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Blacktown sends off five of their finest

Aug 19, 2011Update

On Saturday August 13 2011, the Blacktown Social Club held a send off evening to celebrate the retirement of 5 of their senior men. Between them, their total railway careers added up to over 175 years with Bill Todd and JD Hughes taking the top honours with 44 years each. There were around 160 well wishers in attendance, including a large contingent of retired Drivers and Guards plus a good number of other train crew from all corners of the CityRail network, private rail companies and NSW Branch Secretary Alex Claassens and NSW RTBU Locomotive Division Secretary Bob Hayden. The night was hosted by Driver Kevin Wilson of Blacktown and besides the presentations to the retirees, there were raffles, lucky door prizes and a whole lot of goodwill flowing freely amongst the attendees.

L to R: Bill and Judith Todd, John (JD) & Lorraine Hughes, Tekena (Kenny) Marsters, Robert and Florence Nicolle, Alan & Anne Stewart

L to R: Bill and Judith Todd, John (JD) & Lorraine Hughes, Tekena (Kenny) Marsters, Robert and Florence Nicolle, Alan & Anne Stewart

Takena (Kenny) Marsters

The evening started off with Keith McMahon taking to the stage to give a brief rundown of Takena (Kenny) Marsters railway career that began in 1980 at Darling Harbour as a Shunter/CSA soon after he arrived in Australia from the Cook Islands. Kenny soon saw the light and transferred across to Loco at Eveleigh in 1981 where he remained in the role of Permanent Fireman until he was transferred across to Enfield “DELEC” in 1990. In 1995, he decided to tackle the more challenging role of Acting Driver which he successfully achieved and in 1997, after 2 years in this position, he transferred to the ETR Section where he finally achieved the position of Driver at Flemington Maintenance Centre. After 10 Years, he decided he had had enough of travelling to Flemington and transferred to Blacktown in 2007 where he remained until his medical retirement in 2011. Keith also related a few amusing anecdotes about the time he spent working with Tekena at Enfield.

Alan Stewart

Alan Stewart was the next honouree and after a brief history of his career, it was time for Gosford Driver Gary Vincent to pay tribute to Alan as they had become good mates while Alan was stationed at Mortdale Depot. Alan, however was not always just a Loco boy as he once held a job as an apprentice Photolithographer before being called up for National Service. In 1974, Alan joined the NSW Police Force and was part of the first response crew to attend the 1977 Granville rail disaster where he had his first taste of the railway experience. After 5 years of service with the police force, Alan was asked to join the Transport Investigation Branch (TIB) and after graduating dux of his class he assisted in the training of new recruits. It was when he was selected as part of the team to establish the Wollongong TIB office that he became acquainted with many of the Wollongong Drivers and decided that becoming a Driver was a calling he couldn’t pass up.

He began his Loco career at Enfield “DELEC” and, over time, progressed to the rank of Acting Driver there and in 1992 made the decision to transfer across to the ETR section and on completion of his ETR School, was transferred to Mortdale Depot. In 2004, he transferred out to Blacktown Depot where he remained until his retirement.

Robert Nicolle

Brian Sargent was on hand to talk about Robert Nicolles railway career and his participation in the RailCorp SPAD Working Group. Bob started his railway generally a little later than most Drivers of his age on January 16, 1978 at “DELEC” at Enfield. He qualified as an Engineman Class 5 in March of 1982 and remained at Enfield until he made the decision to transfer across to the ETR Section at Flemington Maintenance Centre on January 27 1983. His stint at Flemington was to be short lived as he was force transferred into Central Depot in June of 1984 due to a rostering issue, however he managed to return to Flemington in February of 1985.

Never one to sit still for very long and always on the move, there was yet another transfer in the wind and on the 1st October 1987, he set up shop at Central once again where he remained for about the next 10 years or so. In February of 1997, Bob transferred from the Central ETR depot to Blacktown where he spent the remainder of his driving career, along with gaining the affectionate nickname “Mr. Bean” due to an uncanny resemblance to the Rowan Atkinson character of the same name.

Bob was an active member of the SPAD Workshop group charged with the task of finding ways to reduce the number of SPADs that are recorded each year. One of his contributions to the group was the development of a course entitled “Driving In The Risk Zone” that would be delivered to new Trainee Drivers at the Petersham Training College.

On the 1st of March 2011, after just a little over 33 years of diligent service with RailCorp, Bob called it a day and handed in his drivers keys. The travelling bug has hit him hard and he has recently returned from a 7 week sojourn through Europe and a small side trip to the USA.

John (JD) Hughes

Moving up the ladder of seniority, the evening was rounded out by the two most senior men at Blacktown starting with John (JD) Hughes. It is interesting to note that the Hughes family are a dynasty on the railways as all of the male members have worked in Train Crewing in some form or another. Gosford Driver Lenny Gaut was on hand to entertain the audience with a few amusing tales of JDs exploits over the years, although it was suspected that some of the stories may have been altered a little so as not to offend. Retired Driver Alan Tebbet was also on hand to present JD with the special gift of a pillow celebrating his passion for the 43 Class Alco Locomotives. Blacktown Driver Craig Norton was also on hand to speak about JD and the time that he had known him at Blacktown. JDs family also presented him with a gift to show how much they respected his lengthy railway career.

Although JD was proud to be a Loco man through and through, his railway career started down a completely different path when he started in what used to be called the “Traffic” side as a Junior Station Assistant – first at Yagoona and later at Leightonfield. In May of 1968, he crossed to the “other side” or Loco as a Trainee Engineman (unqualified) cleaning steam and diesel locomotives. He became a qualified Fireman and took his appointment at Port Kembla.

During his time there, he was called up for National Service (Army) for 1½ years and on his return to the railways in July of 1972, he went to Enfield and worked as a Fireman until July 1976 when he entered the Acting Drivers school and stayed on as a Class 4 until the 25th of May 1978 when he took up as a Driver Class 5 at Central ETR.

During his time on the ETR, he moved around a bit transferring to Punchbowl in 1980 and then over to Flemington in 1989. In 1993, he transferred to Blacktown and in 1997, he took on the role of Driver Trainer, remaining in that role until February 2002 when he transferred to the InterCity side at Eveleigh. This move lasted a short 20 months (too much night work for his liking) and he returned to Blacktown in June of 2003.

In January of 2011, with the retirement of fellow Senior Driver William Todd, JD achieved his long term goal of becoming Blacktowns Senior Driver (Number 1), a position that he reminded everyone of regularly. On April 15 2011, JD handed in his train keys and called it a day ending a long career, a happy time and possibly the shortest time a Driver has been the most senior man at a Depot.

Bill Todd

Being the most senior man at Blacktown at his retirement, it was appropriate that Bill was left till last to be honoured for his time on the railways. One of Bills closest friends on and off the Job, Richmond Driver Peter Eldred, related a few stories about the annual trips that they both took out to South Australia and talked about their close friendship both on and off the job.

In a strange coincidence, Bill and JD both started their careers on the same day – November 7, 1966. While JD headed for the “Traffic “ side of the show, Bill took the direct path to Loco and was posted to the Enfield Steam Locomotive Depot to clean steam locomotives but a mere 8 weeks later, he was transferred across to DELEC where he spent the next 18 months cleaning Diesel locomotives.

After these 18 months of diligently cleaning diesel locomotives, Bill headed off to attend the Acting Fireman’s Safeworking School and on passing the oral safeworking exams, he had a number of fireman’s trials. After passing these trials, he became “Acting Fireman / Cleaner”.

For the next 6 months, Bill worked as an Acting Fireman and was then rostered to attend the Locomotive Safeworking Inspector, Mr Bill Wayde, for his fireman’s examination and on passing, he was appointed to the position of Fireman at DELEC, where he spent the next 10 years. During this time, he attended the acting driver school for engine and air and, on completion and the passing of his driving trial trips, he was appointed to the position of Acting Driver and qualified to work trains on the metropolitan lines.

Around 1977, after a short time as an acting driver, Bill was rostered to see the Staff Examiner, Mr. Fraser, for Safeworking and Engine & Air and on passing was appointed to the position of Driver, DELEC Enfield. Over the next few years, Bill attended the 46 Class electric locomotive school and ran time trials to Newcastle, Port Waratah and Enfield. In the early 1980’s, he completed his West trials as well as being qualified in the operation of both of the more modern 85 & 86 class electric locomotives.

In January of 1986, after 20 years working at DELEC, Bill applied to transfer to the ETR section at Blacktown depot where he remained until his retirement in January of 2011.

At the conclusion of the official presentations from the Blacktown Social Club, all retirees were asked on stage to be presented with a token of appreciation from the RTBU for their long membership of the union. Being members of the unions that combined to form the RTBU for more than 30 years, Bill, JD, Robert and Tekena were presented with a plaque. Alan Stewart was presented with a certificate of appreciation for his 27 years of union membership. Also, as a gift from the Union, each of the retirees was presented with the book “On Wooden Rails”.

Everyone at Blacktown wishes Bill, JD, Robert, Alan and Tekena all the best for their retirements but we know that they will still be around making their presence felt over time.