In every centre across Australia where a railway exists and the Footplate Padre is travelling nearby on Mission, he will inevitably make a detour to visit, introduce himself to the railway personnel.
This is precisely what occurred in Albany when M V Tronson when at the Albany Information Centre, the old Albany Railway Station, a heavy haul freight train came rumbling by.
Footplate Padre Mark Tronson introduced himself to the diesel locomotive driver and received a run down on heavy haul train working in Western Australia.
As an author of sixteen books on railways, Footplate Padre Mark Tronson is conversant with things railways and so was able to converse knowledgeably with the driver.
What had become the norm, but a significant innovation when first incorporated, and illustrated first hand by this heavy haul freighter in Albany, was that with modern technology, there is a heavy haul diesel locomotive at either end of the train.
Footplate Padre M V Tronson saw NJ 605 with a heavy haul freighter leading, with another NJ in the rear. When the product emptied into the large vats at the Albany wharf, the driver goes to the other end of the train and operates the NJ diesel there.
The technology allows both diesels to be operated from the one set of controls. In others words, the driver can function the train from either locomotive. Anyone conversant with Australian railways is aware that in Queensland the heavy haul coal trains have a set of engines in the middle of the train which are operated from the driver in the lead engine at the front.
Originally on Western Australia heavy haul trains there would be generally be two (sometimes more) locomotives coupled together which would haul the train. At the destination, these diesel engines would be uncoupled from the train, run ahead past the set of points, and run back around the stationary train on the loop line, and recouple at the other end of the train.
This process also happened on passenger trains such as the Southern Aurora, Spirit of Progress, Brisbane Limited, The Overland, The Inter-Capital Daylight Express, the Sunlander, Indian Pacific, the Ghan and the rest of them. It was the regular system of train management.
But this new heavy haul process of train management has provided a very simple solution to an old problem. Now, the driver changes ends, not the locomotives.
Footplate Padre M V Tronson commented that this process of a locomotive at either end of the train reminded him of his years as a locomotive engineman when working 'Banking Engines' up the Illawarra mountain line from Unanderra to Summit Tank in the late 60s and early to mid 70s.
The heavy haul steel trains were too heavy even for two large diesels on the front, so a Banking engine in the rear would help push to Summit Tank, a point in which the heavier grade ended. The Banking engine would detach. He recalls that a full eight hour shift would be two Banking trips to Summit Tank.
The idea of a Footplate Padre is relatively innovative too, things change constantly, which inevitably bring improvements.