It’s been a while since I blogged for “Fred”, but I’ve finally made time. “Fred” asked me to talk about The Kit Bag.
The Kit Bag is an essential item for a train crew to carry. And they are heavy!
Most blokes in the company I work for use the Stanley Fat Max tool bag (pictured) because the company, when it was much smaller, issued them as a Christmas bonus to the drivers on the books back then. Many new blokes have copied that idea.
I use a similarly dimensioned Gearsack, a popular piece of motorcycle gear carrying equipment from the 1980s and 1990s.
We have to be fairly self-sufficient on an engine, so food that does not perish is an essential item of kit. We may think we’re just going for a 8- or 11-hour shift but anything could happen: we could end up in a motel or just nowhere easy to get a feed. So I carry my lunch plus some tins of stuff for emergencies. A tin of fruit and some of that tinned braised steak or spaghetti goes well. Cuppa-soup mixes and occasionally noodles make it into my bag. I usually carry some protein bars to assuage hunger.
In keeping with ’emergency provisions’, a change of undies and socks is a must as well, not to mention a first-aid kit and some extra useful medicines. These include Immodium-like medications (Immodium being the trade name for those magic pills that stop the runs) and paracetamol.
A billy and some coffee or tea is useful to carry. And I carry drinking water. But for boiling the billy on the stove in the engine, the water bottles on board are sufficient. But I’d never drink from them without boiling first! The billy is also useful for heating up the tinned food mentioned earlier.
Extra items of clothing must be carried in or on the bag: for infrastructure trains we must carry a hard-hat for entering work-zones. And, of course, the one time you forget a raincoat will be the time you are caught in a downpour. Don’t forget that we’re not always sitting in a nice locomotive cab. Sometimes we are walking the train and if things go wrong, it’s usually in inclement weather.
Most important of all, however, is the paperwork.
Older clergy have observed how younger clergy are bogged down in paperwork these days. It’s the nature both of the litigious and beaurocratic society we live in.
Similarly, older drivers are amazed at the amount of paperwork we must fill in. Mind you, I think the railways always ran on paperwork.
The paperwork is all necessary, however. We must carry all kinds of ‘safeworking forms’. ‘Safeworking’ is not a reference to OH&S but a much older term relating to the safe working of trains over the tracks, or in other words, ensuring that trains don’t bang into each other or pedestrians or road vehicles on crossings and so forth.
Off the top of my head, we have to carry the following forms:
- Train Order forms (for train order territory, these are the authorities to enter a section),
- CAN Warning Forms (Condition Affecting the Network),
- SPA forms (Special Proceed Authority),
- X2010 (the forms on which we record the details of the locomotives, and every carriage, its weight, whether it’s loaded or empty, the train length and overall weight and your mother’s maiden name).
- List of temporary speed restrictions (TSRs) for the network.
- Brake examination certificate book.
- Specific to our organisation, locomotive prep sheets and locomotive kit audit forms.
- Also specific to our organisation, is the phone list both for our own personnel but also for every part of the railway we may need to contact in the course of our duties: signal boxes, controllers, customer contacts, locomotive helpdesk numbers and so forth.
- It’s also helpful to carry the relevant extracts from the TOC manual (Train Operating Conditions, the railway “bible”).
- Additionally, maps of the track layouts for where you’re going.
- Furthermore, I carry a wagon inspection manual and various forms I’ve picked up over time to assist in keeping a level head in the event of derailments or other emergencies.
All in all, this adds up to about 15-20 kg.
Which is heavy.
I’ve been trying to economise on weight, so instead of SPA books, CAN books, loco prep books etc I now carry 5 of each – with the discipline required to replenish every time.
In paid ministry I had a “Sunday box” — everything I needed to transfer from my office to home on a Thursday afternoon (Friday being my day off), and then everything to go from home to church on Sunday.
My Sunday box was about 3-4 kg. It’s a big difference!
And using public transport to transfer to- or from- work is nigh-on impossible with such a big piece of kit to carry.