A Thirroul depot driver was taking a freight train pulled by a steam T-class locomotive on a night job from Port Kembla, via to the mountain line through Dombaton and Robertson to Moss Vale, and then to Goulburn on the main south line.
The train consisted on a load of 4 wheeled wagons and these had a maximum speed of 40 miles per hour (70 kph). If a train only had one such wagon the speed was restricted. The drivers knew these types of wagon were notorious for their bad brakes, and required a good supply of air to bring them under control when at speed.
This meant that the air compressor needed to be in top functioning order, and therefore a good head of steam was required. The fireman's task was crucial. A good fireman was worth his weight in gold, and much appreciated by the driver.
As the train departed Moss Vale heading to Goulburn, this driver boasted that his skills were such that he never needed to apply the brakes on this part of the journey. The experienced fireman thought this was an outrageous claim, so he decided to test the driver's mettle .
It was a very hot night and steam engine cabins can get very warm, the crew regularly put their heads out the cabin window. The T Class was climbing a long bank and as the train came over the top, the driver shut-off the regulator to allow the train to run down the other side and, relaxing, he leaned out to enjoy the fresh air.
The fireman tip-toed to the controls, unscrewed the brake handle nut, lifted it off the control stand and went back to his seat.
As the train gathered more speed than anticipated, those 4 wheeled wagons began to bump and rock and, finally, the driver thought the better of it and went to brake the train. But the fireman refused to give the brake handle back; the driver had said he didn't need it!
By the time the train reached 50 miles per hour with the wagons bucking, the drive admitted his idle boast, the fireman relented and the train was brought under control. It had been very scary, and never again did that driver boast about his driving skills.
The Footplate Padre says this illustrates the nature of Salvation. If it could be earned by 'being good' then a man may "boast" (Ephesians 2: 8-9). NO ...!
Salvation in Christ comes through faith (believing), it is a free gift from God. It cannot be earned. Why? The gift (described as God's Grace) comes to us because of Christ's death on the Cross. Therefore, no one can boast!
That fireman knew that the Thirroul driver's boast was an idle one, so too, the Scriptures are clear, no one can boast about Salvation. The Footplate Padre says that any person who says they can earn their own Salvation is likewise idly boasting. And that is very good news for those of us who fail so often.