This was the title of my 1989 book – From the Driver's Seat – now out of print - and it details 14 rail journey's from the locomotive driver's perspective, an oral account of what occurs from signing on for duty to when relieved upon arrival at the destination.
Why might I write something of an account of such a book 25 years after publication and moreover, the book is out of print. This book was the fourth of 16 such railway books I wrote in that busy period from 1982-1996 and the purpose of detailing now this particular book and these books as a collective, is where the money went as a missionary.
Now many missionaries have written books and by and large they have a niche market as did my railway books which I have thoroughly enjoyed as a former locomotive engineman.
From the Driver's Seat has these stories written by the drivers' themselves:
Clive Dunsale: Julia Creek to Richmond, Qld
Bruce McAlister: Albury Goulburn, NSW
Bob Farquhar: Katooma Snow Trip, NSW
Ern Goodlett: Cowra to Harden, NSW
Toby Priestly: Parkes to Broken Hill, NSW
Ken Ames: Sydney to Lithgow, NSW
Barry Dunn: Albury to Melbourne, VIC
Mark Tronson: Nowra to Wollongong, NSW
Allan Davies: Sunlander (Roma St to Maryborough), Qld
Terry Ryan: Goulburn to Sydney, NSW
Peter Redfern: Overland (Dimboola to Bordertown), VIC
Pat McCarthy: Brisbane Limited (Taree to Grafton), NSW
Allan Davies: Grand-Final Express (Heildon to Brisbane), Qld
Mark Tronson: Mountain Track (Port Kembla to Summit Tank), NSW
Laurie Lill: XPT (Sydney to Taree), NSW
From the Driver's Seat sold around the same numbers as all 16 of these niche market railway books. I had the locomotive manufacturer Clyde Engineering take the back cover advert which paid for the contracted The Book Printer to print these railway books and then I contracted varying distributors into both newsagents and bookshops. With my 8 other books of various titles, in total they cleared around $10,800 a book which even a quite small publishing company wouldn't bother with.
Why is the money is such a drama
Had I not been a missionary and simply citizen Mark, then where this money went would never have been an issue, rather heralded as a remarkable endeavour to have these unique oral history railway stories published for the public to enjoy.
The idea abounds that missionaries who write books should have a system whereby the entire income stream should be directed to a mission agency and that the missionary should not taste even one cent for his/her hours of research, writing and editing. I was part of this era and so it was. But they gave me much needed relaxation and enjoyment.
It happened that I was in the fortunate position in those early years of developing a fresh paradigm of mission, the Sports and Leisure Ministry which I had founded in 1982 having sought and granted the support of Heads of Churches. It's mission was to place Chaplains into Professional Sport across the nation.
I developed a faith finance support network to provide my wife and family the money to live and meet the expenses, and as these railway books were published so too those monies were taxed as my income and then placed into the mission account. There was a great deal of travel meeting with professional sport organisations negotiating the idea of chaplaincy for their professional athletes and families.
Six years later in 1988 it was considered appropriate that this new mission change from being an unincorporated mission to becoming an incorporated entity and the name 'Sports and Leisure Ministry' became the common name for ministry, and so as to retain the acronym, the name Specialised Orientated Ministries Inc was selected as a legal name to meet the Incorporation requirements.
As I was the Public Officer it was my lot in 1998 to conduct the ATO Audit. Considerable income into the mission had been accredited to those little niche railway books. The Audit was such that we were given the all clear! Nothing was ever claimed as tax deductible receipts from those railway book sales. I moved on in 2000 after 18 years of heavy duty mission. That was 14 years ago.
In 2005 the sports ministry changed its name to Sports Chaplaincy Australia. It is now 32 years since I initiated this ministry, and have realised how soon one is forgotten. I have recently discovered their awards at their annual conference are named after two Sydney Anglicans.
It's a bit like the media's proverbial 2 print lines on the Kookabuarras (hockey) 6-1 win over the Dutch in their World Cup Final two weekends ago and the Soccerroos losing their 3 matches with the proverbial media 500,000 print lines telling us how good they are.
Again, it's a bit like as in this railway story.
One rail story
One of the From the Driver's Seat author driver's was very excited after he had received a number of courtesy books for his family after publication. I saw him weeks later, and with a beaming face and in colloquial terms explained: "That's the best bloody book I've ever read!"
When asked how many of the train driver's stories he had read, he was equally excited, "Only mine!"
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html