The Footplate Padre tells the story of the retired steam locomotive driver Vince Laymos who recalls the best steam locomotive driver he ever witnessed first hand - this was Nyngan steam locomotive depot driver Don McLeod - but the story may have just as valid a any depot in Australia or New Zealand.
This is a story from the Footplate Padre's book titled Steam Stories. This article was titled “Champion Driver – Don McLeod” on page 53.
Nyngan is a country town out the west of New South Wales and crews took trains from Nyngan to Bourke through Brewarrina, Cobar and Dubbo
One of the regular jobs that the senior driver, (a salaried man, one of the most experienced steam engine driver's) did, was the passenger Mail to Bourke.
This Mail train would come in from Dubbo, and then head off to Byrock where the train would be slit up – one part going to Bourke the other half going to Brewarrina.
Meanwhile, a freight train with fast wagons (double wheeled bogies) would have arrived before into Byrock. The shunting process was then to attached to each of these split Mail trains, one going to Bourke the other to and Brewarrina, the fast fast freight wagons so as to build the train to a full weight load.
In other words, each train became a mixed goods. The train going to Brewarrina invariably had an old 12 Class steam engine and the old to Bourke had the P Class.
The 'one' Salaried driver of the depot invariably had an acting driver as his fireman for the Mail and this time it was driver Don McLeod at the helm.
Vince Laymos as his fireman said he was introduced to beautiful steam engine management.
Vince Laymos claimed that Don McLeod never pushed an engine, he never looked at his watch and was never late. He knew the running so well.
On one occasion, with speed restrictions on wash-away's due to heavy rains, the guard on the Mail train to Brewarrina – realising the train was already half an hour late – asked Don if he could pick up four minutes in time.
They arrived with exactly four minutes picked up – no more, no less. He never looked at his watch once.
In every railway locomotive depot there were always such very skilful steam locomotive drivers. They men knew the running, they never had a speedometer on steam engines, only an engine driver's watch.
They would run trains to time and knew every hill and down dale and where to speed up and when to apply the brakes and to what brake pressure, they were master craftsmen.
The same can be said for experienced and well honed Ministers and Pastors, who understand the nature of Christian Ministry and the manner of biblical input into people's lives.
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