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"ROB" wanted to be a train driver from the time he was six. He joined the railways as a junior clerk at 15. His father was a railwayman, a shift electrician in the old manual sub-stations.
"I saw what shift work did to him. We're social outcasts, but it didn't put me off," Rob says.
What may have finally put him off, though, is his extraordinary journey since he became a trainee driver in 1974, just before his 19th birthday.
Rob, who is 49 and off work on WorkCover, has hit and killed nine people while driving trains.
He's hit another seven and not killed them.
Only four of the nine fatalities were accidents.
During one 18-month period on the suburban network in the late '90s, he killed five -- all but one were suicides.
He estimates that at least half of the 670 suburban drivers have suffered at least one fatality.
He thinks the reasons for suicide may include drug use, gambling, mental health or social pressures. But he doesn't want to know why.
"That's very dangerous ground for us. We have enough trouble dealing with the incident itself.
"It doesn't do anything for me knowing that a person had a drug problem, or a medical condition or relationship issues.
"All I know is this injury has been inflicted on me, and the sooner I come to terms with it and move on, the better."
But moving on has become harder.
Three times he has decided to walk away, but each time he reconsidered.
Without counsellor Michael O'Neill's help, he says he could not have coped with the grief, anger and depression.
August and September are bad months for him, he says, and have been for many years.
He closes his eyes as he recalls in graphic detail his first fatality, in 1977, on the 12.20 Geelong passenger train to Melbourne, when locomotive number T326 hit a white Valiant station wagon on the level crossing at Aircraft station.
"I can remember it quite vividly. I can even see the person inside it," he says, as tears well.
"The detail just locks in and you can't get rid of it.
"You can't shut it out, because that does a lot of damage. You have to try and contain it, package it and gently push it aside -- that's all you can do."
He credits improved counselling for keeping drivers on the rails.
"In the old days we were expected to be men of steel with nerves of iron," he says.
"You got no counselling, and if you had more than two or three days off there were questions asked."
In the late '80s Rob was part of the team that restructured driver training. These days, he says, the accident risks confronting drivers are addressed from day one.
He says people would be amazed how often drivers are confronted by cars stuck on crossings as a train approaches.
"What do you think that does to us?" he says.
"You come flying around a corner -- though even 30km/h is bad enough when it's unexpected -- and here's a car with kids in it, faces up to the window.
"You know you can't stop, and she can't go. What do you do?
"We can't jump out. I don't want to see it, I don't want to hear it, but it's still going to happen.
"I don't look any more," he says, covering his ears and showing how he ducks his head.
His home is now his refuge. He has an unlisted phone and says he doesn't answer the door.
"It's part of my recovery, that people can't get to me. I've been down this track so many times.
"It's the only thing that's left that still works -- to know that I'm in sanctuary when I'm at home and can try and switch everything else off.
"Can you imagine what my family has had to go through?
"Sad, isn't it?"
Rob likes to remember the upside of his career, like driving the Spirit of Progress, the Southern Aurora, the Intercapital Daylight and the Gippslander, and his 10 years as a volunteer fireman on Puffing Billy.
Retiring age for train drivers is 55, but Rob may quit early.
"I may not go back this time. I don't know where I'm going," he said
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