The Footplate Padre is celebrating 100 articles in Christian Today and copied to other publications railway, secular and Christian publications.
As the Footplate Padre Dr Mark Tronson worked on the railways initially in the celebrated Goulburn Round-House as a trainee engineman and did his acting fireman training school in Goulburn and subsequently firing steam engines on the main south before transferring to Port Kembla depot in 1969.
While at Port Kembla depot Mark Tronson applied to the University of Wollongong as a mature age student and proceeded to a degree in the arts focusing on commerce and history. After 10 years as a locomotive engineman, in 1977 he was accepted to training for the ministry at Morling College (NSW Baptist) with his University of Wollongong qualifications allowing him to proceed to a degree in theology and further to a doctorate on sports ministry (Australian cricket team chaplain).
He started collating train driver’s stories for his first railway book in 1984 which led to a further 15 such railway books sponsored by locomotive manufactures with back cover promotions.
In the early 2000s Dave Moyle the editor of the On-Track railways magazine invited Mark Tronson to become the Footplate Padre with a monthly Footplate Padre article. This continued for many years til Dave Moyle being called home to Glory a few short years ago.
The role of the Footplate Padre was not restricted to train drivers, former train drivers or to railway people.
The ministry of the Footplate Padre became “insane” (as young people say) as there were so many Emails in those heady years.
My wife Delma was constantly astonished at the correspondence. Some told the stories of long gone loved ones with illustrations of being a train driver in those far off days of steam.
Others were seeking solace for a myriad of social injustices, work situations, employee dramas, family issues and the like. It was a case of being ‘Auntie’ in answering these letters and emails. Sometimes these were brief responses, there were times which I contacted someone to assist.
In one case, I needed to pull rank as the Australian cricket team chaplain and speak to an officer of a court and draw attention to a serious anomaly over a father not being given access to his daughter (always an excuse and finally moving away to prevent any further access). That situation was eventually resolved.
Each of the Footplate Padre’s 16 railway books had Christian input into one of the stories. This proved to be powerful mechanisms for communications. There was never any shying away from being a follower of Jesus, a Minister of the Gospel, a servant of the Lord.
In each of those 100 Footplate Padre articles there was a clear presentation of the joy of following Jesus.
Those 100 articles represented many train driver stories from the Footplate Padre’s 16 railway books. They provided a ready access to wonderful delightful and entertaining railway anecdotes that created a well-spring of wanting to read more and more of such.
This in itself created an ever growing demand for these Footplate Padre stories and in effect a passive means whereby the Gospel of Jesus’ Salvation was presented.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html