Engaging All Senses
Unsung heroes: The faces behind Track VOL. 001
Featuring Mr. Hideo of Nishi-Nippon Railroad Co., Ltd.
Meet Mr. Hideo, a prominent Tamping machine operator at Nishi-Nippon Railroad. He is highly regarded by his colleagues for his meticulous approach to every task.
Summer 2020 | Interview at Inuzuka Base
We kick off the inaugural edition of 'Unsung Heroes:The Faces behind Track Maintenance' with an interview featuring Mr. Hideo, a dedicated operator at Nishi-Nippon Railroad responsible for track maintenance work.
Upon welcoming us, Mr. Hideo greeted us with a smile, revealing that he carries a nightly sense of uncertainty about his work. The interview commenced with these surprising and candid words.
Hideo-san (Hideo): I consistently experience a sense of unease when working at night, and despite my two decades of expertise with tamping machines, this apprehension persists. It may sound peculiar, but I firmly believe that this anxiety should not be eradicated.
--It's intriguing how, with such extensive experience, you still grapple with occasional uneasiness. Is this concern primarily related to potential work-related accidents, such as damage to sleeper due to operational errors?
Hideo: Absolutely, that's part of it.
When I mention "anxiety," it's more accurately described as "the concern that something might go wrong." Despite tamping machine being a substantial machine exceeding 20 meters in total length, issues invariably originate from minor occurrences. A single loose bolt or a short circuit caused by tiny dust particles, if overlooked, can escalate into more significant problems, culminating in a sudden major accident.
That's why I'm always contemplating, "What if an issue arises on the main line?" It might sound like caution, but I am steadfast in the belief that by maintaining perpetual vigilance with this mindset, I can identify "premonitory signs" and proactively address situations before they escalate.
-- I understand. It seems like you leverage your "apprehension" effectively in carrying out your tasks. Can you elaborate on the specifics of your responsibilities?
Hideo: When phrased that way, it does make me a bit bashful to respond. When I'm in the operator's seat, I make a conscious effort to assess the machine's status using all my senses—checking for unusual noises, vibrations, and ensuring accurate displays. I aim to discern the machine's condition comprehensively; for instance, noticing if the engine produces a slightly higher pitch or if the left side of the machine responds more responsively to operations. To gauge a machine's condition, it's crucial to be familiar with its "normal state." Each machine possesses distinct characteristics, and understanding those nuances is essential for a comprehensive assessment.
-- Is the new machine, 08-1XS, operating consistently without heightening your concerns?
Hideo: (laughs) Absolutely. It has been in operation for over 240 working days per year.
This machine stands as our company's sole tamping machine, serving as a dependable ally. I make a concerted effort to upkeep and ensure its peak condition. With its stable performance, we can focus wholeheartedly on our tasks.
-- Hideo, I gather that you've had a tenure of over 20 years with tamping machines. Could you share which machine marked the beginning of your journey?
Hideo: My inaugural Marutai was the Unimat Combi 08-275, a machine featuring a lifting hook. I found immense satisfaction in maneuvering the hook, contemplating joint positions, and lifting the hook beneath the rail.
I vividly recall being struck by the "robustness of the machine and its performance," as lifting the rail independently demanded considerable effort.
--Thank you very much. To conclude, could you share the essential items that Hideo always has on hand for his work?
Hideo: I would say this watch is a must-have because I am a railroad man. Regardless of the task at hand, I consistently check the time with this watch. I appreciate it for its durability; it doesn't falter even with frequent use.
After work, Hideo and his team board the first train. The moment when they finish checking the ride comfort themselves is the most relaxing and rewarding moment for them. It is rare to find a workplace where the operators can check the end of the track themselves.
I was equally impressed by the team's swift and efficient operations, carried out seamlessly with a small team during the interview. It was a gratifying experience, as I could sense their deep connection to the machines, utilizing all five senses in their work.