Wednesday, 27 November 2013

A Railwayman’s Journey

The career journey of this particular railwayman, Denny Ellis, begins when he is successful in his application for the position of Probationary Junior Porter in 1945 to his retirement in 1989, while holding the position of Superintendent.

I found the early part of the book a very personal insight into post war life particularly work on the railways of NSW. There are charming and amusing comparisons to life today eg when he receives his letter of appointment in the post he ads “how else!”

The story is a combination of Ellis’ personal life and working life. It is an important insight into social impact of changes in the Railways particularly during the 1950s and 1960s and would therefore be of interest not only to rail enthusiasts but also to those interested in post WWII and social history.

Through all the ‘railway’ speak, stories of shunting, shift work and the convolutions of railway bureaucracy there are important life lessons that generations today should take note. Lessons about family loyalty, loving and enduring relationship, the value of hard work and honesty.

As a social history enthusiast I enjoyed the book at the beginning but found that the later chapters became very heavily focused on safe working practices and timetable handling.

The book does however effectively demonstrates the importance of the Railways in NSW, the need for a large workforce with strict levels of responsibility and communication lines needed to safely operate goods and passenger services.

I am not an zealous railway enthusiast and although I skipped over a lot of the railway operations narrative I enjoyed the biographical content.

But I understood and appreciated enough of the “railway speak” to appreciate the intricacies and complexities of operating train pre computers.

I have marked this as 2.5* because personally it got too involved in the descriptions relation to train controlling on the various lines. I am positive true rail enthusiasts will thoroughly enjoy it.