ON THE PLATFORM: Jim Steele yesterday returned to Grafton railway station, his working base for decades, for the first time in two years since he suffered a debilitating stroke.
ON THE PLATFORM: Jim Steele yesterday returned to Grafton railway station, his working base for decades, for the first time in two years since he suffered a debilitating stroke. Adam Hourigan

Memories lost but love of trains remains

JIM Steele has made a lifetime's worth of memories working on the railways, but he can't remember many of them.

Yesterday was the first time Mr Seele has been on the station where he worked for over 20 years since suffering a stroke while on holidays in Vietnam two years ago.

He spent a week in hospital, and the stroke robbed him of his ability to talk, and his memories of 50 years driving trains.

"They said it was a minor stroke, but there was nothing minor about it," he said.

"I've had to learn to speak again and talk, a lot of my memory is gone, all of my railway memory is gone.

"I don't even know who the staff were, the staff I worked with for all those years. They're all over town but I don't know what their names are."

Mr Steele can remember that as a boy growing up, all he wanted to do was drive trains. He was only 12 when he first wanted to work on the railway, but had to wait until he was 15 before he could start work.

Mr Steele can remember starting as a tender boy on January 17, 1966 at Enfield in Sydney, before becoming a fireman on a steam train, then a diesel observer before landing the dream job, driving the CountryLink from Grafton down to Taree, then north to Brisbane before returning to Grafton.

"I think I just loved driving the trains," he said.

"I drove it every day, and that's all you've got to think about. I enjoyed driving because that's all I wanted to do with my life.

"As soon as I got my job, I enjoyed it, from my start on the steam engines right through to driving the XPT trains."

While most things have cruelly been lost to Mr Steele, he can still remember what it was like to drive the train. "As soon as you leave Grafton at 2 o'clock in the morning, it's as dark as, so you just know how to drive perfectly," he said.

"You know how to handle the train perfectly up and around these hills." Mr Steele will officially retire next month, and plans to spend his retirement travelling as much as he can.

"I don't think think I'd like to sit on the train for another eight hours straight," he said.

"I think I've had enough. Fifty years is enough."



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