Train Driving Instructor – Part 3: The Final Week

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Good day readers!

Last week, we covered the first half of training with my Trainee – Bronky. This is what happened during the second half of her Practical Training.

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Monday: We started this week back on early morning shift and with a return to the Airport Link for a final Refresher before her Practical Assessment on Friday. I remember from when I was a new Train Driver that even over a short break of two days one tends to forget a few things. I remember that I was happy after coming back from Rest Days to return to a shorter Line and, after the first trip, everything returning to memory. In fact, I will even say as an experienced Train Driver that coming back from a longer break, such as Annual Leave, it’s good to return to a shorter line. But now I digress and will speak in a later blog post about breaks from work and how to prepare yourself for your return. We ended the day by stabling a train from the southern end of the Depot.

Tuesday: We made a return to the General Commuter Line where we would spend the rest of the week. It being a longer line I wanted to smooth any rough edges. Despite what it looks like – there is a lot to take in as a Train Driver. Remember that a train is nothing like a car, it’s a lot heavier! The Golden Railway is also a Rapid Rail Link, so with speed, there comes the need for quick reflexes on the Train Driver’s part. One’s goal on this railway should always be to get passengers to their station safely and on time. Even a single second delayed reaction to conditions and the way the train is driven changes – in extreme circumstances, this can mean that one even passes a platform (has a platform overrun) in terms of a passenger train.

Wednesday: Admittedly, I had a fault in my planning of shifts this week. On this day, the first Trainee was to be Practically Assessed, I also looked at my Journal in dismay to notice that, besides the first journey which was the Southbound Sweeper, there were going to be no long journeys – not ideal for training! Now, you may be asking what does the Practical Assessment of one of the other trainees have to do with our shift. Well, they get tested on the Southbound Sweeper – so there were no long trips at all for Bronky. Once we returned north, we managed to swap a long trip with another Train Driver – let’s call him by his nickname, Smindlos – who kindly swapped Journals with us so that we could get in at least one long journey for the day. We stabled a train from the Northern End of the Depot. I had planned that her final two days with me, we use this Journal as practice but was disappointed with the day, so, upon arrival at the Depot, we went up again to the Roster Clerk to change the next day’s shift.

Thursday: I was very happy with our Journal on this day because we only had long trips! A second Trainee was Assessed and passed. The day went well but ended on the sobering thought that, after Bronky’s final Practical Assessment the next day, it would be a while before we travelled with each other again (believe it or not, there are some cases where you don’t see certain colleagues for more than a month!). Sometimes you only see colleagues in passing. I was satisfied with her Train Handling skills and Route Knowledge.

Friday: The Final Practical Assessment took place on this day. Through some judicious swapping of shifts, I was able to be booked on the Sweeper South – the train Bronky would be assessed on. I, of course, am not allowed to travel in the Driving Cab while Bronky is being assessed, so I sat among the passengers on my first trip. We arrived at Pretoria and this is where we split for the day. I was to take the next train to Hatfield an she to Midrand, where her assessment would end. About an hour later, I received the good news from her that she had been found competent and had passed her practical assessment. Unbeknown to her, I ordered a cake for her from another Train Driver who is, I must say, quite the Cake Boss! I got the idea to reward/congratulate trainees on passing from Bennie, who used to throw a braai (grill/BBQ) after a trainee, at the then Spoornet, passed their practical assessment. Now you may ask, how did I know she was to pass? I will answer your question with a question: ‘Do you think I can let a person I’ve been training go for assessment if I can see they’re not ready?’ 😁 I hope to do the same for any other trainees I might get later this year by the way!

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I’m please to see her name finally on the Train Driver’s Roster and wish her all the success in her career! She is on the General Commuter Line and I on the Airport Link for today (Saturday).

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