Father & Son
In the early 1950s, a young boy named Geoff from South East Melbourne went on a family drive to the Dandenong Ranges. Among the windy and scenic roads was a steam train called Puffing Billy. Upon first sight, a young Geoff was instantly in awe of the train. Little did he know that this admiration would lead to a life-time involvement with Puffing Billy Railway (PBR).
It was in the September of 1956 that Geoff was first offered an opportunity to do some volunteer work with the train he had loved instantly as a small boy. Geoff began volunteering at Puffing Billy, assisting with the maintenance of the track. At the time, the line did not have its own tools and volunteers were asked to bring their own. Every weekend Geoff would ride the train all the way into town, and then back out to Ferntree Gully so he could volunteer. For several years, Geoff and the other young volunteers continued to ride the train every weekend to help out with Puffing Billy. Here they would attend to weeds, track repairs and any other tasks that the railway needed assistance with.
At age 15, Geoff started volunteering in the track maintenance branch. The volunteers would use the push trollies to carry all their belongings to their job sites. Occasionally they would dismantle the trollies and attempt to convince the local bus drivers to let them ride the bus with the trolley. In 1977, Geoff was one of the first volunteers to become qualified in safe working. During this time, he worked as a Guard, Signalman, Booking Clark, and Station Master.
On the 28/07/1962 when the line re-opened between Belgrave and Menzies Creek, Geoff was the booking officer on the first train. During his time as a volunteer, Geoff has managed the Signal and Communications Branch and coordinated the reconstruction of the railway phone line with a team of enthusiastic volunteers. He was also elected as a Puffing Billy Preservation Society (PBPS) Executive and managed the Services Branch, responsible for the railway refreshment kiosks, the museum at Menzies Creek, and the publication of Narrow Gauge. Geoff is currently the team leader of the PBR archives, where they store all Puffing Billy records, photographs and other archive materials. At present, Geoff and the team are working on setting up a Puffing Billy Library. He has now been a volunteer for 61 years.
Growing up with a father so heavily involved with Puffing Billy, Chris spent a lot of his early years around the railway. His primary school teachers would often comment about how much of his school diary was filled with weekend trips to Puffing Billy to “help” his Dad volunteer as Guard or Signalman or work with the Signals & Telegraph branch. In 2000 when Chris completed high school, he was able to dedicate more time to volunteering with Puffing Billy. Chris began to participate in Engine cleaning, Wednesday night workshops, and helping with the restoration of Locomotive G42 all whilst studying a degree in Civil Engineering.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Chris also completed his safe working. Chris dedicated much of his spare time over the next few years to volunteering at Puffing Billy, going on to qualify as a Trolley Driver, Fireman, and a Locomotive Engine Driver. He was one of the youngest qualified Engine Drivers at age 29. In 2015, Chris and his wife Jac welcomed their first son Archie. Archie is already following in his dad and grandad’s footsteps as you can see in the photos shown. Chris is still an active volunteer and finds time whenever possible to help drive the locomotives. Chris and Jac are expecting another potential volunteer in November and Puffing Billy can’t wait to meet their future little gunzel!