle into Dunheved though. 
There was SUPPOSED to be a NSWGR (PTC) pushbike each for myself and Ivan at Ropes Creek to ride the official pushbikes to Dunheved or Ropes Creek respectively, BUT found out they were "souverners" years ago, and the OIC SM at St Marys did not care one hoot either! Took our cars instead, (Twice in one day) to our stations and signal boxes, for the AM and PM trains. In the end I started "hitching a ride" with trip train No-5 or T127 on the 48 class engine going there and back to Dunheved. The more I was on the 48 class, the more I wanted to transfer over to the Locomotive Branch--this time at Enfield.--but that is the next move story. 

Here is the extract from "Dunheved" I took a transfer from the Illawarra line as station assistant, to a "promotion" as *safe working station assistant in 1979 -1980 actually! to Dunheved. (not knowing what I got myself into). After doing all the 3 weeks safe working training, and first day on the job I found out the hours of duty was M-F 0635-1635 (6:35am-4:35pm) and with a two hour lunch break. This was to coincide with the 3 passenger trains a day. Train No. P1 and P3 in the morning and (??) one in the afternoon. This was a marshalled train as two red rattler carriages and two parcel vans. They were mostly Blacktown train crew (driver and guard) There was also a diesel shunting trip train called "5 trip or T127" with Richmond diesel drivers on it. (Pat Teirney) It used to go into my "loop siding" off the down main. (mid morning) The "48" class diesel would run around their train, (to go back the other way) and the old brakevans used to be on both ends. (NVGA or NVJA) and after they had their religious crib break-you could never break that rule,! I would sent back on the up line (towards St Marys) and they would shunt the Sims Metal siding. I would give the freight train guard a hand there at Sims'ys. I would open up the ground frame, the guard shunt it. 

As a *SWSA I found out you were " a jack of all trades" there, from operating the signal box (about a 30 red, blue and black lever frame), to selling passenger tickets (and doing all the clerical paper work), and doing the station cleaning-and checking the signal lights on the old semaphore-quadrants that they were not broken etc, and any other signal wires etc which needed attention. BUT at least it was a "solo" railway station-ie working by yourself. With the passenger trains there was no real story to tell. P1 went from St Marys then Dunheved at 0645 to Cochrane and terminated at Ropes Creek. (with Ivan my other signalman mate there who we did the safe working school together) Ivan at Ropes Creek then sent it back to St Marys via me at Dunheved and then did another loop return (P3) there and back on the branch line. and then went back to Blacktown. (I think it used to leave Dunheved at 0815 or 0820

It used to take people to the industrial area around St Marys (Dunheved) and to the Commonwealth area at Cochrane and Ropes Creek. There used to be a "special school" for intellectually handicapped students at Dunheved, and while they were waiting for the train (afternoon), I used let some of them sometimes "play" with the spare signal levers and old crank signal telephone. (Gee, those people would never had enough fun from the signal box and their laughter would always make a bad day-good again!!) My mate Ivan had to go through a Commonwealth Police check point to travel by car to get to Ropes Creek. (because of munitions factory) They were serious officers there, but they got to know both of us, and a friendly "let us through" with out stopping us. (I had an old '59 FC holden!) Once a week T127 would bring a munitions covered van (bogie covered van) I think they were a "BPV" van with padlocks on the doors. Big red/white "explosive" dangerous goods posted on both sides. I would leave it on No. 3 or 4 siding in the Dunheved Yard. The munitions fellas had there old shunting tractor and would pick it up from our Yard. They would then proceed with it down to the munitions factory with "their fireworks on board. 

That is when the fun started. I would always ring the munitions people but they were never in a hurry to pick it up. One day after I rang them My Station Master from St Marys was waiting for me at the Dunheved Station at 0635. I thought what have I done wrong?? I found out that the munitions people were taking there time to pick it up and that night-some kid's or teenagers let the handbrake off (the air was probably already bled out or they knew the release valve wire!) and away it went, all gravity grade fall down to the munitions factory!! It went through the cyclone fence-gate and smashed the door of the factory. (It was all yard working for about 2km to the factory and no "jack" points -derails and all trailing points Dunheved Yard to them.) Hey, it wasn't my fault, I did ring them the day before. Luckily the BPV was unloaded, and no fireworks anywhere. 

After consultations with my Station Master and the munitions factory we decided to put a chain and padlock over the handbrake spider wheel and pawl. But this was found out later to be in vain. About a month after that the same thing happened again. Some vandals broke the padlocks off, but fortunately, the BPV "run out speed" this time and just rested in the yard. 
After that incident I would wait for the munitions shunting tractor to come and pick it up. (they were told no more delays there pick it up). 

There is another "story or yarn" and I am not sure how true it is. A relief signalman told me once about the Indian Pacific train on the St Marys to Ropes Creek branch line. He told me "The Famous Indian Pacific" used to run 3 times a week from Central (Sydney) on its 4000 km journey to Perth. On one occasion it was late departing Central on time (1515-3:15pm) At the elevated signal box at St Marys (all toggle switch type) the regular signalman had a trainee with him that particular shift. He forgot about the "most important train" in Australia because it was running very late. He left the signal box for a short time and gave it over to the trainee. Just after the signalman left "train control-traffic" rang the trainee and told him to "hold" (stop) the suburban train on the down suburban line" (No 3 platform) and they will send the Indian Pacific around it on the down main (back platform or No.4) to catch up on time, ie run around the Sydney suburban train waiting on No. 3. 

The trainee set the points and signals around the suburban train, but in a headstrong rush he also set it for the points and road for the Ropes Creek branch line. (which is just after the down main going west) The driver of the Indian Pacific went through the "two yellows" turnout and then went straight for the Ropes Creek branch line. He realised it was too late when the "Indian" was going for Dunheved. (already went over the points) The fireman came at speed straight for the signalbox and "Max" the resident signalman was rushing back up the steps to the elevated signalbox too. There was a delay for about 20 minutes as the Indian Pacific with a train load of probably a mixture of International and Australian passengers had to propel back over the points and back to the turnout signal. Imagine that: The most important train in Australia now going for a sleepy old branch line, headed straight for Dunheved and Ropes Creek. Well, it was a Commonwealth Branch line anyway,! they owned it all the way from the St Marys junction to Dunheved (munitions) and Ropes Creek branch line. The relief signalman "Thommo" who told me this yarn said the resident signalman "Max" and the Indian Pacific train driver both received the NSW Railways "Bung" and a $10 fine each. 

Page 11

Transfer Application to Locomotive Branch
Trainee Engineman

Only to say looking back, I should have stayed there at Dunheved. It was a "cream job" expect the SM at St Marys. If it was available today even with the ten hours shifts (and two hour unpaid meal break) I would "jump at it now". But I was still a teenage "whippersnapper" and I got itchy feet at the drop of a hat. Always looking for more adventure (and trials too I found out). 

About 6 months on the job at Dunheved, I saw in the NSW Weekly Notice vacancies at Enfield DELEC for trainee engineman. I had a talk to the Diesel train crew which came daily to Dunheved. (The Richmond driver and fireman) on T127-or 5 trip. They both told me there is more opportunities in the "The Traffic Branch" and more promotional vocations (like ASM or SM or even higher) but told me there was a lot of money to be paid in "The Locomotive Branch" short term, if you are willing to work 24/7 varied and itinerant shift work, with Barracks and Country book off work. That night I decided to put a transfer application in for the Trainee Engineman at Enfield. I wanted MORE excitement. I was dreaming of "behind the controls of a diesel locomotive" since I was a kid, and one of the main purpose anyway of joining the NSW Railways about three years previous. 

Used to dream for hours as kid of the 44 class or 48 class engines. "That's it" Next morning I put my application into the OIC SM at St Marys. In his very unapologetic way told me. "You cannot transfer or go back in your grade as a SWSA for two years, didn't you read the writing when you took the SWSA job". I sort of understood what he was talking about. Any NSW railway person who had done extra training and promotion could not transfer or regress back for a minimum of two years. Meaning I had to stay there for two years YUK!!  The only way now was to wait till I was 21 to do the ASM school. (Assistant Station Master school) or go out as guard on the goods freight trains or electric Sydney passengers trains. I could not regress back as a station assistant in a lower grade. I could never see myself as freight train SHUNTER, so I decided behind the SM at St Marys's back to make an appointment to talk to the Manager or Superintendent of The Traffic Branch. (wasn't I game then--heaps of self confidence as 19 year old!

I made the appointment and just had the day off work. I had to go to the main Central Sydney Building, "under the big railway clock" in the City. I went in full PTC uniform with my suit and tie on. I met the "the man in charge" His name was Mr Ned London. He had a very large sort of office and desk. He knew why I was there. He just asked me, "Why do you want to transfer over to the Locomotive Branch", I sort of waffled on etc. He looked me up and down, and said " I think you would have a better future in the Traffic Branch" while he was reading my personal file, (maybe about my Jannali robbery adventure-with recommendation etc!) but he said, "Your transfer has been approved" and he rubber stamped (real life) my application form and said "Good Luck in the Locomotive Branch" and shook my hand and said "Goodbye and good luck" as he was a very busy sort of person. 

I was just "in a over the moon experience" walking back on the main concourse at Central Station. I felt like going back and offering him a drink, but I thought that would be unwise. I had quiet one back at Penrith after I arrived back at my home (away from home area). I told the SM at St Marys about my transfer to the Locomotive Branch. I could see he wasn't happy, so I gladly walked out of his office and finished up that same week at Dunheved as a SWSA, with a grin on my face, ear to ear. 

Page 12

MOVE to DELEC  ENFIELD as a Trainee Engineman.   (my dream job)


Report to the DLE (District Locomotive Engineer) at Enfield, ie Locomotive Manager at DELEC Enfield the following Monday at 7am. 

I received the official Transfer from the NSW Rail Traffic Branch to the Locomotive Branch in 1980. At the time the Public Transport Commission (PTC) which included NSW Trains, Buses and Ferries was disbanded and the new name of the: State Rail Authority of NSW was the "new name", later just SRA. It was a real new experience for me. I left the rail station staff blue uniform to the locomotive branch "greens" It used to be a dark green shirt and dark green trousers and jackets was later replaced with a light green shirt. (if you put dark green shorts on, it become the Prison greens

Moving to DELEC Enfield was a "real eye opener for me". First hand just about every diesel locomotive class in service in NSW, plus the electric fleet of the 46 class and later the 85 and 86 class. The only exception which I did not see regularly was the 47 and 49 class diesels except the rare occasion coming from the "bush depots" to go to the DELEC wheel lathe. I suppose I was in a gunzel's or rail fans heaven. Locomotives everywhere. But to the real thing. The first few weeks I went back to Railway "kindergarten". ie I had to throw out all my 3 years of NSW Rail "Traffic Branch" experience "out the door" and start all over again. It was for a good cause though--but a little bit humbling. 

I met all the new trainee's which had come from all other rail departments. Other station staff, a lot of rail track workers (fettlers) from the Per Way branch. Some from the workshops at Chullora or Eveleigh. But also The last intake from the PTC buses and ferries staff, as this practice was now being disbanded with the new SRA entity. One fellow was actually from Victoria as a fully fledged diesel driver. (as he told me anyway) but after his divorce he moved to Sydney and joined the NSW bus driver vocation for a while then transferred back over the trains. He had to start all over again, as NSW did not recognise any other States of Australia previous Locomotive training / experience. Actually in those days if you where a fully qualified train driver, diesel or suburban from another state of Australia, you had to start all over again from the ground up if they wanted to become a SRA diesel train driver!! (min of at least 4 years). 

But getting back to the transfer of mine. I found out the first few weeks I was only a locomotive cleaner as a unqualified trainee locomotive engineman. Anything from a "real wax and polish" one or two loco's a day, getting all the muck and grind off them, then waxing with a lot of hard sweat! or another role what they called the broom and mop crew on the "departure road" at DELEC, with a quick sweep and mop for the locomotive cab for the train crew taking a diesel out into service--into traffic. I nearly ended myself with a nasty fall when a driver and fireman out of the Enfield barracks (Broadmeadow crew) asked me if I could clean the two "44 class" locomotives outside windows especially the nose cabs (No. One ends). They had the two "44" class marshalled back to back or nose end leading both ways out. (No. one end leading out). They told these diesels are going onto a train in Enfield Yard which is going all the way to Werris Creek and good to have clean windows. I had climbed up the nose and onto the hood but after cleaning the 2nd "44" class front windows, my hands were pretty wet and slippery, with the bucket and dry and wet rags to clean the windows, and while trying to climb down off the nose, I slipped and fell bucket first straight into the "six foot" and a real shudder and shock in my neck and back. Another trainee, rushed and told the Head Cleaner what had happened, while the Broadmeadow crew were trying to console me. 

The "head cleaner" Benny....(who became medically unfit after a collision or derailment while driving a steam locomotive engine many years before hand) came running out of his humpy to assist me after my fall. He had a high tenored pitch voice, and did he let the "foreign crew" have it. "He abused the driver and fireman from Broadmeadow asking a new trainee to climb up diesel cabs which are unsafe practice to do. If you foreign drivers want any windows cleaned to tell him first and take the locomotives inside the shed (with ramps) to clean the windows properly." The "foreign crew" looked a bit speechless, but respected Benny (being an ex steam locomotive engineman.) Benny told me to go home or see a doctor if I am in any pain. I told him I was OK. The next shift he gave me all the "cream jobs" by just checking all the outgoing locomotives "kit bucket" which needed detonators, red flags and a monkey wrench, air hose spanners with spare air hoses to be put in the diesel cabs. Got a cleaner's promotion already!! I stayed in "The shed" at DELEC for a few weeks. I actually cleaned and moved the last "43" class still in service, just before it went to the graveyard at Chullora. 

After my three weeks was up, I went to the full NSW Locomotive Engineman's Safeworking school in the City. (I think St Martins Towers building). This time learnt all systems of NSW safeworking inc. Block Telegraph, Track Block and Automatic (again) Single Line Track Control, Electric Staff, Ordinary Staff and Ticket, Divisible staff etc. which are all used in NSW.  After I completed all the "theory" side, and all the tests, we all went to Central Sydney country platforms, and was shown how to exchange the "the staff" ie a metal rod from both the platform and also from the locomotive cab. They had a 44 class engine from Eveleigh to practice with. Using the sling with the electric staff inside the holder, then an ordinary staff (a bit longer) and a divisible staff to exchange, then last how to use the automatic staff exchanger (which was used in the bush and deep main line south) of fast travelling trains on single lines without having to slow down to exchange the staff. It was a lot of fun for me and very exciting as young trainee, and sort of "proud as punch" with a few interested onlookers and passengers having a look too. 

I was ready "for the road" as a Trainee Locomotive Engineman "Qualified" to do my first 500 hours after an induction on the road and evaluation from a Locomotive Inspector. Note: In 1980 they still had three man (person) train crews. On a Diesel Locomotive they had the driver and the fireman (observer) and a "Traffic branch" guard on the freight train "brake vans" at the back of a "goods train". As a Trainee Locomotive Engineman to become a Driver they had at least four years and four stages. 

Trainee Engineman: 500 hours on the diesel (if lucky 3 months

Locomotive Engineman Class One: 1000 hours (at least 9 months) as acting fireman as they used to call us. If no work available on the locomotives we went back in the shed cleaning, but also on call for "road fireman" duties. 

Engineman Class Two (permanent fireman-Obserever) for 2 years, which also you were put on the roster and no more shed cleaning duties. You actually are getting knowledge from the Diesel Drivers how to drive and learn all "The Ropes" as Locomotive Engineman. 

Engineman Class Three (acting driver) after the Engine and Air Brake School for locomotive drivers, and then "road trials" to evaluate the knowledge of all the railway tracks, sidings, yards, signals, grades, speedboards, landmarks, and just about every thing to know in our area of locomotive driving. 

Engineman Class Four was an acting driver after 2 years, but without actually being classified or appointed as a "full' driver. 

Engineman Class Five was an appointed Driver anywhere in NSW (including the min requirement then for the Sydney suburban trains) It went a lot by seniority to become an Class Five, but Enfield because of all the large amount of freight train running, it was a very quick depot in the NSW to become a Class Five Engineman (driver). 

Engineman Class Six (or special Class Drivers) with a min of many years used to get the fast passenger or fast high wheeler goods trains. (Cream work) with a min of about 550 km a week to perform. Enfield did not have that category. (Because a lot of low kilometre Sydney trip train and shunting work or < less 550km a week) Eveleigh and Country Depots though had it. Like Goulburn, who they used to say "Owned the whole Main South" Sydney to Albury on the Class Six Rosters. Goulburn to Sydney, and Goulburn to Albury (bypassing Junee) Taree also had Class Six drivers too. Taree to Sydney work on the fast passenger trains. A lot of the times, when they had a Class Six (special class driver), they had a Class Four (acting driver thereafter) as the offsider. 

As you can see, In the early 1980's when I was there, It took at least three to fours years to become even an acting driver. (like an apprenticeship)--but has sped up the process now in the 2000's. You normally had to be even a NSW Railway employee to even get a "foot in the door". Not many Locomotive Depots in the 1980's advertised externally for "Trainee Engineman". 

Page 13

My Road Test (trials) 

There are a lot of Good Memories to share.  When I was "just out of the shed" and now an acting fireman (1980) I was working on the shed fireman's duties moving all the locomotives around the DELEC depot "from the Paddock" or fuel bowser to the outgoing: "departure road". Some have already been in for the "service from the Diesel Fitters" and ready for "service again in Traffic" The Depot Chargeman (who are ex Diesel Drivers with promotions) had a list of each locomotive in the depot and which train it is going onto. This included double or triple multiple unit locos. We had to put them in order on the DELEC departure road. As a shed fireman, we also worked with a shed driver for about a week every three months. The shed fireman officially "pilot" the loco around the depot (walking) and changed the points over to their direction. Unofficially we were "hanging from the side or the footplate" as there was a lot of walking otherwise. The shed driver did not mind, or any other officials (unless an incident occurred). Later as shed fireman, unofficially we used to drive the loco's around the depot (with caution---and not to get caught out or a derailment!!

There was about 3-4 teams of shed drivers and firemans on each shift. (24/7) or 6-8 men (persons). One particular shift on a "daywork" Monday 6am start, I teamed up with a young bloke called Tony Ryan. He was the shed driver with me for the week. He was only about 3 years older than me, and started on the NSW railways around time I did, but went straight into the Locomotive Branch at DELEC as a trainee, and then in 1980 was "passed" to be an acting driver. (or Engineman Class Three) I was told by a few other trainee's, once you are "out on the road" to find a driver who is looking for a regular mate (fireman) to work together as team--driver and fireman. Near the end of the week, I was getting on so well with Tony Ryan, and he told me his regular driver Barry ----- is transferring up to Yerongopilly (South Brisbane) to get both the Queensland sun and NSW Rail award wages in QLD! I then asked Tony Ryan if he would like me to be "his regular mate" fireman. It worked out well for both Tony and myself as we would be on the "pencil roster" together (and no shed cleaning for me as a standy! ) We asked Eric Kidd, the senior Rostering Clerk and he OK'ed for us. 

So, way I went. A regular diesel driver to work with (around the same age too!) and he will show me the ropes train driving and fireman. We have been in contact for many years after that. We had a lot of south coast coal trains or shunting trip trains together. For a while they were (SRA at DELEC) using bank engines loco's for a train from the Blue Mountains to go to Port Kembla. (for up the Como to Sutherland grade hill or 1 in 40 hill) They used to use an old 42 class (in the shafts) or another diesel, or even 46 class electric occasionally. We would meet the coal train at Canterbury and then attach onto it. The bank engine then would go as far as Waterfall and then return back. They decided at DELEC to even shortened the bank engine by only returning back to Hurstville (by old stumping grounds) and would attach to the two locomotives at Hurstville Signal Box. (which is all under the staunchion cover of the Hurstville Super Centre Shops).

I would with some pride in front of young and aspiring "train driver" passengers on the platform, do my shunting duties. But I think the signal and station staff did not like the "smelly and noisy" locos doing their shunting duties under the roof of Hurstville station. We then went back to Canterbury for a while, but later diesel train control, decided to leave the three locomotives together going up and down the south coast and blue mountains as "triple header unit working". Mostly 44 class, 45, 442 or the brand new 80 class with the air cond's and fridges. (which then became the leading loco for the whole journeys)  After the bank engine idea was scrapped. Tony and myself would take the triple header loco's coal trains all the way from Enfield Yard "through road" or DELEC platform all the way to Thirroul or Wollongong stations, then be relieved by the Port Kembla guy's. They would take it around the coal loader and then about 1 hours time we would work it home empty to Enfield. We would have a crib meal break at the "Gong" or Thirroul. 

Great Hey! We would get the "tonneage money" of about $40-50 a shift with the tonneage then with 2249 tonnes. (max tonneage then) It used to be a lot of early evening shifts starts (5pm to 8pm) or other day work or afternoon starts. I came from the "Oatley" area as my "haunting grounds" (home) I would tell my Oatley mates when I am travelling through Oatley, I would "pull the whistle cord"-----one long and two shorts as my trade mark. Tony Ryan did not care a bit, actually a smile on his face. I would not do it after 10pm (2200) at night to let my Oatley mates and family sleep. A few months into that practice I noticed the weekly "Special Train Notice (STN's)-with Weekly Speed Restrictions and Whistle Code area for the week. It came to attention from either the local residents of Oatley, or the Mortdale Electric Running and Maintenance Shed's about this excessive locomotive whistles around this area. This had to be curtailed and only used with track workers, or danger etc on the line. I was THE CULPRIT !! But I did "Tone it down" after that, Got their message. 

When the coal trains were not working we did a lot of Main South work, Enfield to Goulburn and "Book Off there" in the barracks. A new experience too seeing the NSW countryside. We also did the "mundane" trip train Roster, but at least we could guarantee our relief staff after 8 hours work. Trip train roster was around Sydney metro area to shunt and attach or detach wagons (freight train work). Mostly with a 48 class engine. (after a while you could just about drive a 48 class blindfolded ) It was a lot of Enfield to Darling Harbour via Rozelle. (and Mungo Scotts) Or Enfield to Clyde. Enfield to Botany or Cooks River. Enfield to Wolli Creek or Emu Plains, (on the gravel train). Enfield to Chullora, Leightonfield and Yenorra or the Homebush saleyards etc and a few other variations. 

We used to have a "trip train roster book and timetable (which was never accurate!!) and where our relief staff would find us. We used to have Ford station wagons-call trucks with a call truck driver. Like a Taxi service for us. Hey!! Also did the Yard Shunting Engines at Enfield: (6am, 2pm or 10pm) Up Shunter, Central Yard Shunter, Down Shunter, the Lower level car wagons shunter. The Rozelle coal train shunter on a 45 class engine to unload the coal at Balmain. The Homebush saleyards shunting engine too. Or the Backshift Darling Harbour or Flemington Shunter on a 73 class engine which the Eveleigh men did during the day or afternoon but was to scared to work them at NIGHT 

Tony Ryan was not allowed to go "West (Lithgow) or the short North (Gosford or Newcastle) because of the heavy grades (hills-mountains), because they had to be an experienced freight train driver and Tony was still on his "P" plates as an acting driver. (and me a new chum fireman ) We got on so well together. But all "good things come to an end" Tony Ryan was still only an acting driver or class three engineman. There were no vacancies at Enfield as class five engineman. (all goes by seniority then) at the time a lot of young fellows with acting drivers grades went over to the Sydney "Sparks" electric train drivers as a promotion,---because there was always a big demand for them. You had to be a Class 5 engineman then to drive the Sydney electrics. Actually a lot of them used to get "poached" not long after their acting driver grades became apparent to the ETR (electric train running). 

Tony Ryan was thinking it over, but with his wife and two young kids, they decided they had enough of Sydney and Tony Ryan took a promotional transfer to Grafton (South Grafton depot) as an Engineman Class Four. (still an acting driver) but put on the Special Class Drivers roster (diagram) as a "fireman" on all the "high wheeler" fast passenger and goods trains. ie Express Passenger or fast running non shunting Express Freight Trains (track speed or 100-115km/h runner) Grafton to Brisbane or Grafton to Taree. The acting drivers relieved the special class drivers enroute, changed seats to let the special class driver have a "spell". BUT I lost my first regular mate, Tony Ryan. He was trying to convince me to move to Grafton too after a while up there. All Country and Rural North Coast living. He nearly convinced me! 

Page 14

I was already on the "footplate" as a locomotive engineman "fireman-observer" for about two years when my first train driver "buddie" -regular mate Tony Ryan, transferred to the South Grafton Depot. It was in early 1982 and I was already employed for the NSW Railways for about 5 years. 

I met a fully qualified train driver: engineman class 5, with the name of Vince Jelley at DELEC Enfield. He recently just got "promoted" to that grade. He was more of a "mature' type of character. I was put on the "roster" with him for a while and we just ended up being "regular mates" as a driver-fireman combination together. Vince was a sort of "Serious" type, 
but we both ended up blending together as locomotive train crew. A great fellow to talk about any subject we liked, inc. sport, politics and even religion. We had many hundreds of hours together in the locomotive cabs as a "team", and actually enjoyed his company tremendously. Hey!! we were both Parramatta Rugby League fans and used to listen together on Vince's portable radio hanging from the side windows of the cab. 


Vince was a real hard working but fair "gentleman" A lot of the times he used to get into real deep conversations with not only me, but other engineman or railwaymen. I think he loved the art of real conversations. After a while he got to know me, so he would try and start a serious chat with someone else and give me a wink from his eye. I think looking back it was all "tongue in cheek" he just liked to have a real discussion (or argument) just for the sake of it. A REAL NICE CHARACTER. I ended up staying with Vince Jelley for nearly another two years and worked most of the Enfield DELEC roster's in our area of mileage. Enfield to Goulburn, Port Kembla, Lithgow, Broadmeadow (Newcastle) and all the Sydney main and branch lines. Still heaps of trip train and shunting engine rosters, but it did break up the "long distance and barracks work". 

Vince and I would "share" all the driving duties. (unofficially of course) Most locomotive inspectors knew all the permanent fireman (like myself) always had a "go" driving the "big wheels" Actually if not "you would become a "bludger" not helping your train driver mate. The driver would always tell us if we made a mistake, or to slow down here, or there, or the next signal display was at "ONE" meaning: green over the red and have full control off the train and locomotive to stop at the next signal after the first one. Officially the NSW State Rail Rule then was only after about 3-4 years as a fireman-observer to let us out "behind the controls" as trainee driver. It was only after the completion of the Train Drivers School: in the "engine and air school." ie all NSW main and branch line locomotives diesel engine instructions, plus faults and failures, and then the full air brakes school for locomotives and freight wagons and their characteristics. 

After graduating from that, you had Your official "P" plates to drive a locomotive train under the instruction of a fully qualified driver: class 5 or 6. They then used to learn intently "the roads" every fixed signal, station, signal box, speed boards, grades- both hills and dales, curves and the list went on. When you had enough "road knowledge" you went with a driver and locomotive inspector, (with the candidate driving) and the inspector would "check you right out" both day and night work trains. (inc two trips to Goulburn of 224 Km of track TWICE in the trial test and also to Port Kembla to become a NSW Railway acting driver) He may ask you "what is the next speed board" "what is the next station" and the Inspector would see how the candidates went keeping the momentum of the train at the designated track or freight train speed. (including speed restrictions--eg 20kmh you must have full control of the loco and train before the first wheel crosses that restriction. We had to make sure all the current weekly speed board notices are acknowledged and signed

Actually Vince and I used to go "South" regularly at night. And heaps of "pea soup" fog and could not see a anything in front of you. The strong headlights only reflected the mist fog back at us, so most engineman used to turn it off in thick fog. That is when you made "the grades" of when to power up, when to let the throttle back and when to stop or use the air brakes. It was no guess work. We had to know exactly were we where, using all the familiar mileage posts and landmarks at night for a guide. eg a farmhouse, a bridge to power up with, a curve to take it easy, a speed board ahead, a level crossing etc. ALL FUN AT NIGHT hey! with about 50-200 metres of visual sight in front of you and you are doing 80-100km/h and a train load of over 1,000 tonnes behind you!! Sometimes we had only about less than 10 seconds to see the next signal ahead. (So we are supposed to know exactly were it is, BLINDFOLDED) If it was at "caution" be ready to put the brakes on!! 

I found out after about one years as a diesel fireman, it was more than just playing choo choo trains, and blowing the whistle at my home town at Oatley. It become a serious job. I think looking back the "wonderment and glamour" of being a locomotive engineman started to wear off. YES: I loved the job, BUT I started to detest all the intenerant and variable shift work. It is not just the normal 24/7 other shift workers do. eg 6am, 2pm and 10pm with a week in that roster which rotates. It is more of any hour of any day/night that you either start or finish your shift. I reckon on the average every month, I either started or finished every shift in every hour of a 24 hour clock. eg Mon: 10am-8pm. Tue 3pm-Midnight. Wed 10pm-7am. Thursday not requried, Fri 6am shunter-2pm. Sat 3pm shed. Sun 8am to Goulburn and book off in barracks etc. (these are not real rosters, just a guide to make a point

It did start to affect me. My body clock was "out of whack" Some shifts like night work or early morning starts, I would only get 3-4 hours sleep. I started to get very irritable at times. (not so much at work--but at home) I saw a doctor once who gave me sleeping pills. The next shift: I was like a "zombie". Then when I got home I threw them all down the toilet, I just had to learn how to live with it. I on my 2-3 days off (after night shifts) I would sleep for up to 12-14 hours to recover lost sleep. When I went out socialising, I was always "Yawning" and bit of a bore to be with. Just lethargic all the time. The only consolation "on the footplate" at night (or even any other shift) when we were put in a yard or a siding for a while and nothing happening, we would just have a quick 40 winks. Talk about "sleeping pills" the constant drum of a locomotive engine "humming" would even make the hardest "Insomniac" go to sleep at 2am - 3am in the morning.!! Aahh "The Joy's of being a Locomotive Engineman". 


As all Good Stories come to an end. My "first stint" on the NSW Railways came to a conclusion. As I stated about all the constant shift work and my "old" young body clock was out of whack. I had to make a decision?? Stay on the Railways as diesel train driver, or maybe do something else??  I was eligible in my last 6 months of my "fireman" duties to advance into the drivers school (engine and air) to get more qualifications and play choo choo trains the rest of my life!! 
It was in late 1983 I had some time off work (holidays etc) to think things over. I explained all this to Vince Jelley--and he understood. He was already in his 40's, I was only in my mid 20's (7 years on railways) Vince joined the railways as a married family man in his mid 30's (a newspaper printer by trade--with all night shifts!!) but with a wife and teenage family to support. (He had his soundproofed granny flat attached to his home for him to get the best sleep he could

I really was looking for a "change" My childhood dreams of becoming a Diesel Locomotive Train Driver were going further and further away from me. Even though it was looking at me straight in the face.!! I was envying the "dayworkers" all the nights and weekends off to mix and socialise with. My "girlfriends" were just about "ZERO" with no real interaction with the opposite sex. I was looking for a "sweetheart and soul mate to share my life with, but unfortunately was not to be found. I was starting to find out, that working for the Railways-- especially Freight Train Locomotive Train Crew Work. To ME, it's more than just a job, it was Lifestyle. (or Life.) And that job was becoming my LIFE. I was never home, or trying to sleep during the day when my mates come around to see me. In the end they just "gave up on me" because of those reasons. 

Decided after a lot of "soul searching" to leave the NSW Railways. (the job I was yearning for most of my life) It was one of the biggest decisions I had ever made. BUT I wanted a change. I thought going back to the Traffic branch on the Stations, but to me it was going "backwards" (should have listened to SM at Jannali! ) I wanted to travel, which I did for nearly 7 years in every state of Australia.(1984-1991) (except Tassie). I did a landscaping course, got a truck drivers and earthmoving certificates. I worked and travelled a lot of The Outback and Top End, including Mining towns and even Hotel bar waiting. (picking up the glasses) Just about any job that was available, I took. The "hottest and most tiring and thirsty" job was at the new airforce base at Tindall at Katherine N.T. as a "builder's labourer". (1987) in the construction of the new airforce base RAAF Tindall. (to close down the RAAF Butterworth base in Malaysia). 

I was also offered a job as Shed Train cleaner at Townsville Q.R. but just too many restrictions again. (maybe trainee engineman Q.R.) And checked out the WA railways while living in "Coogee Beach" Fremantle (Perth) Wanted to move on "when the outback dust moved me". I wanted the freedom and Do what I wanted to do. I met heaps of people "on the dusty" road and made also life long friends too. (including my "Sweetheart-my Wife in 1991 who settled me down!) Looking back, like the song says (Frank Sinatra) I made a "few regrets" but, "I did it My Way"

NB: But there is More NSW Railways. 
Like the Railway Boomerang comes back. 
About 15-16 years later in 2001-06. 

Both of my Best Train Driver "buddies" Vince Jelley and Tony Ryan have gone up to the "Big Wheel" Locomotive Depot in the sky. Vince Jelley died on 23 April 1996, not long after transferring From NSW Freight Rail over to National Rail at Chullora. He was living the "good life" there he told me with the long distance fast trains. (and no more boring trip train roster). He was diagnosed with a Tumors and Cancer in 1995. Vince would have been in the mid or late 50's years of age. 

Tony Ryan after a 10 or more year absence from the NSW Railways, rejoined again for "Interail" or QR National at Grafton about two years ago. He left Grafton in the late 1980's to become a Class Five driver at Newcastle (Broadmeadow then Port Waratah) but also wanted more "Family life with his wife and two kids" and in the mid 1990's moved back to Grafton in non railway work for 10 years-before Interail come up. Tony Ryan died this year on 21 March 2008 "in the sign on room" at Grafton to work the Taree train "south" around 4am in the early "Good Friday" morning. He suffered a fatal heart attack at the "young age of exactly 50". DOB 07/03/1958--21/03/2008 (death). "I miss you both fellas" See you both, bye and bye at the Heavenly Level Crossing Gates, and tell Saint Peter to clean the mainline points for us will you. 

Page 15

After my wandering days travelling around Australia (1984-1991) and in and out of NSW like an "Aussie Blowfly" ie "Noisy but Harmless." Noisy getting jobs all around Australia, Harmless sort of character otherwise. I ended back in Sydney from Perth in late 1990. Met the "girls of my dreams" in Sydney. Settled down and got married, and got a job with Telecom (Telstra). I was there for many years. As a "Liney" ie. Linesman inc Cable Work, Trucks and earthmoving equipment. etc. great job which you think (and hope) go on forever. 

In the early or mid 1990's NSW "Freight Rail" got officially divorced from NSW "State Rail". (or an external Corporation of State Rail) They started painting the loco's that dark navy blue. (as you all know). My verdict is still out on that colour scheme. HELP: BRING BACK THE NSWGR TUSCAN and YELLOW. 

At DELEC Enfield they had an open weekend for all the general public to see the Depot and The Locomotives. (mid 1990's) Well, wasn't I surprised with all the changes since I left about ten years before then. (mid 1980's) I caught up with some old "salties" (Drivers, Firemans and Chargemen) there. Told me about the new style of guard and observers (fireman) now the same grade and work role etc. No more 3 man freight train crew. Only Driver and 2nd Persons with no Brake Guards Vans anymore at the back!! (or "pulling the tail" and going to sleep any more in the Brake Van's) But, regardless, I was sort of getting the Locomotive Engineman appetite again. (Even a 2nd persons job with humble pie would do) When I got home, I started contemplating about it. "WILL I, OR, WON'T I". 

I discussed it with my wife and with her full approval, I started browsing through the newspapers and websites for any NSW railway positions. BINGO:  The local paper advertised not long after that as for Customer Service Attendants or CSA (formerly known as Railway Station Assistants or SA's). on the Short South Illawarra Line, ie Sydenham to Waterfall and Sutherland to Cronulla branch. Great!! I will apply and get a foot back in the door to becoming a train drivers assistant (2nd Person now) on the Freight trains at Freight Rail (State Rail still had that internal-external transfer rule). 

I put my "resume" in at the Hurstville head office, and with my previous Railway Station Work, together with Signal Box duties and Freight Train engineman experience. I got a phone call a few days after it for an interview. (no tests) "I was cocky and sure I would get back in again on the NSW Railways". I had three State Rail-City Rail recruitment personnel (employment) asking me a lot of questions. Two females and one male. One of them asked if "I would try and stay on the job as a CSA", I gave them a "white lie" and agreed with them "Yes of course" (they must have been reading my mind and motives to get back on the job-railways) I had then had a blushed look (or embarrassment). 

After a few more questions, I still thought I was "home and hosed" though. A foot back in the Door now back at State Rail at City Rail. I was surprised with a letter a few weeks later of being "Unsuccessful" Maybe they read between the lines of my intention of Freight Train work. Who knows, but it made me more intensive to get back on the Railways. A couple of times after that I tried again at Petersham (training college) for the intake of State Rail-City Rail train Guards. (over 1,000 people they told me on both occasions). They had candidate tests there in each sitting. But no luck for me. (with the higher percentile marks % on each candidate test, the better chance, but only average scores for me

In early 2000's my current employer Telstra (Telecom) was offering Redundancy Packages to most of my Sydney South region. I put my name down on that list as the work itself had changed and no real better options of staying there. (all getting sub-contracted out) In late 2000, I saw a job advertised at Enfield Freight Yard. It was a Terminal Operator, ie. Shunter and Train-brake Examiner. At (NSW) Freight Corp (or Freight Rail Corp officially) I rang the contact person, Dennis. I then went for the interview. (no tests!! GREAT) I told Dennis---- and Jerry ------- about my previous rail and freight train experience. They then noted it all down. A few hours after, Dennis ---- rang me and told me "I was unsuccessful this time--- but will keep my name on the next short list for any more vacancies" 

I was disappointed, but in a way glad as my redundancy at Telstra was stilling "dragging the chains" or no set date of the Telstra management. In early 2001 I was finally to become redundant from Telstra. BUT all of sudden "What do I do next??" I saw a job advert for the local council driving the waste and clean up trucks. (casual). I did apply and got a start immediately. (good pay too) driving the side or rear loader compacter trucks for the Waste division. Hard Yakka, but good money over $1,200 gross a week then. (2001) 

Was there for about for five months when Dennis ---- from Freight Corp rang me back. "Are you interested in a Terminal Operators job at Botany Yard" "of course" I replied. Better hours too he told me. Mostly daywork or afternoon shifts, with only back-shift, ie night work every 6 or 8 weeks and No Sunday work. I was sold.!! (and I think in The Good Man upstairs timing) Dennis ---- got the ball rolling for me. (and being also an ex DELEC fireman and my thanks and gratitude to Dennis ---- for getting me a start again.) THANK's Dennis ----. 

Well, here I was, back on the "NSW Freight Railways" again. nearly a 16-17 year absence. (or mid 1980's to 2001) At Freight Corp (a NSW Govt owned entity) Was not actually divorced from State Rail Corp (as I mentioned before) just say Freight Corp and Rail Corp are just living aside as "de facto" Same internal transfers and promotions. I even got the "free" NSW Rail Employee pass (use anywhere in NSW: NSW Govt owned Trains, Buses and Ferries) After the medicals and the Botany Yard induction, Dennis and Jerry asked me and the other 3 recruits ( 4 of us in total) about going down to Yass (in southern NSW) for a training junket. Fancy that, only a few days on the job, and already getting the spoils. And getting full pay and a single person a room, accommodation in a nice Motel at Yass, with all meals and drinks also provided. Hey!! can't beat that. 

After the "Junket" was over, "Service through Success" of three days and three nights, it was into the Real Training Mode,  plus the Freight Corp Uniforms. Got the 5 penguin short sleeve shirts "navy blue "freight corp" plus all the other uniform items: trousers, belts, shorts, wide brim hat, sleeveless pullover, jumper and "Bluey" woollen Jacket, plus rain coats, and OHandS orange-reflective vests, 5 long sleeve orange shirts, sunnies and gloves and steel capped boots etc. Enough to uniform an Army!! 

First training mode was DELEC and Clyde Yards. It was into theory and practical SHUNTING. After the theory and exams at DELEC (I think one week) Then went to Clyde Yard for the following week and was shown "the practical way" how to shunt (detach and attach) freight train wagons. We also had to learn how to marshall them in order of train lists, inc. dangerous goods, destinations or other terms into a train consist. Also how to write down the train lists on a "pad" and how to total it up in amount of wagons, length of the train, and tonneage. The consignee and consignor or to and from etc. 

We had practical exams "in the paddock" at Clyde Yard. The instructor would give dozen amount of wagons and then we had to "shunt them out and reshunt or marshall them in the order of the train list" the instructor gave us. I felt a bit sorry for the shunting engine driver Kevin on the 81 class. We had at least 12 in our group and had to shunt and remarshall them all individually (2 days just doing that). We worked it pairs and individually. The instructor would watch us using the points, Ball Throw over, Thompson or Ball Hold Down points. We had to achieve no miss shunts and use all OH&S shunting guidelines. No more "hit ups or loose shunting without a locomotive attached" All shunts must have a locomotive attached. 

We also learnt ( and examined) the use of two way radios and their terms. (inc Phonetic wordings and how to talk properly between the drivers and shunter) The instructor listened to all of our voice commands on his radio, that we were using to the Train Crew (driver) and ourselves (shunters -ground crews) eg. From the ground crew shunters to the driver "Driver on T102, Eighty Feet to attach onto the train, Driver T102, On a green light, to Driver T102, OVER." (meaning being on green light CAUTION) "Message received shunter on T102, on a green light shunter, eighty feet to attach onto the wagons on T102 OVER." and so on. We all passed that with only a few hiccups.. 

Page 16

Not long after that we had to do the Full Train Examiners School at DELEC, inc all types of Air Brake Systems, how and why they work. All types of wagons in use, all types of axles and bogies, all types of just about everything about freight train workings. It wasn't that hard but ALSO not so easy either,!! A lot of theory and paper notes together with refreshers and exams (Once a day then big ones every week or subject of over three weeks

We also had to learn and get certified as Full Train Examiner (FX1). That is like doing a "pink slip" for a car rego as a mechanical inspection. We did everything in what has to be done in a Full Train Examiner-Brake Examination. What to carefully look for, how to orange, green or red card a wagon for repair (mark offs or Not to Go), the full train brake retention time and so on. Also the end of train wagon marker and light (BOG lights) You had to walk around the whole consist of the train both sides. With the brakes on one side, and the brakes off the other side. Check the brake shoe sizes if they where worn and handbrakes are off etc. Like being a wagon freight train mechanic. "jack of all trades, but master of none" in 3 weeks training. Including "minor repairs in the yard if possible" We had to just about check everything on a freight train wagon. "From a needle to an anchor" the old term suggests. A tiny little pin to the brake beams and the whole wagon structure. 

Once you sign the Full Train Examinations Certificate. FX1 It becomes a legal document with the Train Drivers signature on it. You have Certified that this train wagons has been inspected and "ready to go anywhere" not only in Sydney but any interstate destinations eg Sydney to Perth or Brisbane etc. Anything goes wrong with the wagons en route, YOU (the train examiner) is to Blame. (legally and morally) After I got qualified both a "Shunter" and a "Full Train Examiner" The fun started. Firstly I (and the other 3 new chums) had to meet and greet all the other FreightCorp Shunters and Leading and Head Shunters. (about 20 of them

At Botany the abbreviation for Botany Freight Corp was: BFC. There was also another name or term for BFC: but I am vowed by life, not to disclose it to any one. After one particular shift on the "daywork" at 2pm I was about to have a shower and get all the dust and grime off me. The "President" of the other team of the BFC his name is Aurb ---- came into the shower rooms. He told me all "new chums" must go through the BFC initiations. I had a bit of fear and apprehension on my face. He closed the shower rooms door, and I was about to "bolt" like a racehorse out of there. He then explained to me about the "initiation", but told me, because I am an ex railwayman plus an ex fireman from Enfield, he would "Let me off the hook". My initiation is not needed. You have passed the test. He laughed his head off, then I did too (nervously) at first. After we composed ourselves and another Shunter walked into the room, and then Aurb told me "don't tell the other 3 new chums yet, I'll get them". Then just laughed off into the hall way. I will put them through the BFC initiations.!! I never found out if it was true or not. But Aurb used to wear red jock strap "speedo" undies in the shower rooms. I would keep my distance in there though. Laughing.!! 

Botany yard is a very long yard in distance. (3-4 Km) From the top yard sidings (of four) with the Kellogg's and Gelco, with the locked ground frames, (we had to open up with the NSW SL lock keys and then get the release from the Botany Railcorp Office.) It went into the Central or middle yards, with Freight Corp having their own branch off sidings near the Botany Electric Staff Hut, and opposite the Botany Yard RailCorp and Admin. office. The rest of the Botany sidings kept going onto the Sydney Ports regions. One for Sydney Haulage or POTA, another to CTAL or P&O, and the third one going all the way to Patrick's. It wasn't that complex to learn but just being careful to stow wagons in the intermediate or "run around" loops. Also another risk of the end of the private sidings. 

One particular afternoon, an experienced shunter was calling the train driver into a dead end siding at CTAL. The wagon list was about 16 wagons to stow. With about 3-4 wagon lengths to go he kept telling the train driver on a green on a green slow down. 3 wagon lengths to go (3 x 60 footer). The train driver did not reply or respond with the brakes. He just kept on "coming" The shunter was now saying T108 red light. STOP, RED LIGHT. In the end the last wagon "hit the dirt" into an earth wall mound. It did STOP the train. The driver wasn't the regular Botany Yard Shunting Engine driver. (they would have known intimately where to slow down and stop.) Found out the drivers two way radio fell to the floor while moving the train into the CTAL sidings. He picked it up and accidentally changed channels on the two way. NAUGHTY BOY. We also used to get some interference around the Port Botany Yard "Staff Hut" near the road bridge and radio masts. We had to "keep an eye on things". 

I got to know all the regular shunters at Botany, plus the regular Botany shunting engine Drivers. I got on well tremendously with all of them. Of course we had "bad days" with heaps of "hard yakka" shunting to perform especially 3 or 4 Freight Corp trains in the "top yard" just waiting to get their turn to get "shunted out" A real pain and bottleneck at times. That was before any of the new private operators had any "inroads" with the Container Rail Traffic into the Sydney Ports.

Freight Corp had at least 90% when I first got there. But I haven't got a harsh word against any Freight Corp blokes I worked with. They were my "railway mates" and a great bunch to work with. All had different personalties and styles, even shunting, but good railway "salties" to work with. Yes, a bit more "hard yakka" than Telstra (Telecom) or even when I was a railway station assistant or "a diesel fireman" and more dangerous and even more critical work at times, but all in all, a great job and good railway blokes to work with. "Look after yourself and your mates at all times. ESPECIALLY  SHUNTING." 

The other blokes I was in contact with daily, was the shift supervisors from the R.S.A. which become R.I.C. then the RailCorp Botany Office. They would do all the Signal Safeworking and iniate and co-ordinate all the shunting at Botany Yard and Port Botany. (after we tell them through our team leaders and OIC our shunting plans) I also got on well with them. Even Doug the Manager of the RailCorp office. He has been a long time there, going back to the old NSWGR days as the Yard and Station Masters there. 

After Freight Corp and National Rail joined forces, to become Pacific National, a lot of things changed. I am not here to say anything the wiser. But in late 2004, Pacific National decided to leave all the Port business to another internal company Patrick Rail or Patrick Port Link. (took the Port Link from our PL 48 class engines which were modified) LAUGH!!...  I decided after a lot of thinking and also a promise of another job at Clyde yard as Brake Train Examiner. I decided my "railway days" are over. I decided to take the Pacific National Voluntary Redundancy (VR). 
I had a great GREAT time there. Yes, a few sore backs and bruises which are part of the game as a full time shunter. But all in all a good experience. I took a One Year AWA at Botany in 2005 for Patrick's as a Wagon Maintainer and Shunter/Examiner, but in late 2005 I decided to call it quits all together. (nearly another 5 years Freight train shunting

Looking back over the years. A LOT of things have changed. I wouldn't in my wildest dream in 1977 (30 odd years) ever think that the NSW Freight Trains one day would be all privatised, but time's moving on. They I suppose had to change with the times. I may be from the old school NSWGR mentality. Maybe only my .20 cents worth, would be if the NSW Govt. did not sell it off (Freight Corp) and followed the QR and QR National way. (public and NSW Govt controlled) By keeping it all under State Govt hands, expanding to Interstate destinations (like QR National) and by also keeping a closer eye on things. Maybe this may not have happened though if National Rail went out alone with out us (Freight Corp) and just got squeezed Freight Corp out of existence. Who knows!! 

Probably the last time I ever venture back into Railway work or duties. But you never know---- some things do change. 
"Old Fireman never die-- just press head ahead with a boiler of steam and Bulli coal from the tender." 
"Or old Shunters never die--- just a few miss shunts occasionally". 

Well signing off now, I hope you the reader may have some sort of satisfaction or even pleasure from reading this. Maybe a guide for the newer "would be, or could be Train Drivers." The older generation and railwayman (and woman) may also have a "touch" by what I have written. 

I hope you all have liked it. 
Thank You. 

Page 17


Tony and Neil


If you start me now, I would probably go all night. (you know what it like when you get a shunter's mouth is in gear )

But basically after a long absence from the Locomotives (mid 1980's) to come back in 2000 as a shunter a lot of changes did occur. The biggest change for me was the radio communication in shunting, vs the old days of hand signals (hand lights at night) and repeaters. At Botany FreightCorp (BFC) in year 2000 loose shunting was already outlawed.

We did get busted one afternoon with about 60 empty wagons to shunt out for Sydney Haulage (POTA) with the 40 footer wagons, and the 60 footers for CTAL and Patricks. They were all in a "mess" ie 40 and 60 footers. We loco pushed into Sydney haulage with the 40 footers, and loose shunt hit up (fly in SA) onto the main line/loop with the 60 footers with other wagons there to catch onto with ground crew shunters. We were told later not to loose shunt again ie on a final warning caution. (even though we halved the shunting period down)

About 2003 the New Pacific National (FreightCorp-National Rail merger) had already outlawed the riding the vehicle /wagons /loco's after an incident in Melbourne.....but was still practiced with other op's till the LVRF incident occurred. (I was on duty that shift) After that fatality, Dept Transport/RIC-RAC RailCorp etc outlawed that practice too, so all shunting had to be walked with a loco attached, or an exception of two shunter's in a ute to call the train ie stop frequently and in good view of the freight train and keep calling via radio every 30 seconds. (one driving the ute, other calling the shunts) That was because Botany Yard (top end near Kellogs) to the end of the Ports was nearly 5km long. A lot of freight trains after that went loco first all the way to the end of the Ports or loco's on each end of the train/shuttles.

When I was an engineman at Enfield in the 1980's loose shunting was the norm. Either gravity fed or hit up from the loco's with shunter's on the side controlling the handbrakes. (with non air) Actually most trains shunted at Enfield then had the air brakes released or only 2-3 with air next to the loco, and use the loco independent brakes all the time. But with a lot of clearance to stop. On many occasions on the loco engines, down the end of Enfield Yard, ie Enfield central or Enfield south we were used as an "anchor" to couple up loose gravity shunted wagons. The loco 48 class was standing still. Most times the head shunter's would inform us, but one some occasions (esp around 2-3am in the morning) or in the land of "nod" they would couple up without telling us--and shake the living daylights out of us. (nearly whiplash) Not good Bro.

Page 18


Quote Tony:   The biggest change for me was the radio communication in shunting, vs the old days of hand signals (hand lights at night) and repeaters

Yeah I know what you mean. I don't know when radio communication came in, but it must have been a big improvement. In the 70s and 80s you were all alone in the loco cab, and had to maintain visual contact with a shunter/guard. If they dropped from sight, and you kept moving you were taking a risk. I think possibly Glenlee had hand held radios (walkie talkie types) that were issued on arrival, to assist with moving the wagons at the correct speed for loading 

And when out on the road, the only contact you had with the world was via the phones attached to signals, so all messages from Control had to come via a signalman, and if you had to get a message back that you looked like 'breaking' (be more than 12 hours in the cab) again you had to let a signalman know, who would relay it (probably via Control) to the Zona Chargeman. No communication, radio equipment or mobile phones in locos in those days. 

Quote Tony:  That was because Botany Yard (top end near Kellogs) to the end of the Ports was nearly 5km long 

Botany changed a lot from when I was last there, it was a collection of sidings spread around (Kelloggs was there, even then) and other sidings were for oil pots. There were a number of market gardens growing a range of vegetables, including Asian varieties. 

Quote TonyOn many occasions on the loco engines, down the end of Enfield Yard; ie Enfield central or Enfield south. We were used as an "anchor" to couple up loose gravity shunted wagons. The loco 48 class was standing still....(especially around 2-3am in the morning) or in the land of "nod" they would couple up with out telling us--and shake the living daylights out of us. (nearly whiplash) 

That sounds uncool. I was only a Shunter at Enfield for a year, we'd never drop wagons down hard on an unsuspecting crew. My guess is when it happened, it was wagons that got a bit out of control of the shunter. I guessed that loose (or gravity) shunting would end sooner or later, even back in those days. It was a cheap and quick and 'green' way to move wagons about, but the risks and the potential for damage to rollingstock and other infrastructure and injury to human life from a runaway would eventually see other methods used, even if they are slower/less economical. 

As for riding on the side of wagons and locos, again it was practical (and kind of fun). I don't know anything about the incidents you mentioned, but you did need to keep your wits about you, and there was certainly the potential for injury, particularly if you did not have quick reflexes and reactions, (and you were young and fit to physically be able to move as quick as might be required). I can recall shunting in Delec where drivers relied on you to run ahead and throw (or hold) points while they barely slowed. In Enfield too, you might jump off the side of a moving wagon and run ahead to throw points, then climb back on, without the train having been slowed. Plenty of opportunities for dust ups and bust ups, that's for sure 

Page 19



QUOTE:  Enjoy these old stories. I sometimes like to chat to some of the older guys with 40+ years experience and hear their stories. I sat back for a couple of hours in the cab of an NR a few weeks ago as we waited to cross a train and listened to the old driver wax lyrical about "t' old days". No real input required from me, just prod him in the right direction and sit back and relax

I suppose I was lucky as a diesel fireman (observer) in the 1980's. Most drivers would give me a turn driving (unofficially) to point if I did NOT do it, I was bludging on my driver mate. "Here are the controls mate--it's your turn now". 

But I also liked (loved) to hear the stories and yarns from the "old school" drivers. They were the ones from the steam era. The experiences and stories they told me....I wish I had a small recorder in my pocket or wrote it all down. 

Most them started in the >1950's when the steam was still king, but the change was already on with the first breed of diesels. Some liked the diesels straight away, some didn't. The steam locomotive was "alive"--like a beast you had to master, but the "beast" become your friend when you got to know it. 

The diesels were just a big engine with cabs and to too easy. Great for bludging they said. Some rushed for diesels straight away from the back breaking work as a steam coal fireman, but they told me, the old steam drivers from their era did not embrace the diesels with favour. It's like a an old fella learning new tricks. Not their cup of tea. But eventually they all got trained in diesel loco's. They told me a lot of 'em put on weight within months of full diesel running. 

The only real exercise and sweat the old drivers and fireman did was on the steam engines. (or holding the bar up when in barracks) That was their lifestyle on NSWGR Locomotive "Mechanical" Branch. Not much sport off duty on itinerant 24/7 shift work. (or maybe a round of golf if they were lucky and into it)

Page 20


Shunters to me were a different breed of blokes to work with. Me becoming before from previous Railway stations and signal boxes work, then as a locomotive engineman, most or all shunters were not pretentious, or full "on" career oriented just to make a grade then promotion. They just wanted to get the job done in a matter of time. Most of them/all were down to earth blokes and great to work with, but at first they treated all new shunters (sprags) with some hesitation. But once you joined "their" circle it was like a real mateship or railway comradeship to be in. They would look after you, and you look after them. Yes a real tough nuts (me being "crunchy nut") But actually, some of the best blokes I have ever worked with.

When I meant the 48 class loco engines used as an anchor; I was on the locomotives many times when we used to stop a loose mis-shunt. It wasn't a real runaway, but still got a "bang" from the wagons hitting us. Other times we were at Enfield Central or South box end to just rearrange the wagons after they were let free before and push them back to another road (siding)

I was put on the shunting engines on a firemans roster for many months, at my requset for stable sign on/sign off times. ie up yard, down yard, central and low level at Enfield. I also did Chullora (7am X200 or 73 class) and Flemington, Clyde and Rozelle. I was actually glad as a ground crew shunter many years after that, that riding the wagons got outlawed. On many occasions I would be holding onto dear life to a container wagon with a short step and rail hunched over and trying to keep into communication with the driver and two way radio. My back and arms was killing me.

I suppose loose shunting was good in it's hey day, but become too much of a risk and OH&S. but even with a loco attached and I was on the other end of a train calling the driver back on the radio and holding on, I had to slow some drivers down "on green/slow shunt", otherwise I would be falling off into the six foot. We had to hold on the wagons in transit for over up to 10 minutes at each shunt before they changed the rule at Botany.

I also did not mind the rain, just a rain jacket/hat and shunter shorts on, the rain trousers were useless and limited your leggings and sweated like a pig with them on. One summer afternoon though I "jacked up" with a severe lightning storm and delayed the shunt for about 30 mins. (bad boy I was), but heard later that a golfer at La Perouse Golf Course got hit by lightning. Someone must of been "looking after me"

Page 21


Quote  Tony:   I was put on the shunting engines on a firemans roster for many months, at my requset for stable sign on/sign off times. ie up yard, down yard, central and low level at Enfield. I also did Chullora (7am X200 or 73 class) and Flemington, Clyde and Rozelle.

That's interesting.  There was no option to do that when I was at Delec, sounds like a good idea, might have helped to retain a few staff who got worn down with the daily mystery of what time you might finish, as happened on most of the other jobs on the roster. 

All those jobs existed when I was at Delec (except Enfield Central shunter) and I worked all of them as a Fireman, numerous times, except the Flemington Shunter. In those days, Flemington Markets was the only yard that Eveliegh crew were permanently rostered for, usually with a 73 class. Every other yard (and Trip Train) in Sydney was the preserve of Delec Crews (except Sydney Yard which was also Eveleigh's and usually worked by one or two 73 class). 

Clyde had two shunting jobs when I was around. A 48 class for the yard on the Parramatta Road side of the yard, and a 73 class for the other side, which were the Wagon Works. The Wagon Works Shunter had permanent crews, I did it a few times when one of the permanents was off sick or maybe on rec leave. I recall the fireman was a Class 3 or 4 , so he would go as Driver when the Class 5 driver wasn't there, and Delec would supply a class 1 or 2 fireman for those shifts. I liked them as you signed on at off at Clyde which was closer to my home than Delec. Signing on at Rozelle was another matter, which we had to for the Rozelle Number 1 and Number 2 shunters. All the other shunt jobs you signed on at Delec. 

With riding on wagons I'm sure you're right. I left the railway permanently (for the second time) when I was 24 years old, and was quite fit and strong, and never went back after that. Age changes everything, I don't think I'd have fancied it much when I was 40. 

Page 22

NEIL Continued

Quote Tony:   I also did not mind the rain, just a rain jacket/hat and shunter shorts on, the rain trousers were useless and limited your leggings and sweated like a pig with them on. One summer afternoon though I "jacked up" with a severe lightning storm and delayed the shunt for about 30 mins. 

Regarding the rain. When I was a Shunter at Enfield 1980-81 (during my second period of railway employment) the old timers reckoned that a bit of rain was fine. They said that during the summer of 75/76 it rained pretty well non stop for 6 weeks, and a lot of Shunters got so sick of it they resigned before the wet spell ended. I remember that summer as it was only a few months before I started work on the railway myself, and my family had relatives from out in the bush (Port Pirie S.A) visiting for 4 weeks, their one and only trip ever to Sydney, and it did rain every day, and they never let me forget it, whenever I went out to visit them in subsequent years. 

Quote Tony:  Shunters to me were a different breed of blokes to work with

Regarding Shunters being a different breed. I think I agree with that. As I've mentioned on the Delec thread some of the drivers and firemen were pretty rough around the edges. I think it was more so with Shunters in Enfield. Some were very physically fit and strong, you got that way within 6 months, there were no unfit younger shunters. Some of the Head Shunters and their off-siders (Leading-Shunters ) were not so fit, but they mainly made the decisions where stuff had to go, it was the newbys who did most of the running around. 

The yard was divided into 9 "sub-yards" if I recall correctly, each with its own Shunting Team, each with a Head Shunter in charge. I was rarely rostered for the same team 2 days running, though the actual start and finish times were mostly stable, being 6am, 7am, 2pm, 3pm, 10pm, 11pm. There were a few shifts that didn't conform to these hours I cant recall why now. 
We had a paid meal break. I don't recall how long it was supposed to be, but in reality it was usually about an hour. There were no 'tea breaks' though there was often opportunity to stand or sit around and have a smoke, some days for long periods, other days it was busy all shift. We frequently left up to an hour early too, if everything was up to date, one of the team would stay behind to clock off the team's bundy cards at the correct finish time. 

At meal break many of the Shunters played a card game called Manilla, for big money. Not like the copper coin bets that Delec loco crews gambled with in the Refuellers Humpy, these guys played for dollars and more. At some meal breaks, particularly on afternoon shift on a weekend, the whole shunting crew, or most of the crew, would go to the nearby Belfields Hotel for an hour. I only ever did this once, and it was the only time. Later that evening I almost had a couple of cement hoppers run away from me. I swore never to become 'disoriented' in work time again, and never did. 

The shunting crews were a mixed bunch - I remember many of them but none of their names: tough Aussies young and old from nearby suburbs and outer western suburbs, I'd work with and talk to Lebanese, Turks, Italians, a Sri Lankan and a Brazilian guy named Raoul who did the same Shunters Course as I did. One old Head Shunter was Ukrainian. I quite liked him, he was a thoughtful old guy but many of the others didn't like him. Some of the younger shunters used to try to sell bags of weed at work. I don't know if they ever sold any, I always turned it down. One of the old Lead Shunters was nick named The Parrot as he had a round head and a nose that did kind of look like a beak. He didn't seem to mind the name. He was fond of a drop of drink, he'd sometimes come in to work hungover, swearing he was giving up the drink from that day forward. 

Just as Delec had a driver nick named Animal, there was also a Shunter in Enfield nick named Animal. He was from Mt Druitt, a few of the young shunters were from out that way. I was wary of him due to his reputation, which was much worse than the Delec Animal, he was a few years older than me, and a lot bigger and stronger, even though I was a 6 footer, but I never had any trouble with him, though he'd maybe throw a few insults my way, but he did that to everyone. You could never leave anything in the meal room untended for a moment. I once was reading a book during meal break, and walked out without it, I turned straight around to get it, and it was gone. And not a soul around. I had been out of the room 5 seconds. 

When I got a resupply of uniform (as happened every 12 months) the safety shoes were missing from their box. I complained to the stores guy who I picked the parcel up from but to no avail. There were rumours of organised thefts from wagons by Shunters, and several having been sacked as a result, before I started. I don't know how if there was any truth in these. This was western Sydney and there were some pretty rough types working there.  Having said that, I enjoyed my year or so as a Shunter at Enfield. I foolishly went to Guard School and became an Electric Train Guard. Within 3 months I was trying to get back as a Shunter at Enfield, but my requests were turned down. The only way I could get out of the Guards job was go to ASM school, but that's another story 

Page 23

NEIL Continued

Just a couple more memories from Enfield Yard as a Shunter. 

A couple of the other guy's name's were Noddy and Cowboy. Noddy had been there for quite a while and in some ways had a worse reputation than Animal. I went to a couple of parties thrown by workmates that he was at, and he was quite the Wild Man. Cowboy went through the same Shunter's course as me. He was from out west somewhere and used to wear a cowboy hat sometimes, though I don't think he actually had ever worked with stock or even on a farm..

If progressing through the Traffic Branch, it was not essential to be a Shunter to get to Guard or ASM (though that was a common progression). It was possible to get to ASM or Guard by being a SWSA (Safeworking Station Assistant), and avoid being a Shunter at all.

The first female Shunter started at Enfield while I was there - sometime in 1980 or 1981. There were a lot of negative attitudes about her being there. I don't know why she chose to be there. I guess she had her reasons. I heard her often being referred to as "a witch". And other names I don't fully recall. I never worked in a team with her, but saw her about, and she never looked happy to be there, and didn't seem to be on friendly terms with anyone, she was always alone. She was young maybe early 20s and quite unfit looking, and as I've mentioned, you needed to be able to run, and work your arm and leg muscles hard to wind on brakes fast and hard. From what I saw she didn't seem to be improving her fitness. She also wore a really long skirt which seemed to me to be impractical for shunting, most shunters wore shorts, most did even on the coldest winter days. I guess it was extra hard for her too as she probably couldn't fit into men's uniform shorts, even if they could be issued to females. I recall the men's shorts only reached to a bit above mid thigh and were quite tight even on men's legs. Not sure what became of her, I moved on to Guard's school after only a year as a Shunter, so not sure if she was even still there when I left.

I think it was 1981 when a larger type of coal hopper came out, (120 tonnes ?) and the railway wanted to move up to heavier trains. Up till then 2000 tonnes was about the maximum, but the new idea was to have 3000 tonne trains. I can recall one or more of these either arriving or one or more of the shunting teams being told to assemble or move 3000 tonne train.
Unlike nearby Delec which was awash with union AFULE (Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen) delegate drivers, we had no union delegate for the Shunters at Enfield, we were ARU (Australian Railways Union). Possibly there was a union delegate but he was on holiday or something. One of the Shunters kind of unwillingly stepped into the Delegate's role and we had meetings in the mealroom to discuss making/moving these trains.

I really don't remember what the kerfuffle specifically was, possibly it had to do with the fact that loco crew and guards got extra money for these things whereas Shunters got zero, but we were still expected to shunt them. I know 'safety' was the big issue raised with moving them by gravity, maybe that was all the complaint was. Maybe it was part of a wider traffic branch issue with these trains, the facts are long lost to my memory, except for the fact we decided we would not move them. Union membership was 100%, and it was decided we would not move them, in stop work meetings in the mealroom, with the backing of the union heavies in town (our volunteer delegate would ring them up to discuss). This went on for a few days.

Some young guy in a suit came out from town to try to convince us to move them. I don't know if he was a Traffic Inspector, I think he was someone much higher. He wound up talking to everyone individually and asking them to move this train.
When he asked me, he actually seemed to have some hope on his face that I might agree. I was only 20 or 21 and not as crusty, sun browned, pug faced and weather-beaten as many of the Shunters. I told him it would be impossible for me to move the train, as I'd be acting on my own, where even trains which were much lighter required a team of shunters to gravitate them safely. He hadn't thought of that, I'd caught him on the backfoot, he was probably expecting an immediate "NO". Then he said he would assist, we could do it together under his supervision. It was hard to tell if this guy had the experience needed.

I was playing him along a bit, in my mind right from the get go, I knew there was no way I was going to go against a union decision. So I told him I couldn't as I'd be blacklisted by the union as a scab, no one in the yard would work with me if I assisted with moving that train. I think I said I might even cop a hiding. He knew all this as well as I, or he should have, if he'd ever worked anywhere except an office in Sydney. I'd be even less popular than the female shunter was. He continued to try to convince me, but I refused. He pulled out a piece of paper which said something along the lines of I was not required for work, due to refusal to do the required work, which was officially signed. This was meant to scare me, but failed. I knew I had union protection. He went through the same rigamarole with every shunter in the yard. Every shunter refused his request, and were threatened with the piece of paper. I think we were on strike for at least a week, maybe 10 days over this. I can't even recall how this was all resolved, possibly the railway backed down.

On at least one other occasion in the year I was a Shunter we were on a strike for a week, I cant remember what the other strike was for, I think it was part of a larger action, not directly linked to anything in Enfield Yard.


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