The title of my 1989 book – From the Driver's Seat – now out of print - details 14 rail journey's from the locomotive driver's perspective, an oral account of what occurs from signing on for duty to when relieved upon arrival at the destination.
Why might I write something of an account of such a book all these years later after publication and moreover, the book is out of print. This book was the fourth of 16 such railway books I wrote in that busy period from 1982-1996 and the purpose of detailing now, this particular book and these books as a collective, is where the money went as a missionary.
Now many missionaries have written books and by and large they have a niche market as did my railway books which I have thoroughly enjoyed as a former locomotive engineman.
From the Driver's Seat has these stories written by the drivers' themselves:
Clive Dunsale: Julia Creek to Richmond, Qld
Bruce McAlister: Albury Goulburn, NSW
Bob Farquhar: Katooma Snow Trip, NSW
Ern Goodlett: Cowra to Harden, NSW
Toby Priestly: Parkes to Broken Hill, NSW
Ken Ames: Sydney to Lithgow, NSW
Barry Dunn: Albury to Melbourne, VIC
Mark Tronson: Nowra to Wollongong, NSW
Allan Davies: Sunlander (Roma St to Maryborough), Qld
Terry Ryan: Goulburn to Sydney, NSW
Peter Redfern: Overland (Dimboola to Bordertown), VIC
Pat McCarthy: Brisbane Limited (Taree to Grafton), NSW
Allan Davies: Grand-Final Express (Heildon to Brisbane), Qld
Mark Tronson: Mountain Track (Port Kembla to Summit Tank), NSW
Laurie Lill: XPT (Sydney to Taree), NSW
From the Driver's Seat sold not more or not less than all 16 of these niche market railway books, they all sold around the same kind of figures. I had the locomotive manufacturer Clyde Engineering take the back cover advert which paid for the contracted The Book Printer to print these railway books and then I contracted varying distributors into both newsagents and bookshops. They cleared around $14,500 a book which even a small publishing company wouldn't bother with.
Why is the money such a drama
Had I not been a missionary and simply citizen Mark, then where this money went would never have been an issue, rather heralded as a remarkable endeavour to have these unique oral history railway stories published for the public to enjoy.
The idea abounds that missionaries who write books should have a system whereby the entire income stream should be directed to a mission agency and that the missionary should not taste even one cent for his hours of research, writing and editing. I was part of this era and so it was. But they gave me much needed relaxation and enjoyment.
It happened that I was in the fortunate position in those early years of developing a fresh paradigm of mission, the Sports and Leisure Ministry which I had founded in 1982 having sought and granted the support of Heads of Churches. It's mission was to place Chaplains into Professional Sport across the nation.
A faith finance support network was developed to provide my wife and family the money to live and meet the expenses, and as these railway books were published so too those monies were placed into the mission account. There was a great deal of travel meeting with professional sport organisations negotiating the idea of chaplaincy for their professional athletes and families.
Six years later in 1988 it was considered appropriate that this new mission change from being an unincorporated mission to becoming an incorporated entity and the name 'Sports and Leisure Ministry' belonged to a Government Department, so to retain the acronym, the name Specialised Orientated Ministries Inc., was selected and yet retaining the common name for mission around the churches, as the Sports and Leisure Ministry.
I was the Public Officer and in 1998 the ATO called me up for an Audit and the accountancy firm that audited our accounts identified that over all those years, considerable income into the mission had been accredited to those little niche railway books. The Audit was such that we were given the all clear!
When I moved on in 2000 after 18 years of heavy duty mission, that ATO Audit and the concluding Audit handed on to the new people, had all that financial data detailed. In 2005 the mission changed its name to Sports Chaplaincy Australia and after we moved on, their awards are named after other people. Horses are not the only ones who wear blinkers. as in this railway story.
One rail story
One of the author driver's was very excited after he had received a number of courtesy books for his family after publication. I saw him weeks later, and with a beaming face and in colloquial terms explained: “That's the best bloody book I've ever read!”
When asked how many of the train driver's stories he had read, he was equally excited, “Only mine!”
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