Footplate Classics

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I am a lesbian feminist. Between 1979 and 1984 I worked as a locomotive assistant training to be a train driver for the Victorian Railways in Australia. 

At one time six women were training at Melbourne’s South Dynon Loco and four women in country areas. Dianne Brown became qualified as a train driver in 1985. Unfortunately the other women left.

The attitudes of many of the men working in the railways added to on the job pressure. I have put some of these attitudes into poetic form.

Evelyn Robson

Hey Ev

You are good

at your job

I’d ask you to fire for me

any-day

Before the boys

But

Do you really think

this is women’s work

I think

lady firemen

should wear

nice skirts

not overalls

they look so unfeminine

by the way

did you really

hit a driver

over the head

with a shifter

or

is that

only a Rumour

I know that

you girls

can do the job

you have proved

you’re better

than the boys

But

I wouldn’t let

my wife

or daughter

become

a train driver

Any-how

they wouldn’t want to

they are

real women

Thanks

for firing 

a tough shift 

not exactly what real women do at 2AM 

Dig out the blocked sandboxes

put sand on the rails

in front

of a ‘T’ Class

Struggling up Macedon

not to mention

the rain

do you really

like this work

or

are you here

to find

a husband

An almost

daily occurrence

on walking into

South Dynon Loco meal room

quiet fellows

no swearing

one of the girls

has walked in

keep the language 

clean

At 3AM

one morning 

tired

frustrated

angry

I responded

I don’t give a fuck

if you swear

result

immediate

quiet

but for days

months

on my entering the meal room

some boys voiced sentences 

solely

of swear

words

Ev

is it true

you’re a lesso

I’ve heard a rumour

that

all you girls are

You don’t

wear make up

you like

getting your

hands dirty

you want to drive trains

and

you don’t

watch men

walking up

station platform ramps

Also

I’ve heard

When you

relieved at Dimboola

in the wheat season

the girl

that shared 

your room

was

your girlfriend

is that true

or

were you really

after Peter

the locomotive assistant

they say

you spent

lots of time

with

him

Great

I am glad 

your firing 

for me

Have you brought

Scones and cream

Oh bad luck

Well

I guess

You’ll make a decent

cup of tea

After

drinking it

Another cup I asked

he refrained

I don’t blame him

the spoon stood tall

in the tea

leaves

Evelyn you’re

a commie

aren’t you

not that I mind

but

some of the blokes

don’t

like

pinkos

they say

you came here

to cause trouble

to stir

things up

not that I mind

mind you

you do

a great job

on

the

footplate

I reckon

its great

you girls are here

teach 

the guys a thing or two

I was 

talking

to my girlfriend

the other day

We reckon

you lot

have footballs

It took

me

a

while

to work

that one out

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