Finally, some on the road action as a fireman, the story continues as Teditor's Tales become a train trip to torture (not really, but it sort of rhymes!)

Being a Junior Trainee Engineman not only entailed cleaning locomotives; but you learned the art of filling the tenders with water and coal and some rudimentary driving skills. Of course, we also had the opportunity to play fireman and put on a fire from time to time, including the art of `lighting up'.
Lighting up a steam locomotive from cold is an interesting exercise, you have to check the water level in the boiler (the engine should have been left with a full boiler). Coal along with kindling would be placed in the firebox and a mixture of the trusty old black ­oil and sawdust would be placed on the shovel and lit, then this shovel load of fire would be placed in on top of the aforementioned combustibles. Continual monitoring, of the fire would be necessary and additional sawdust/oil mix would be placed on top of the burning heap until the coal took hold.

At this stage, smoke becomes quite a problem as it rolls out of the firebox, not only from the smoke stack, but also out of the fire hole door, filling the cab until smoke curls up under the roof of the cab and filters out around the locos cab roof. This will continue until some steam is raised in sufficient quantity to activate the blower (the blower creates a draft through the firebox, into the flues and out the smokebox, taking the smoke with it):

It takes many hours to get things going, but once the blower comes into effect, everything starts to take off, air compressors can be turned on, dynamo's will work, injectors come into play and the whole process of looking after the locomotive settles down to routine checking and top up of fire and water.

Finally the day comes, the first outing on a steam locomotive under the guidance of an inspector, the chance to see if you are going to cut it as a fireman. Pretending to be a fireman on a fast express whilst in the depot is one thing, but being on a rocking footplate and attempting to perform the same herculean feats is another.

Memory is vague on my initial outings, but as best I can remember, it was on a ubiquitous "P", or 32 class and the inspector was one Harold Fowler. Now Harold was a nice enough bloke, but he had a reputation that preceded him and he was not short in telling me that I was pretty slow and would have to shake it up if I wanted to become a full fledged fireman. After several trips and much confirmation of my slowness, Harold decided to let me loose, figuring my enthusiasm and love of the job would nurture my talents and get me through.

Most of the early period as an `acting fireman' was spent on exciting jobs such as the Alexandria shunter, Darling Harbour shunter, Darling Island shunter or Sydney Yard shunters. The latter generally on 'S' class (30 class) tank engines of the 4-6-4 wheel arrangement or one of the two 79 class 44 ton diesels that shunted the two carriage sheds.

One could be excused for thinking that these shunt jobs would be lacking in excitement, but imagine if you will, the bucking, rolling, jumping, surging motions of a near 100 year old 0-6-0 19 class (Z class) shunting engine scurrying around banging goods trucks together over the period of an eight hour (or longer) shift, and the boredom was soon overcome by a survival instinct.
One could be excused for thinking that these shunt jobs would be lacking in excitement, but imagine if you will, the bucking, rolling, jumping, surging motions of a near 100 year old 0-6-0 19 class (Z class) shunting engine scurrying around banging goods trucks together over the period of an eight hour (or longer) shift, and the boredom was soon overcome by a survival instinct.

Nothing is worse than lining up the bat (shovel) with the firebox door, making the graceful arched swing to execute a perfect manoeuvre – and – whump, ‘A over head’ as you hit hard up against a string of wagons, coal everywhere but in the firebox, try to regain your stance, step on a large lump of coal and promptly get deposited onto the tender shovelling plate, pick yourself up – then the loco changes directions, out goes the slack and back onto the shovelling plate goes you!

These little engines performed sterling duty, I was always amazed at just how much they could lug around. When shunters gave the ‘hit-up’ signal (rapidly waving hand motions) and the six small driving wheels dug in, with sand aiding almost non-existent adhesion, exhaust barking and momentum rapidly picking up to ‘kick’ the wagons into the yard. Up goes the shunters hands in a stop motion, on goes the Westinghouse, and the little 19 class grinds to a halt as the wagons continue on their merry way.

Darling Harbour was a gravity yard, here, all we had to do was run the slack in so the shunters could uncouple the wagons and the grade did the rest. Of course, when we had to drag strings of wagons ‘up’ the yard, the going was just that bit tougher. Darling Harbour was a major yard, with the markets, dairies, truck transfers and a myriad of other commercial connections. There were at least three (maybe four) 19 class engines based here most of the time. They would be changed over every couple of days for a fresh engine. Coal would have to last through the engines term on duty, while water and sand could be replenished on site. Through quiet times, the fire would be banked, boiler filled and the engine stabled for the period not required. Sometimes you might get a bit of shut eye, some times in the amenities block, oft times on the loco.

Improvisation was the name of the game, the 19 class had a small lift up round wooden seat, it was possible to wedge a shovel in under the seat to the tender, place your kit bag with some cotton waste at your head and get some rather uncomfortable kip. Of course, if you were the restless type that rolled around in your sleep, you were in trouble.

Two jobs in particular etch in my mind with regard to 19 class shunting duties and Darling Harbour. There was a unique double deck truck/train transfer shed on one side of the yard, nestled next to a brick retaining wall. Access for trains was via a roller coaster ride up a steep grade of single track that split part way up the grade to two tracks for access to the two top shed tracks (let’s talk more about this one next month). The other was banking duty out of the top yard.

Trains leaving Darling Harbour via Sydney Passenger Terminal had to traverse a gantlet track under Cleveland Street, this would then open back up to double track for a short but ‘very’ steep climb up to the connection with the main line. Our job, “should we wish to accept it”, actually there was no choice, was to push the mainline goods trains out of the yard, through the “gantlet tunnel” and up the short, steep grade where we would shut off just prior to cresting the hill and let the train continue. (Ah, getting excited weren’t you? Well, we will take a closer look at this operation next month also).