After decades of collecting model trains, CCS staff member is now working the railway
BY RACHELLE COOPER
His title off campus is “trainman,” and it's certainly a fitting description of Paul Tatham, a staff member in Computing and Communications Services. Tatham has dreamed about locomotives since he was a child, has collected them for decades and has lived beside them for 27 years, but it wasn't until last month that he became qualified to work as a trainman.
In his position with Ontario Southland Railway Inc., Tatham works what people in the railway industry call “the ground.” Equipped with a two-way radio and a set of switch keys, he is the engineer's eyes and ears. He must get on and off freight cars while they're in motion to uncouple and couple cars, set and release handbrakes, hook up air brake hoses, throw switches and test brakes.
The job can be quite dangerous, says Tatham. “Hardly a month goes by without someone in North America getting killed by falling off a train or getting caught between two cars while switching boxcars.”
During his first paid shift in September, Tatham himself had a close call. Someone had put a block of wood and a ramp on the tracks, perhaps in an attempt to derail the train. Fortunately, he and his crew saw the obstruction in enough time to stop.
So why is the 55-year-old using his spare time to put himself in danger at this stage of his life?
“I've always had a passion for trains, and this work is a boost for my mental and physical well-being,” he says.
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