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

Training School for Cadets.—Starting Well — The System Described

page 11

Training School for Cadets.—Starting Well
The System Described

If anyone questions the quality of the training now given to beginners in the clerical division of the Railway Department, he has only to visit the Central Training School in Wellington, to have his doubts dispelled and be filled with hope as to the quality and ability of the youths being turned out there. The feeling of the older officers is rather one of envy that they did not have the opportunity afforded the younger generation for becoming proficient in the transportation profession. Most of us were brought up in the grab-what-you-can-and-trust-to-luck style of the old regime, with the underlying principles of railroading a closed book, and the only hope of learning blind imitation of a senior, who himself frequently had but the foggiest notion of the reasons behind the accumulating books of instruction.

We all learnt that the first and most important duty was to provide for the safety of the travelling public. That was the first rule, and we attended to it splendidly, but we were inclined to take the rest of the outlines “as read,” and let it go at that; until one bleak day dawned when a rule rose up at us out of an uncharted appendix sea and wrecked us on the shoals of Caution, Fine or Dismissal.

“The old sinners are or may be past redemption; begin with the youngsters.” Such seems to be the code upon which re-organisation of the Service through training is based. The newly established Training School takes in boys in drafts, trains them for four months, and turns them out capable of being a genuine help at whatever station or office they may be located.

How is this accomplished? We had the pleasure of seeing through the school recently, and found within its present rather unprepossessing exterior, a hive of well-directed industry.

Mr. Bracefield is in charge and has the whole of the arrangements at his finger ends. Under him are two instructors, Messrs. E. B. Baker and E. W. Hayton, who put plenty of enthusiasm into their work and are already achieving splendid results. The boys are kept busy learning telegraphy and Railway book-keeping, besides listening to, and taking part in, lectures on Railway instructions and problems. Then they are given homework based on the daily lectures. Their papers are carefully checked, marked and recorded. There is nothing dilettante about any of the work. All is practical and progressive. In a glance through a neatly kept record of homework results, we noticed that one young beginner (S. J. Homer), who, we predict, will take some stopping when he gets out on the road, had obtained nine possibles in a series of fourteen successive papers, and an average of 95½% marks.

After six weeks of question papers, which cover a thorough grounding in the tariff, the boys are given practical station accounting work, different stations being established within the school itself for the purpose. We saw old friends turn up again in the variety of P.L. G. & C. books being worked. As was to be expected, it is, in general, found that boys with a high school education usually make better progress.

Hear the lecturer for a few moments. He is dealing with Class “E,” and drives his point home with chalk and a trenchant tongue, while the students listen, are questioned, or demonstrate when required—by working out blackboard examples—that they understand the matter being expounded. One boy reads the first paragraph. This is explained. The next boy carries on, and so the lesson proceeds. “You don't need to bother about local rates with class ‘E,’” announces the lecturer. “Why? Because the rate is so low that competition cannot touch it, and competition alone accounts for local rates.” Class “E” is properly smacked to leg, turned inside out, and hammered in; each detail being thoroughly imprinted on the minds of these bright beginners, from the minimum rate for manures to the names of stations where terminal charges (under certain conditions) are payable. There follows keen questioning by the boys, with lucid answers by the lecturer.

Then it is that the importance of careful and lucid preparation of all instructions, before they reach the books, becomes plain. In “The Tomb of his Ancestors,” Kipling describes how “a word spoken in haste before mess becomes the dread unappealable law of villages beyond the smoky hills.” This parallels in some sense the effect should any loosely worded sentence in a Head Office circular reach the eagle-eyed training school for new cadets.

* * *

Since the above was written, an opportunity was afforded Mr. Bracefield of explaining the working of the Training and Correspondence School to the recent Conference of Divisional Superintendents and District Traffic Managers at Wellington. This he did very lucidly, and general interest in the work being done and the scheme for extending the correspondence system was evinced. Any member, whether in the first division or second who goes through the whole course of correspondence instruction, is assured of a thorough grounding in the elements of transport control.

If offers opportunity for all.