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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 2 (June, 1926)

E. T. Spidy believes that every Live Man Knows His Job

page 23

E. T. Spidy believes that every Live Man Knows His Job

The very first day I entered our workshops I was shown the lathe my father worked over thirty years ago “still going strong.” I was instantly reminded of an expression used by Ralph Parlette to illustrate a story he was telling, “I took off my hat in the presence of the dead.” The lecture was entitled “It's up to you.” I treasure my copy of that lecture very much and I just wish I could distribute a thousand copies of it all over our railroad. It's a live one.

With the love for illustration, and the power of forceful expression which somehow go with an American training, Mr. E. T. Spidy, Production Engineer for the N.Z.R., who commenced with us as something of a “mystery man” a year or so back, recounted the above, in the course of a recent interview. Mr. Spidy's speciality is the scientific management of industrial works. He is now engaged in giving the benefit of his unique experience in this kind of employment to the re-organisation of Railway Workshops methods in New Zealand.

“It was the biggest kind of wrench to throw up a good job and come to New Zealand, purely in the interests of health,” said Mr. Spidy. Judging, however, by the improvements in workshops methods already introduced and the thoroughness of the plans made for efficiency in the new and remodelled Railway Workshops at the principal centres, it was fortunate that the healthiness of this country led him here, instead of to some other land less favoured by nature.

Mr. Spidy went through the pioneer stages of production work on railways in Canada. “When it was started,” he said, “it was something experimental and was regarded with suspicion by the employees. There was plenty of fight then over it, and the engineers were themselves not too sure of their ground. That was 1909. Long since, however, things have been established and the whole business has become clearly defined. There is now positively no experiment about it; the methods have reached the definite stage of an applied science. Where formerly, those engaged in production engineering were feeling their ground and were meeting powerful opposition, everything and everyone now work in complete unison.”

Mr. E. T. Spidy.

Mr. E. T. Spidy.

One of the broad viewpoints taken by the Canadian Pacific Railway Management, with which Mr. Spidy was last associated, was that it recognised the advantage of having its men go round the country to see what the other fellow was doing. This had a tremendous educative value. There were no secrets about the business. When any Shop discovered a better practice or improved method, visitors from other Shops were told about it, so that they also could benefit by it. It was mutual reciprocity and no point was considered too fine to take up if improvement was likely to result.

“It's the most interesting job in the world!” said Mr. Spidy with earnest enthusiasm. “There isn't anything to beat it. Of course there are difficult problems cropping up all the time; but a job without a scrap isn't worth a scrap. The beauty of it is that there's no end to the job. There are always finer points to improve. To keep up with the world-wide progress in the science of engineering is quite enough to keep you on your toes all the time. And then your mind must be open to catch new ideas.”

The new system is being gradually introduced in our Workshops, but the changes call for diplomatic handling, and Mr. Spidy has just that kind of temperament which suits him eminently for work of the kind. He is looking for the best. “I don't care whose idea it is, so long as it is worth while and can be put through.”

Mr. Spidy made his first venture in competitive writing in 1910 when he won the prize in Canada for a paper on the “Care and Selection of Machine Tools.” In 1914 he gained first prize in the United States for the best design of a Steel Freight-car Repair Shop. He has also written and read much material before different Engineering Societies in the United States and Canada, including the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Engineering Institute of Canada, and the Canadian, Central, and Western Railway Clubs of Canada.

Mr. Spidy is an Associate Member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and an Associate Member of the Engineering Institute of Canada.