Australian Railway Story: Chapter 6

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Engine Drivers, Their Mates and Locomotives

Engine drivers and their work mates have stood out as skilled workers. As well as this, they were prolific poets, songwriters and storytellers. In an era when the huge steam locomotive became a symbol of power some of the mythology of these living hissing beasts rub off on them often creating visions of supermen, who, no matter what conditions prevailed, would always get their locomotive through on time. In this atmosphere it was the dream of every boy and quite a few girls to become a locomotive driver.

Their work was physical and required a variety of skills. At least one union official over the years likened the skill to those needed by Airline Pilots. However, railway management often took a different view and looked upon them as blue collar workers. Like the workforce in general they faced poor working conditions and were victims of a centralised military style of management.

To deal with red tape generated by this system they became avid readers and writers. Following long shifts to reach a destination, many hours were spent waiting for a locomotive to return to home depots. In these circumstances there were very few alternatives to them. Time could be spent in the local railway hotel or whiled away with books, papers and a pen.
Their skills were often put to the test in clashes with the ‘bung’ clerks who demanded an explanation in writing for the most trivial occurrence that fell outside the scope of the rigid railway bylaws (see below).

In this environment engine drivers learnt to work together and were responsible for forming the first Australian railway union in the industry (1869) that remains a major part of the Rail Tram and Bus Union today.

Terms found in many Driver and Firemen’s Poetry and songs

Feeder - Oil Can Grease lamp – oil lamp to see inside an axle box
Store – where drivers kits and oil are stored
Barracks - a resting facilities ( hostel ) for drivers and crew in locations away form home depot.
Worn Tyres - wearing of the metal outer rim of the locomotives wheels causing poor wheel grip and wheel spinning
Steaming Dull - Below full steam pressure the art of firing by a good fireman was to keep the steam pressure high and constant
Blowing off - was the noise associated with realising excess steam that built up in the boiler This was done through the locomotives safety valve if steam pressure got too high
A Bat - referred to the shovel used to get coal into the firebox.

Pricker – was a long steel rod used to poke the fire and keep the coal burning in the fire box
Swinging the( fire box ) door - or closing it this was a way of retaining the a good fire while getting another full shovel of coal,
Raking the Ash - This was a regular job done to remove the coal ash that would not burn from the fire box. This had to be done every fifty miles or so where a locomotive could be put over a maintenance pit and a long rake could be used from under the locomotive to in order to reach all parts of the fire box.
Fire works - a display of hot sparks and fire flames that could be seen leaving the engines funnel when working hard.
Stamping - describes the locomotives wheel action of slipping or spinning
Unnatural History

The observations of E.N. Aussie, a Werris Creek Engine Driver – 15/1/1930

Engine drivers— Rare birds, dusky plumage. Generally useful. No song; but for a consideration will jump points, signals etc. Have been known to drink freely near the
haunts of man — especially at isolated stations. Occasionally intermarry with station-master's daughters (see station masters). Known colloquially by such names as "Hell Fire Jack," "Mad Hector," "Speedy Steve," "Whaler," "Smokebox," and "Bashes" Many poems have been written around the lives of these creatures: notably "The
Runaway Train" and "How I drove the Express." Great sports, often carried from their engines suffering from shock — caused by wrong information.
Cleaners — Very little is known regarding the habits of these animals. How the name originated still remains a mystery.
Guards — Fairly common. Red faces. Can go a long time without water. Easily recognisable by their habit of strutting up and down. Shrill whistle, but no sense of time. Sleep between stations, hence common cry of "Up Guards, and at 'em." Serve no generally useful purpose, but can be trained to move light perambulators, keep an
eye on unescorted females, and wave small flags.
Porters — Habits strangely variable. Sometimes seen in great numbers: sometimes not at all. Much attracted by small bright objects. No song, but have been known to
hum — between trains. Naturally indolent, but will carry heavy weights if treated rightly (i.e. sufficiently). Natural enemies of passengers (which see). Treated with contempt by station-masters (which see)
Station Masters — Lordly- Brilliant plumage. Rarely leave their nests. Ardent sitters. Most naturalists state these birds have no song, but Railway Commissioners dispute this. Have been known to eat porters (which see). Female offspring occasionally intermarry with very fast Engine drivers.
Repair Gangs— Plumage nondescript. Migratory in habit. Nests are conspicuous and usually found in clusters near railway lines. No song but passengers assert their plaintive echoing cry of "Pa-p-er" is unmistakable. ,
Passengers — Very common. Varied plumage. Will stand anything as a rule, but have been known to attack porters (which see). Often kept in captivity under deplorable conditions by ticket inspectors, guards etc. Will greedily and rapidly devour sandwiches and buns under certain (i.e. rotten) conditions. These-birds are harmless when properly treated, and should be encouraged by all nature lovers.

Beside A Railway Line

A long time ago by a railway line
there lived a boy with a face a bit like mine
He'd watch the steam trains rolling by -
the days were long, and the little boy's eyes were wide.

He'd rush outside when he'd hear the sound
of a goods train heading slowly out of town,
He'd swing on the gate and, with a great big grin.
he'd wave at the Drivers –and the Drivers waved back at him!

Woo-woo. woo-woo, If you close your eyes you can hear,
the whistle still, woo-woo, woo-woo, and the clatter of the trains running back to Erskineville

He'd help his Mum hang the washing on the line--
the sheets were as white as the clouds up in the sky-
but next thing you know there'd be a sooty old train
and you can understand why Mum'd complain!

He'd stand on the bridge at Hurlstone Park Station-
the keenest Loco Driver in the nation-
and it didn't seem to matter if it was rainy or fine
life was pretty good beside the railway line.

And though my hair's getting more than a little bit grey
and the world seems to turn a bit quicker every day.
I can still see through that young boy's eyes
those endless days, and steam trains rolling by.

©Roger Ilott-1991 Words and Music

Many young women had the same desires to become Locomotive Drivers later in recent Railway History
The Ballad Of Janet Oakden

Let me tell you 'bout a woman, Janet Oakden is her name
She came here from England, just to drive a train
She started as a steward, and why I cannot tell,
When she tried to join a union, the men all ran like hell.

Janet Oakden, Janet Oakden
You should be very proud,
With the odds stacked against you,
Your spirit was not cowed-

The union said ‘We'll help you, but let us make this clear,
The railway wives won't like to see their husbands placed so near.
The feminine temptation a woman would present,
You must have separate quarters, so morals won't get bent.’

They raised up great objections why she can't drive a train,
‘You can't lift up the engine, or undertake the strain,
Of toting all the fireman's gear upon your fragile back,
What happens if your nails should break, your make-up start to crack?’

But Janet was too wily, for all those doubting men;
She took herself to drivers’ school, and answered back again,
Now she can be a driver, and fill a driver's shoes,
This courageous woman has earned the right to pay her union dues.

©Pip James (1976)

The passenger train from Wiluna to Perth was usually running late on the section from Yalgoo to Mullewa so drivers made every effort to catch upon time.
The Ace Driver

In the cab of old two-fifty,
With a smile upon his face
And his hand upon the throttle,
Sits our driver friend, the "Ace,"
His engine oiled and ready,
He awaits the word to go
And again, as not unusual,
She is running 50 slow.
The Green Flag now is waving,
The whistle gives a scream,
Two-fifty starts exhausting,
As the "Ace" admits the steam,
Leaving 50 late ex Yalgoo,
He moves down the station yard
With Jack Morris for his stoker
And "The Dipper" for the guard.
Old Two-Fifty seems to know him,
As she steams along the track
Her pole notched slightly forward,
And her throttle half-way back,
Like some frisky, well-bred filly,
The mile posts past her rolls,
With Jack Morris keeping steam up,
And the "Ace" at the controls.
Now the phone at Loco's ringing,
It's the station on the line,
The SM rings the foreman —

In regard to the lost time,
He asks him, "Who's the driver,
As this talk is taking place,
And he jumps with joy, hand clapping,
When the foreman says, ‘ the “Ace”!
Someone run and tell the shunters’
He next is heard to say,
‘Tell the guards and tell the porters,
That the north will be ok.
And about the refresh cana*
Col, my boy to Burleigh's race,
And warn young Jeanie Elliott,
That the driver is the "Ace”.’
While way back upon the railroad,
Down that torrid northern line,
The ‘Ace’ now storms ‘Big Pindar’
And he's picked up all the time,
Two-Fifty proudly barking,
Her journey nearly done,
And the ‘Ace’ to Jack smiles coyly
As he makes his final run.
Soon he thunders past the station
And he hands ‘Top’ Skewes the staff,
On time, yes to the minute,
With that shrewd triumphant laugh
And it's soon he'll be in Loco,
Where a running sheet will show,
That a train was run to schedule
That left Yalgoo fifty slow.

Jack Callaghan ‘Australian Tradition’, December 1969)

The aim to reach the dizzy heights of a senior salaried driver who drove Australia’s special trains put many drivers into a social class of their own. But the dream was often short lived.
Realised Ambitions

The Commissioner combed the Railway,
He sifted the grain and chaff,
And appointed three hundred ‘crack’ men
To go on the salaried staff.

So now I must wear white collars,
Use eau-de-cologne in my bath,
I’ve got away from the ‘Greasies’,
And I’m now on the salaried staff.

My fireman calls me ‘Mister’,
And you should hear me laugh,
As he rides second, and I ride first,
For I’m on the salaried staff.

The seats of my engine are padded,
When I’m driving the ‘red’ or the ‘blue’,
And if I should pass you at Strathfield,
Don’t expect me to recognise you.

The men on electrics and ‘57’s’,
I know how their tongues will wag,
For I’ve thrown away the old tin box,
And I carry a gladstone bag.

I never did like the environment,
Of the common working men,
But know I’m called an officer,
And I carry a fountain pen.

You’ll never see me walking,
I’ll drive to work in my car,
I’ll have my ‘spot’ at the best hotels,
And drink in the private bar.

I’ll take up golf for my sport,
And I’ll visit the bowling green,
As for playing cards in the barracks,
I will never more be seen.

I’ll shop at exclusive houses,
And live in the best of flats;
My wife will attend garden parties,
And wear only expensive hats.

And then-alas! I awakened,
I found it was only a dream,
For I’m still drawing goods trains to Lithgow,
While my fireman battles the steam

©Frank Brown (1937)

Life for the crews of Australia’s Steam Locomotives had a few problems and the solutions were not always acceptable to inquisitive members of the travelling public who wondered about how they got their “job” done.
Over The Fence

Mrs. Bill Maggs and her friend Mrs. Screw

Indulge in a gossip as most ladies do-
Over the back fence while washing goes out,
They discuss all the business of people about.

Their husbands and kids and bargains today-
That young Mrs. Smith is ‘well on the way’
Everyone knows that it happens quite soon,
And you know, they only got married in June!

‘And as I said to Bill...Oh, the time sakes alive,
It’s gone four o’clock and Bill signs on at five.
There’s nothing cooked in the house but some cake-
I’ll just wrap him up a piece of raw steak.’

Now Mr. Bill Maggs was a driver, you know-
A job that all hours a man has to go,
And, grabbing the steak, some bread and his hat,
Ducked off-and his Missus resumed her back-chat.

Mrs. Screw was astonished and said to Bill’s wife,
‘How Bill cooks the steak, I don’t know on my life?’
Mrs. Maggs as she pegged some more clothes on the wire,
‘Oh he cooks on the shovel held over the fire.’

‘Well, well’, said the other as she dusted the mat
‘How funny, now what do you know about that?
Here’s my old man coming, I’ll have to duck in-
I’ll be seeing you, I’m going to the pictures with Jim.’

The ladies were pally, and secrets they’d swap
And they’d visit each other, and perhaps take a drop
But Bill would get mad as a lion in a den;
Goddam the old woman--no lunch cut again.

The friendship continued till one day Mrs Screw
Having exhausted all items of news
Said, ‘Mrs. Maggs, there’s one thing not clear-
I don’t want you to think I’m inquisitive dear.’

‘So don’t tell me dearie, if you don’t think you ought-
How does Bill do his business when he’s taken short?
I often get thinking of such things as these
And cannot make out how he gives himself ease!’

Mrs. Maggs smiled and nodded, and here her voice drops-
‘Bill holds it, and holds it, until the train stops,
But, if he’s had salts, well, that upsets the show
When nature is calling, then something must go.’

‘Now, so Bill has told me., and I know it’s quite true,
When this happens sometimes, as sometimes it do-
Of course, such a thing doesn’t happen each day-
But he shits on the shovel and throws it away.’

Then Mrs Screw, looking shocked as can be
Said to Bill’s missus, ‘Well your telling me-
I don’t like his taste, it’s as strange thing to do
He shits on the shovel and cooks on it too.’
(©Charlie J. Franklin)

“It has been found that Engine Drivers grow too fond of their engines. A railway official said that too much affection on the part of a Driver towards his engine is a menace to efficiency”.
The Locomotive Journal, Sydney, 25 September, 1930)
The Jilted Engine Driver

Love of my life, when we were young,
How swift we ran together;
How strong our rolling song was sung
In spite of wind and weather;
When you were only one my sweet,
And I was one and thirty
When I was spry upon my feet,
And you were not so dirty.

When first I saw your running gear
I knew that we were mated;
Although I found your haul, my dear,
Was somewhat overstated
But oh! your buffer beam was grand,
And how the jumbucks scattered.
When we went roaming through the land
Where nothing really mattered.

False Fair;
What tons of oily waste
Are lavished on you only,
Yet now to other love in haste
You go and leave me lonely;
But go, forget your truest love-
Be happier with the oiler,
I'm sixty-nine and bald above,
I hope he busts your boiler.

I hope he starves you till you squeal,
And clean forgets what grease is,
I hope he cracks your driving wheel,
And strews you round in pieces.
Adieu, I blast you from my heart;
Begone, you hag, and rattle
For evermore a billy cart
Of tortured sheep and cattle.

(H. C., Inverell, with apologies to the Author.

Engine crews had a love hate relationship with many of the locomotives they worked with. Each locomotive identified was by series of numbers that provide the identity of particular classes of locomotives as the production of locomotives grew. In model locomotives 4 or 5 numbers were used like 3801 or 3802. The first two number 38 provides the class of locomotives the numbers that follow provide an indication of the number of this type of locomotives (38 class) that were produced. The earlier system like Number 22 or number Locomotive 1, indicates the number of engines that were in the fleet when the particular locomotive came into service. Crews quickly assessed individual and the class locomotives by their ability to do the work, giving them names like pigs and goats that often referred to their shape or working style.
Two Ninety Nine

With a drop grate in her fire box, and built in slides below
The old girl has improved a lot since we knew her years ago;
Many will remember when they had to toe the line
And bounce across the bore-drains on board Two-ninety-nine.

From the Curry down to Richmond, with a string upon our tail
Rightin’ through head wind that was sometimes near a gale;
We'd be primin’, we'd be slippin’ till at last we’d pull up dead
And we stare in hopeless fashion at the miles that lay ahead.

Oh, we'd coax her and we'd curse her, and we'd kick, her dirty side
But she didn't seem to bother if we laughed or if we cried:
Our pricker turned to putty, the clinker blade red hot,
And twisted like some toffee just melting in a pot
But we’d rock her and we'd rake her, then saddle up again
To plough through roly-poly that came In across the plain.

The pump would burn its packin', the coal was gettin' low
The night was sneakin’ on us and still a hundred miles to go.

We'd take some coal at Julia Creek, just a ton or two,
T’was a bit of extra shovellin' that, we always had to do;
Then a wash up to the bucket, when we trimmed and cleaned the lamps
And straighten out our fingers that had doubled up with cramps.

Then we'd argue why we stuck it, there were other jobs instead
And blokes with any sense at all should now be home in bed
While here we were for twenty hours in weather wet or fine
Sloggin’ out our soul-case on board Two-ninety-nine.
(T. O'Sullivan, Townsville)
The 5603, Or: Death, Where Is Thy Sting?

You may talk about your trials and your troubles at the war,
And your flamin’ trips to Eskbank on the Eleven-seventy-four,
But if you want real hardship you can take it straight from me,
Just do a trip with Dingbat on the Fifty-Six-0-Three.

The drivers book her “Steaming dull”, the fitters say she ain’t!
They say they’ve searched her innards, and can’t find her complaint;
They swear they’ve searched the elements, and other parts that be
But can’t locate the trouble on Fifty-Six-0-Three.

Now there's fitters, would-be fitters and leading fitters too,
And boiler-makers by the score, with nothing else to do
But talk about the cricket scores, and the football soon to be,
But they will never raise the subject, on Fifty-Six-O-Three.

And still she battles on her way, with bangs and knocks galore
And it is quite apparent she cannot last much more
So when she falls to pieces, 'twill fill our hearts with glee
No more she'll shake our innards out, Crock Fifty-Six-O-Three.
(Wilfred C. Knight)
Number Twenty-Two

If you talk of locomotives and would like to know the star,
Step up here on the footplate for a trip to Waratah,
Oh, I drive the finest engine - I can prove the statement true,
They've neither man or engine equals me and Twenty-Two,

There's the four-wheeled coupled Fairburns, Numbers One, and Two, and Three,
They're as fleet as Flying Dutchmen, but they're weak as any flea:
For speed and strength and steaming, and likewise for running true,
There's a happy combination in old Number Twenty-Two.

There's the Thirties and the Forties, they are Beyer Peacock's make,
They're easy on the lever, they're handy with the brake,
With improvements and inventions, and with everything that's new:
But the bully engine of them all is Number Twenty-Two.

There's Bill Gold and Jack McNulty, and there's Sam and Billy Brown.
Sure they blow about their Moonbies, and the gradients up and down,
There's Matt Coburn, Pierce and Saxon and the Murrurundi crew,
But they all play second fiddles, when I'm driving Twenty-Two,

There's Jim Massie and Jack Howden, Johnny Boyd and Harry Bell
There's the coal men and the goods men, half their names I couldn't tell,
But if you want a driver that is sure to pull you through,
Just ask for Thomas Plunkett and old Number Twenty-Two.
("Javey"of Murrurundi (1880) "The Locomotive Journal" –Australian Federated Union of Enginemen).

The Wolgan Valley Ghost Train
I was dreaming in the Wolgan
On a lazy, hazy day,
When I thought I heard the whistle
Of a lonely, ghostly Shay
She was roaring up the canyon,
With a melancholy wail,
Heading for the Junction
With a load of Newnes shale.
Old No.4 was moaning,
A ‘clanking through the glade,
Her side winders a‘groaning,
On the 1 in 25 grade.
Jummer Edwards had the echoes ringing
While Billy Tack was heaving coal,
And the pop-valves were a singing
When they reached the first rat-hole.
They were dreaming of the pint pots,
Of the foaming Terry’s Ale,
Before they turned into their cots,
Ah- that bar room in the vale,
When the Newnes Hotel was ringing
With the miners’ lusty roars,
And the dingoes lonely singing,
Echoed through the gaps and draws.
They’ve all gone from the valley,
Even the rusty, silent Shays,
So there’s no need now to dally,
We’ve only memories these days,
But still on clear, cold nights,
When the moon is bright, they say,
You can hear her whistle for the lights,
Just a lonely ghostly Shay.
Little Pig 400

It was early in the New Year
What a bastard of a time
When they didn't have an engine
To go on Ninety-Nine

So careful were they with their plans
We knew what was to be
They were going to use the engine
That come off One-Three-Three

But the driver that returned it
How forlorn did he look
The repairs that he had in mind
Nearly filled the fitter's book

Her tubes and stays were leaking
The union hose was torn
The brick arch had fallen in
And the baffle plate was gone

The pistons they were blowing
Her brakes, they wouldn't grip
As rough as guts to ride in
And a fair old bitch to slip

Now when the fitters read it
Not one word did they say
Just picked up their hammer and chisels
And slowly walked away

The foreman rang up on the phone
His voice it fairly thundered
The only engine that I've left
Is the Little Pig 400

I'll fill her up with wood and coal
She's one that will not fail
But I would like to see old Jerry's* face
If she goes on the Mail.

(*Believed to refer to Gerry Moriarty, Commissioner for Qld Railways 1952-1962.)

Nice Girl

When I first set eyes upon her, how she took my breath away
Her tall and graceful figure, that gentle body sway.
My pulses were vibrating, only her my eyes could see,
And although she did not know it, she had captivated me.

So I asked the boys about her for I knew they knew her well
And 1 was left aghast dumbfounded at the tales they had to tell
I scarcely could believe it though I knew such things were true
That such dainty looking females could behave the way they do.

For they said she was a fast bitch, she was hungry, hot and rough,
That you had to fuss around her or the bitch would take the huff (1).
She was getting men in trouble every time they took her out,
Cause she needed certain treatment, beyond the shadow of all doubt.

They said that when you were aboard her you would find her really tough
That although you'd do your damndest you could not shove it in enough (2)
It was in and out eternal, she was always wanting more,
And she'd go to bits completely if you gave her one behind the door (3).

And although she looked so' dainty and so charming and so clean,
It would seem that she was careless with her toilet and hygiene;

For I learned amid amazement, and I found out all about
How her snifter's blocked and dirty, but she oft needs raking out (5).

Disgustedly I listened of her morals low and base,
How her squirt was always leaking, how she'd blow off in your face;

That her horn stays were terrific, what a bitch she was to slip,
And to crown it her discharger was completely up the shit.

And it seemed she was a boozer from the way these fellows spoke,
For they said ‘If you can keep her pot full, you will find her okey doke.
They kept on criticising and it did seem strange to me,
For I was just the Loco clerk, and she the Avon P’.

Notes: Jack, a loco clerk with the WAGR says, ‘Before the diesels came in the big P Class engines used to run up from Northam to Mullewa (on the Midland line) with the passenger trains. They were all named after West Australian rivers. Well, this one was the Avon and one day when she came into Mullewa, she was just out of the workshop, freshly painted and brassed up, and she really looked nice. It was going down to the turntable, swinging along, and I said to one of the fellows, "By Jove, she's a little beaut, isn't she?" He said, "You wouldn't think that if you had to work on her. She's a hot bitch — as rough as guts! He went on and told me all about her in his own jargon so 1 made up a verse about it."

1. That means ‘Go off steam’.

2. That's the coal.

3. When they're going up hill and are just about out of steam, they shove in a few shovelfuls and shut the door quickly.

4. Snifter valve.

5. The ashpan.

(Jack Callaghan, WA Railways,
‘Australian Tradition’, June 1971, 7)
The Battle Of The ‘Black Jack’

In 1947, the Goulburn branch of the AFULE complained about the poor quality of coal at Cootamundra and as a consequence, two Locomotive Inspectors were despatched to undertake a trial trip from Cootamundra to Goulburn to show all concerned how it should be done. This poem was written about that trip. “Blackjack” was the enginemen’s nickname for the poor quality western coal then in use.

You’ve heard about the battles,
They had at Tobruk,
Did you ever hear about the battle,
Fought by Thurbon and O’Rourk?.

They had no bombs or shells,
Like they had at Tarakan,
They fought it with a shovel,
Tucker box and billy can.

They fought it out on the Coota Trail,
As they did the best that day,
There was no “fifty seven” waiting
Just a greasy blackout “K”.

It was the battle of the ‘Black Jack’
Fought on the welded rail,
And they were full of confidence,
As from Coota they set sail.

They dragged them through Jindalee,
And over Morrisons Hill,
Said Thurbon to O’Rourke,
‘There’s clinkers in there still’.

On arrival at Demondrille,
They were running fairly late,
The pan was full of ashes,
They were firing her with slate.

The fuelman looked them over,
He said, ‘Now look here mate’,
‘You’ll get no dynamite today’,
‘But a tender full of slate’.

They dragged them through Cunningar,
And tried to get along,
But they had to use the pit again,
When they got to Binalong.

And after they passed old Illong Creek,
And hit the Goondah Track,
They wished they had some dynamite,
Mixed with the old black jack.

On arrival at Yass Junction,
They tipped the ashes in the pit,
The fuelman swore he would leave the job,
He said things were up the shit.

They were struggling through Coolalie,
To do the best they can,
But to get steam with mountain coal,
Would sicken any man.

They crawled up over Gunning,
Like a big black snake,
The fire it was buggered,
There was clinkers on the grate.

On arrival at Fisher River,
With things in such a mess,
To get the fireman from the van,
‘Snow’ sent an SOS.

Now he fired rocked and sweated,
And they swore they had never seen,
A fireman had to work so hard,
To get to Cullerin.

Around the iron ore siding
And across Breadalbone Plain,
They said the boss had no idea,
How they worked to run that train.

As they steamed into Cooks Cutting,
They were going very slow,
The steam gauge stood at a hundred,
And the water bloody low.

The way those firemen sweat and toil,
Would make a big buck navvie grin,
As they fight the battle of Black Jack,
And we know they get a win.
(Submitted by Kevin McDougall: this poem was printed in the “ROUNDHOUSE” January 1996)

A Tale Of The Minmi Express

You can talk of your airships, and motor cars grand,
And excitement galore, when on a liner you stand,
But there's a railway, my friend, can these wonders defy,
Which starts out from Hexham and stops at Minmi.

The carriages have grown terribly weak,
The springs are all strained, and they jolt and they creak,
If the engine that pulls them is cranky and old,
She can do some good work, if her boxes keep cold.

Now there's our ‘Plugger Bill’ and ‘Squeaker’ and ‘Egg’,
And ‘Penny’, the drivers I mention,
Who all take a turn to make your eyes squirm,
In the way they make Number Five ‘get some’.

Old ‘Plugger’ will stand - and will watch her gauge hand,
And when greasy at all, he don't spare the sand,
Then he pulls out his pipe, has a squint at his watch,
And if tugging too much, he just takes up a notch.

He's a man with a record is our "Plugger Bill",
Who can tell you tales that would make you feel ill,
Of the narrow escapes and the dangers of driving,
About Minmi, the Junction and down at the siding.

Squeaker's renowned for his ‘Cheshire cat’ grin,
With a nose like a teapot and a nut-cracker chin,
He's a demon on shandies and a monkey for tricks,
But a Jonah he's proved on his three fishing trips.

You feel nervous and sick when be takes hold of the throttle,
He will bend his long legs, have a pull at his bottle,
Then he opens her out with no trouble or blarney,
For at Minmi you see, be must visit old ‘Barney’.

Now ‘Penny's’ a beauty, there isn't a doubt,
He waddles along like a duck with the gout,
If his missus should ask ‘Are you tired, my dear?’
He says ‘No, it’s that blooming stuff “Peely” calls beer.’

His mate and himself are a laughable couple,
Intact, you scarce see them without they're in trouble,
And if to their wives they go home on the booze,
They are always protected with some fine excuse.

“Egg” is the youngest of our drivers, you see,
But as careful as any old driver could be,
But when it's a matter of turning the screw,
He will show you quite plain that he's steady and true.
He was tutored by “Sandy”, a man of old times,
Who would never take chances when out on the lines
But if ever you meet him, just ask him, my friend,
How the loco at Hexham went past the dead-end.

So the drivers you know, and I need say no more,
About the very fine points of this notable four,
‘Jack Corke’ for a drink and a game of ‘forty-fives’,
Can keep talking all night on sensational drives.

When they start out from Hexham, my friend, there's some fun
If you don't know the jerks and the bumps on the run,
And when Walter the shunter gives the signal ‘OK’,
You can bet your sweet life, you will soon get away.

Now you're smelling the swamps and they all make her rattle
To get away from the stink of dead horses and cattle,
You can shove up the windows and stuff up your nose,
For it makes no damned difference which way the wind blows.

After going some distance you hear a keen shrill,
Which reminds you, my friend, you are at ‘Redbill’,
And if you are stuck for a good hearty laugh,
Look at poor Harry Barker without his moustache.

At this spot there are billy-goats, smelly and fat,
That belong to a ‘cookie’ by the name of Jack Platt,
And it was here, one bright morning, big Number Eleven,
Sent Billy McCoimack's poor Toby to heaven.

Then away from this station you start with a jump,
While the back of your head gets a crack and a bump,
The engine will snort and near buckle her cranks,
And she rocks something awful as she tears past the tanks.

Now the pull up to Need's is not very tough,
But the ride that you get is sharp, jerky and rough,
And old Tom will sit in his van and will dream,
Of the days long ago when he handled the steam.

A few minutes more and you stop at the station,
Very tired and glad you've reached your destination,
If your nerves feel unstrung with the bumps of the run,
I can commend you, my friend, to ‘Bede's’ cloves and rum.

There's not much to see in the town, I can tell,
If you go in Summer, it's as hot as in Hell,
When you get home at night to your wife and pet lamb,
You tell yarns of a railway that runs from Hexham.
(The Australian Railway Historical Society, Bulletin No. 217, November 1955)

Farewell To Steam

It's farewell to the old Steam Loco,
So the papers say,
Though you're still hale and hearty,
They say you've had your day.
I know how you feel, old pal,
They've done the same to me,
I can still go over a fence
Or climb an old gum tree.
I suppose we must give way to progress,
The diesels have come to stay,
Perhaps we will see a few more changes,
Before we pass on our way.
I cannot let you go old pal,
Without a word of praise,
But to let you have a longer life
Your hopes I cannot raise.

I've worked with you for many years,
In sunshine, night and rain,
If I had my time all over
I would do the same again.
Maybe at times I have cursed you
And given your side a few kicks,
When your old boiler wouldn't steam
And you were up to some old tricks.
You've hauled the train through water,
Almost up to the firebox,
Then continued on your way,
After we gave the bars a few rocks.
Yes, I have seen you go through bushfire
Safely took us through,
When to keep standing up and breathing
Was as much as I could do.
These are deeds the Diesels
Will never be able to do,
Under these conditions
They will never replace you.
Let us go back in memory,
When things were not so bad,
So in your final retirement,
You won't be lonely and sad.
Think of the old construction days,
When you opened up our land.
Steaming along and whistling,
How you looked so grand.
So here's a toast to you Old Steam Loco,
And all the good work that you did
In the words of the sentimental bloke
To you I dips me lid.

©Tom Casey(1969)
Engineman's Reminiscence

Well Mate, I've been in this old job for nigh on thirty years
And I've seen a lot of changes in my time
From the old steam locomotives hauling trains with sweat and tears
To the modern Diesel speeding down the line.

The years have passed as tho' on wings, since first I joined the Job,
For I started at Mile End in '42
When the Mountain types were roaring as they struggled up the knob
And I was then a lad as young as you.

Sure, I've worked the RX on the Loop,
The 'P' Class thro' the Port and shunted all the wharves at Birkenhead ,
Dollies on Suburban, and the pilot jobs I've caught,
And a bit of cleaning time there, in the shed.

Then a transfer to the country, to the bottom of the State,
Where the winter cold would make a fellow freeze
Where the rain falls from the Heavens for nine months without abate,
For the other three drips quietly from the trees.

I've fired the 'Y' to Beachport, which I tell you is no lark
And the 'T' and 'Z' on trains up Wolseley way
Tho' the narrow gauge has finished,
You'll find there in the Park Old Eighteen on which the kiddies love to play.

Thro' my time in different parts, I've met some mighty blokes
From office, yard and shed, or on the line,
There are some of whom their names will bring the thought of many jokes,
Old Nugget, Jim and Knuckle-busting Brian.

Hey, we'd better get her rolling for our Crib time now is done
Keep a lookout lad, don't miss that waving light
For we have the 'Staff, and moving to the end of one more run,
He's on my side Mate, he's O.K., second right.

(© 'D. Zell' Railway Inst Magazine 1997)
A Day Remembered

I once wrote a bit of narrative verse
About things that I'd seen and I'd done,
In Nineteen Hundred and Ninety-five,
Called ‘The Day of the Victory Run’.

I told a bit of the tale in the poem,
But I thought I'd elaborate.
You see, as it was, I was just starting work,
And DA Doug Johns was my mate.

Doug has since left Queensland Rail, by the way,
But now I've preserved him in verse.
This day, I know I did the wrong thing,
My only defence: I've done worse.

We started in Townsville at four in the morn,
And found where our loco was stowed,
And that's when it hit me, the smell of the coal,
From the two in their brooding abode.

Like creatures of fable, dragons of yore,
They sat beside workshops condemned.
What fitting repose, as the dictates of Time
Made the obsolete buildings their friends.

I couldn't depart without even a look,
And I mumbled as much to my mate,
Then I went to the beasts, as if drawn by a force
I have no words designed to relate.

You see, as a boy, I have memories fond,
Of my Father who took me for rides.
And as I approached these machines of his past,
I regretted the more that he'd died.

How he'd have loved to be with me just then,
Though I felt that he was, in a way.
As I mounted the footplate, I knew I should go,
But my body just wouldn't obey.

The smell of the coal in the firebox glowing,
The sound of the soft-hissing steam,
Conspired to keep me enthralled and entrapped,
In the 'Fifties and 'Sixties, it seemed.

Other kids had train sets to play with, you see,
And their Dads all were grocers and stuff.
And so for their playtime, they had these toy trains,
And for them, I guess, that was enough.

But my Dad drove trains, and let me drive them too,
Not toy ones, but C 17s.
The other kids played in the dirt with their toys,
While this feller lived out their dreams.

Now you might have said, with some dubious pride,
That your Dad was a bank teller then,
Or he might have been working for some other firm,
Or been one of those self-made men.

You might even brag that your Dad was a cocky,
With ten thousand cattle and all,
Or a butcher, a baker, a candle-stick maker,
Or he had stocks and bonds, wall to wall.

But come on, be honest, we're all grown up now,
Search in the back of your brain.
Didn't you wish, when you were a kid,
That your Dad drove a bloody great train?

I dragged myself back to the here and the now,
And took up my duties once more,
And the Victory Train followed us home;
Fifty years since the end of the war.

But my day was special, for I'd seen it first,
And sat with it, sharing its peace,
Flooding my senses with lasting impressions
Of warmth, latent power, and grease.

When I visit my Dad on the hill out of town,
I remember it for him today;
How the Victory Run brought it all back to me,
And how thankful I was for that day.

(©R.J Talbot 26-8-99)
‘The Train’

This is a description of a contemporary Driver’s night experience in outback Queensland.

My name is Robert Talbot. I'm a Queensland Rail Train Driver, stationed in Charters Towers. I have worked for QR for over 30 years. My father, Pat Talbot Snr., was also a Driver. Poetry and short story writing are two of my pastimes, and a lot of my writings are drawn from work experiences.

The night. Long lighted tunnel with its end out of sight. The train. A part of me this thing, stretching back into the night. It's in my being, in my brain. There's diesel in my veins. Paradoxically, I'm also part of it. Surging, roaring, screeching steel-on-steel round steely curves, into the night. Headlong into the night. Stretching back into and roaring headlong into the night. Always the night it seems, yet there must be some day. Maybe day is somehow other. That which sticks in the mind, embeds itself in the brain, is the surging, roaring screeching, stretching, metallic rush into the night, one night then the next, all one night. Thank God for caffeine.

The eyes become one with the solid beam reaching out into the onrushing night, with its dim inhabitants, the nocturnal creatures that don't stand a chance, unless the eyes detect them in time and the hand reaches out and switches off the piercing, blinding, mesmerising lights. Another merciful hand pulls back on the shrill bewailing klaxon. Then they have a chance to race off into the shelter of the rest of the night; that part not held again and again within the breaking beam, or shattered by the careering madness of the air-horn's howling voice. Yet some creatures come out of the night and give the eye and the hand no opportunity to save them. Thunggg!

Another and another on nights dark and filled with frantic life, grazing, hopping, bounding kamikaze-like into the dazzle of the closing beam, then to emerge from the passage of the train, reshaped, redesigned by the unforgiving wheels. In the day we see them, in the headlights at night we see them; the parts. What part of which animal might that be? Too late to guess, too quickly gone to identify. And on and on and on into the night. Standing and slapping the face, stay awake, not far now, end of the journey, ‘West control to nine-two-six-nine...’, sharp, metallic, disembodied, familiar
jargon blares from speakers overhead, my only company. Clunk! What was that? Another marsupial despatched, victim of a mind distracted. ‘Yes, nine-two-six-nine.’ Life goes on, business as usual. Rumbling off into the night. Always the night.

(R J Talbot, August 2001)

The gleam of a headlight shone on the rail
The noise could be heard of the approaching mail
In times gone past, a steam engine would roar by
But now it's a diesel that makes the miles fly.

But now it's called progress, remember the guard's van
The Railway is now quietly, introducing single man.

(© Peter Bulley) 2000 RTBU Competition
Currently the Railway Story is in the process of seeking permission to display the full content of this song or poem or to have a copy linked via the web to this research document


When you're signing on at Delec ;
and you hear a G.M. roar;
But the Cbargeman meets you. laughing says,
"Take 4104
The fireman howls in terror,
and the driver gives a wail;
For of all the diesel locos, ' '
This one's favourite to fail.

You climb aboard the engine,
and then you start to frown;
For although, .you have touched nothing,.
'Both the engines have shut down.

You call out Tony Bergin,
and he straight ways smell a rat,
“Well mate”, I think you've had it,
cause the battery's just gone flat".

So they get another beetle,
after just a two hour wait;
And you finally leave the depot,
and you're only 3 hours late.

The load meter is missing,
and the tachos just a hole;
and then you get her moving,
and she starts to pitch and roll.

The hot plate's non existent,
and that is nothing new;
so you try the old compressor
to warm your pot of stew,

The voltages are haywire,
and the carbons burnt jet black;
you say to your poor fireman,
“We’ll be lucky to get back".

The batteries then start boiling,
and the fumes the fireman stun;
the bloke at Delec tells you,
pull the battery switch and run.

A glow from the control stand,
and you get an awful fright;
but it's just hot engine warnings,
blinking like s lighthouse light.

The air is getting lower,
and so you've got to linger;
till you look at R.C.R.B
and help it with your finger.

Then with F.8 fuses blowing,
and the blowers up in smoke;
the compressor's throwing solder,
this really is no joke.

She collapses at the Harbour,
it is then you loose your head;
you ring up Enfield asking,
"Will I tow the old girl dead".
The Fireman's Lament

When you're signing on at Enfield and
they meet you at the door,
To tell you that your engine
Is 1174.

You hear the driver grumble,
but you hear the fireman roar,
When you look in the repair book
for 1174.

Elements, valves and pistons,
Burnt off smoke box door,
Engine steaming badly,
Its 1174.

I don't know why they run her,
But the "heads" know what is best,
And there's a spell if you're behind her
When she's running on the West.

If they put her on a North job,
You can always safely bet,
That you 'll see her in a siding
At Wyong or Morrisset.

By this number I am haunted
And each day more and more.
It doesn't matter what I do,
Its 1174.

Last night my wife, she said to me
"Oh dear your hands look sore.”
I said, "Yes, I've been to Lithgow
On 1174."

She bought me soap to wash them with,
The best she could procure,
Us called 4711-
Not 1174.

I thought I'd try my luck in Tatts,
As I'd often done before,
The winning number was 75
And I held 74.

Disgusted I enlisted
And went to that awful war,
My regimental number
Was 1174.

Engaged in one great battle,
They were dropping by the score,
The dead and wounded numbered
Just 1174.

And when the war was ended,
I came back to work once more,
And went 99 to Lithgow
On 1174.

Frank Brown page 18 of his collection of poems
The Fireman’s Lament
Specialty written (in barracks, we think) to touch the.
tender breasts of drivers—the crusty old cows!
(By H. P., Yeoval)Locomotive Journal May 29th ,1930

For many years I've fired
Up gradients large and small.
I've seen the pressure rising
And seen it quickly fall.

I mind the nights I've lain awake,
My brain full of combustion,
Thinking out a simple law
To show me how to bust them.

According to my figures,
And they are pretty true,
There wouldn't be a safety valve
To see a journey through.

But when I tried my system
On a dinky die "T.F.,"
Not a sizzle did I hear,
Tho' far from being deaf.

Prickers by the dozen,
I've swung from off the rack;
Poked them in the glowing coals
And red hot put them back.

Many leagues I've marched along,
Armed with a driver's kit;
And many, tons of ashes
I've raked into the pit.

Up to my knees in water;
The ashes coming fast.
"All down;" calls out the driver,
And I murmur "Struth! at last!"

Up the back of the tender,
Agile as a cat.
A hole in the column to meet me,
Down like a halt-drowned rat.

"By cripes! we're slipping here, mate,"
And the driver opens up.
I shake the ashes from my head,
Like a dust-rolled spaniel pup.

He cries "The stick's agin us,
Now slip the billy in!"
And as I fumble for the tea,
The driver huge his tin.

And soon his snack's half finished—
Before I've had a wash—
He takes a cupful from the can,
Then—"We're right away, by gosh."

So I grab my shovel handle
And stick one through the door,
Before I've time to eat a bit
The old bus wants some more.

My glance goes to the driver,
There's hunger in my eye.
His head goes out the window;
He has a screw on high.

Maybe looking for comets
For all I flamin' well know,
Or some such heavenly body,
As racing on we go.

This can't go on for ever,
The barrack lights ahead?
A wash, a feed, etcetera,
Then tumble oft to bed.
Iron Horse

The world awoke to freedom when the steam train was born
They opened up the countryside like never known before
In nearly every country right around the globe
Steam trains were running on oil wood or coal
The puffing breathing monster would blow and hiss and snort
And people then would know it as the might iron horse

Iron Horse charging through the country side you go
Iron horse through the sleet and dust and heat and snow
Rails of steel would tremble with your mighty force
Iron horse Iron Horse

©Ken Robertson (c) Words and Music

Currently the Railway Story is in the process of seeking permission to display the full content of this song or poem or to have a copy linked via the web to this research document


Now the man who holds the throttle
On a plunging' mass of steel,
Is a man who's always envied
By the poets, and those who feel
That his work is so romantic,
He must always show a grin.
To complain, or even frown,
I am sure. would be a sin.
But little do these gropers know
Of conditions, so I feel
I must straightway expound to them
About these men of steel.

Now perhaps they get an engine
Which isn't steaming- right,
With a dirty, clinkered fire
That should be clean and bright;

Or perhaps the sand's not working,
Or the valves are blowing through,
And she eats the coal and water,
And, the big end's knocking', too,
Now with all these faults apparent,
I'm sure that you would feel,
That the job's not so romantic
For these engineers of steel.

Now if these lines should reach you
On your dingy office stool,
And if perhaps you take me
For some sympathetic fool.
Just ride upon the footplate
Of a monster of the rail,
And you'll find the words herein
Are not fiction or a tale.

—J,A-S., Broadmeadow, Locomotive Journal 193


By day;
Skeletons all, goods, express.
Weather wracked.
Stained, begrimed.
Boilers rusted,
Wheels encrusted,
By man forgot,
They waste and rot.

At night:
When all's becalmed
'Neath splenderous moon.
I see a wonderous mystic sight.
These inanimate monsters now, it seems,
Sway and speed on in my dreams,
Whistles sounding,. oiled springs hounding.
Manned by ghostly crews go forth,
Some to Westward, others North,
Speed thru mystic mountain haze

With sobbing action-doors ablaze;
And standing by the polished gears,
Enginemen of other years.
By stream and ridge,
Thru storm winds cry,
O'er creaky bridge
Till dawn is nigh.
Then burdened with last hopes they glide
To rest, uncared for, side by side.

By day:
Relics, grim. unfired.
Once desired
By man acquired.
Motions worn,
Lost, forelorn,
In man's trust
They rot and rust.

J.A.S. Broadmedow The Locomotive Journal August 25th 1932


You talk about the hard times
That you had at the war.
Did you ever fire to Lithgow
On Eleven-Seventy-Four?

Did you first strike trouble at Lapstone.
Where you begin to climb?
Have you struggled an to Glenbrook
Half an hour behind your time?

Have you cursed and sworn and sweated,
As you tried to get her through?
Did you ever feel like getting off,
When you stopped at Warrimoo?

But you struggled gamely onward,
It's only one of many fights,
But you hoped to change your engine
When you got to Valley Heights.

There the Chargeman meets you smiling,
Says, "You're stiff this time,
The only engine we've got here,
Was put off ninety-nine."

So you face the steep Blue Mountains.
To do the best you can,
But to try and make this engine steam
Would break the back of man!

You shut off over Springwood,
And Faulconbridge as well.
Your mate asks, "How's she going?"
And you answer. "This is Hell."

And when you get to Linden
You must stop for a blow,
For the steam is back to one hundred
And the water's getting low.

And the guard books fifteen minutes
To “loco raising steam”.
He promised that he'd break the coal.
But he's nowhere to be seen.

You lose no time to Lawson
For the pilot does his bit.
But the guard books fifty minutes
Overtime on Lawson pit.

Then the driver takes the shovel,
Off come his overalls.
But he's looking for the water
When he gets to Wentworth Falls!

And as you watch him firing,
You know there's nothing surer
By the way that he is firing
That we'll have to stop at Leura.

When you've struggled to Katoomba
You can manage for the rest,
And although you've lost two hours,
You know you've done your best.

When at last you get to Lithgow,.
And you've quenched your thirst' with "two",
And both we doing justice
To a plate of barracks slew,

You forget about the hard limes
That you've had at the war.
For you know you've come from Penrith
On Eleven-Seventy-four.

Frank Brown
Eleven-Seventy-Four, copied from
the bottom of a painting in posses-
sion of the Penrith Railway Insti-
tute, attributed to a railwayman, Mr
Joe Dainer, It once hung in the bar
of the Red Cow opposite Penrith
station, where engine crews

In 1926,1174 was renumbered 5461 and has been retained in working order by the Railway Museum

Bill Ainsworth_-A.F.U.L.E.STATE _SECRETARY.

For more than a quarter of a century
He has given us the best of his brains
Striving for better conditions
For the men who are working the trains

And now that ill-health overtakes him
His work we will never forget
He has tendered his resignation:

We accept it-with deepest regret.

For none have a more sincere leader
No ship a captain so true:
In the years to come, we’ll remember
Bill Ainsworth was always true blue.

The many good deeds he has done,
Will be forever unknown,
And many the hearts that are thankful
For the kindness to them he has shown.

He was offered many positions
But he answered them all with a smile
“ I’ll stick to the Enginemens Union
As long as 1 think I’m worth while."

In the great industrial upheaval
You remember the year seventeen
He stuck to the ship that had floundered,
And brought her out safe in the stream.
He guided us through troubled waters,
And took all the blows and the knocks,
We are now in a financial position,
He has steered us well clear of the rocks.

He won us the forty-four hours,
He fought that great log of claims
And argued with most learned counsel
Trying to further our aims,

On the big seniority question.
When our rights were beginning to sway
He made that remarkable speech-
The speech that won us the day,

Respected by men of all classes.
No better man wielded the pen:
But his name is indelibly written-
Bill Ainsworth, a man among men.

And now that he has retired,
His place we can never refill,
And we say with heart-felt emotion
"Good health, and good luck to you. Bill."
Vale 1945

©Frank Brown

The Engine Driver's Soliloquy,

Said an old Penrith Driver, Before I die,
There is just one engine I’d like to, try".
'What is it? said the C.M.E..
"A 'K 57, or slide valve T.

“Well, I don’t like the look of the 57"s,
And know nothing about a K".
I like the slide valve T’s and P’9".
But the engine I want is a. "J.'

"I just want one trip on 496
From Penrith to Bathurst and back
For my mate I want old Geo. Gascoyne,
For my third man Billy Mac.
"I don’t want her fitted up to date

With patent glass protectors.

I don’t want superheated steam

Nor yet exhaust injectors

"I don’t want one of those flash young guards,
For them I have no use,
I’d like Harry Newman at the back,
With a bogie or caboose.

"I suppose I'd feel strange through the ten rat holes,
Instead of the old Zig Zag.
But I think I could manage sixty trucks
If I had Bill for spragg.

"I just want one look at that dear old town
Out there on the western plain,
I’d like a drink at the Mill Town pub.
‘’’’’’’’’’’’’ Several lines to be check

While my grandchild plays with his toys
And I see "57"s with a thousand tons
In charge of bare-faced boys*

"My thoughts go back to the olden days
Before the track was cleared,
When you, wouldn’t take a fireman out,
Unless he grew a beard.

"I could tell some tales of the trips I've had
But I haven’t got time right now,
See me again on pension day,
Over at the old Red Cow".


I have driven thousands of trains
Over the mountain range.
And I often sit and ponder
To marvel at the change.

I've seen mountains converted to tunnels,
Young saplings grown to trees:
And babies have grown to manhood
That I once nursed on my knees.

And engines I once thought were monsters,
Were my pride and joy:
Now beside a "57"
They merely look. a toy.

I have shared in three great victories
In terrible wars that have passed.
And sincerely hope and trust.
That this will be my last.

I am proud of the present Prime minister
Has shared, the barracks with me,
And will trust that, with good legislation.
He'll keep our country free,

In the forty years 1 have known him
He has always played the game,
I have watched with admiration
Each step up the ladder of fame.

When I think of our two Commissioners,
For fairness they stood on their own.
For many the homes that are thankful
For mercies they have shown,

I have marked the advance of science
In every stage of life:
I have had my years of pleasure,
And my share of care and strife,

I have watched, the growth of the Railways;
Due to our engineers brains
And soon we'll compete with the world
In the working of our trains.

In the thousands of miles I have driven
In sunshine, darkness, and rain,
My thoughts have been with the public,
And with the safety of my train.

When I think: of those riding behind me,
If he, or she, understands:
Do they give a thought to the driver
And the lives he holds in his hands.

Then, not forgetting the fireman,
For all the world must know,
That without this trusty worker
No railway express could go,

But I love the beat of my engine
To me it is like a song-
'With the slightest sound of discord
I know that something is wrong

I have taken many a soldier
Who will never come back again.
But I've always wished them "Kia Ora"
When I've been driving their train,,

I have brought in your meat, milk, and produce
As the day begins to peep:
I have carried your morning papers
While you have been fast asleep.

Still Old Father Time pays his visit
To a number of good old mates,
And many have gone beyond
In search of those Pearly Gates.

And some day I'll make that journey,
To the last long trip-far West:
And leave behind this message:
Master-I've earned it-REST.

The Final Failure’s Dream-"Realization.”

We left Katoomba and I thought it grand,
I said, "This job I understand"
And I had the whole train well in hand
Through Leura.

One application-but it must have been fate:
I said I don’t think they’re holding Mate' "
And we ware ahead of it 'stead of late,
Through Wentworth Falls.

With the air all gone at that Sixty-six
I found myself in an awful fix
And I passed at danger all the sticks
At Lawson.

Those girls in the stone house I couldn’t see.
I cried "Oh, what will become of me,
When I get on to the Thirty-three,
Near Woodford.

Just past the ‘ Bulls Camp” did my dash
I began to think of the Springwood smash
I tried to picture that awful crash
At Linden.

I tried to think who would miss me most.
I vowed that never again I ‘d boast
Of getting that fiver off the post
At Weemalah.

My heart sank down, my hair stood up:
I cried "Dear Harry-I’ve sold you a pup!"
I prayed to God that I could stick up
On Faulconbridge.

When passing Springwood my heart went thump,
I said "Well mate-I’m going to jump:"
Just then I felt an awful bump
At Valley Heights.

I thought I landed on my head:
They came and. picked me up for dead:
Then I found I’d fallen out of bed
In Lithgow Barracks



Oh, Mr.Trueman, think I’d die
If you don’t let me have one last try'
I’ll promise you my train won’t fly,
Through Leura.

I’ll run them gently 0n Number Nine:
I know each grade along that line:
And I’ll bet that I am dead on time
Through Wentworth Falls.

I’ll have them quiet on Sixty-six
Were most of the Drivers get in a fix
And I’ll stop at the “home or “distant” sticks

At Lawson

To those girls in the stone house I’ll not wave
But all my energy I’ll save
And you’ll see for yourself how I behave

Through Woodford

I’ll catch them over that Thirty three
And bring them over to a nicety;
And you have no fault to find with me

Through Linden.

Then you will see that I’m no goat
I’ll glide along like a Manly boat:
And I'll pick up Hansell's five pound note

At Weemalah.

Then I’ll let them run, then pick them up
Dear "Harry” I wouldn’t sell you a pup!
I’11 promise you faithfully I won’t stick up,
On Faulconbridge.

Down through Springwood we will go on our way,
And the guard will look at his watch and say:
"Now, here is a man who can run 0 K?
To Valley Heights.

The Final Failure’s Dream. Frank Brown Penrith The Locomotive Journal July 31 1930

About -the firehole door-V. A. Cahill. Qrange

I’ve heard yarns in the eat-up joints
I've heard yarns in the stores;
I've heard yarns in the barracks
For 20 years or more.

But the tale that made my heart bleed
As it never did before
Was told me by a fireman
Before the firehole door.

We were standing in the siding
'Waiting to cross the Mail
And we just had boiled the billy
"When he began his tale.

I'll leave it as he told it
(Leaving out the oaths he swore)
As he squatted on his haunches
Before the firehole door.

He said "I had a trip last week
Around the Molong line
And if I had any more such trips
I'm going to resign

For since I started firing
14 years ago or more,
I've never shovelled so much coal
Inside a firehole door.

"I noticed that the tyres were worn
And thought she'd sorely slip
And the engine was booked "steaming dull"
Back from the previous trip.

With the firehole door burnt badly
And when I signed on I saw
That the boilermakers had put in
A brand new firehole-door.

Well, I had the engine blowing off
Before we left Dubbo
But from East Junction to East Fork
I never heard her blow.

And once we passed Cumboogle
I just did nothing more
Than just swing the bat and pricker,
And swing the firehole door.

It wouldn’t have been so bad
If I'd had a decent mate
But the chap I had with me
Is the worst man in the State,

He just sat there and wound her out,
You should have heard her roar,
He never even offered
To swing the firehole door.

At Toombah, while I cleaned the fire,
And raked the ashpan out,
He took his feeder and flare-lamp
And pottered round about.

I'd never done that trip without
A drink of tea before,
But I got no time to put the billy
In the firehole door.

It was just the same at Molong
We took a single load.
I'd been hoping for assistance
To help us on the road

Such a display of fireworks
I never saw before,
He burnt a hole you'd crawl through
In the brand new firehole door.

"The steam kept slipping back
And I had only half a glass
Than she began to stamp her feet
Upon the umbrella grass.

At last I lost my temper,
And turned in him and swore,
He said, "Alright I'll fire her mate,
You swing the fire-dole door,"

We stuck up in the cutting,
Going up from Amaroo,
With the water bobbing in the glass,
As I knew darn well he'd do.

And just near the distant signal,
Going up from Borenore,
He went and threw the shovel,
Inside the firehole door,

From than on things were even worse,
Than they had been before;
I had to fire her with my hands,
And throw it in the door,

And a brand new set of overalls
I’d, just bought from the store,
Were simply scorched to pieces,
Before the firehole door.

I had no time to wash,
No time to sweep the floor,
I couldn’t roll a cigarette,
My hands were black and raw.

But we struggled into East .Fork,
A full hour late or more.
With a fire up to the brick arch and falling
Out the firehole door.

I’d hardly like to tell you,
I don't know what you'd think,
But when we signed off, my mate said
"We'll go and have a drink."


Just a Driver on the Railway
Well known on every line
My name is T.M. Dobson
I'm O.K. every time.

If I left Enfield twenty late
It wouldn’t trouble me.
The password at Katoomba box
Is “O.K., T.M.D.”

1 never start those bushfires
You see along the line,
My sparks and rockets never fall,
But I’m O.K. every time
I love to view the glorious sights
As along the rails I send her?
But the only sigh-my fireman sees
Is the firebox and tender.

For 'many miles, on many trains,
With wool, and coal, and wheat,
And like the man from Snowy River,
I never shifted in my seat.

But when the journey's ended.
And you call for two or three,
You'll hear the old familiar voice,
"Have these on T.M.D.",

And now that I've retired,
It's a pleasure great for me,
When old mates grip your hand and say,
"You're O.K.T.M.D.".

And when I meet Saint Peter,
I know he’ll say to me,
"There's no need to see your history sheet
You’re “O.K.T.M.D.".

Retired Railwaymen's Re-Union,
t's nice to see the old men here,
Where old friends meet again,
And to hear them give their version
Of how to work a train.

We hear them talk of the Baldwin days,
And the dangers they had to entail.
And when the load down the hill was four-fifty tons
And they ran on forty-pound rail.

But we must admit you had to be fit,
For those were the days of men,
But with increased loads, and faster tables.
Things were different now to then.

For now when you look at a passing train,
Oh, what a different tale'
See a "57"with three times the load,
And she runs on hundred pound rail,

They will also tell how hard they worked,
Pinning down brakes with a pole
But we have a chap with a "battery" on us-they call
A fellow called "Control".

Now a few have been raised to the salaried staff.
For our prestige needs protection.
Though some may feel disappointed.
It's a step in the right direction.

For our Railways must make progress,
And these facts I want to tell.
If our Commissioners want us a hundred per cent.
Our condition be must be so as well.

For the times and ways have vastly changed,
And the truth I'm loath to impart,
The young blood on the job to-day
Have not the railway at heart.

But you, old men, 1are the pioneers,
We give credit where credit is due.
For most of the privileges we hold to-day,
Were fought for and won by you.

And each year as we hold these functions,
There is not the slightest doubt,
We'll see new faces coming in,
Old faces going out,

But don’t let us be down-hearted,
For this wish is most sincere,
We hope that all who are here to-night
Will meet again next year.

"The Bloodless Victory" by "Old Timer".

Frank Brown has told of hard trips on eleven seventy four,
How the fireman swung the pricker and the driver swung the door;
As they cursed and swore and sweated as they crawled through Warrimoo,
But have you. ever been to Lithgow on Fifty-five 0 two.?

You pick her up in "two shed"(with the water on the boil),
Your fireman grins and says? "Oh, boy this is the dinkum oil".
No moans about small tenders, no groans re "mountain coal".
No dragging at the rocker bars, no getting "up the pole."

You wheel her into traffic, and there you meet the guard.
Who says you’re "fifty long", you. Say, She’ll pull the yard,
We'll make those U boats rattle. We'11 make her take her fat.
Just jump into the old HG, and hang on to your hat.

Quite soon you're out of Penrith, with her brickwork nice and hot:
With the old "Blue Hill" in front of you, you just don't care a jot.
The pop valves start to giggle, the fireman says with glee:
"This fight to get to Valley Heights, ain't what she used to be,

Near the old graveyard at Emu Plains, ghost drivers mount the fence,
As they stare and blink the oldest say; "Now brothers, that ain't sense.
No coal upon the tender, no pricker, rake or dart-
The fireman squatted on his ass, silk tie, and centre part.

You strike no snags at Lapstone, when you commence to climb,
And you hook her up through Glenbrook, for you're now ahead of time,
And she takes the flat at Blaxland and heads for Warrimoo,
The waters three parts up the glass, and your fireman winks at you.

And. when you stop at Valley Heights, the fireman shuts his jet.
Say "Don’t know why you stopped her mate, for I ain't hungry yet,
"I've hand fired these old Katies and I've corny hands (he says)
And now I'll get corns somewhere else .from firing with my head."

The pilot driver sidles back and says. "I see you're oil".
The coal that we've got up the front won’t keep her on the boil",
You remember previous struggles, how the fireman helped you out.
You say, "We are with you matey, when you say I'll let her out."
Strongly up the thirty-threes with sharp and four square beat
The firebox just glowing mass and high in superheat
The pilot" sit back the flats to keep his boiler right
But tho old oil burner holds the fort till the stop board is in sight

Onward from Katoomba you keep her on the roll
No need to race down Soldiers to shake down pieces of coal
Up through Bell, and down through Newnes, through tunnels ten .you roar,
Round Zig Zag curves to Lithgow Yards and OK for sure

When you've stowed her in the depot and you walk up from the shed
You say "A feed next matey, and we'll go to bed",
He checks up on his necktie and the creases in his pants.
And says "The beds for you Old Timer – I’m going to a dance.

Well that’s the tale of progress, lets keep it on the roll.
George Stephenson, our patron, made his "Rocket run on coal.
But now we face fast rivals, in the air and road of course.
Lets show them that she can still kick-The Ruddy Old Iron Horse.

A Night Like This"- Our Poet Gets ‘em
J.A.S Broadmedow Locomotive Journal September 29 1932

Noisy and restless
No sleep at all:
Late on the job
Forgotten the tea,
Towel and soap, too.
Found the tobacco
Immersed in the stew.

Whistling out
Attached to the train,
Injector refuses
Out in the rain.
Nail on the seat-
Mending the tear.

Smoke box door leaking
Back blast of smoke-
Sooty and grimy
Tunnels we choke
Heated and dim,
Breathing with awe,
Foetid hot air
Down on the floor.
Back piston blow
Vision impaired.
Munching the lunch
Last Tuesdays bread
Firebars melting.
Spray blowing, .too.
Lost a thumb nail
Easing the screw,

Rotary valve stiff,
Excess pressure light;
Pop valve is blowing
Should be down tight
Sand is all wet,
Coal in the fall,
Broken a coupling
Headstock and all.

Loose wedge and humping
Bad toothache now
Visaed the staff
Over a cow
Oil feeds leaking
Coal almost used
Burning the floor boards
May be excused

Big end is thumping
Crosshead is warm
Mate lost his shovel-
Looks quite forlorn
Blow off cock leaking-
Slipping again-
Guard’s indiscretion
Parted the train

Steaming through gloom
Peering ahead,
Visioning others
Resting in bed
Throttle valve sticking
Train pipe abused
Bumping in darkness
Headlight has fused

Ye,gods she's bolted
Down the incline
Hit points at speed
Right off the line
Inexorably onwards,
Fighting for air
Fell out of bed
Bumped nose on chair.

The Steam Guage ( Anon)

For every kind of labour
There has to be a boss
Someone who knows the business
How to work without a loss
There are many kinds of foreman
Some who always seem to rave,
But mine is quiet
He is as silent as the grave

He stands above me always,
And he never speaks a word
I keep my eyes upon him
But. his voice I've never heard
Although my boss is silent
He's the kind never shirk,
A glance in his direction
And his face will bid me work.
I like this silent foreman
Though he's always watching me
When working nights a bracket
Throws a. light a disc to see
I cannot work with out him
I must always see his face
To him I pay attention
For it he who sets the pace
Now all you me who labour
And who read this little rhyme
Don't envy me my foreman
For he makes me toe the line
It's true he's always silent
And he's never acted mean
But boy what ugly faces
He can makes when low in steam.

The Man they couldn’t Bake.-By The Northern Express Locomotive Journal May 28-1931

As old Nick gazed upon the throng,
His face beamed with content,
They were a new batch, just arrived
By Peter they'd been sent.

Lost souls from everywhere were there,
From every clime and land,
Also from Egypt's burning plains,
And niggers from the Rand.

He pitchforked each one gently in,
Upon the burning coals.
"Said he, I’ll make you wish ere long.
You were repentant souls."

But one was there who heeded not,
The sweltering flames around,
He lay upon the fiery bed,
As if upon the ground.

While all the others, loudly cried,
For water to be sent,
He peacefully strolled amidst flames,
As if on pleasure bent.
"Oh, perfect bliss," he sweetly chimed,
"I wish I'd died before,
My hearts desire at last I've found,
No man could wish for more."

Old Nick he watched for awhile,
Than called him to the shades,
"Where are you from my worthy lad,
That you rejoice in Hades? "

"You have not cried for water yet,
Tho' others parch with thirst;
And than you say the place is bliss-
You are my lad the first."

Our friend looked quietly at Nick,
And said in accents meek,
"Please sir, the place I come from,
Is known as Werris Creek."

Our friend a little shudder gave,
And said. the wind was bleak.
"Water I don't know what you mean,
There’s none at Werris Creek."

"Some years ago the Railway built,
A reservoir you dud,
"Oh, yes, I know our friend replied,
But, that's filled up with mud,

And than said Nick, "You seem to think,
That this here place is cold,
Although this is the biggest fire
That ever Hades did hold.

"And so it is our friend replied,
Not meaning to give cheek:
"Asbestos dogs, and china cats
All melt in Werris Creek."

Old nick than shook his head,
And wrinkled up his brow,
"I'd like to make this beggar burn,
But really don't know how,"

And turning to his sentry said,
"Here let the fellow past,
He is the first I could not bake,
I'll bet he is the last.

And so he’s back on earth at last.
It’s hottest place to seek,
He says that Hells a cold ice chest,
Compared with Werris Creek.

Now painted on the Gates of Hell,
You'll find if you should seek.
This place is strictly out of bounds,
To souls from Werris Creek.

"Toowoomba Range"-A.L. Knight -"Locomotive Journal"- December 1946

"Who'll shovel down coal
No one spoke, it was hot

The Driver was busy and he could not stop
The coal was receeding

The fireman needed a lot
And the Guard kept on sleeping.
Now, the fireman thought
I'm in a bit of a hole
I've only got ten minutes to shovel down coal
Clean the fire, and fill the back water hole
I must shovel it down, it’s got to be done,
I'll do it instead of my crib
And the Guard kept on sleeping,
And as the Guard slept
He had a bad dream,

Of the stoker in front, hard pressed for steam,
Empty gutted, and tired from shovelling down coal
Cleaning fires, and filling back water holes,
Still, he did not dream of shovelling down coal
No, the Guard kept on sleeping. (A.L.Knight)

"The Dying Stoker” Anon

The injured young stoker lay dying,
A sleepy fitter supported his head,
And he turned on his side, and said sighing,
"Twas you guys that killed me stone dead."
"Why don't you sometimes chip the brick arches
And give the poor stoker a go,
And fix up the air and steam blowers,
Or you'll bury us all below,
But the fitter he said, "Blimey mate,
The shed staff come here to rest doncherknow,
And if the engines do kill all the stokers,
We must all have our four hours blow."
No one cares in any case what happens,
If you're the good fortune to work in the shed,
But if you work on the road you'll soon find,
You will slave till you're dead.
To make up for all the drones and parasites,
That lounge and. loaf around the shed,
Or mess up the job when they do work-
And that’s why the stoker dropped dead.
So wrap him up in his wool waste and sweat rags,
And bury him deep down below,
Where neglected engines and loafers wont molest him-
Way down where good niggers go. (Anon.)


I've had some top notch Firemen '
But I've never had a mate
Could keep the white feather flying
On fifty two sixty eight.

She had them all extended
Trying to get her there,
For she was an old dull steamer
They called her the old "Grey Mare".

One night a Fireman said to me
I've got the antidote,
I've brought a Jimmy along with me
I'm going to cut her throat.

Well, she had a reputation
She always was a dud,
The size of the Jimmy he put in
Would make the Grey Mare spit blood.

After leaving Unanderra
The old girt started to steam
He put on the feed, she still hung on,
The Jimmy was working it would seem

jAhead of time through Dombarton, ;
She was simply eating the coal,
She still had a Hundred and Sixty pounds
I was giving her the pole.

The fire was fairly dancing,
The rockets came oUt of the stack,
Why—Struth—we lit up the countryside.
A hundred yards each side of the track.

We went to the Tank in an hour,
'Twas' the best she'd performed by far,
But when I looked at the smoke box door
It was burnt to the flamin bar.
The Fireman looked at me with a grin
He said, "Now look here, Sam,
Who is the best Fireman in Thirroul
And tell me why I am."

Then I heard someone calling
It came to me as a shock,
The Call Boy said, "Its 3a.m.
Sign on at 4 o'clock,

Thirroul January 11th 1962


When you're cramped up in the carriage
Of a draughty country train,
And your back is aching madly
Till you almost cry with pain.
Don't let such trifles rile you,
When there's others suffer too.
For the Fireman on the engine
Has a backache worse than you.

The Fireman's life's a nightmare—
One long, unhappy dream.
It takes costly sweat and energy
To make those engines steam.
Some are bad, and some are worse,
But there's one that makes them roar;
For the roughest and the toughest
Is that cursed thirty-four.

Their colour scheme is very nice,
The outline not so bad.
It's their, action when in motion
That drives the Fireman mad.
How they bump and thump and jump
Like rough old tanks of war:
Lord, how those Firemen curse it—
That rocking, reckless thirty-four!

Some Firemen may be boasters
That they can stand the strain,
But one trip aboard these outlaws
Will drive them quite insane.
They'll show you all. the bruises
That they never had before,
And they'll pray to God in heaven
That they scrap the thirty-four.

And the Fireman tells his children,
As he tucks them into bed,
Of the terrors that surround them
Till they wish that they were dead,
And it they are bad children.
There's one thing to be sure—
To hell they will go riding
On a rocking, reckless thirty-four.

Now a Fireman had a girl friend, -
Whom he hoped to make his own.
But he stammered when he asked her
In a, bashful, nervous tone.
.She asked him why he stammered,
'Cause he never did before;
"My nerves are done,'" he told her,
"Since I • worked that thirty-four."

When life is cramped with hardships
And your troubles do seem great.
Just remember all the others
Who may also share your fate.
When the man in front is honest,
Don't curse the changing laws-
Help the leaders of the people
Scrap those cursed thirty-fours.

GARNETT R. SMITH. Loco, Junee Nov 12 1942


A green light signals O.K. from the guard,
The 44 struggles up Enfield Yard.
Clattering 'round Chullora Junction,
The Vigilance Control ceased to function,

Climbing up to Sefton Junction,
The driver noticed wheel slip indication.
“But the wheels aren't slipping" said Fireman Good,
After walking beside her to Villawood.

She came to a halt at Ingleburn,
When the air compressor refused to turn.
But the crew wouldn't let that little thing lick it,
If it stopped again, the fireman would kick it.

They halted again near Douglas Park,
With the electrical cabinet showering sparks.
The crew shut the unit down and then,
They merely started up again,

They didn't know what the trouble had been,
Who cares, anyway, nobody had seen.
Leaving the refuge sidings at Bargo,
The chine horn atop the roof would not blow.

Then accelerating up through Mittagong,
The loco throttle went all wrong.
The crew tinkered with it but to no avail,
They would have it examined at Moss Vale.

The examining fitter was a bit of a sceptic,
He didn't like these diesel electrics,
He shouted aloud "Give me steam any day",
As the green light flashed and the train pulled way,

Roaring down through Bundanoon,
The train would be in Goulburn soon,
But one mile south of the town named Penrose,
They stopped again with a broken air hose.

Then shunting trucks at Wingello,
A ladder broke the front window.
What a way to work a train,
Oh for crying out aloud, its starting to rain.

At last they made it to Tallong,
Sorely nothing else could go wrong
But they never got beyond Medway,
For the 44 to failed with ground relays.

Oh well - the driver didn't mind the wait.
Goulburn was sending him 38;

THE ENGINEER'S WIFE (J.C.. South Brisbane) The Locomotive Journal April 30 1931

The engineer's wife has a burden to bear,
Unknown to the public, who ride in his care,
Thru' hot weather and cold he must stay at his post,
And his wife is the one who feels it the most-

The thermometer climbs a hundred degrees,
"Do you think that his wife can sit at her ease
On the porch with a book and enjoy the shade
Why, of what do you think the women are made?"

She is feeling the heat and the dust and the dirt,
The grease and the coal-dust that sticks to his shirt.
The headache he felt and which soon went away,
Was sent to his wife and with her came to stay

It the news is sent, "There's a crash on the line,"
Her very first thought was the "engineer mine,"
O, Lord, give me strength to go on with my life,
If this sorrow is mine, I'm no more his wife.

And just add to this, that an engineer's nerves
Are kept at high tension; the public he serves
Put their lives In his hands; he stays at his post
To the end of his run whatever the cost.

The grouch that is bottled up during the run.
Explodes with a "bang" when the day's work is done,
But say, "Does he mean it?" No, not on your life,
She's simply the safety-valve, the "Engineer's Wife."

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