What was it like to drive a steam locomotive? This book tells the ups and downs, mishaps and triumphs of life on the footplate. The author worked as first a trainee then as an engineman fireman on the footplates of locomotives in Western Victoria in the 60s at a time when bumper wheat harvests saw trains carrying tons of grain through Ararat for shipping overseas. A variety of locomotives were in use. We hear how some performed magnificently, a few sluggish and recalcitrant, requiring every ounce of skill and perseverance of the engineman to keep the wheels turning. A limited number of passenger trains also saw steam haulage. The drama and adventure of running these engines is described in graphic and gritty detail by one whose task was keeping the water boiling and the steam gauge needle on the mark.
All this is set against a background of thudding air compressors, chime whistles and staccato exhausts, as well as the occasional whine of a diesel electric’s dynamic brake, making this a truly exhilarating picture of Life on Australian Locomotives.
The author: In his teens he rode on the footplates of locomotives performing yard duties, fast and pick up goods, and stopping and express trains. After qualifying as a fireman he relieved at a number of outstations. At these locations and at Ararat he experienced all the vicissitudes of railway life and learned to handle the idiosyncrasies’ of a variety of locomotives.
He resigned in late 1965 and pursued a career in industrial public relations and advertising. He has maintained an active interest in railways and locomotive running. He lives in Guildford Victoria.