Train driver – Eric Scaresbrook
I met Eric at a trivia competition a few months ago. After finding out that he was a Train Driver I knew he’d be an interesting interview subject.
When little kids are asked what job they want to do when they grow up, Train driver is one of the most common answers along with Policeman, Firefighter etc
Did you always want to be a train driver?
When I was a small child, I’d sit at home or at school watching the trains go by. I always thought that it would be cool to be able to drive a train like that some day.
I’d spend hours growing up at railway stations or where I could see the trains and watch and learn what was going on.
Every day at work you have the great responsibility of safeguarding your passengers and controlling whether they get to their destination on time. How does that make you feel?
It is certainly a challenge, that is for sure. I always make sure that you get from Point A to Point B safely, as comfortable as I can and as close to time as I can.
I’ll do what I can to run on time but there are many factors that at times can work against that.
Cityrail Tangara train – overhead view credit: lemoncat1
If you’re starting the first driving shift of the day what kind of safety checks are your responsibility to ensure the train is fit for service?
At the start of each day, a driver does a series of checks throughout the entire train to ensure that everything is working as it should be and that the train is safe to leave the Depot.
This also applies to some trains during the day that are only used between the two peak hours. There are minimum standards and if something does not meet that standard, the train does not go into service.
These checks (called “Train Preparation” or “Prep” for short) vary depend on the length and type of the train and the location of the prep. Assuming that there are no problems found during the prep, these checks can take between 60 – 80 minutes before we even think of getting the train onto the main line.
What’s the strangest item you’ve seen people transport on a train you were driving?
Lately I have seen a couple of blokes loading bed mattresses onto the train. I’ve got a theory that they could be using our service as a delivery method rather than using a Captain Snooze truck. This has happened on two separate occasions that I’ve seen on the Inner West and Bankstown lines.
Some people try to bring on petrol powered scooters or motorcycles which is a big no-no for what should be fairly obvious reasons.
Cityrail train pulling away from Central station credit: suburbanbloke
What are the best and worst experiences you’ve had while being a train driver?
The best experience for me is the feeling after a long trip when I know that I have driven really well. Sometimes (but not often), a passenger will thank me for driving them.
The worst thing apart from the shiftwork for me is nearly hitting someone. I have not actually hit anyone yet (my worst is a shopping trolley and an Otto bin – both on the same trip!) so when that happens, that will not be good.
I have heard of blokes leaving the job after a fatality. Coming close is bad enough. Stay off the tracks, people!
Should train drivers be allowed to use mobile phones while on the job? Especially regarding this recent news story Calif. bans train drivers from using cell phones
Mobile phone use is an interesting one. A mobile phone can be so handy for us if used properly. With the current train radio system, we are restricted to being in the driver’s cabin. If we leave the cabin (for instance, to fix a fault), we are uncontactable unless we have a mobile phone with us.
Mobile phones are often used during fault finding. They are also used to contact drivers and supervisors in times of service disruption to trains. Also, a mobile phone is considered a backup communications device in the event of a radio failure.
If we are responsible enough to drive a train, we should be considered responsible enough to use a mobile phone when needed and when it is safe to do so using our judgment and risk assessment.
Cityrail Tangara train. photo credit: Adactio
For readers who are interested in becoming a Train driver, what kind of qualification & training process do you have to do to drive for the CityRail train network in Sydney?
There are three main ways to be able to drive for CityRail.
1 – The way I did it was to be a current employee and work your way through the ranks. Immediately prior to becoming a driver, I was a guard.
2 – Come from another operator (either freight or passenger)
3 – Come directly off the street with no previous railway experience.
The training course is an extensive course featuring classroom, simulator and live training in a range of conditions to prepare you
for your job. It is vitally important to know how your trains work, how to fix them when they don’t work and as well as network knowledge.
There are many safety rules and regulations to remember in addition to the train and track knowledge but the course goes through them in the necessary detail.
During your on-road training, you have an experienced driver trainer with you that will guide and coach you as you drive trains across the entire suburban network and the different varieties of trains and conditions. For me, I needed a minimum of 6 months (guard to driver) which included at least 200 hours of actual driving on the network.
The current off the street course is in its early stages and takes around 9 months with a minimum of 250 hours.
When not driving trains Eric’s passion is creating “Erk Pod” – a personal podcast he produces each week featuring news, sport, entertainment, music and more.
Eric also volunteers with the NSW Rural Fire Service as a Communications Supervisor (he was formerly a Fire Fighter) and as a volunteer rally official in NSW/ACT at club, state and national levels.
Train Driver Careers – Useful Links to Read
- Occupation Information – Rail Transport Employee (myfuture Government site) – (Australia)
- Rail Transport Employee (Australian Government Job Guide) (Australia)
- Careers in Service Delivery (Railcorp) (NSW, Australia)
- Career profiles – Train Driver (YouthCentral) (Victoria, Australia)
- Career Profile – Train drivers (Guardian newspaper) (United Kingdom)
- Find out more about being a train driver (BBC) (United Kingdom)
- Interview with Train Driver on the Heathrow Express line (Job Agency) (London, United Kingdom)
- Jobs and Careers Profiles – Train Driver (UK Government) (United Kingdom)