top of page

Railway

I remember films showing crowded platforms of men in khaki uniforms with heavy canvas bags piling onto steam trains going to the coast; station staff helping them to load their kit onto the carriages, closing doors, waving flags, instigating puffs of steam and the slow acceleration to God knows what. Not like now, with as many people, but civilians. Lighter, brighter dressed and not all men. Kids waving buckets and spades and running about. Now there is a station manager inside a glass fronted office watching what is going on, concerned that he can’t be everywhere at once, and that he can only make suggestions over the loudspeaker system. That ages me he thought, I don’t think Google would recognise the word Tannoy today.

Station Manager, Brian Gilbert, was not a young man. He had four and a half years to retirement and was more interested in retiring without a tarnish, than accumulating passenger 5-star satisfaction surveys. Children worried him. In particular, a family with three youngsters playing tag on Platform 2 while waiting for the train to the seaside.

He made to stand up, then sat down. He made to get up again and was about to go out there and remonstrate with them when he saw the youngest child get perilously close to the platform edge. He jumped up, ran down the stairs, and as he emerged onto Platform 1 saw the child topple over the edge and fall onto the track.

Brian jumped from the Platform and clambered across the track ballast as the seaside train was arriving. He grabbed the child and threw it up onto the platform before he lay down on the ballast as close to the platform edge as possible. The train continued on till it stopped, without touching him, or for that matter squirting any waste fluids at him.

Despite the fast, loud, beating of his heart he could hear screaming above him. He carefully crawled under the carriage to the other side and stood up. A loud cheer from the crowd greeted him as they saw he was safe. The child was not quite clear what had happened and why their mother was sobbing so loudly and why their father so very very annoyed.

Brian ran back to his office to Tannoy the boarding of the train and its departure from the station. As he sat still, it occurred to him that, Trains are an important part of life but are assumed to be an inalienable right, which surely implies an unmeetable personal and financial cost. After the noise of the leaving train had subsided, Brian again stood up, this time to retrieve from a filing cabinet the application forms required to apply for an early retirement.

bottom of page