This is a story from the Footplate Padre's book titled 'Steam Stories'. This article was titled “War Time Load” on page 12.
On this occasion, between Mount Barker and Albany, a 32 mile section, this particular freight a train was heading towards Narrikup when the brakes proved to be considerably less effective than they should have been – even considering with excessive loading.
The fireman on this occasion was actually doing the driving and the driver was engaged in the firing! The fireman was a singer – country and western to be exact! He inevitably bought his guitar onto the footplate and would sing along as the train rolled through the southern districts of Western Australia.
As the brakes on the train showed themselves to be poorly, the fireman who was driving didn't realise how series the situation was, and continued singing along without a blink of his eyelid!
The driver, alert to the situation, called attention to the fireman. The driver not at his controls but doing the firing, immediately commenced screwing on the engine hand brake. The guard at the back of the train in the guard's van (guard's van were the norm until the 90s), was also alert to the situation and he too urgently screwed on the guard van's handbrake.
They ran straight through Narrikup with the engine and guard's hand brakes brakes on – without any effect upon the speed of the train. Only a few of the wagon's brakes were on.
What they found later, to their amazement was that someone had jammed a bale of wool between two wagons, one of which had pressed down on the air tap and closed it, thus not allowing the air pressure throughout the train to operate the brakes.
The train therefore only had a few brakes on at the front half of the train along with the guard's van hand brake.
The Footplate Padre says of this that there are occasions things that happen around us have far wider implications than we first imagined. The consequences often affect long term relationships with a host of people, not least those we love most.
Look at David and Bathsheba, it cost Uriah his life, the life of the baby and affected the nation (ie things that happened around them).
When someone walks out of a marriage, it affects not just the couple, but loved ones, friends, work, well-being, relocation, finances.
Or when someone comes to repentance and becomes a follower of Christ, that also affects a whole range of people in a whole lot of different ways, some become objectionable, whereas others rejoice with the love of Jesus!
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