My Father was a train driver

my father was a train driver

My Father was a train driver in South Africa way back in the 1960’s when trains were just about to go from steam to diesel and electric. He started at the railways when he was barely 16 years old. First as an assistant stoker, then a stoker, a learner train driver and finally a qualified train driver. It was the glory days of trains

A buzz of activity

We lived in railway housing close to the loco among other railway workers. Even the housing was divided with learners living in prefab housing, stokers in better housing or flats and train drivers and their families lived in 3 bedroom brick houses. Those days a worker had to work their way to the top where you would be entitled to better housing and also better salaries. The railway camp as it was called was a busy place with workers going to work, returning home, mothers with children visiting each other

We loved living in the railway camp – I was too young to realise the stigma on being a railway child and having a railway worker as a Father.

People looked down on railway workers – they were thought of as dirty because of the ash and root on their skin and clothes. The truth however is that railway workers were hard workers. Shifts were long hours – the work was physically hard. Pay was very basic although the free housing and medical aid helped to keep the workers dedicated. Children of railway workers had a simple but happy childhood

My Father was a train driver

I can still remember how we waited for my Father to return home after work. One of us with take of his boots, the other would pack out his lunch box for some leftovers. Some days we would take his freshly cooked lunch to the loco. It was a simple way of life

Amanda Spies du Plessis is the writer and owner of Let’s make tea
as well as the Afrikaans website Amandaskrywer.
Send an e-mail to amandadups(@)gmail.com or go to the contact page and leave a message.

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