We continue the journey with Teditor's Tales progressing to the hot bits!

This was an exciting part of my life, not only was I getting to work on my passion, but I was getting paid to fulfil my dreams, at five shillings tuppence halfpenny an hour, I would soon be rich (52 1/2 cents in to-days money).
Something that I learned early in the piece, steam engines, regardless of the weather, have a lot of hot bits to get your attention very quickly.
Steam, one of the main elements of steam locomotion (strange that!), Can be very unforgiving and in this environment, steam was everywhere. A steam burn is a strange phenomena, it basically melts the skin and continues to blister severely, immediate immersion in cold water is essential, steam can escape from a locomotive without warning such as the time I was cleaning out the cab of a 32 class with the locomotives hot water hose.

I had done this very same thing on numerous occasions by now and thought nothing of it. All of a sudden, ka-whoomp!! And steam was gushing out profusely, filling the cab with its obnoxious hot steam and water conditioner stench. Unable to see, recourse was to stay low and head for the gangway. Fortunately, an experienced engineman was nearby and promptly climbed aboard and fumbled his way to (what I learnt later) the shut off cock to one of the gauge glasses. As was brought to my attention on this occasion, not only was escaping steam a hazard, but the shattering of the gauge glass sent fragmented glass missiles flying about the cab. And, as I was also made aware of, was the reason for the half inch thick glass protection cover surrounding the gauge glass.

Was this to be a regular occurrence? Fortunately no! But I did experience it once more whilst on the road, and was able to quickly apprehend the problem myself, still a frightening experience though.

Water in this glass was of course an important asset to the locomotive, as it indicated the level of water available in the boiler, if there were no water showing in the gauge glass, you needed to establish if it was too low, or too high. At the bottom of the gauge glass assembly was a test cock, by opening this carefully, you could tell just what you did have, if you opened it and there was no water bobbing up and down in the gauge glass, it meant the boiler water level was getting dangerously low.

There were two options for this, "run for your life" or "get some water into the boiler by operating the injector" if the steam pressure was too low to operate the injector, resort to action one - "run", or you may have to drop the fire.

On the other hand, if the water level were way up - out of sight, the boiler would be safe from explosion, but it was essential to watch that the engine did not `pick-up' the water if it was moved and prime profusely (this could result in extreme damage to the locomotives rods and/or cylinders, not to mention the runaway potential of a priming locomotive).

Climbing up on the footplate of a locomotive in steam is an experience all its own, `everything' is hot, some touchable, some not, you soon learn where to hang on and what not to touch, leaking joints in steam lines and hot water lines are another hazard, and dripping hot water is extremely uncomfortable, but sometimes you would be in a position that it was almost impossible not to get at least some sort of minor scalding.

I well remember being on the side of a 38 class, waxing away merrily on the glistening green paint, the handrails were hot, the boiler jacket was hot and I was now getting towards the Smokebox. If the engine was to be moved, it was a safety precaution to check around the engine and give the whistle a `pop' to warn any workers on or around the engine that it was going to move. In NSW, the drivers station is on the left hand side of the cab, on the 38's, the whistle is on the right hand side of the smokebox. ~ Yes! - you guessed it, the raucous blast of a 38 class whistle right next to your ear-hole was quite a shock. The first reaction is to cover your ears, then as you start to waver losing balance, the second reaction is to save yourself from a ten foot drop to mother earth, so you grab randomly for a handhold, yep! Guessed it again - grabbed something too hot to hold and immediately let go again - waver, grab - yell! Waver, grab - yell! It seemed like an eternity in what was a matter of agonising, fearful seconds. Did I abuse the culprit, no! By the time I had got my composure back, the guilty had realised what they had done and fled the scene! (Maybe this was another of those initiation thingies, if you survived, you passed?).

The old 19 class 0-6-0 shunting engines were of a British design and had inside cylinders and motion. It was necessary to climb up in amongst this maze of axles, rods and counterweights to clean and lubricate the moving parts. Locomotives would have a warning flag placed on them as well as wooden chocks placed under the wheels, all very reassuring when squeezed up into the confines of inner hell trying to confidently do your job.

As well as the ever present hazard of becoming instant valve motion fodder, there was our old friend back again - drip! drip!, hot water and steam everywhere.

If heat was such an ever present problem, why would you want to get into the firebox of a steam locomotive? For the fitters, it was a necessity to strip the brick-arch and rebuild it or replace burnt fire bed grates, but the locomotive would have the fire dropped and stand for some considerable time before any work was undertaken. For the Junior Trainee Engineman, the firebox of a gargantuan Garratt was the ideal place to hide during quiet periods or if you got ahead with your work. Looking back, the lounge room size firebox would not have the same appeal today, even if it had a TV in it.

There were some characters amongst the `cleaners', Malcolm was a biker and raced his Ducati on weekends, Peter was a Bikey and raced down booze of a weekend. Mal was a nice enough guy and I never had a great deal to do with him. Big Pete was built like a Gorilla and was really a gentle giant, until the toxins in his preferred ales took hold, then he became a vociferous loudmouth that was almost uncontrollable. I never socialised with him, but did meet him at the speedway one Saturday night, I was in a suit with a neat tie and polished shoes having come from another engagement, Big Pete was in the traditional leather jacket, jeans and boots with cans in both hands and Sheila's on both arms - Hey Teddy, come and join the gang, I felt like the outcast in Easyrider but couldn't have been treated better. Pete remembered nothing on Monday!

More to come in Part 5 as I finally 'get out on the road'