Railway Experience, Part 1 – SANRASM

Hey guys and gals!

Picking up from where we left in my last post, here is my story detailing how I got my experience in the Rail Industry. Dear reader, I would very much love to hear how you got started in your career if you are a Railway-person, volunteer or otherwise!

It all started on a dark and stormy night, long, long ago…….. well, not really!

If you remember, I said that until 13 I thought I was alone in this wonderful world of trains. Besides meeting my new mate at school whose father had the same magazine as I, my parents found an advert in our community news paper – the Roodepoort Record – of an Open Day at the South African National Railway and Steam Museum (SANRASM) near Krugersdorp (Now Mogale City) who used Harmony Gold Mine’s (ex – Rand Estate Goldmine, REGM) tracks. I had been there with my family when I was much younger and we had a faint memory of it, so it was decided that we would enjoy a day out picnicking at their Open Day.

The way there had changed since my younger days because the original site, later to be known a the North Site, had been cut off from the mine’s network by the realignment of the Krugersdorp – Mafikeng line. So a new site was quickly built – the South Site, the access road also changing.

We eventually found our way there and proceeded to enjoy a day out. Since the time of meeting my new friend at school, I quickly learnt to share my passion for trains with others. Most of the time this was frowned upon but I got to speaking to the Guard and, later, a dear friend – Jack Dovey. Upon hearing my interest in trains, and seeing I had become a regular, he invited me to become a member of the Museum, and he became my first mentor. He taught me about wheel arrangements and how to read them, stories of how his father – a farmer – and he would go to the station to drop off meat for the SAR’s trains and how he would go up to see the engines and the crews.

Jack, an Advocate, often said to me that if he could live his life over, he would’ve ignored his parents wishes and pursued a life on the railway. This only strengthened my resolve to become a Train Driver. As the Open Days came an went, I would tag along behind Jack, first as a Ticket Examiner and then Trainee Guard (Conductor). Around 14, I earned his trust and started taking on the duties.

The Train would typically be made up of a loco – either 6A #454 or 14R #1909 and two Guards Vans bracketing a Dining Car and sometimes an additional coach. Just outside the site was a loop which we would use on our return to run the loco around the train to push the train back into the site. We would lope along for 13kms until there was a loop in the track. Here the loco would uncouple and run around the train. While uncoupling, Jack and I would apply the Handbrakes on both Guards Vans and then ask any passengers if they wanted their coins flattened by the loco. The loco ran around, squashing many a coin and coupled up again. We released the Handbrakes and off we went back to the loop just outside the South Site mentioned earlier. We ran 4 to 5 trips like this every Open Day.

We also used to run REGM Rambles which would go around he whole mine complex, these were great as you spent the whole day out and going quite a distance. The trains were also longer so the loco – usually 1909 – worked harder.

It was also at SANRASM that I met another friend of mine and now best friend, James Lee Attwell. He’s father was a fireman. They used to offer to fetch me early in the morning and drop me in the afternoon again on Open Days/REGM Rambles. Jack started becoming scarce, solidifying my friendship with James. It was this waking up early in the morning that prepared me for my career. This, coupled to Jack’s stories and words of wisdom made me fall even more in love with the idea of being a Railwayman.

I don’t want to keep you too long, so in my next post, I will carry on the story 🙂
Thanks for reading and don’t be shy to comment/ask questions.

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