Written by K. Young for Pichi Richi Patter Volume 15, Number 2 Summer 1988 On his experience on the footplate of a steam loco on PRRPS train
My fascination with steam railway engines goes back to when my age was known by a single numeral, and it certainly has not diminished since! Although my early employment as a railway clerk was not really likely to add to my knowledge of steam locos, neither did my subsequent activities bring me any closer to my childhood passion. Even as a P.R.R. volunteer in the Society's early days, my activities were centred around restoration rather than train activity. Then came the pleasant task of Car Captaining, and following various questions about our operations from passengers over the years 1 felt some first hand knowledge would be an advantage. A cab ride could be just the thing!
Recently, T186 became my introduction to this eye-opening experience. Cab riders earn their privilege by commencing work at 6.30am to clean the loco; my starting time was rostered as 8.30am! (A fact, as suggested by driver Geoff Horne, that was varied due to my ''age"! Sorry Geoff, retirement is still a long way off for me yet.)
I did arrive earlier than the 8.30 listed, and under the watchful eye of Bryan Homann of the light-up team 1 cleaned T186's legs 'n' feet, with the oil and kero shandy.
Even the shunt movement to take water was an exciting experience. I had a vague idea of a steam engine's operation, and knew it was nothing like a car, but 1 suddenly realised it is not just two people doing different jobs on the footplate, but a real team effort. Although the fireman on an oil-fired loco such as T186 can sit down instead of shovelling coal Chris Carpenter's task was just as important as what Geoff had to do as driver.
As we moved around the triangle, and then reversed back onto the train, I had a sensation of impending potential. Here was a machine, prepared to take on the task of repeating a process it had done countless times before in its nearly 80 years, with today's task having the additional feature of bringing enjoyment and pleasure to the passengers. Would it meet the challenge? 1 was sure it could, but not on its own; human guidance had to play a major part of it - no computers in this job!
It was while we were climbing up into the Pass that I felt just how much like a human a steam engine is. The repetitive noises of the wheels and rods, the panting of the compressor after having done some work, the chuffing of the exhaust, just as though it was breathing - fast and energetic when at speed, slow and laboured when working hard. The driving wheels in unison, like a person marching along swinging his arms. 1 guess this is part of the fascination which still attracts young and old alike. Even after a long haul (up to the Summit with a big load) it had to wait a while to get its breath back before continuing.
I half expected the ride to be something like that of a section car, but although not as smooth as in a carriage, I was pleasantly surprised as to Its evenness. The weird part occurs when you have one foot on the foot plate and the other on the tender. You don't feel in unison then! I could still feel the 1/2 up, I down sensation for at least half a day after the ride - a not unpleasant sensation I might add. After arriving at Woolshed Flat Doctor Geoff decreed that his charge needed some ''medicine" to improve its performance, so he arranged with Nurse Chris to administer a couple of shovels of sand into the firebox, just as he set the regulator to "open wide". Just like a child, T186 shuddered and shook, stamped its feet, made loud noises, and belched forth (black smoke this time), but then settled down to an improved performance.
On the return to Quorn, as I took in the finer points of a loco's operation, plus lungs full of delightful sweet spring air (the wind was brisk in the Pass and was almost pushing the smoke ahead of the train!) I realised you don't really drive a steam engine, you control it, and like all machines, when they are operated with a sense of feeling, as in this case, they really do the Job they were designed for.
Thanks Geoff and Chris, for an unforgettable experience. I now feel I can tell future passengers a much more realistic story of the
Kevin Young taking a few minutes rest from duty of Conductor on the Pichi Richi Railway.
Photos: Daniel Nankivell
It was during the September/October school holidays , when volunteer strength was at a very low level, that unusual work gangs were busy doing jobs that under normal circumstances they wouldn't probably dream of doing.
One such job was the concrete floor to the new battery shed, so in taking a break from working on one of their ten train runs, youthful new members, under the careful guidance of Roland Earl and Kevin Young, were fast gaining some expertise as mixers, transporters, and partial levellers of the said concrete. Greg Oswald, Ben Phipps and jenni Shaw first came to Pichi Richi Railway as members of the Ist Flinders Park Scout Troop on their annual visit. They liked what they saw and did, and became PRR members themselves, so as well as filling a big gap in ontrain duties, they gained a new and healthy respect for any concrete or cement they see.
Unfortunately, due to rain squalls that night, plus a temporary absence of any ridge capping, the floor of the shed became a little pock-marked, but it will still serve its purpose, as Roland was quick to point out. If you poke you head inside to inspect the floor at some future time, please remember, It is not the value of the article, but the thought behind it that counts!' So, in an organisation such as ours, one never knows their true capability until confronted with a task with no one else to do it.