Preserved for this time

by Alan Phillips

Alan Phillips

As a new member having received my Patriarchal Blessing, I would read it from time to time. One day I read something that I had never read before. I cannot remember the exact words, but I was told how the Lord had preserved me for this time. In that instant my mind went back to the late 1950s when I worked for a private firm repairing railway wagons. Twice a week about eight of us would pile in the works’ van to be dropped off at places where wagon repairs were needed.

One day they asked me to go to Whitland (Carmarthenshire, Wales) as they were short-handed. Ivor, who was in charge, told me to go and tighten up some bolts on a wagon which was in the middle of a long row of wagons. I had to go in between them. Suddenly there was a clashing of the wagons, and something told me that it was the wagons on my line. As I got down flat on the rails, the shunt hit the buffers of the wagon I was working on. The wagons were rolling over me, but I kept cool and thought, “If no one hears me I will catch hold of the last-but-one coupling and be dragged—the steam engine was pushing the wagons and if the engine went over me, I would be dead. Some railway workers heard me and stopped the engine. When I crawled out, they asked me how I was. I said I was fine, but then I became like jelly and shook – this was a delayed reaction to the shock of being so close to being killed.

I was soon back with my usual gang in Milford Haven in Wales. One day Jacky, who was then in charge, told me to ‘drop’ one of the buffers on a wagon—the spring inside was broken. About one inch of the very large thick spring in the buffer was protruding. (There was a great deal of tension on the four bolts that secured it. It took one man to ‘drop’ it and three men to lift it into place.)

In those days it was mainly hammer and chisel work, and you always cut through the most awkward nut first. I had nearly cut through this nut, but then decided to cut through the others and then finish cutting the awkward one. In no time I’d cut through the other three nuts, then I placed my chisel on the last nut that was nearly cut. All the time I was cutting through the nuts I had to stand in front of the buffer. As I lifted my hammer to make the final blow, something made me look up and see that this wagon was a ‘twin bolster’, having no sides and used to carry long steel bars from steel works. The thought came, “Do I go on top and lay flat and finish the cut, or should I just carry on?” I am so thankful that I felt the urge to go on top of the wagon. As I gave a blow with the hammer and chisel, the buffer (weighing about three quarters of a hundred weight, about 40 kilograms) suddenly ripped off the rest of the bolt and smashed against another wagon which was about fifteen feet away. The spring had been jammed, and that final blow loosened the spring. If I had decided to stay put and finish the cut, I would have been killed.

I realise now that the Lord had protected me, I did not show my patriarchal blessing to my wife, but I told her about what I had read. However, the following week when I read my blessing again, looking for the phrase about Lord preserving me for this time, it was not there. I read and re-read it, but it was not there. To this day I cannot explain this, but I do believe that our Heavenly Father is watching over us and preparing the way we go.