Train Driving Instructor – Part 2: Week One of Practical Training

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Good day readers and friends!

Last week Wednesday, the Facilitator called in the Trainer Drivers to explain the expected outcomes and give us necessary documents we would be using as well as signing a Declaration of Understanding.

The previous Friday was the last day of Practical and Simulator assessments and due to Bronky – the Trainee – passing, we went up to the Roster Planning Office to discuss the shifts I wanted to use for her practical training. After this, I left her with strict instructions to relax over the weekend but to mentally prepare herself. She was also given the Journals for the following (this) week.

Our week went thus:

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Monday: I decided to start the training on a relaxed note, so took the shift that starts as the Southbound Sweeper Train. Because the train must be driven at a slower pace, it gives a trainee a feel for what a real train feels- and sounds like (as opposed to the simulator). Later in the day, we also stabled a train – bringing it in from the North. We received a Call-On signal. This was on the General Commuter Line.

Tuesday: This day saw us on the Airport Link. Recently, the Golden Railway added an Express Service which goes directly from point to point. This is to cater for the earlier and later flights and runs daily before the normal ‘all-stops’ service. I was happy because it rained quite heavily, so Bronky had excellent practice stopping the train over slippery rails. I chose the same shift for Wednesday.

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Wednesday: We did the same shift as the previous day. It was, however, sunny, pleasant weather. Bronky was really getting into the driving of the train and adapted well. She also showed improvement in use of the Mobile and Portable Radios when speaking to the Conductor and Control.

Thursday: We returned to the General Commuter Line. The three previous shifts were Early Morning Shift, but, on this day, we did a Middle Shift which would end early evening. The shift I chose started with Disposal, so we ‘spoiled’ a few Drivers by filling our Disposal with trips. We prepared a 4 Car Train and took it North. Then we took another train South and back. Lastly, we did a short trip to Hatfield and back before starting with the trips on our Journal. We ended the day by stabling an 8 Car Train from the Northern side of the Depot. We received a ‘two yellow at 45’ aspect. A moment of pride must have been shared between father and daughter as, after the Luxurious Blue Train entered PRASA Pretoria Station Platform 4 (Driven by my friend Jaco Holtzhausen), her father departed for PRASA Johannesburg Station with his trusty 5M2A and we for Hatfield in our sleek Electrostar. For a short moment our trains were side by side before splitting North and South, friendly toots all around!

Friday: Before starting our shift, I paid a visit to the Roster Planning Office to request the shifts I required for the coming week. We did a late afternoon shift, which ends late evening. This shift entails using different route codes (so that the last trains do not tell passengers to disembark and change trains for the Airport Link) and also waiting for Customer Service Staff at each station – it is one of the shifts where you are the ‘last (wo)man standing!’ As I had hoped for at least once this week, we had a minor Degraded Mode. Control temporarily lost interlocking on the Airport Link. This not only causes delays on that line but on the General Commuter Line too, as the two lines share a section of track between the Portal and Sandton. I was then able to demonstrate to Bronky how conditions change and signals one would normally expect to be at Proceed are actually at Danger. I was once taught that no two days are the same on a railway and this rang ever true for us, especially on this day. A Train Driver must be proactive, not reactive, to ever changing conditions. We brought the train in from the southern end of the depot, and since we were one of the last trains (one more still had to return from the Airport Link), we received a Call-On signal. After stopping at the correct stabling track, we were asked by Control to Shutdown and Stable the train. We left the first week’s Weekly Activity Report at the Facilitator’s office and went home – royally tired!

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It just so happens that I am weekend off this week, so after last night’s shift and a great week of learning, we can relax (Bronky is off when I am off). It truly was a learning curve for both of us.

This coming week, I look to smooth any rough edges and then Bronky can do her final Practical Assessment on Friday.

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