After almost 50 years and 60,000 sandwiches, Dunedin train
driver Les Box is hanging up his hat.
The KiwiRail employee has retired, the last former New
Zealand Rail steam engine driver to do so.
Mr Box (65) said he would not miss the alarm clock, but he
would not give up his routine completely.
''I love sandwiches and I'll continue to eat them. I've had
60,000 - six a day and almost all of them made by my
sweetie,'' he said.
''There aren't any corner dairies on the railway track,
although I've had the odd McGregor's pie at night when we've
stopped and gone round to the back of the bakery for a fresh
Growing up near the railway line in Port Chalmers, Mr Box
aspired to be a train driver and after studying at King
Edward Technical College he started work as a cleaner in the
steam engine sheds opposite the Oval.
His ''apprenticeship'' lasted 11 years and saw him trained as
a fireman for the shunting yard, a second-grade engine
driver, an express train fireman and finally a first-grade
driver for passenger trains.
He retired as an express freight train driver for KiwiRail
and said his career on the tracks had been everything he had
hoped for and more.
Highlights included firing locomotive Ja 1250 on the last
steam-hauled timetabled train in New Zealand - and being
involved in the centennial celebrations for the Dunedin
He was also a driver on the last Southerner passenger train
Mr Box said one benefit of his ''erratic shift-work'' was
enjoying sunrise and sunset.
He hoped his retirement would include overseas travel,
especially on steam trains.
''My whole career has been a highlight. It's the best job
I've ever had, and the only one.''