Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Hardest Job.....

.....Or so I was told. Its now been a little over a year since I took on the organising of local operations rosters for ARHS ACT and to be quite frank, it hasn't been the poison chalice it was initially made out to be. In fact, its been quite bearable for the most part, however thats not to say it hasn't presented some challenges. Ringing half a dozen people trying to find a crew a day before a run is not pleasant, nor is trying to rearrange a roster after Driver A has found himself suspended. Such instances are thankfully rare, so by far the most difficult part is trying to keep everyone happy. You see, being a volunteer organisation, people have got involved because they've an interest in trains or railways and see an opportunity. So they go through the training (Another story in itself) and get themselves qualified......and then come to me.

For a train to Bungendore, I need a crew of three- Driver, Fireman\Observer, Guard. So thats three to get from a pool of around 30. Admittedly, not all of those 30 are going to be available on the day and some are only qualified for one of the three roles on offer, so after taking all that in to account, you're generally left with 4 or 5 people lining up for roster. This is where the real fun begins (I stress that this is scenario I've made up):

Person A is only qualified as a driver and has driven the past 2 trains.

Person B is qualified for all three positions, is a mentor\assessor and has worked as a guard on his last 3 rosters, giving training and instruction to trainees on 2 of them.

Person C is only qualified as an observer, works for the railways and is rarely available.

Person D is qualified as a Guard but wants to be and has undergone ground instruction as an observer but hasn't done any other roster in 4 months

Person E is a qualified guard and is one of the hardest working, most reliable members of the operations team, however, he has made himself available only if there is no one else.

So, what to do? Whilst you always try for the most balanced solution, it must always be remembered that you can't keep everyone happy all the time. In this particular example, I'd probably end up with the following crew:

Driver: Person B

Observer: Person C

Guard: Person D

My reasoning: Person B has been giving a lot back to the organisation through his training efforts, hence he deserves a break and a drive (Carrot instead of more stick). Person C, although not available for operations most of the time, is a good, reliable worker in other areas of the organisation. Person D is qualified as a guard and hence, there is someone else available meaning Person E can have the day off.

Now out of all that chances are there’s is going to be at least one person unhappy with the roster (In this case, most likely to be Person D, as he is not being advanced when he sees that there’s an opportunity), hence my comment above.

So there you have it. The mysteries of the roster revealed.....not really, but it gives you idea of what really goes on with heritage train doesn't really do that either!

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Yes, congratulations indeed to the person who sent me a message within 2 hours of the blog going up telling me, and I quote, “I know who you are- Don’t try hiding it”. Now, since this person isn’t considered a friend or colleague, I can quite safely say that the person in question is wasting his time trawling the internet- Scotland Yard has far too many unsolved homicides that need your urgent detective attention. What gave me away? The link on my Railpage signature? The link on my fotopic? Anyway, well done all the same, you’ve certainly distinguished yourself in the annals of history.
Moving on, a word about DVDs. I picked up a couple of titles from Go Low the other day at $4.99 a pop. Of course, at this knock down price, I wasn’t expecting a great deal and am pleased to report that in this respect, I wasn’t disappointed. The first I watched, entitled “Driving and firing in the north west”, was 55 minutes of a 70 something years bloke sitting in front of a brick wall reciting anecdotes from the ‘good ol’ days’. Now, I’m not impartial to a good story, providing there’s actually some substance behind it but unfortunately, this was not the case here as me old chum prattled on and on and on and on about how he lost the coal pick going out of Kings Cross one day etc. Not recommended viewing.
On a more positive note, I can thoroughly recommend “NSW In Steam 2008 Vol.3”. This production contains excellent footage combined with some interesting but short behind the scenes servicing and preparation aspects. I don’t know about anyone else, but I generally get tired of trains just passing the camera for 60 minutes and nothing else and if railway operations were as simple as that I daresay I wouldn’t be bothered with it. There’s such a wide scope to play with I think- Include some workshop scenes, show them changing a staff or two, show a bloke raking out and it just makes the viewing all the more interesting.

So, here we are...

I've been thinking of this for awhile. Some pointless yapping into cyberspace seems like an excellent way to kill those already-too-few hours I'm not spending on anything else...if that makes sense at all....

Anyway, you will soon gather a couple of things about "The Down Home".

1. There'll be a lot of talk about Heritage Rail in NSW. Why? Well I work for a mainline heritage operator both as an employee and a volunteer. So expect to hear ancedotes from that wonderful world....Oh and I might as well pop in the usual disclaimer- The views represented here do not represent those of any organisation I am involved with, or any normal person for that matter

2. There'll be random stuff. If I said anything more, it wouldn't be random would it?

So, with that in mind, Allon-sy!