Railway Experience, Part 3 – Bushveld Train Safaris

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Bushveld Train Safaris train in Toorwaterpoort

Hello ladies and gentlemen – ruffians too I suppose!

Today I plan on concluding my posts on my railway experience, so this will be the final insert on that subject and I apologize in advance that this post will be longer than usual. I would gladly answer any and all questions you may have about any of the facts in my posts as I’m just skimming the surface. I always love hearing from you!

So, to recap, I ended my last post by explaining that I decided to stop college due to listening to people’s negativity and the fact I was young and to pursue the career of my dreams.

I thought that I would simply step into a job on the railways, starting as a Train Driver’s Assistant – hahaha! It certainly was NOT as easy as that, and certainly not as funny back then!

I was 18 when I left college so my age and no work experience also probably had something to do with the negative feedback and, as I’ve recently learnt, a passion for something not only has the potential to enhance your chances but to have the exact opposite effect!

Sometimes HR can read your Cover Letter in completely the wrong tone! Where you are saying that you’ve always loved trains, have volunteered, have whatever experience and that you would take the job seriously, it can be misconstrued that you love trains so much you’d be concentrating on them instead of the job at hand, or maybe you’re a ‘know it all’ among many other meanings.

For 6 months I sat at home until one day Jimmy’s parents were going on a rail safari with the late Boon Boonzaier’s – Bushveld Train Safaris (BTS) and that they would hand in my C.V. on my behalf to Boon – This was October 2004. It wasn’t a job on the footplate, but, hey, it was on the rails so it would suffice!

When they returned, they had said that they gave it to Boon and that he didn’t need anyone at the moment but would keep it incase later he did. Being young and having no responsibilities at the time, this suited me just fine. I even put it out of my mind. Fast forward to December and my family and I went on vacation to Mpumalanga for a few weeks. Ironically, on the day we decided to take trip on the Oosterlijn Steam Train between Waterval Boven and Waterval Onder, I got a call early in the morning from Piet Slabbart – the train’s Catering Manager – to ask if I was interesting in a catering job on the train. What could be better than to join my passion for trains with my passion for cooking?! I definitely said yes and my first trip was on a 993 Safari to leave Friday, 14 January 2005 from Pretoria Station, Platform 4 (The 993 Safari stood for 9 provinces in 9 days for R3500)!

Man was I excited and little did I know that a bit over two weeks I’d be traversing this same section between Waterval Boven and Waterval Onder but with more modern motive power! Notice also, that I wasn’t interviewed, not knowing much about the working life, this seemed normal!

Well, I wasn’t nervous until the actual day (I’m actually like this with everything, including interviews) and upon arriving there, told the security at the huge gates (now changed to fare gates very similar in design to the Golden Railway) in the station concourse for who I was working, they let me through and I spotted the table where they served coffee, introduced myself to the staff and, not really having anything to do, jumped right in and started making coffee and tea for the passengers. Much later my boss – Piet – came on the scene and introduced himself and weighed me up I suppose. That day we were making for Nylstroom where I had my first taste of hard manual labour – shoo! – and I was just a skinnymalinks at the time! We took over Nylstroom platform and decked the halls – I mean Platform – with tables, chairs and the food warmers. The whole day we had the lambs going on the spit in the converted Guard’s Van which served as our kitchen.

Well, I spent 8 months touring the whole of South Africa, making stop overs like this often and sometimes in the veld – even once being smuggled into and out of Namibia because I forgot my passport – and then I had enough and wanted career growth and to be closer to home and the Gov. among other things. So I resigned and started my new job two weeks later. In future posts I will have one or a few stories to tell about my time at BTS. Sadly, because of politics on the railways at the time BTS came to an end a few months later.

I know I said I wanted to finish up this series with this post, but it looks like I’m going to spread it into at least another blog post – if you made it this far – Well done! I look forward to any and all comments or questions you may have, go well!

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