An opportunity came to me to become the Footplate Padre which in turn opened numerous doors for ministry over many years. I was a Locomotive Engineman for ten years before I entered Morling Seminary to study for the Baptist ministry.
From a child, I always wanted to become a train driver, I was fascinated by the railways from the time I was a youngster. I was about eight years old at the Mackay Railway Station when the Sunlander glided into the platform with its magnificent blue diesel locomotive and I was sold on the idea of becoming a train driver.
Over the years as a school boy I would collect train photographs and newspaper clippings of diesel locomotives. I travelled on the Sunlander a number of times as a child, and when the family relocated to Canberra it meant many more train trips, some to Queensland.
I can still see in his mind's eye looking from the carriage along the length of the Brisbane Limited and watching the huge diesel haul the train around the curves. To me it was magic.
At sixteen and nine months I left home in Canberra to start my life's career as a train driver at the Goulburn roundhouse in 1968. Goulburn depot at that time still ran steam engines and I learnt to fire steam locomotives and as promotion came my way I even fired the astonishingly powerful 38 class on the main south.
A year later I transferred to Port Kembla depot as my parents had bought a house at Sussex Inlet on the NSW south coast and there I progressed to Acting Driver having come top 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 (NSW depot) as Acting Driver. I took the first and then sought 10 months leave without pay for his first year at Seminary. That was 1977, the year Delma and I married.
At the end of that first year of studying 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 and I yearned for it, but I placed my calling to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in first place.
In 1984 the Lord honoured my passion 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 and good sellers.
Some 40 years after first starting on the railways (1968) the late Dave Moyle rang me in 2008 from Victoria. Dave Moyle was the editor of the very popular On Track railway e-magazine and had seen a copy of a truckies magazine with the Truckies Padre monthly article.
Dave Moyle had read a couple of my books, knew I was a Baptist minister and the Australian cricket team chaplain and asked me to become the Footplate Padre for the On Track railway e-magazine. I jumped at the invitation.
The Footplate Padre monthly article published in the On Track railway e-magazine for many years until Dave’s passing into Glory. Christian Today Australia published these as well and then in-turn republished to other Christian newspapers and publications, and in my Well-Being Australia monthly newsletter.
It would be one of the most read columns in any niche market anywhere and I along with Dave Moyle receives 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 years I have been invited to many men's breakfasts and dinners to speak as the Footplate Padre where he shows a short video of a huge 38 class roaring along at top speed. It is thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Consider all the things that happened for this to come to pass, it is a miracle. It all happened with pieces coming together. The Lord's timing was paramount and perfect. We stand in awe of the Lord.
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