It took 43 years and 438 kilometres, but the boy from Junee has become the man from the railway hall of fame.
Having worked on major train routes across Australia, Germany, China, and Japan, Peter Hands was recognised with the Career Achievement Award at the Australasian Rail Industry ceremony in Melbourne on July 5.
He admits the new accolade sets him a long way from his childhood enterprise selling rabbit meat door-to-door in Junee.
“We’d clean them up, take the skins off, sell those to a furrier, and then sell the meat to our clients for about a dollar. It was good pocket-money, but it’s a long way from what I’ve spent my life doing.”
In 1975, Peter Hands chased the big smoke to become a draughtsman with the NSW state railway.
As the 18-year-old prepared for his big move, he was given a piece of sage advice that he has carried throughout his career.
“When I got on a train to go to Sydney for the first time, I asked my mother when I would know to get off, and she said, ‘when you reach the end of the rail’,” he said.
“It was an exciting feeling walking around a city with skyscrapers with a thousand people around you. You don’t get that in Junee.”
Though his work has centred around Sydney, Mr Hands believes his heart has always stayed in his hometown.
“When I first went to Sydney, I wanted to get qualified and then come back to the country but that didn’t end up happening, and who knows what would have been if I did,” he said.
“[Even now] Junee is my home, I still consider myself a local.”