Career on the right track

When Josh Ralston attended his very first job interview at HVTC, he sat admiring a model of the 3801 locomotive that a group of HVTC apprentices had helped to restore between 1983 and 1986.

Little did he know that just two years later – 30 years after his predecessors – he would get the opportunity to work on the very same train.

Josh, a 4th year Engineering Mechanical apprentice, has volunteered as a boiler attendant and trainee fireman for the NSW Railway Transport Museum (an initiative of Transport Heritage NSW) for the last seven years. Once a month, Josh spends a whole weekend in the museum workshop or travelling around completing different projects with the locomotive Maintenance crew.

Josh is also a volunteer for the Maitland Steam and Antique Machinery Association – the organization behind Hunter Valley Steamfest – an event that Josh has attended every year since he was a kid.

“When I was little my Grandparents took me to Steamfest and it became a tradition. I think I’ve been every year, except of course this year because of COVID,” he said.

“I absolutely loved it and spent so much time talking to people and asking questions that one year I was invited to join the Association that runs the event. I’ve been volunteering with them since I was 15 years old.

“I do it because these trains are an important part of Australia’s history. There’s not a lot of other young people that do this sort of thing, so I want to ensure the heritage isn’t lost.”

Ever since a young age Josh has had an interest in working with machinery, which ultimately influenced his career choice. In 2016 Josh commenced an Engineering Mechanical (fitter machinist) apprenticeship a small engineering firm before joining HVTC in 2018 as a second year apprentice hosted to Origin Energy - Eraring Power Station. Josh is now in the final year of his apprenticeship, due to complete later in 2020.

While the volunteer work is completely different, Josh is learning a range of skills that have made him a well-rounded apprentice.

“Through my volunteer work I learn a lot about old school engines, and this has really helped me in my own career,” he said.

“You can’t just get parts off the shelf for a 100-year old machine so there’s a lot of fault finding involved. And because you can’t source any parts, you have to make them all yourself, so there’s a lot of problem solving involved and adaptability. You have to be able to think on your feet.

“I like the challenge of the work I do and the uniqueness. It’s not something a lot of people get to experience any more. I also enjoy the camaraderie that comes when the crew works together to get something running. It’s pretty cool to see something that hasn’t run for 40 years come to life again.”

Young man standing in front of green locomotive steam engine