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Farewell to Junee’s Neil Oliver

Nov 29, 2012News

Junee CountryLink drivers’ depot recently held a farewell dinner for popular former driver Neil Oliver and his wife Marg.  Neil recently resigned from CountryLink to work as a driver with Rio Tinto in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Neil started his railway career as a labourer at Junee Locomotive Roundhouse in November, 1978.  At that time Junee Locomotive Depot and Roundhouse had a staffing level of around 300 employees which included drivers, firemen, cleaners and workshop and administrative staff. Junee indeed was an extremely busy rail centre, Neil said.

In 1980 Neil married his sweetheart Marg and started his family but, as everybody in the railway family knows, you sometimes have to transfer to get ahead, so in 1985 Neil and Marg transferred to Broadmeadow Locomotive Depot for Neil’s engineman’s class 5 appointment.  There Neil drove all types of trains on the Sydney to Taree and Werris Creek corridors as well as the heavy haul coal trains in the Hunter Valley.

In 1989 Neil and his family transferred to the most southern locomotive depot in New South Wales at Albury.  Here in the deep south Neil drove trains to Junee and Goulburn, including the InterCapital Daylight and Melbourne Express trains as well as interstate goods trains.

In 1994 the future of Albury Depot was very grim, due to the non-interest of the States in running interstate freight services as well as the handing down of the Hilmer Report, so Neil took the big step of leaving the NSW railways and joined up with the then fledgling NRC (now PN) at Junee.  Neil said this was the most exciting part of his career as a train driver, working high-speed superfreighter trains between Melbourne and Sydney and Cootamundra and Condobolin on the main west, as well as, for a short time, heavy steel trains down the Illawarra mountain from Moss Vale to Port Kembla.  The teamwork and camaraderie amongst drivers was terrific, he said.  Also one of his highlights was the skill required in running the very long and heavy for that time SP and PS superfreighter trains from Sydney to Cootamundra and Cootamundra to Parkes and Condobolin.

In 2004, with the advent of more competition from other freight rail operators, the future for Junee was unpredictable, so Neil left PN and joined up with CountryLink to drive the XPTs between Sydney and Melbourne. It was for a while at Junee CountryLink that Neil headed the OHS branch at Junee and was very efficient in addressing the issues of serious track defects and severe rough-riding XPT power cars.

In the latter half of 2012, with the huge changes in RailCorp and the very poor morale in CountryLink, Neil took the plunge and exited the railways of New South Wales and joined up with Rio Tinto in Western Australia.  Neil commented on the vast change required in driving styles and the extensive gain in train handling knowledge that is acquired in driving the heavy ore trains in the Pilbara district of Western Australia.

Drivers from CountryLink and PN, as well as station staff and friends and family, attended Neil’s farewell dinner at the Junee RSL on Sunday 18th November during which he was presented with a plaque from the RTBU acknowledging his years of service on the NSW railways and dedicated and loyal RTBU membership.  All in attendance, as well as the RTBU executive, wished Neil and Marg all the very best for their future.