Home' Greymouth Star : December 17th 2013 Contents Greymouth Star
8 - Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Frank Lucas s father Bill worked in
the locomotive running branch of
the New Zealand Railways, so it
was only natural, that Frank, would
also eventually walk the line too.
"I was the oldest of four boys
and I grew up between the Nelson and Picton
area in my younger days with my late brothers
Rex, Brian and Robin. My mum, Edna, and dad
eventually built a house in the Wood area of
Nelson. When I left Nelson College I worked in
an office for a short time before going to work
as a chain man for the Lands and Survey before
joining the Railways, in Wellington in January
From there Frank got caught up in the
Railways transfer culture and spent time working
in Palmerston North, Woodville and Dannevirke
before heading south again in 1961 to work on
the West Coast. He and his wife Marie have
lived here ever since.
"I learned the craft first as a fireman, out
on the lines and then driving the big brutes.
When I look back it was really slave labour, the
conditions we worked under. But we didn t know
any different, we accepted it. I had 40 minutes
to prepare a loco --- oil up, coal and water, adjust
the brakes. It was like a relay team down at the
sheds. As a train came in with one crew, another
crew was waiting to take it back out. On other
occasions a train might sit for four to five hours
in steam --- fires on trains were never put out,
always ready to go."
While steam locomotives were in abundance
on the the West Coast, that was not the case in
the North Island as most engines there had been
modified to an oil fired operation, Frank says.
" e steam engines were all converted and
an oil burner was fitted from the early 1950s,
but on the Coast it was logical to keep the
steam trains on coal --- there was no shortage
of coal on the Coast, that was for sure. I have
fond memories of being the fireman on the
KA942, which was in Greymouth recently. All
the 940s worked as express passenger trains and
goods trains, allocated to the area from Taihape
through to Taumarunui."
In his long career working on the West Coast,
the Railways had train depots at Reefton, Otira
and Ross, and the engines followed the familiar
tracks --- up to Blackball, across the bridge at
Ngahere to go up to Roa, out to Runanga and
up to Rewanui Mine, up the Grey Valley, down
to Hokitika and Ross, shunting along the wharf
sidings, and up to Otira ...
" e steam trains took cargo, coal and timber,
as well as the occasional passenger carriage. ey
were part of a continuous network of activity,
stopping at Otira, where carriages and wagons
would be disconnected. e steam trains never
went through the tunnel. Wagons were taken off
and were taken through by an English electric
loco operated by overhead cables, like the
trams. e wagons were hooked on to another
train waiting in Arthur s Pass and taken to
"Going up the Grey Valley was very hot, but
Hokitika-Ross you had the sea breeze, it cooled
you down a bit. Some jokers would arrive at
work in the morning rather intoxicated but
would get on the train and be good as gold ---
they d sweat it out. It was hot work as a fireman,
but in winter it was a good job."
Frank married Marie and after moving from
Picton to Greymouth they raised their children,
twins Elizabeth and Julie, and Lorraine and
Glen on the West Coast.
Bowls has played an important role in the life
of the husband and wife partnership, and both
Frank and Marie have been active members of
the Karoro Bowling Club. Frank says he started
rolling the green purely by chance.
"I joined the club in the early 1970s and was
talked into joining after having a beer at the
Aussie Hotel one night. Bill Budd had the pub
at the time and I was having beer with Jack
Minchin, Ray Boddy and Kerry Clark, who
persuaded me to come along. My wife, Marie,
was playing for the Karoro women at the time
--- and I ve been with the club ever since."
While Frank enjoyed the competition on the
green he says there was so much more to playing
bowls at Karoro.
"I enjoy the game but it was a great means of
relaxation for me, and of course the camaraderie
and friendships formed playing other clubs
throughout the West Coast and further afield.
We had a good group of players --- Ron Cook,
Harry McMath, Teddy Pascoe, Gordon Batty.
Back then, the strong clubs on the Coast
were Blaketown and Runanga --- we were
thereabouts. Runanga, in particular, was very
strong at the time."
Frank has had a full portfolio with the club
over the years, from past-president, secretary,
selector and match committee to greenkeeper,
and in May 2012 he was awarded life
membership of the Sporting Clubs Association
of New Zealand.
"Being the greenkeeper was virtually a full-
time job. e role is looking after the greens
and doing any work that may be required. at
can vary from day to day --- mowing the green,
applying fertiliser and pesticide as required. In
1992 the greens were planed, taking the surface
off and spreading new soil and sowing seed,
virtually renewing the whole green. In recent
years we have carried out the planing and the
complete process a second time."
Frank says in all his years at the Karoro
Bowling Club there has been little trouble, but
one instance remains the top of his list.
"We have had little trouble as the camaraderie
has always been good, but I remember one
disagreement out on the greens ended with a
few punches being thrown. Eric Flemming and
Eric Jones had a dispute, both were in their 80s,"
"Jimmy Sinclair was playing a crucial finals
game in the singles on the next green and had
to step in between the two Erics to break them
e trouble was, though, when Jimmy went
back to play he had lost his concentration and
ended up losing the game."
Retired locomotive driver Frank Lucas has
had a colourful career travelling the tracks
of the West Coast and elsewhere, working
with steam trains since the early 1950s and
then the transition to diesel locomotives in
the early 1970s. PAUL McBRIDE collects
the memories of one of the Coast s last
steam train drivers.
A life on
PICTURE: Paul McBride
Frank Lucas rests up at Dixon House. track
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