I thought I might post about my sweat day since those who are interested in this kind of thing didn’t really get a decent account of it at the time. For those who don’t know, the term ‘sweat day’ refers to the first day a driver is out on their own after passing their driving test. The idea being that you are completely stressed out and sweating buckets. Or something.
Before I get to the point let me duck back to my test day. After passing the driving exam I wandered back over to the depot to sign things and get officially certified as a driver. At which point I was stashed in a cupboard for an hour. On enquiry it turned out that this was not some weird initiation procedure but merely a smart move by one of the DMTs. On hearing that I’d passed the TOM had apparently said ‘Great, get her to take that train then’! Now this not only bucks all tradition (you pass the test and have the rest of the day off as reward*) but also adds a whole wtf factor. I mean, sure I’d passed the test and was legally allowed to drive trains all over the place but where do they get off actually asking me to go and drive one??? ;o) So I was stashed out of the way allegedly ‘completing paperwork’ (watching TV) until the TOM went into a meeting and forgot about me.
So after narrowly avoiding having my sweat day early I finally got to the real thing. I’d checked beforehand what the duty consisted of so I wasn’t too bothered. First, go and book on and then journey up to the train depot to prep a train and take it to another train depot. I was fine with this, took a little longer than I probably needed so that I could double check things, paused to wonder what that strange noise was and then realised it was just the train being arsey and happily got on with things. I wasn’t actually particularly stressed about anything – in fact it was a nice day and I was enjoying the winter sunshine. The one thing that got me was that I was due to run empty which I don’t believe I had ever done during training for such a long period of time.
The trick to running empty is to never come fully into a platform. Drive slowly between stations then enter them at 5mph and drift through. This gives the cattle time to see you are not in service and also allows the station starter time to drop off – when it does you wind up and get the hell outta there. If you never stop then you never have the opportunity to reflexively hit the door-open buttons. That in mind I STILL went all the way down the road with ‘Don’t open the doors!’ running through my head. It seemed such an odd thing to do to run a train without passengers and I think that concerned me more than the fact it was my first ever train!
I think the only problem I had was when I was heading up the siding to the second depot where the shunt signal didn’t change. After waiting the normal couple of minutes I tried the radio to remind TBTB that I’d like to pass through and dump my train. Ah…radio isn’t working. Oh dear. I could hear some sort of reply but didn’t catch what it was and as this was a semi i couldn’t just authorise myself past it. I was just starting to wonder where the heck the signal post phone was when it cleared. I guess the signaller in the depot had forgotten the time. Phew.
Other than that one moment the day was fine. I had two more trains which were both in passenger service so no worries about letting people on and off cos I was supposed to. All in all it was a fun day and not the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.
No sweat. ;o)
*Although presumably if you fail you also get the rest of the day off because there wouldn’t be an instructor immediately available for you to go get some more practice with.