Railway anecdotes

  BertR Station Master

Thought it was about time to start a thread for those that either worked or still work for Tasrail or it's previous incarnations to post some memories before that history is lost. Anyone that is a member of the Tasmanian Railway Group on Facebook has probably seen these stories before and to those I apologise, for those that aren't some of these recollections will appear so ridiculous that they can't be true but I swear they are. Unless I speak in the first person the tales that follow will be what was told to me during my time there. Please forgive the spelling and grammatical errors. So to kick it off.........

One night sitting in front of the fire at WJ there was a blood curdling scream from the signal office. There's a flurry of arms and legs, as there was a charge by half a dozen blokes in that direction, exchanging nervous glances and WTF was going on looks, then we found out.....but let me back track a bit. Little mate and me along with the guard left Launceston with 3 X's, a couple of vans of roadside and the guards van to head to WJ to get the rest of the train, only to arrive and find that 90 (at least I think it was) was surprise surprise late. The ASM told us to draw up near the western plat and shut the loco's down, which we duly did. Grabbing our crib bags we retired to the station for a warm and cuppa. Asking how long we would be waiting the ASM said "it's going to be a toss up who's going to be ready to go first", (5 currently shunting at WJ and 90 doing the same at Conara). Someone asked the question whether they were going to cross at Powranna and got the reply "nope, both too long" not that it bothered us either way. Turns out 5 was ready first and headed off to Conara so we made ourselves comfy for the next couple of hours. After half an hour do little mate starts to get a little bit restless and with that evil little grin on his face he heads out the door. I thought to myself  "look out, somethings brewing" meanwhile making a mental note to check anything and everything before I touch it, sit on it or go anywhere near it. A bit later he ambles back in with that grin of his wider than when he went out, he's definitely upto something.... After a while the ASM comes in and says off to do something or other and disappears out the door. 10 seconds later little mate is up and his legs are just a blur as he shoots out the door behind the ASM. A minute or so later he's back and the grin is even bigger "OH FEK, What's he been doing?" goes through my mind. The ASM returns and goes back to what he was doing and a couple of minutes later the scream mentioned at the start of this ramble. Ok, now for the sequence of events. Some of you that have read this far and not fallen asleep will remember he disappeared for a while. He did have skullduggery on his mind but not being able to find anything to booby trap decided to go for a wander. Walking past the tree that used to be near the coal bunker he heard a rustling in the branches so went to investigate and came face to face with a young ringtail possum. He hatched an evil little plan on the spot, scruffed the poor bloody thing and stuffed it inside his overalls (I've never been able to figure out how he wasn't  ripped to shreds) and returned to where the rest of us were. Sat there chatting away with us with this poor bloody thing inside his overalls while he waited to put part 2 into operation. As soon as the ASM stepped out, part 2 done. Part 3 involved the ASM sitting back down at the console and doing some paper but kept hearing a scratching and rustling coming from the desk. Possibly thinking he was hearing things ignored it for a while but it kept going and occasionally got louder. Meanwhile we're in the other room with little mate having that evil little grin on his face with a mixed look of anticipation. He didn't have long to wait. Back to our ASM in the other room, finally got sick of this noise coming from the desk and started opening drawers (probably expecting a mouse or something) opened one of the draws, out shot this bloody possum landing on his chest, then came the scream, the mad rush to investigate and find a very pale and shaken ASM with a quite calm looking possum sitting on his chest both staring at each other eye ball to eye ball and 5 very shocked blokes looking on. Little mate calmly walked over, gave the possum a scratch behind the ear, picked it up and returned it to where he found it while the other 5 collapsed in hysterics. When we finally left the ASM was still shaking and from that time on when little mate was in the building, if he left the office he locked the door

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  DRR_Fireman Deputy Commissioner

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I've heard that one from blokes still on the job. Bring them on Bert, the more the better! There has been plenty written on the experiences of railwaymen in the other states but bugger all on Tasmania so I'd love to hear more!
  BertR Station Master

Here we go with another....
An anecdote from before my time. At WJ there were 2 shunters, we'll call them shunter 1 and shunter 2 who had been at war since the day they met (a case of hate at first sight?) I don't know what set things off but one night the ASM heard a scream from the direction of the old signal box (it had been decommisioned but was still on site). On going to investigate he could see an arm waving in the air about 10 feet above the line and hear a very shrill voice screaming "DON'T DO IT!!" on looking closer he could see shunter 1 had hold of shunter 2's ankles out of the window of the old signal box, if he let go the only thing that would stop shunter 2 was the ground, a long way below him. Very calmly, under the circumstances, the ASM approached shunter 1 and said "for christs sake don't drop him or I'll be writing for a month". Whatever was said had the desired effect and shunter 2 was withdrawn from his predicament. I've been told it was even worse when they worked together putting a long train together. Before the days of radio's if shunting around corners and the crew couldn't see the end of the string or shunter closest to where things needed coupling or uncoupling the shunters would line up and relay the lamp or hand signals to the crew. The crew would get a green light waved slowly from side to side signalling ease up then all of a sudden a red light would appear from the distance bouncing up and down at a rapid rate as if someone was running (which indeed was the case). What would happen and happened quite a few times, was that S1 (I'll abbreviate from now on) would be waiting for the trucks to come back and couple them on but S2 had set the points for the wrong road, more than likely a couple of times (you have 4 possible roads, have to get it eventually, right?) so S1 would charge down the yard with steam coming out of his ears ready to knock S2 into the middle of next week (something he was more than capable off), the crew would see signal lamps go sailing over the fence and wait until S1 either ran completely out of puff or caught S2, things settled down and back to work.'Til next time.....
  BertR Station Master

These are copies of memories that I've posted on a Facebook groups page so if you see references to previous ramblings just ignore them for the time being.....I'll get caught up. Anyhoo....
As I've mentioned in a previous ramble I started out as a fettler before transferring to loco. In the summer of my first year the gang I was in was going to lose one of our Dynas for a considerable period of time (engine and transmission overhaul or something) so we had to resurrect the gang motor. This thing had been parked for gawd knows how long and was a bit sore and sorry. Over a couple of days we ressurected the beast and were good to go, or so we thought. Brakes were locked solid, get that sorted and NOW we're good to go. Being summer I volunteered to give up my seat in the truck and hitch a ride on the rattler (quite relaxing when you get used to the bumpy ride) Because the Wisconsin motor was just a tad down on horsies we'd be sent out 15 minutes or so earlier than the blokes in the truck to get to the job site at roughly the same time. No heading off earlier at knock off time, we'd leave at the same time and by the time we got back to Conara the other blokes along with the truck had disappeared, plus we still had to put the motor away and fuel the bloody thing. Went on like this for a couple of weeks and we on the motor were getting a bit fed up with the situation, so trying to get a few more KPH out of this thing started to have a play. During the lunch break there'd be a couple of us tinkering away fiddling with this and that getting little improvements all the time. Then the day came when we decided to disconnect the govenor (not exactly knowing what would happen and there are a couple of blokes sitting right above the engine) fired it up and gave it a few squirts on the throttle. It sounded like it was reving more and more importantly the motor stayed in one piece. So pack up time arrives and we load up for the return and maiden voyage of our modified little beast. FEKKIN HELL!!!, it took off like a scalded cat and everyone was hanging on for dear life. Dunno what our top speed was but I swear we went round a couple of curves on two wheels. After one of the most nerve wracking rides of my life we arrived at Conara to see the vehicles of the blokes that would usually be gone still there. We put the beast away and by the time we'd stopped shakeing and got some colour back into our faces the other half turned up not believing thier eyes. Marvellous what a bit of tinkering could do.
  BertR Station Master

Time for another me thinks.......
As I mentioned last time we had souped the gang motor up some what and were having some quick and hair raising trips backwards and forewards. One afternoon we had a new bloke along for the ride back to Conara who as it happened was very ticklish (don't ask me how we found this out because I haven't got a clue...probably a good thing). We're barreling along at our usual breakneck speed with me half asleep leaning against the fuel tank at the back( all of the regular riders got used to the speed, that's something you won't see everyday. Speed and gang motor in the same sentence) Anyway back to the story, we had just gone past the 4 mile bridge (I worked with /the special gang on the Fingal line) and we're going at a rapid rate of knots and still picking up speed (slightly down hill on that bit) when the ganger who was sitting at the front reached around behind our newbie, who by this time was smeg himself to give me a shake and ask or tell me something. His arm touched newbie who as I previously mentioned was ticklish (big time), so what did newbie do? He BAILED OFF!!!!. I don't know how fast we were going (probably a good thing) but I came out of my blissful little nap in time to hear a squark and see the newbie disappear as he jumped. I looked back as the ganger and me both yelled "FOR CHRIST'S SAKE STOP!!!!" to see a tangle of arms and legs bouncing along before disappearing into a drain. We stopped and before the beast could be reversed we jumped off and tore back, fully expecting to find this bloke gone the way of the dodo. So we get to the drain and very cautiously approached the body, that wasn't moving. We looked at each other and both asked the question "Fek is he dead?", answer "smeg, I don't know" The boss says to me "well go and check him out" me says "you're the boss, YOU fekkin check him out". Just as this exchange took place our newbie groaned and stood up. By this time the motor had reversed and the rest of the blokes along with me and the boss heaved a huge sigh of relief. After the questions about feeling ok and checking out where he'd lost some bark we loaded up and continued on to Conara, at a slower pace and very shaken. The ganger along with the track supervisor and our ticklish friend were filling out paperwork when the rest of us headed home. Next morning, no newbie (hardly surprising) but he'd snatched it then and there. His parting words apparently were "Those blokes are fekking dangerous and I'm gone". Maybe he was right?
  BertR Station Master

Been a bit slack putting these up but here goes....
We had almost finished relaying the Llewelyn bank and while the rest of the crew were up the top end inserting the remainder of the sleepers, putting the base plates in and drilling the holes for the dogs, four of us started driving the dogs. This involved the the rocket towing a heavy duty compressor with one man per rail armed with a jackhammer and another with a crowbar lifting the sleeper with plate up snug against the rail foot. This involved moving the compressor out as far as the air lines would would reach, drive the dogs and repeat. We'd done this 3 or 4 times and just got set up to start again  when a yell of "LOOK OUT!!" rang out. we looked up to see compressor and rocket starting to roll back towards us. Someone yelled out "DON"T JUST STAND THERE....STOP THE FEKKIN THING!!" but being dumbstruck morons all we could do was look at this thing coming towards us at an increasing rate of knots. We 2 that were on the jackhammers threw them away and made a mad dive out of the way, the 2 blokes on the crowbars weren't much use either being close to retirement age and for the most part only hobbling along. So the setup trundles past with 2 of us on the ground and the other 2 incapable of making the leap to put the brakes on, got to the extent of the air hoses then the jackhammers disappear bouncing merrily along behind. After a shortish distance the couplings on the air lines parted and could hear the roar as the air escaped, the air pressure dropped, compressor kicks in engine revs go up and we can hear this thing fading away into the distance. A major argument errupted as to who was going to explain that we'd lost our compressor. Wasn't me, thank fek, as being a junior technically I wasn't supposed to operate any of this gear. Anyhoo the boss arrives with steam coming out of his ears, tears strips off us and heads off to find the errant compressor and gang motor. All of us thought it would be on it's side at the first bend but no, it was finally located between Hanleth and Eastbourne with the compressor engine running flat out and air roaring out of the valves. We found the jackhammers and after walking the track from where it took off to where it stopped we never did find the hoses. After that little episode someone had to sit on the rocket at all times.

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