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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 2 (May 1, 1934.)

His Home from Home

His Home from Home.

His “home away from home” is a cubby-hole at one end of the van, combining the functions of office, lunchroom, workshop and “look-out.” A seat, which can be extended to a short settee for those rare intervals which I presume even guards find for rest, faces a desk where, between punching tickets and doing all the things guards do, he sorts up his way-bills, fills in his running schedule, and does other jobs of work which are doubleDutch to the unversed.

There is a spice of romance in every job, but it seldom is apparent to the person whom it concerns most. I put it to the guard—foolishly, no doubt, “Does it ever strike you that, while this train is running, you are the keeper of hundreds of lives and goodness knows what value in property? Don't you ever feel the weight of your responsibility?”

He smiled, a trifle pityingly I imagined, and answered: “Oh, I don't know—a fellow gets used to his job.” To him it is a “job,” and if you and I had it, it would be our “job”; but, observing him through the unblemished eye of the outsider, it looked something a little more than a “job”; I thought of slips on the line, of wild winter nights, of bridges over flooded rivers— of all the possible hazards of any track—hazards which fortunately seldom become actualities on New Zealand's railways in consequence of meticulous examination and supervision of the permanent way. But, nevertheless, in any such emergency he must be prepared to face the music. In mute testimony of the fact there are two cupboards in his cubby-hole; through the glass front of the one you see a crowbar, a shovel, and other useful tools, whilst, strapped to the outside is an axe; the other cupboard houses a first-aid outfit, and both provide an unostentatious indication of the responsibilities of the “man behind.”

In a corner lie a bunch of accessories, overhead is a fire extinguisher, nearby is an emergency hand brake; a locked mail bag is in the rack, and, through the open door, one glimpses the interior of the van with its stacks of freight neatly arranged in order of destination to facilitate speedy unloading. The “man behind” has an entry of every article on his way-bills, and the responsibility for their delivery is his; deck-chairs, bicycles, boxes, perambulators, portmanteaux, suitcases, a wheelbarrow, a crate of ducks, a bundle of shovels, a mysterious article shrouded in scrim, and a box containing a noise; the noise is a compromise between a yelp and a thin howl and is as persistent as toothache. Whenever he can find a moment to spare, the guard taps on the box and speaks soothingly to the noise, whereupon it subsides to a thin whimpering.

“It's a pup,” explains the guard; “all the way from Invercargill. I've fed him and given him a drink, but he's tired of it—poor little brute.”

So, the guard is, among many things, a protector of pups.