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Number one train spotter

Tuesday, 23rd September, 2014

Ron Carter the exemplary train museum volunteer. Ron Carter the exemplary train museum volunteer.

By Paul Armstrong

On meeting Ron Carter you are immediately brought into his world of Railway memorabilia and the sheer love of trains that he holds dear in his heart. He has worked tirelessly in his long career in Broken Hill at the Silverton Tramway and the Sulphide Street Train Museum.

Ron Carter was born in Broken Hill in 1934 to a family entrenched in the community of our great city. With his father away fighting in the Second World War his mother looked after the family of two girls and two boys, before his dad returned in 1945.

Ron attended Burke Ward School then Broken Hill High School; though he admits school was not his favourite place to be.

Maybe his dreams of being a train engine driver were already guiding his life.

In 1949, at 15 years of age, Ron began work on the Silverton Tramway as a cleaner on the massive engines, then he became a trainee fireman and he loaded 15 tons
of coal a day into the engine on the huge train tenders working on the Silverton and Cockburn line.

Ron was a tall fit lad and he soon showed he was made of tough stuff as he worked hard in the job until he qualified as a mainline fireman and driver working for 21 years in this period of his life on the narrow gauge railway.

In 1956, Ron married June and they settled down, shortly their son Peter and daughter Vicki came along as the 1960s approached. They now have four grandkids and two great grandkids.

Earning a living was extremely important with a young family to take care of in the Post WW2 years.

As we talked in the museum the memories came rolling back as Ron told of the workmates, the sheer power of the engines he worked in and the billowing clouds of steam from those early engines as he began his own journey on the railway. Surrounded by the museum pieces Ron described many items of interest and told some funny stories, you could see a twinkle in his eyes as we settled into our interview.

"There was one time we ended up with some potatoes from one of the fruit and veg trucks lined up at the station," he said.

"Not one to let things go to waste we placed some potatoes in the engine smoke box and headed out along Blende Street, suddenly there was explosions as some of the spuds blew out of the engine making a hell of a racket."

Laughter echoed around the museum even some visitors could see the funny side of the story.

Then Ron continued with a sly smirk: "I opened the steam grate cover and as we went along we had some lovely hot baked spuds, I didn't have my sandwiches for lunch that day!"

Ron proudly showed me around the shed.

"It was named after me in 2010, celebrating my volunteer work at the museum."

With a hint of emotion, Ron showed me all the photos with many from his own private collection.

Christine Adams a great historian and museum Trustee committee member showed me the beautiful sign on the wall; it described Ron Carter's outstanding work
for the Railway Museum over many decades, and was labeled "The Ron Carter Pavilion".

It is significant to all men that Ron had gained that dream of all young lads to drive a train engine, and 65 years later he continues to be enthusiastic and loves showing
visitors and locals around this most excellent museum devoted to the railway system in Broken Hill.

He was a 1st class driver for many years and, in fact, Ron drove the last passenger train on the line in 1970.

He also has over 20 years was the Secretary of the Tramway Union and Employees Club and a Justice of the Peace since 1971.

Ron Carter retired from the Tramway in 1997 after finishing his days as a shunting driver on the mine trucks and eventually in the office, but through those proceeding
decades has continued his volunteer work in the railway.

In 1968, Ron was one of the men who cataloged many of the items to be saved for the future museum and volunteered to drive the trains taking the employees to the
Tramway Picnic at Penrose Park.

In 1972, the mighty effort of tracking down the items for the collection started in earnest with Ron scouring the city for the old items.

Since then Ron has continued his efforts at the Sulphide Street Station.

He was awarded a Broken Hill City Council Citizen Award for his exceptional efforts and volunteer work.

Ron said with an emphatic tone: "I love living here, we built our house in 1955 and 59 years later we are still very happy living there."

We walked around the station for a time with Ron giving a running commentary on the history and importance of the many pieces of memorabilia on display.

One could not help to imagine a giant engine sitting at the platform with steam billowing over the carriages of the Adelaide Express, "All aboard" rang out and then with a loud whistle the mighty engine chugged forward and the driver smiled and waved goodbye.

Ron tapped me on the shoulder and we entered the old ticket office and said our own goodbyes.

Ron Carter is a Living Legend of our city; he deserves every accolade that is bestowed upon him.

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