Frank Johnson



Engineering Heritage Australia, Sydney

Frank Johnson’s entire career has been in the rail industry, commencing as a Trainee Civil Engineer with the Way & Works Branch of then NSW Government Railways in 1964. Following graduation, he worked in track and structures maintenance across NSW, before moving into construction works.

Through the various restructures and re-organisations, Frank worked in a wide variety of senior management roles, including heading the Development Branch, before moving back into engineering, including a period as General Manager, Major Works.

In 2000, Frank was seconded of the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link (ECRL), working primarily on the ‘live rail’ interfaces. During this period, Frank joined the private sector after more than 40 years with the government railways in its various incarnations.

Following completion of ECRL, Frank went on to work with the Glenfield Junction Alliance as Commissioning and Integration Manager, finishing off the project as Alliance Manager. This led to further work on the North Strathfield Rail Underpass (NSRU) project, where Frank was again Commissioning and Integration Manager, and later Engineering Manager.

At the end of NSRU, Frank retired from full-time work, dropping down to some ad hoc consulting work in the rail industry.

How long have you been volunteering with Engineers Australia?
Only for about five years, since the beginning of 2015, when I joined Engineering Heritage Sydney and became involved with its activities – for which there are no shortage of opportunities.

Why did you become a volunteer?
I was staring in the face of retirement and started thinking about what I could do. My wife and I have been members of the National Trust for some decades, so moving into engineering heritage and seeing what I could do to help there seemed like a natural progression.

What do you enjoy most about being a volunteer?
The variety of the Engineering Heritage activities that one can get involved in, with the opportunity to widen my engineering knowledge. But above all this it is all about the people that you get to meet and interact with.

This is both within EA and in the wider community, especially the regional groups that are so passionate about their local heritage.

What has been your greatest achievement in your time volunteering with Engineers Australia?
Being new to the role of Chair of EHS, can I substitute ‘ambition’ for ‘achievement’?

Engineering Heritage cannot and should not exist in isolation from other parts of EA, so one of my aims is to encourage greater interaction and co-operation between our group and the discipline-based groups.

Then, Engineering Heritage should not be the province of ‘oldies’ as is so often thought but we must look to the younger generations to get interested, take over and carry on the preservation of our engineering heritage.

Frank Johnson

How has your career informed your work as a volunteer?
My career has helped in two ways. Firstly, technical, providing me with experience in a wide range of engineering activities, although with EHS this is ever expanding. Secondly, there is the people side, where field engineering and management gave me experience of dealing with a wide range of personalities, inside and outside the workplace.

How do you balance work and volunteering?
This is not quite so much of an issue for me, being ‘mainly’ retired, but that said, I really don’t know how I ever found time to work. Being Chair of EHS does bring extra involvement but a life time predisposition to delegation does help.

What would you tell other members who are considering becoming a volunteer?
Just find a group in Engineers Australia that interests you and get involved. It doesn’t matter how small or large your involvement is, contributions are always more than welcome, and you are sure to find it satisfying and rewarding.

Image: courtesy of Frank Johnson.