As the Footplate Padre I have celebrated many publications since writing about railway stories and railway people.
This is the story in my own words:
I was a Locomotive Engineman for ten years before Morling Seminary (NSW Baptist Ministry). I loved the railways from the time I was a youngster. At eight years of age at the Mackay Railway Station the Sunlander glided into the platform with its magnificent blue diesel locomotive and I was sold on the idea of becoming a train driver.
When the family relocated to Canberra in 1961 it meant many train trips back to Queensland, and I can still see in my mind's eye looking from the carriage along the length of the Brisbane Limited and watching the huge diesel hauling the train!
At sixteen and nine months I left home in Canberra to start my career as a train driver at the Goulburn roundhouse in 1968. Goulburn depot at that time still ran steam engines and Ie learnt to fire steam locomotives and as promotion came my I fired the astonishingly powerful 38 class on the main south.
A year later I transferred to Port Kembla depot where I progressed to Acting Driver (topped at the Acting Driver's School). I was offered a promotion to driver on the Sydney electrics or a transfer to Yerrongapilly in South Brisbane (a NSW depot) as Acting Driver. He took the first and then sought 10 months leave without pay for his first year at Morling Seminary. That was 1977, the year Delma and I married.
At the end of that first year of theology, I went back to the railways for four months between academic years and finally resigned in 1978 when resuming my second year at seminary. The love of the railways never left me, but I put my calling to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in first place.
In 1984 the Lord honoured my love of the railways as by that time I'd already written two highly successful books on "field hockey" and initiated a series of railway books culminating in a total of 16 by the late 90's. These were books of train driver's anecdotes from all over Australia and with many photographs. They were in a niche market.
Some 40 years after first starting employment on the railways (1968) Dave Moyle from Victoria rang him in 2008. Dave was the editor of the very popular On Track railway e-magazine who had seen a copy of a truckies magazine with the Truckies Padre monthly article. He had read a couple of my railway books, he knew I was a Baptist minister and had been the Australian cricket team chaplain and asked me to become the Footplate Padre for the On Track railway e-magazine. Mark jumped at the invitation.
Published in the On Track railway e-magazine, Christian Today Australia and then copied to other Christian newspapers and publications, and in the Well-Being Australia monthly newsletter.
It was one of the most read columns in any niche market anywhere and I along with Dave Moyle (now the late) received voluminous e-correspondence from happy readers, many telling of their own experiences, some seeking wisdom and others wanting the Salvation that Jesus Christ offers every person.
Over these past few years I've been invited to many men's breakfasts and dinners to speak as the Footplate Padre where I show a short video of a huge 38 class roaring along at top speed. These presentations are thoroughly enjoyed.
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. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html