MIDNIGHT TRILOGY (1) Almost Midnight

Doggerel Dave

At close to midnight I find a spot near the railway gate;

Had it taken any longer I likely would be late.

Must sign on. I pass through loco sheds under high arc lights.

North Queensland’s hot and sticky right throughout these summer nights.


My job there is cleaner but I won’t be cleaning tonight

Nor tending fires, I’m notifying - much to my delight.

I let crews know of altered starts before they come on shift;

This can mean a longer sleep so I bring a welcome gift.


I don’t use the railway pushbike; instead I use my car,

Then I can get my head down as the journeys aren’t too far.

After I tried a few places the sand shed proved just right;

The engine workshop was no good – I saw a rat one night.


Sandy’s foreman for tonight, from the office he’s in touch;

Like Roddy on the last shift he won’t lean on us too much.

(They’re mostly office bound, so one cleaner was quite crafty

His engine passed by the office cleaned on that side only).


As old railway men these blokes have gathered their little quirks.     

Roddy wants the wheel rods clean then will sometimes do spot checks;

Sandy insists sandboxes are full – and he checks with crews;

So the way they gained their monikers isn’t startling news.


A gently hissing locomotive readied by its crew:

An injector howls to life and feeds the boiler it’s due,

The white cloud of steam envelops this iron horse ahead

Black smoke signals its exit as it backs out from the shed.


Use ‘til early sixties is due to local conditions;

Flood prone areas just north dictate these operations.

A steamer with a high dry firebox will make it right through,

Water in diesel electric motors acts just like glue.


These were good times in the sheds despite my resignation;

 It could not be anyway a long term occupation, 

As diesel after all did send these old relics away;

Though I’ve a lingering love for them even to this day.

  • Author: Doggerel Dave (Pseudonym) (Offline Offline)
  • Published: January 10th, 2021 04:06
  • Comment from author about the poem: Three snapshots: Early moments of a somewhat chequered work history (not to mention life – perhaps later....). These I cobbled together with congruent theme and pretentiously designated a ‘Trilogy’. Two more boring old yarns to follow...
  • Category: Unclassified
  • Views: 38
  • Users favorite of this poem: L. B. Mek, arobot.


  • Goldfinch60

    Good story Dave, it is so surprising of the idiosyncrasies and humour that can be remembered of work colleagues of the passed.


    • Doggerel Dave

      Thanks Andy.
      I’d wanted to wish you all a ‘Happy New Year’ – but given the embrace of covid in both the UK and US, I think that would be inappropriate. Know my thoughts are with you – especially as I believe our plague here is yet to come...


    • Jerry Reynolds

      Hard not to love a train. Good write Dave.

      • Doggerel Dave

        Nostalgia rules for me, Jerry. I've always visited steam fairs and the like when touring.
        I know their power is very inefficient - but there's something, without getting too mystical, almost alive about those old monsters when in steam.

      • Robert Southwick Richmond

        A fine reminiscence of days and ways that are no more. Is a "railway pushbike" what in the US was called a "Gandy car"?

        • Doggerel Dave

          No idea what a 'Gandy car' is - and what's more that well known sometimes omniscient oracle (contradiction in terms?) doesn't know either... (should not Google pay more taxes?)
          A push bike is a simple vehicle consisting of two wheels in line, human powered via pedals and chain to rear wheel, steered with handlebars through front wheel. In addition a railway version would typically include flat tyres, rusty chain and seat covered in cobwebs.
          Now, would you care to share, Robert? What the hell is a 'Gandy Car'? 🙂

          • Robert Southwick Richmond

            "Gandy dancer" was an early American word for a railroad worker. The origin of the word is obscure. They used hand-operated cars that ran on the rails, and these were sometimes called "gandy cars". There's a bit about them in the Wikipedia article "gandy dancer". I learned the term "gandy car" from my father, who came from a railroad family in Oregon, and I didn't know the word was quite that obscure.

          • Doggerel Dave

            Got it. Quite an extensive Wikipedia article on 'gandy dancer'. The hand operated cars I think I've seen in old silent movie chase scenes (probably a Buster Keaton, as I was quite addicted to his movies at one time).

          • L. B. Mek

            I too worked on modern railways, only for two years though and mainly on-board during daily journeys from London to Edinburgh and back, I believe I still have the guards T key I was gifted,
            what a wonderful dip into long forgotten memory isles you've gifted me with your write,
            I liked your witty commentary and though I couldn't relate directly - you still managed to imbue that nostalgic grace such timeworn professions have, as windows to history's forgotten cultural treasures,
            a brilliant read for me personally,
            thank you for sharing Dave

            • Doggerel Dave

              Great feedback, L.B. So I'm a bit of history now? Oh well, time marched on inexorably. I wrote that poem several years ago, and I'm glad I did as it provides just the memory prompt I need when 'recollected in tranquility'. I hope it also helps explain my affection for steam locos.
              Thanks, Dave

            • Neville

              I do love a good old reminisce and love to drift off to the glorious days of steam when everything seemed significantly slower .. thanks for helping me drift ....


              • Doggerel Dave

                Well there are more reminiscences to come, when I can get my act together and exhume them. I don't know whether they are good, but they are certainly old.
                I've had enough of the North Queensland heat; I think I'll go cold next time......


              • sorenbarrett

                In my youth I worked laying track in a mine and have ridden steam locomotives in Brazil years ago. My grandfather worked for Union Pacific Rail Road as a porter when he was young, and when I was in my teens I used to hop boxcars at times. Just can't get away from trains. Good write

                • Doggerel Dave

                  I bow to your seniority on the railway, Soren. What about a versified reminiscence or two? You have had a very varied life - get some of it out there, it might scare away some of the navel watchers, those obsessed by loove and the 'you dun me wrongs'.

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