Drama on the Tamper - Ordinary Person's Version

One important piece of equipment on the railway was the tamper. This was a machine that "tamped" the ballast under the sleepers to raise them to the correct level and ensure a solid base for the railway track. For orderly control of movements of railway vehicles aside from those on the timetable, a system is adopted for distributing information about special trains. The Special Train notice, usually known as the "S Notice" is distributed to all signalmen and train crews so that they know to expect the special move.

The Tamper was to be taken from Gembrook to Belgrave, and an "S" notice had been distributed to provide for it to follow the last up train for the day. Dan O'Connor was rostered to drive the Tamper, a job that gave him no trouble until he arrived at a station called "Lakeside" which is about at his halfway point. Here he found a party of people who said they had missed the last train and were stranded there. Against his better judgement, he agreed to take them to Belgrave, and they all climbed aboard.

When they arrived at Emerald, the first location that would have been under the control of a signalman, they were held at the Home signal. This is a signal that when set to "Stop" prevented them from proceeding into the station. The signalman walked out to tell Dan that he would not be admitted as the "S" notice said Tamper only, and Dan was not authorized to enter Emerald with a passenger train. Negotiations continued, but when it started to get dark, Dan retreated to a siding about a mile away, called Nobelius siding. Here he and his passengers could shelter under the verandah of the old packing shed. Negotiations continued by telephone. In the morning, the matter was still not resolved. Dan said that if he was not going to be allowed to enter Emerald yard, then he would not give the staff up. The staff is a metal cylinder rather like a relay race baton which is used to control train movements. It is not quite this simple, but the idea is that the driver who has the staff for a section of track is allowed to drive his train on it. As there is only one staff for each section, a driver who is in possession of the staff knows that nobody else is, and he can proceed without fear of a head on collision., The traffic manager declared Pilotman Working, a special emergency arrangement for use when normal staff working is not possible. He also had a lock put on the Nobelius Siding points so that no vehicles could enter or leave the siding.

As the week wore on, the negotiations continued. By Tuesday word had spread around that Dan's passengers were holding forged tickets, and that even if provisions were made for running the Tamper as a Passenger Train, there were doubts about carrying these particular passengers. The executive committee were giving this careful thought.

The Editor of the Monthly News Bulletin contacted the fellow who had been president of the committee the previous year who pointed out that this sort of crisis never developed in his day.

Eventually, the President of the committee completed negotiations with other tourist railways, and established agreement that Dan's passengers could be taken to other tourist railways where their tickets could be checked, and if the tickets were found to be valid they could complete their train trip from there. Thus two minibuses were hired, and half of Dan's passengers were taken to a tourist railway at Queenscliff, and half to another tourist railway at Maldon. As soon as the passengers had departed, a new "S" notice was drawn up, and the next morning Dan triumphantly entered Emerald yard after a week long ordeal.