SOME MORE ADDED INTEREST
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!
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
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
My 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.
We also walked past on the Main Illawarra line past
the Mortdale Maintenance and Storage Sheds. Still
no attention from any one.
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.
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"
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,
Shunter and Train-brake examiner.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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 ...no dates or even a
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
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.)
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
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
WELL BACK TO NORMAL OATLEY.
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
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............
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.
THE TRAVELLING TRAFFIC INSPECTOR: (new chum)
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
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
Exit from Jannali (with
Allawah Station and Hurstville (goods shed)
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
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
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".
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
HURSTVILLE GOODS SHED:
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
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!!
NEXT MOVE: Safe Working Station Assistant
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.
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
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
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.
Transfer Application to Locomotive Branch
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
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
MOVE to DELEC ENFIELD as a
Trainee Engineman. (my dream
Report to the DLE (District Locomotive Engineer)
at Enfield, ie Locomotive Manager at DELEC Enfield
the following Monday at 7am.
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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.
"NOTHINGS THE MATTER WITH PARRAMATTA"
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".
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
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.
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
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
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
After a few more questions, I still thought I was "home and
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..
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
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
(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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
Quote Tony: 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....(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 '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
|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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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