Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

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What To Do When You Are Stuck

by John Morris

Three Stories - What To Do When You Are Stuck

1. The Bicentennial Train trip.

For its contribution to the Australian Bicentennial year (1988), the Sydney Adventist High School decided to charter a steam engine powered train and take the whole school to Old Sydney Town located out of Gosford some 80 kilometres north of Sydney.

Attuned to her father's interest in things steam Marilyn, our younger daughter, got approval for me to accompany the students on the trip. It was a pleasant day, sunny and warm and a great time was had by all. 

The homeward run began at Gosford where we rejoined the train.  I was in the rear carriage with the guard. The guard was complaining that no one listened to him. He had made his opinion clear to the engine driver and others who did not listen too well that the train was overloaded. With the 8 carriages and some 400 students and staff the guard believed that the load was too great for the climb up from the Hawkesbury River Station at Brooklyn to Cowan Station.

The guard was right. At a sharp bend about halfway up the hill, 3642 could not pull the train any further and it came to a complete halt. After discussions between the train staff the guard had the task of walking back along the track to the next signal and telephoning the controlling signal box at Brooklyn to report and to seek advice.  He was happy to have my company.

Waiting on a siding at Brooklyn was a goods train with 2 electric engines. The train was waiting for its turn to move up the hill and then through the Sydney suburbs to the goods yards at Enfield. It was arranged for the front engine to be disconnected from the train and move up the hill to where 3642 plus carriages were sitting immobile. The electric engine was connected to the back carriage and then pulled the whole train in reverse back down to Hawkesbury station and into another available siding. The electric engine then ran around the train and was connected to the front of the engine 3642. It was then a case of waiting until a slot was available so that the train now double headed (3642 plus the electric engine) could move up the hill to Cowan.

Across the road from Hawkesbury River Station was a small shop - the only one open in Brooklyn at the time.  No one on the train had any food left. There had been no expectations of getting back to Sydney any later than 4.00 pm. I ducked across to the Brooklyn shops to see what was available. I acquired all the packets of Potato Crisps and Cheezles that they had.  Back on the train it worked out that everyone had a packet of Crisps or Cheezles each to get by.

Things finally got back into action well after sunset and Cowan was reached about 8.00 pm that night. 

2. The Problem Superbug

Son-in-law Colin acquired a VW Superbug of vintage 1974, the purpose being to do it up and then provide granddaughter R'chelle with her first car when she is legally able to drive. The car was available in Sydney and Colin asked me to drive it up to their home in Murwillumbah. To prepare the vehicle for the drive, and knowing as little of its history as the sellers were inclined to provide, I took the car to the garage for a grease and oil change.

We left Sydney at 7.30 am. The suspension on the Superbug proved very firm, the shock absorbers sounded and felt like they needed replacing as did a large number of bushes between the body and the floor panel. An additional problem was that the previous owner had fitted an after-market steering wheel which was smaller than the standard steering wheel and it blocked out of the speedometer.  Extra care had to be taken to ensure compliance with the speed limits that change so frequently these days.

At Grafton I elected to fill the tank. The gauge indicated full and not knowing the consumption rate of the vehicle I decided to be conservative, rather than proceed on to Ballina, 125 kilometres away.  As we ran over the footpath crossing into the service station for fuel, the engine died. After filling the tank, the car would not start. We decided to push start, with Marcia assisting with the pushing. But it would not go.  Looking into the engine compartment disclosed nothing untoward other than the fuel filter which had less fuel in it than I thought there ought to be. Being in the car for delivery purposes only, my usual tool box was back home.

Thankfully, Colin was able to organize roadside service and after hour the car was going again, rough, but mobile. However, by the time we got to Maclean (34 km away) it was clearly time to stop. I was not happy with either the sound of the engine or the increasing roughness of its running. It was a rough trip. I persevered, but could only get the car to run at about 40 km per hour - not good on the Pacific Highway.

More phone calls to Murwillumbah and Colin and Cathy were able to get a car trailer and 2 hours or so later we had the Superbug on the trailer and headed north once again.  Arrival time was 11.15 pm instead of the 6.45 pm we had planned on.

3. The Razorback run

The "old" Hume Highway south from Sydney is not used much these days. It's got to be a tourist trip, or a local resident, or a blockage of the Motorway that sees a driver using the old road. A well known section of the road was the climb out of Camden up Razorback ridge. Not high as mountains go (in fact it would be a geographical insult to use the word mountain for Razorback).

Its problem was a combination of a long uphill slope with the low powered vehicles that were in use up to the 1950's and 60's. With vehicles of British origin, being prominent in Australia, long uphill climbs were a problem. Cars would not handle the load. Any time you drove up or down Razorback, you could expect to see a number of vehicles which could not make the climb sitting on the side of the road with bonnet up and steam issuing from the radiator. 

One Austin A70 utility was, one day, motivated by the story of the little red engine that thought he could. You will remember the story, how the little red engine, when confronted with a major climb on the train line, got the job done with some self motivation. "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can" was what he said and with a great deal of effort made it over the top of the rise to "I know I can" and great celebrations as the little red engine powered down the hill to the station at the base.

The little Austin A70 did not have quite the motivation, or maybe was simply not properly maintained. There is little evidence today as to what the problem was. Sad to say the Austin A70 just could not make it. The owner was obviously not going to spend much time on the side of the road this particular day, and the little Austin A70 was moved off the road totally to the nearest field and left. 

Perhaps with a thought of recovery, the owner came back some weeks later and removed the bonnet and the engine. It was taken back to Sydney, and delivered to the mechanic's shop for repair and restoration. Sadly, the engine was too far gone for economical repair and the engine became a boat anchor. The little Austin 70 was forgotten. In due course the car was inflicted with rust, bearings seized, tyres deteriorated, the battery disappeared, various parts were taken for transplanting and there was only a shell left.

It was not long before a little seed off a nearby eucalypt was blown off the tree and dropped fair and square into the centre of where the bonnet would have been and found a patch of top quality soil.   The body of the A70 provided ideal protection for the little tree and it grew into a fine specimen that you can see today.

The brief analysis

In Luke 15, Jesus also told 3 short stories of things that got lost and in those stories highlighted different aspects of His mission brief. The stories are:

a)  The lost sheep
b)  The lost coin
c)  The lost son (well known as the prodigal son).

The lost sheep and the lost son knew that they were lost.  The lost sheep did not know how to get out of the situation in which it found itself. The lost son knew he was "lost" and did something about it. Then there are those who like the lost coin do not know they are lost.

The inanimate objects in my 3 short stories were like the lost coins, unknowing, incapable of acting for their own good. It took action by people to get things moving again, though in the case of the little Austin, no one cared enough to act, none saw any worth in trying to save the vehicle. Jesus came to operate a search party "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost". (Luke 19:10)

The lost sheep needed a shepherd who was close to his flock, ready to recognize if one was missing, and to get a search programme underway.  Jesus said "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep". (John 10:11)

The lost son needed, in addition to his own wake up call, a loving father to be watching for him and to have the welcome mat out and waiting. Imagine what might have been had the father asked for an accounting of the funds released to the younger son before he would be allowed back into the home. Thankfully we have a father waiting back at the homestead. Peter suggests that we put ourselves under the "mighty hand of God""for he careth for you". (1 Peter 5:7)

"Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the waters
Put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea
Take a look at yourself
And you can look at others differently
Put your hand in the hand of the man of Galilee"

          Gene MacLelland


This article and the pictures it contains are Copyright © 2008 by John L Morris.  Used by permission.

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