One of the articles I wrote as Footplate Padre for the On Track railway e-magazine was driving a freight train from Port Kembla to Sydney's Enfield good's yard.
Enfield railway freight yard in the heart of Sydney's west saw trains come in, their wagons shunted into trains for various Sydney freight yard destinations and other trains made up for external trips either inter-state or to the various regional destinations.
It was imperative that incoming train crews were conversant with the Enfield yard as one could very easily become lost. Trains came in and directed through any number of mazes of crossing lines and come to a stand at the direction of a shunter on the ground.
The engine would be detached and then run another gauntlet to get across to the Enfield Locomotive Depot.
These steel carrying freight trains from Port Kembla would invariably run in the hours of darkness from early evening through to the early hours of the following morning.
There could be ten to twelve trains an evening, all running in the one direction, to Enfield and some might only be 30 minutes apart.
One might imagine the scene if for any reason one of those trains were held up through a sticking brake on a wagon, a signal at red, an accident of some kind, this long string of steel freighters would be likewise held up, their sequences into the suburban timetabling network.
Freighters needed to slot into the suburban timetabling and to lose a sequence was of tremendous consequences.
These trains ran at 40 mils an hour (70 Ks) along the Illawarra beaches, then 18 miles an hour up the Illawarra escarpment and then again at 40 miles an hour down through the Sydney suburban network.
This was slower than the passenger trains and therefore it gave much greater opportunity to see what was going on trough the high rise night time lit apartments.
Strangely the slowest part of these steel freight train trips was the run from Tempe to Enfield. This was essentially a flat run through the western suburbs of Sydney but delays were frequent as many freight trains were coming into Enfield from various directions and the Illawarra freighters had to wait their turn. It was a clog-mire of congestion.
As the Footplate Padre this reminded me of the struggle the early New Testament churches had in establishing solid functioning congregations. It was a thing to witness evangelism and people coming to a personal Salvation knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ as preached by the Apostle Paul (the free wheeled running from Port Kembla to Tempe).
It seems then that Paul spent the rest of his life writing letters to these churches trying to either sort out their issues or providing wisdom for the running of the congregation (not unlike the struggle on those freight trains from Tempe to Enfield).
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