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I’m excited. The train ticket is pre-booked. Soon I’ll be catching up with friends who are attending the same conference. Most importantly, I’ve packed enough sandwiches and chocolate to last the train journey.
“Mind if I join you?” I say to the lady in the seat next to my reserved spot, hoping she doesn’t say no. I take my seat and we’re off.
The jovial announcer tells us, “small items and small children can be placed on the overhead rack.” Is it me or did he really say that? I chuckle. My new fellow passenger’s phone emits a loud ping, she apologises, and we start a conversation.
I’m enjoying this journey.
Suddenly I hear an announcement: “Would the Guard please go to the Driver’s cabin. Over.” When did start they start saying “over” on the public address system?
The next announcement begins with “This is an important announcement…” Yes, one of those which makes you stop talking and start listening to the man with the microphone.
“Unfortunately, our train has a problem. We have only one engine. So this train will be terminating here.”
We all pile off. We’re in Stalybridge. Some people look at the overhead boards, some look at phone apps, some ask the staff. No point looking at the broken clock. Fortunately, the jovial announcer on the train had given us some indication about which would be the best trains to catch to get the various destinations.
I decide which train I need. But in the meantime, another train makes an unscheduled stop at our station to pick up the stranded passengers. Well done TransPennine Express. Good decision. So I get on board and stand up with most of the other people.
At Huddersfield, I decide to jump off (well, I do wait for it to stop first) and catch another direct train to my destination, Newcastle. It also gives me time to check out the olde worlde waiting room and dig out one of my treasured beef sandwiches (yes, those packed especially for the train journey).
The subsequent trains are now backing up – but this one is only about 10 minutes late. And I find a seat with a table all to myself so I get to do a bit of work, watch the CMA 30-Day-Challenge catch-up video, and write stuff like this for you to read.
I receive a text message. My wife has walked our son’s dog, arrived back at their house, and broken the key in the lock. So she’s waiting outside with the dog. Sorry I can’t help you from… where are we now? …Durham. Good job the dog doesn’t need a toilet. Joel’s on the way to sort it out and pick up my toolbox on the way, so hopefully Christine won’t be late for her appointment.
The train pulls into the station over an hour after it should have. But it’s been an adventure.
I check into the hotel, make a brew, connect to WiFi (hey, get priorities right), ring Christine. I find out that Joel has sorted the lock, Christine has got to her appointment, the world is well again.
Isn’t life an adventure!
Who knew at the beginning of this day?
It can’t happen again… can it?
I leave the Atomicon conference a happy man and reflect on the events of the day. Walking the route to a recommended fish restaurant takes me past Newcastle railway station, and my mind goes back to yesterday’s adventure. Today I’m looking forward to a smooth journey home.
The mussels are delicious; the bill is a mere £6.05; I think I can afford a 15% tip. I hope they appreciate that 95p. There’s still a bit of time before I need to be at the railway station so I pop into Waitrose and treat myself to my favourite dark chocolate. At £2.05 (does everything in Newcastle end with 5p?), it’s much more expensive than at home. But I don’t mind because I’m still chuffed about the price of the mussels. And it’s from Waitrose, so surely it must taste better.
Arriving at the railway station with plenty of time to spare and looking up at the departures board, my eyes can’t believe what I’m reading. The train has been cancelled. I ring our elder son, Danny. Danny works for a rail company, writes timetables, and knows loads of stuff about how the rail network works. Just like the right “phone a friend” on “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?”, it’s good to have connections when you need them. He gives me some helpful tips and pointers.
The lady on the information desk suggests I “take the train to York and change there. Platform 5. It leaves in a minute.” I run over the bridge, expecting to jump on the train as it leaves. But it’s 8 minutes late.
My feeling of ‘hard-done-by’ changes when I read that today’s disruption has been caused by a fatality on the railway line. My small problem suddenly pales into insignificance.
The train to York is crowded, as expected. But at least I manage to get a seat. Unfortunately, I’m right behind a group of loud, drunken girls. The revellers continue their drinking and banter. Someone plays an audiobook without headphones. I decide to busy myself by making contingency plans in case we don’t get to York in time so I tune out the ambient noise.
By the time we arrive in York, I’ve devised a plan. Danny’s given me times, platforms, everything I need. But they change the platform. Danny’s on the case, though, and sends me an update.
But I’m puzzled. It says “Newcastle” on the back of the train. Danny tells me that this train is the one I should have been on from Newcastle. It couldn’t leave Newcastle because it never got there.
I notice every seat has a reserved ticket. But on closer inspection, they’re for the previous journey in the opposite direction. The carriage is almost empty, so I spread out across two seats. We collect a few more passengers at the next station. I look up. A man is standing there, looking at his ticket, then at the seat containing my rucksack and jacket, then his ticket…
“They’ve announced that they’ve cancelled the reservations. These reservations are for the previous journey. You can sit anywhere,” I say, pointing at all the empty seats around. But he’s adamant that he’s booked this particular seat. I move my rucksack, body-warmer and jacket, remove my belongings from his table and fold it up. And he sits down.
I try to strike up a simple conversation. After all, I don’t want him to think I’m one of those awkward people who occupy other people’s seats. He gets off at the next station and I spread out again. In the moving around, I drop a piece of my prized chocolate on the floor. I can’t see it anywhere. Does that man realise how much I paid for that chocolate?
I send a message to Christine. She’s picking me up at the station. I’m not going to be late after all. She’ll be happy. And I’m happy that I’m nearly home. It’s been another railway adventure. Perhaps I should write a blog post. How about “The Tale of Two Trains”?Who knew that simply catching a train could result in an adventure? #railway #train #adventure Click To Tweet
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Keith Middleton says
Nice little story David, I don’t travel by train very often, occasionally to Birmingham to Paul’s and so far no problems. But now I remember a supposedly simple journey from Manchester Airport direct to Leyland. We all had to get off the train in central Manchester, very crowded platform, confused information. After an hour a relief train only to Bolton, no sound information so I jumped on a train for Wigan, changed Stations and eventually arrived at Leyland about three hours late..
Thank you, Keith. Yeah, it’s amazing how small changes and unclear information on our railways can lead to huge delays.