As the Footplate Padre I tell the story of a father and a son who were terrific mates but not on every occasion did one tell the other what's happening or why. This story appeared in my sixteenth railway book "Footplate Yarns of Old" on page 30 titled "Mechanic of Note".
This particular driver from Albany in Western Australia in the days of steam drove a Renault Dalphine rear engine sedan. It was essentially his work vehicle, as he'd drive it to work, leave it in the railway workers car park at Albany Railway (near the Albany Railway Station).
Sometimes he'd be away from home for twenty four hours or more having worked trains to barracks. Barracks is a railway term which means living quarters for the railway crews that work trains for hours at a time, get relieved, take their rest, minimum of eight hours, and then work another train home.
I explained in my years as a locomotive engineman in both Goulburn and then Port Kembla locomotive depots, I would often work to barracks, much more so in Goulburn than Port Kembla. In his era in the sixties, crews based in Goulburn, worked trains to Sydney, Junee and Albury, and the snowy line to Cooma. They might be on duty for up to eleven hours. They'd go to barracks (for sleep) for a minimum of eight and then work a train home.
This was the era of the engineman's Tucker Box or the Gladstone Bag where the crews kept their food for their cooking needs ready for when they were in barracks. At Port Kembla Depot the crews would take barracks in Moss Vale (Limestone trains) or Goulburn having worked up the mountain line (heavy steel trains). Barracks working is a phenomena of railway life.
Meanwhile this Albany driver's son always believed the Renault Dalphine to be under geared, so he and a mate went to the wreckers and found a 4 gear of a Renault Dalphine they found there, and went back home to change over the three gear for the four gear "gear box".
When they got back to the house, his mum said that dad had gone to work, and they'd find the car in the railway car park, which is what they did. They set to work, the son and his mate, jacked up the car, told the railway authorities what they were doing, as everyone knew everyone in Albany in those days, and they changed over the gear box.
The only problem was that the son forgot to leave a note in the car as to what they had done.
Dad came off the train, signed off from duty, walked to the railway car park, put the car into what he thought was reverse and the vehicle lurched forward almost hurtling it into the turntable (the car park was immediately adjacent to the railway workers car park).
The driver was seen fiddling with the gears and couldn't work out the problem with the gear stick when one of the fitters spotted him and came and explained that his son and his mate had changed over the gears from three to four and the gears on the gear stick were now in different positions. The astonished driver exclaimed that his son could have left a note.
As Footplate Padre this story illustrated how different is the Biblical story of Salvation of "God the Father sending His Son Jesus" to die on the Cross for our Salvation. In this case a note was left - it's called the Bible.
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