The Mary Valley Rattler has been celebrating the success of their volunteers this month, as Gympie locals Tony Hallam and Roger Stierli become Class 1 Steam Train Drivers.
Rising through the grades from guards to drivers, these men are only the 2nd and 3rd persons to qualify as Class 1 Drivers at the Rattler Railway Company with no prior railway experience.
For Tony Hallam, his inspiration comes from his family.
“…the members of both sides of my family have worked for the Queensland Railways. In total, my two grandfathers, four of my uncles (two of whom worked on the repairs of steam and diesel locomotives) (one worked at Gympie as a Guard in the 1960’s), an aunt (who worked in the refreshment rooms at Gympie) and my father all worked for Queensland Railways, and my brother is the historian for QR,” Hallam says proudly. “My grandfather on mum’s side was classified as a steam driver in the Queensland Government Railways on 1st March 1926.”
Tony has lived in Gympie for 16 years now and teaches at a secondary school in town. It’s his background and experience at the Rattler that supports his teachings of history.
But what Tony enjoys the most while working at the Rattler is the smiles and excitement of the public
“The people’s faces light up when they see and hear a steam locomotive,” he states, explaining what brings him joy. “…and when at the end of the journey, they say that it was a great experience.”
But for Roger Stierli, the journey began when he was 10 years old.
“I would ask my mother to take me to see Puffing Billy in Victoria. I had already ridden on the train a few times but I still wanted to see the engine and train again, and we would follow it up through the hills from Belgrave to Emerald. As a teenager I caught the electric trains every day to and from school, and I would often ask the diesel freight train drivers waiting in the loop if I could look at their engine in the locos. Later in life, after we had moved to Gympie, I rode the Rattler in 2006, and I still have the certificate they gave us. A couple of years later, I took the steps to volunteer as train crew and started learning how it was all done.”
While Roger’s love of the railways has always been true, his history is a more airborne.
“My background is in Electronics and Aviation with the most recent flying being helicopters. The latter became too expensive so I’ve retired from that, but I still practice a lot of electronics work… helping with the Rattler Radio Communications and electrical repair work, especially on our 1620 Class Diesel Electric Locomotive. So, everything I seriously learnt about operating a train was learnt right here in Gympie on the Mary Valley Rattler.”
His start at the Rattler began a journey that for Roger was natural in its progression.
“I qualified as a Shunter and Guard, and while volunteering as a Guard I began helping with the locomotive prep in the mornings; cleaning the engine and tender and helping to turn the engine on the turntable. I had just qualified as a fireman as MVHR closed, and when the RRC re-started the Rattler operations, I became a trainee driver.”
To Roger, becoming a Class 1 driver is the final step in being fully in charge and control of the train, in conjunction with the Guard and Fireman. He believes in the team effort of operations, which extends to Light-Up Crew, Workshop Crew, On Board Guest Experience and everyone that’s involved in getting a train ready to run. So while he never set out specifically to become a Class 1 Driver, his experience, his capability, and love of trains made him the perfect candidate.
“It’s a rewarding experience to have achieved,” Stierli explains, referring to the trust placed on drivers to take a historic vessel and its passengers along an old branch line, safely to Amamoor and back.
And it’s that very vessel that Roger enjoys most about the Rattler.
“I enjoy the old machinery, as much as it can be tricky or temperamental at times, it’s part of the challenge,” he explains. “I enjoy driving all the different locomotives and railmotors here at the Rattler. They are all very different and each has their own totally different character each requiring different driving skills.”
Both Tony and Roger are proud members of the Rattler Community, inspiring volunteers and workers alike to work hard, give back and preserve Heritage Railway history.
To forge your own volunteer journey with the Mary Valley Rattler, express your interest at www.maryvalleyrattler.com.au.