The fireman however never knew where the broken air hose was 'til he could hear the air escaping. The Footplate Padre says that in his 10 years as a locomotive engineman on the New South Wales Government Railways from 1968-77 where he fired steam engines when initially based in Goulburn, then worked on diesels at Port Kembla, he found himself occasionally changing air hoses.
The most traumatic experience was when an air hose broke on the viaduct between Summit Tank and Dombarton. It so happened that the air hose that broke was between the diesel locomotive and the first heavy laden limestone wagon. The diesel was on the edge of the viaduct and there was room to get onto the viaduct and squeeze in between the engine and the wagon with the large spanner and change the wagon's air hose.
In the Footplate Padre's book “Tales of the Footplate” in an article titled “Middle Creek” on page 102 the story relates to an incident at 2.00am when the train was approaching Middle Creek near Ballarat in Victoria in the early '70s. It was a train consisting of 105 wagons, and the air pressure went. The train stopped with half the train on either side of Middle Creek bridge.
The fireman set off from the engine with the large air hose spanner and a spare air hose along with a night lamp. The Middle Creek bridge was very short. There was very little room to get across the bridge due to the wagons' width, not unlike the viaduct (as detailed above). To do so, one needed the agility of a gymnast.
As the fireman edged his way across, he lost balance with the result that the air hose, spanner, night lamp, fireman all ended up 'in the drink'! Having scrambled to the bank with his equipment, he found that the wagon with the busted air hose was one truck from the brake van. One of the cables of the refrigerated van had come loose and sliced the air hose in two.
He secured the loose cable, changed the air hose and made his way back to the diesel locomotive totally soaked and very displeased with the events of the early morning. On his return to the engine the driver, viewing this wet and dripping fireman, remarked that he approved of the fireman washing his hands, but not taking a bath!
Humour has always been part of the railway man's lot. So too God's creation. Just look at us lot. The Lord must enjoy many a good chuckle with some of our antics and indeed well chosen humourous words and incidents.
The church too is full of characters that are blessed with humour and we all like a good joke from the pulpit, especially if it involves the Minister.
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 has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html