He’s on right track
for all things coal has taken Wayne on life journey
THE SMELL of burning coal and a fascination for steam holds Wayne Dawson enthralled.
The recently retired D9 dozer operator fell in love with steam as a young lad in Berajondo, visiting his grandmother who lived on the railway track.
“Every time a steam train was coming, my brother Trevor and I were first down to watch the trains,” Mr Dawson said.
With 10 or 11 trains a day,
Wayne Dawson Every time a steam train was coming, my brother Trevor and I were first down to watch the trains.
some stopping at the trucking yards, he would “hop up and chat to the fellas”.
Those chats set firm Mr Dawson’s love for “the smell of coal, burning coal” and a 10-year career working in the Goonyella mines.
Operating a D9 dozer caterpillar with a length of 35 feet was his first job, but he couldn’t see the blades.
After he was caught trying to flatten out a ridge in the earth by reversing or back grading, he was given a few days to shape up – and passed.
“Best job I ever had (and) a big huge responsibility,” Mr Dawson said.
With 14,000 horsepower in the two hand controls and another 6000 horsepower in the foot (or swing) controls, he said “if things go wrong, a lot can happen”.
His worst experience was 11pm one cold night.
“The machine was sitting out on a bridge and one of the ramps had collapsed where they get the coal out,” he said.
He needed to throw the bucket right out to the side and let it land correctly without twisting the ropes.
He remained at Goonyella for 10 years until the extended strikes in 1982 when he moved back to Laidley with his family.
After a successful licensed business in catching and selling freshwater shrimp, they moved to Gayndah where he once again worked as a grader operator.
But the lure of coal remained strong and inspired his personal project – to operate his own narrow gauge steam train.
Mr Dawson purchased the steam engine Bliss, and two carriages from a bloke in South Australia, and not quite one kilometre of 11inch gauge rail track from a friend in Bundaberg.
He began earthworks and posting for a bridge on his property, but none of the track was laid.
“I have started building my own railway line up there, but stopped when the missus died,” Mr Dawson said.
With his recent retirement, he has found interested friends in the Gayndah Heritage Rail Trail group and delightedly showed them Bliss and her carriages, Little Brother and Little Sister.
Although earlier claiming “I hold all the tickets for every machine available”, he admitted there’s just one more he needs – a steam train driver’s ticket.
A LOVE OF STEAM: Wayne Dawson's plans for retirement include an operational narrow gauge steam train ride on his property. Wayne (front) with Gayndah Heritage Rail Trail members (from left) Bill Spry, Arthur Marshall and Mike Goebel pictured with the carriages Little Brother and Little Sister.