The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 7 (December 15, 1926)
Old Bill and Young Jock
“Good evening,” said Bill. Jock turned on hearing the voice, and was agreeably surprised to see Old Bill and Nat standing there together.
“Good evening to you both,” said Jock.
“What brings you here at this time of night?”
“Well,” said Nat, “it was a motor that brought us here, a new one which I received to-day, and Old Bill and I have just been having a little spin in it; but we really came to see the Stationmaster on a little business. Is he about, Jock?”
“No,” replied Joek,” “not at present. I am afraid you have made your journey for nothing, as Mr. Summit, the Stationmaster, is off duty for a little time. He will be back though to meet the 9.30 p.m. up train, nearly two hours from now. Could I do anything for you?” said Jock, “or would you care to leave a message for him.”
“Well,” said Bill, “I don't suppose you can tell us much, Jock, but we came to get a little information about getting our wool away by rail.”
“I don't see much difficulty about that,” said Jock, “but I will mention the matter to Mr. Summit on his return. There will be other farmers in the district besides yourselves sending their wool to the Wellington sales, and I think the best way would be to ask the Stationmaster to drop a line to the Commercial Manager asking him to send one of his Business Agents up here to have a little ehat with all the farmers round about. You would probably be surprised at the amount of information you could get from him.”
“Commercial Manager! Business Agent!” said Nat. “I have never heard of this before; is it something new?”
“No, not altogether new,” said Jock, “but the Railway Department has a few men scattered over the North and South Islands, who are known as Business Agents. The head of this branch is known as the Commercial Manager, and they are endeavouring to get back some, if not all, of the traffic which has been diverted by degrees to the roads. So far they have been very successful and you would be surprised at the amount of traffic that has come back to the railway since the inception of this branch of the Department.
“I should say its a good idea, too,” said Bill, “and we are pleased to hear about it. You have not been long on the railway Jock, but you appear to be pretty conversant with the work. I am getting interested. What do you say ‘Nat’?”
“Yes, I am interested, Bill. Is there anything else new Jock—that is, new ideas I mean?”
“Yes, new to you, I suppose. There is a Suggestions and Inventions Committee which, was started for the purpose of inviting any member of the service to send along any suggestion or invention which might prove useful to the Department. I have already sent in one or two suggestions, but although not adopted I have received letters of thanks from the Board. If any of these suggestions or inventions are adopted, however, those concerned are often granted a cash bonus.”
“That is a capital idea, too, Jock,” said Nat, Just at this moment a lady came along and, seeing Jock in porter's uniform, stopped to ask him a question, and the conversation of the trio ceased temporarily.
“Thank you,” said the lady to Jock. “But would you mind writing me the address on this paper?”—tearing a leaf from a small note book she took from her bag for the purpose.
“With pleasure, madam,” said Jock. After again thanking him, the lady took her departure and the conversation of Old Bill, Nat, and Jock, was resumed.
“My word, Jock,” said Nat, “you handled that pencil well when writing for the lady. You must have had some practice—making use of your spare time, eh?”
“Yes,” said Jock, “I do get a bit of practice since I joined the Training School; that is how I make good use of my spare time.”
“Did you hear that, Bill?” said Nat; “young Jock going to school again and doing lessons! What school do you go to, Jock? Are you joking?”
“Certainly not, Mr. Jeffs,” said Jock. “It is a fact, and if you will give me a chance I will explain to you both how I get my lessons. There is a Training School at Wellington.” But before Jock could proceed further, Nat interrupted him.
“Look here Jock,” said Nat, “I think you are beginning to romance a bit when you start telling us about your going to school at Wellington.”
“Look here Nat,” said Old Bill, “give Jock a chance to tell us about this school. He has not said he went to the school at all.”page 47
“No, perhaps not,” said Nat, “but when he talks about lessons and school at Wellington, what do you reckon he does mean Bill?”
“Just listen to Jock, Nat,” said Bill. “Go on with this school subject, Jock, I am getting interested.”
“All right,” said Jock, “but I am sorry Mr. Jeffs did not wait until I had finished telling you both how I got my lessons. It is not necessary for me to attend the school. This was started for the education of any member of the service—young or old, of either the first division or the second—who cares to enrol. I think only cadets attend the school in person, and they are there daily for perhaps three months or so, when they are sent out to different stations, and another batch of cadets takes their place. But for such men as myself there is a system of correspondence whereby we are able to get our lessons sent to us. We do our lessons, send them on to the school, and there they are checked, corrected if necessary, and returned to us with another batch of lessons on different subjects applicable to railway work. These lessons are sent by post and are addressed direct to the member at the station where he is employed.”
“Ah! I see now,” said Nat. “I am sorry I interrupted you; are you going in for being a Stationmaster, Jock?”
“I don't know about that, Mr. Jeffs,” said Jock, “but I am going to try to get beyond that position, if possible, and if work will do it, I think I shall succeed all right. As you know, I am only twenty-one years of age and have youth, health, and ambition, on my side.”
“I am glad we came now, Jock, you are getting quite broad-minded. But I am afraid we have wasted a lot of your time,”
“I don't think the time has been wasted altogether,” said Jock. “Time is not wasted when getting business for the Department. We are out for all the business we can get, and we have the rolling-stock to cope with all the traffic we can secure. You notice some of the wagons of that goods train?” (pointing to a goods train passing through the station).
“Well, some of those wagons are not full; the engine of that train could have taken those wagons full, and probably a few more full wagons on that train, at very little or no more expense to the Department. The cost of running that locomotive a certain number of miles or a certain number of hours is practically constant, so that if the cost could possibly be distributed over a larger amount of traffic than we are getting, then this traffic would bear a smaller proportion to what is termed the ‘over-head’ charges. The cost of transit, would therefore be made cheaper, and the railways would be in greater demand by the public. This will eventually be the case, because as I have already told you, we are getting back the traffic; our trains run night and day when motors are in the garages or repair-shops.”
“You have enlightened me at any rate,” said Old Bill. “You seem to have learned a great deal of railway work in such a short time.”
“He has given me a surprise too, Bill, with his knowledge of the work.”
“I notice you could do with a new brush, Jock,” Said Nat, referring to the sweeping brush Jock held.
“Yes,” said Jock, “but I think I can make it last for another week.”
“Are you studying economy, Jock?” asked Bill.
“Well, perhaps I may be, a little,” replied Jock, “but I can tell you this, that a little economy would be a good thing to practise on the railway. I can see a lot of things which might appear to be trivial to some of the staff. With such a large number of employees, a fair sum could be saved the Department annually, especially at large stations, etc. I mean little things such as leaving water running to waste; gas burning on ring when not wanted; coal half burnt and dumped into rubbish bin; going off and leaving electric light burning, and other things which cost the Department some hundreds of pounds annually. My contention is that a good deal of this could be saved if the men took a little more care, and it is no trouble to do so.”page 48
“I think we had better be going, Bill, or I shall be wanting to stay all night to listen to young Jock. My wife will be getting uneasy at my absence and Jock can go on with his work.”
“Yes,” said Bill, “it is time we were going home. I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to you, Jock, but don't forget to get that business chap up here.”
Old Bill and Nat were very much impressed by young Jock, both being very enthusiastic at the amount of information they had received from him.
“I wonder what the business chap can tell us after all we have heard to-night, Bill,” said Nat. “I am sorry I was a little too hasty when he was telling us about the Training School.”
“I don't know, Nat,” said Bill, “but young Jock is getting trained all right.”
“I say Bill, old man, I consider you lost a gold mine when young Jock left your employ.”
“P'r'aps,” said Bill, “but I certainly think the Railway Department found a gold mine when young Jock joined them. In my opinion he will do well in the service and rise to a prominent position some day.”
When Mr. Summit arrived for duty at the station, Jock told him of his visitors, what they wanted, and asked him if he would write to Head Office as soon as possible. Mr. Summit said he would write immediately after the departure of the 9.30 train that night. This he did, and in a couple of days came a reply to the letter informing the Stationmaster that a Business Agent would be in the district that day.
Mr. Summit told Jock, and the latter soon got to work on the phone, ringing up Old Bill as he had promised to do, with the result that the Business Agent met all the farmers in the district. After hearing him they all agreed to give as much traffic as possible to the Railway. Old Bill and Nat had a quiet little chat to the Business Agent after the latter had done speaking, and young Jock's name was mentioned two or three times.
However, Old Bill and the rest of the farmers got their wool to the market with dispatch and received a good price for same. The expected trouble with the shearers did not come off, and everybody in the district seemed contented and happy. Young Jock got the credit which was wholly unexpected, but said he only “played the game.”
How sweet and gracious, even in common speech,
Is that fine sense which men call Courtesy!
Wholesome as air and genial as the light,
Welcome in every clime as breath of flowers,
It transmutes aliens into trusting friends,
And gives its owner passport round the globe.
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With everything coming your way, it is easy to think yourself a good fighter; but what really tests your mettle is the way you act when misfortunes befall you.