How true-blue train driver became a TV star
BERNIE Baker never imagined trains would turn him into a television star.
The true-blue Aussie character is the face of Foxtel's Railroad Australia, the highest- rating local series in Discovery Channel's history.
But even as the second season goes to air, the 54-year-old is surprised by his fame.
"Often the friend requests (on social media) are preceded by a message like 'We saw you on the telly' or 'I wish I was you'," he tells The Guide.
"I had a message on Facebook from a bloke the other day from WA who said, 'After seeing you on Railroad Australia I feel like I know you.'
"The office gets calls from women wanting to jump me bones! A woman rang up the owner of the company I work for wanting my phone number and he goes, 'He's married with a couple of kids.' Honestly, I've got to be one of the ugliest train drivers around."
Bernie is one of the country's most in-demand locomotive drivers, with more than three decades behind the controls, and has a Streamliner named in his honour. But even he was nervous about cameras following him.
"I was worried about mucking up but once we'd done a little bit of filming it became second nature," he says.
Trains aren't just a profession for Bernie, they're his passion as well.
"I was born into it. My dad was a driver and my grandma used to work on the buffet car on the train," he says.
"We used to live in railway houses in the country that backed onto the railway line. At a very young age my dad would set me up on the fence to see the trains. I was a goner from day one."
That passion unfortunately led to a tragic accident in 1991 after he climbed an electrical pylon to take a photo of a train and was struck by 600 volts. He was in a coma for two months and lost his leg.
"I don't have the energy to climb up power poles any more," he laughs.
"I still love photography and trying to be creative with the trains but at a ground level, a sensible level."
Bernie hopes to undertake a driver exchange program with an American railroad company, which may form the basis for a third season.
"It would be about the challenges of the job and how they do things over there," he says.
"I've stuck my neck out and said I want to do it in the winter with the snow."
The father of three also hopes to use the platform of the show to raise funds for a good cause.
"A bit like House Rules or The Block, three teams would get three locomotives and do them up for a children's charity," he says.
"I'm a real sucker for children. I want to make sure they don't miss out."
Railroad Australia airs Thursdays at 7.30pm on Foxtel's Discovery Channel.