An anecdote posted to a different forum

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Fidel Naidoo
Posts: 59
Joined: 18 Jul 2011, 12:44

An anecdote posted to a different forum

Post by Fidel Naidoo »

Good day, gents.
On Sunday I had a few glasses of wine, got nostalgic, and looked up 'interworking tablet'. I came to this forum : ... 952#p56952
The thread was way out of date, but I wrote the following short story, and then decided that I should post it here, on my favorite forum, as well.


Howzit !!

I know this is an old discussion, but out of nostalgia, I searched for 'interworking tablet' and came here.

A bit of history : I have always lived in South Africa, and, 30 years ago left school to join the SAR as a unit assistant. That meant an assistant driver on electric 5E's and 6E's in and around Johannesburg, for about 240 kilometres. That was our maximum range. This was an entry into becoming a driver. Minimum 3.5 years as an assistant, then drivers could nominate you to go for the 6 month course. Anyway, we had our 3 week course to become assistants, and learnt signalling, operations, etc.

I was 18, always on the rails, with some dour drivers, and absolutely no social life...... so I packed it in after 8 months. ( and immediately got drafted and fought in the border war of the time. - well thought out ).

Lately, my brother-in-law and I, being old farts, have gotten into N scale modelling. He buys German locos and rolling stock of the 1930's, and I obviously want to emulate 1982 SAR. Hard, because I have to kitbash everything in N scale....... but it does lead me to memories that I have not had in a long time.

Two of the three mainline routes we had at the time operated on van Schoor systems. There were semaphore signals ( distant, outer home, home ) and of course, most fun for the assistant, tablets to catch. They were always the same : round. with the station name you went through, and the next station on route. We had a hook built into cab for hanging them from.
And one night, at about 2 AM, I caught a tablet that was square : The yellow-coated cable was square, and the 2 tablets split pinned in were square. And there was a big padlock key. My training kicked in !!!
"This is an interworking tablet" I pronounced proudly to the driver. He smiled and shrugged.
A bit later, in the dark, nowhere, we slowed to crawl, and I saw unguarded points loom up. They were set to left ( the route you must take,) so we cruised through, into the loop, and, after what seemed like hours, reached the end of the loop, and stopped.
I climbed down, struggled across the ballast to the points, unlocked them, changed them to straight. And waited. and waited. And finally heard the chug of multiple diesels. I saw the headlight approach, and finally I was looking up at an elderly, kindly looking driver leaning out of a 34 class diesel. He greeted me with a smile, and I tried handing him our tablet. I couldn't reach, and it finally dawned on me to step away and climb the ladder to the cab. I saw the diesel assistant waving at me in Ozzy Osbourne style, popular at the time. The driver and I swopped tablets, I jumped off, and he pulled away.
In the dark of night, I stood heroically, point switch in hand, as many dark goods cars moved past.
In my young life, it seems that that was the first time I had a direct part to play in keeping the world going. A necessary functionary in moving goods in Africa at 2 in the morning. Played out often, but special because I had done it.
My heroism was broken quickly by my driver, in our electric 6E's hooting like mad to get my attention : hey?
" for God's sake, keep your hand off the points switch until you are sure everything has passed!!!!" he screamed in panic.
He had a point ( pardon the pun ), but nothing could kill my mood that night.


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John Ashworth
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Joined: 24 Jan 2007, 14:38
Location: Nairobi, Kenya

Re: An anecdote posted to a different forum

Post by John Ashworth »

One probably needs a few glasses of wine before trying to tackle interworking tablets! Thanks for the story.
Fidel Naidoo
Posts: 59
Joined: 18 Jul 2011, 12:44

Re: An anecdote posted to a different forum

Post by Fidel Naidoo »

Thanks, John.... it's one of my treasured memories.

John, the signals we spoke of : nothing has happened, but the guy involved is confident that we are close to creation of them.
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