IN conversation with volunteer conductor Pin Ho
Why did you choose to volunteer at Puffing Billy Railway?
I came to know about Puffing Billy Railway through my daughter who went on a train ride from Lakeside to Gembrook. In her photos, it certainly looked like a fun and enjoyable ride. The heritage train intrigued me as well, which led me to do some googling and to my delight, I found out about the volunteer program, and jumped at the opportunity.
My first trip on the train was on Mother’s Day. My daughter booked the Steam & Cuisine Luncheon Train ride from Belgrave to Lakeside. Together with my husband, we thoroughly enjoyed a three-course meal, journeying through the scenic Dandenong Ranges, not to mention my first time crossing the Monbulk Creek Trestle Bridge. This happy day reconfirmed my decision to sign up as a Conductor.
You’ve been a Conductor with Puffing Billy Railway since 2018. What do you enjoy most about the role?
We kickstart our morning having a cuppa with our teammates. With a coffee in hand, a few of us will gather around for a quick chat and exchange of stories. Our shift starts at Belgrave with a briefing from the Station Master. Before the visitors arrive, Conductors review the passenger manifest, put out signage, install batteries in the Guard’s compartment and check the Big Station Clock is scheduled correctly for the day’s departures. The platform would then be teeming with people. This is what a Railway platform should be – busy, full of life, excited passengers asking questions, posing for photos.
Volunteering on the platform is interesting as you get to meet and interact with different people from all over Australia and the world. Before starting each journey, we direct passengers to their allocated carriages and assist visitors with special requests, such as wheelchair access. As a Conductor, you also travel onboard the train to share the history of the Railway and point out sights of interest along the way.
Our volunteers come from all walks of life and their role at the Railway is often quite different from their profession or hobbies. What do you do outside of volunteering?
Before moving to Australia, I worked in the Travel & Tourism industry in Malaysia. I spent the first six years of my career with Singapore Airlines and then 25 years with British Airways. My early years were focused on Passenger Handling, Customer Service and Reservations/Ticketing, and then I dedicated the latter part of my career to Freight Management. I enjoy the fact that being a Conductor with Puffing Billy Railway is like a continuation of my career in the tourism sector.
In my spare time, I like to dabble in a bit of cooking at home. Coming from a melting pot that is Malaysia, we get to enjoy various kinds of cuisines – Malay, Chinese, Indian, etc. I mostly cook Cantonese dishes, but I do on the occasion love a Malaysian curry (not too spicy though).
I’m looking forward to visiting Malaysia when borders reopen. It is an absolute paradise, renowned for its amazing food, colourful culture and beautiful beaches. There are lovely islands for scuba diving, sandy white beaches to sunbathe and warm crystal clear waters. ‘Pulau’ in Malay means ‘island’ – some of my favourite destinations are Pulau Redang and Pulau Perhentian on the peninsula, and Pulau Sipadan, in East Malaysia. When it is safe for international travel again, make sure you put Malaysia onto your itinerary!
With your love for cooking, this may be an easy question to answer. If you could choose to have dinner with one inspiring person, who would it be?
I would choose the former German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. She is truly an amazing person. Brilliant, strong, resilient, successful in the field of politics dominated by males! The world’s most powerful woman – she led her country well and strong in the EU.
What advice would you give to someone who was considering becoming a volunteer at Puffing Billy Railway?
Volunteering work is very fulfilling. It’s given me the opportunity to serve my community. Be it Conducting or any other role, it is about teamwork, patience, communicating with people, and learning about people’s cultures from different visiting countries. You would end the day with satisfaction after giving passengers happy memories of Puffing Billy Railway to bring home. Do give it a go if you are considering being a volunteer!
If you are interested in working with the public where you will be the sunny start to all sorts of journeys for all kinds of people, why not try your hand at becoming a Passenger Guide. With additional training and experience you may choose to become a Conductor like Pin Ho, or progress to other roles such as Booking Clerk, Station Master or Train Guard. We are currently recruiting volunteers across a number of entry-level roles. All training is provided. Submit your expression of interest today.