When Mark Tronson was considering his fourth railway book (his ninth book in all genres) in 1988 he came upon the idea of a book consisting of fourteen train journey's as from the driver's seat. This would be a book revealing what it was actually like, being in control of a locomotive and a train, on fourteen separate railway journeys.
One of the trains Mark Tronson considered absolutely essential was the Sunlander and Queensland Railways retired train driver Allan Davis replied to his inquiry saying he would be delighted to contribute such a journey.
By the time all the journey's had been submitted, edited and then type set and photographs selected, the book 'From the Driver's Seat' was published in March 1989 and is now a collector's item.
The 'big train' era of post WWII before air flight and more recently the cheap air fare drama established itself, the Sunlander was one of Australia's most patronised passenger trains. It is a long way from Brisbane and Cairns (1600 klms), and for three decades from the fifties through to the seventies, train travel was a very positive and safe option.
The Sunlander in effect took two nights and three days to travel that distance, on two timetables, and many utilised the service for major centre stops in between. The evening timetable between Gympie and Mackay was a very convenient trip as it meant a sleeper overnight. The morning timetable between Mackay and Townsville was likewise convenient.
Allan davis wrote that the Maryborough locomotive depot crews were the main stay engineman for the Sunlander as they would bring the southern Sunlander from Mayborough to Brisbane. They would then take their rest in barracks, and then drive the northern Sunlander from Brisbane back to Maryborough where they would be relieved by another Marborough crew.
Allan Davis in his Sunlander article said they brought the locomotive from the Mayne Locomotive Depot to Roma Street Station and attached there for their 7.15am departure time. There was only ever a need for one large diesel locomotive to haul the Sunlander to time. It was double line fast running to Caboolture.
The track to Gympie transversed the Blackall Range and then to Marborough, mostly undulating track. The track from Maryborough to Bundaberg and then onto Gladstone was flat as it is a huge sugar cane growing area. All through the article Allan Davis detailed when he applied the brakes, and by how much pressure and when, so as to bring the Sunlander to a smooth gliding stop.
Allan Davis articulate description illustrates he's done this many times, it's a credible account.
Footplate Padre M V Tronson writing for the On Track E-Railway magazine said that this too is the same as the writers of the Bible and the theology behind why Jesus died on the Cross. It's a credible account. Nothing more needs to be said as its verifiable.