Lifestyle: Railway man signs off after 50 years

Emily AceSouth Western Times
Peter Brandis is looking forward to spending time with his sons, grandchildren and extended family after he hangs up his overalls in September.
Camera IconPeter Brandis is looking forward to spending time with his sons, grandchildren and extended family after he hangs up his overalls in September.

After celebrating 50 years of dedicating his life to working on the railways next month, Peter Brandis will officially hang up his overalls for good in September.

The Bunbury family man’s career began at the tender age of 15, when he trained as a boilermaker in the Midland workshops alongside seven of his 11 siblings.

“I am the only one who stayed in railways after finishing my apprenticeship,” Peter said.

“In those days it was just a matter of you get an apprenticeship. They used to take on hundreds of apprentices at a time, so you just applied for it and hopefully got in.”

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Peter toiled away in the workshops for eight years, which included working on steam locomotives which were used for short runs in Perth.

The Harvey-born country boy said after nearly a decade in the city, he was ready to return to his roots.

“After eight years living in the city being a country boy, it started to take its toll. I wanted to bail out and come home,” he said.

When asked if his parents were happy to see him return to the South West, he retorted “not with that many kids” with a laugh.

The move to Bunbury was made even easier after marrying his wife Johnnette in 1975, who hailed from Carey Park – where they still live today.

With the move came a new job description – transferring to the civil engineering branch and Peter worked on the tracks with teams from as far as Pinjarra in the north, down to Pemberton and across to Kojonup and Williams.

“I looked after all the points and crossings through that whole area,” he said.

“It was very labour intensive when we first started.

“I still drive through the crossings and drive down to Nannup, although the line has been closed for I don’t know how long, and say ‘we used to do this here’ or ‘we had a derailment there’. I still remember all that hard work.”

Reflecting back on a sterling career, Peter said the favourite aspect of his job was the variety every new day brought.

“It was an interesting job – no two days were ever the same, no matter what,” he said.

Over the decades Peter watched as the job evolved, from fixing derailments with manual labour to the use of cranes and equipment.

Peter’s final move was into wagon maintenance, where he still works today, and he was at first in charge of repairing and maintaining the old Leschenault Lady and Koombana Queen.

Despite his years of experience, Peter preferred to get his hands dirty and had no interest in taking an office job.

“It’s not my gig – I am definitely a hands-on person,” he said.

To this day, Peter credits his father’s advice for his long-standing career.

“It was instilled in all of us to get a trade, because even if you don’t want to do that straight after you finish your training, it’s something to fall back on later,” he said.

“If times get tough you can always go back to your trade.”

Peter is proud of all he has achieved and said he was happy he could leave a lasting legacy.

As the sun sets on his career, he has mixed feelings about saying goodbye.

“The personnel has changed a lot in the last five years, so it is not going to be as hard as I thought it was going to be,” he said.

“The new ones are coming in to replace myself and the others – most of us came up at the same time. It’s a big change in the guard, but it’s been a good ride.”

With retirement looming, Peter is looking forward to days of relaxation and spending time with his family. “As my wife always says; dreams do come true, you just have to wait.”

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