Saturday 23 October 2010

Missing in Action.
Model railways is a great hobby. If you have been in the game as long as I have every time you see the familiar bods at exhibitions, their faces are getting more wrinklier, head hairs are missing, and they have to ask you your name.
A group of some ex school mates from yonks ago meet a few times a year at each others place to catch up on their layout and watch a few dvd's etc.
Last Friday was one of those nights. And I did't get there. But I remembered in the shower this morning and promptly fired off the following email as an excuse. (One reply likens it to a book)
To explain what the email is about there was a storm in Sydney Friday afternoon and lightning knocked out signals between work and home. It is not about modelling as such, has trains in it, so be fore warned.

Let me draw out the saga leading up to the alzhiemer moment.

Friday around 4.15pm. Watch alarm rings,then sorry boys have to go home. Computer shuts down ( hurry up windows). Out the door into the lift and the fellow passenger mentions amongst other things that a lightning strike had hit at Thornleigh. Bugger that’s on the way home. Should I go via the Shore line?

Over at Central the delay board shows all line ‘Normal service’ except North line as ‘Minor delays’ Yeah I can live with that. If there’s a problem they should have fixed it by the time I get there.

So I board the 4.30pm North, settle into my normal seat with the latest edition of MX. All well as far as Strathfield, Eastwood then the rot set in. We sit in between Eastwood and Epping (thank goodness it was air con and our carriage had a dunny in it). After 15 minutes or so the guard announces due to “infrastructure problems’ there will be a slight delay. Yeah right slight my arse. He said there was a queue of train heading towards Hornsby, we were on it and would slowly progress. (Right he was).

So apparently the signals were OK up to Epping and trains were frustratingly going past our window as we were on the second north bound track. So each time one would go past us, the passengers would say “there goes another one why aren’t we moving? (swear, swear etc etc)

Eventually after an hour or so we moved up to Epping platform and dumped off the Eppingites and any one else that were willing to walk home to Beecroft (etc etc –yeah it would have been quicker). Now the guard announces we will be here for a while longer and if we want to get out and stretch your legs do so. He was a good PR man for Railcorp as he also said that he wouldn’t leave anybody behind (how nice). The smokers also took advantage for a quick polluting puff outside, then come back in and smell the carriage out. There were some people who went out onto the platform just for the fresh air and there was this one guy who couldn’t keep still. He kept walking up and down the platform for about two carriage lengths. Down to the end, reverse back up the platform and then used a tall box to go around and do another lap. Poor bugger must have done about thirty laps. Any longer and he would have needed a new pair of shoes. Well at least he wouldn’t have needed to go to the gym when he got home.

The trains that come across from the City to Chatswood and over to Epping were also being turned back, so these passengers were also invited to squeeze aboard our train. They were also invited by the guard to move up the front of our train. So after about another 40 minutes at downtown Epping we got on board the smokers, walkers, passengers any stray dogs and any one else that wanted to go north for the night. The guard also reminded us (about the 10th time) that we will be proceeding ‘slowly’ north. And just to make everybody unhappier he announced we would be all stations to Hornsby, Berowra then all stations to Gosford. Stuff them I reckoned. Why would they miss out on Asquith, Mt Colah and Mt Kuring-gai. Let make it all stations and be done with it.

As we leave Epping going north there is a signal gantry with four sets of signals, one for each track. So out of the eight red lights normally lit, I spot one green and hope that was ours. Yes it was. Just out of Epping the line passes over the M2 motorway on which the cars in the morning and afternoon peaks are usually going at a crawl to which I have an internal mind thought (“suckers”). But not tonight. We were going slow enough to probably get their number plates if you wanted to.

Cheltenham and Beecroft we dumped off passengers and slowly kept getting closer to home. Trains were going past us from Hornsby so why weren’t we going faster? Being up towards the front of the train I could see the signals, most of them had a red colour, then turned my favourite colour (at that time) green. So Pennant Hills Accept Signal was two reds, we stop, one green, we go, and then we stop again.

Bugger whats wrong now?. I previously mentioned that our carriage had a dunny. Good news if you need to use it but bad news because cronic smokers think they can hide in there and get away with having a quick puff. As this train was an Oscar set it was equipped with the latest gear including CCTV cameras. No gangways between sets that the older and V sets provided for a quick nicotine fix.

So the Driver then comes bursting into our carriage armed with a fire extinguisher and yells out “Righto who was the bright person who decided to smoke in the toilet? You have set off the fire alarm and the OH and S declares that I have to check every thing out. Who was that person?. Silence for a while, then a guy points to the next carriage and the driver storms off there. (He was going to be late home for his dinner as well)

We heard no more for a while, then we started moving off. Then a voice from the Guard was heard “ The guy in the green flouro jacket has been caught on CCTV camera smoking in the toilet of this train. The police have been notified and will be meeting this train on arrival. It is an offence to smoke in toilets and there are smoke detectors fitted in there” Well the Guard didn’t say what station the police would turn up at. And surprise surprise, when we pulled up at Pennant Hills the guy in the green flouro jacket shoots past the window. 100 to1 on that guy didn’t live there but as there is a pub near the station I reckon that’s where he went to cool his heels for a while. Can you BYO to a pub? I reckon he had a slab under his arm. He looked the type.

But what were the chances of this happening again. As the first flouro guy whizzes past the window, there is a second guy in the same green flouro clobber gets onto the train. My first thought was your’re gone mate when you get off at Hornsby, you’ll have some explaining to do to the cops. But I was ready to step into the fray with my Railcorp badge and say ‘It wasn’t him constable, the guy you want is at the bar down at Pennant Hills.

Ah I forgot to mention I have an at least ten year old mobile phone that I use only for emergencies. So when I tried to use it said “You don’t have enough credit to make this call’ So the only time I needed to use it I couldn’t.

As we went past Thornleigh there were some Railcorp guys in their vests that looked like they were doing/had been doing something. Our guard announced that the signals have all been fixed and after Hornsby the driver will be going as fast as possible to make up time. Nice thought.

Yee haa. We eventually made Hornsby. Thank goodness it was daylight saving time as it was still light. So what is normally a 45 minute trip was over two and a half so far. Then the Hornsby shuffle begins. Likened to the Bermuda triangle this is the place where if it can go wrong this is it. The indicator optimistically showed my train in 15 minutes. Ah not enough time to whip over to the shops. I knew it was getting late because I heard a short freight train heading towards Sydney go past on the only track available (the Down Main).

The station staff were kept a little busy tonight. With wheelchair people nearly ending up in the car sheds, trains cancelled and confusion reigning supreme. The crews didn’t know what was going on and neither did anyone else.

Eventually a train turned up at Platform two it now being well after 7 pm and my stomach starting to say ‘when am I going to get something?’ The indicator showed it all stations to Berowra. I jumped aboard at the last minute as sometimes these indicators had a mind of their own. Yes they could change direction and send you the other way. Taking a chance as well as a seat, I heard the Guard say “All stations to Berowra” Still being a non believer, the sight of the Asquith BP service station had me at rest. I could now relax knowing I would be home soon before it was dark.

Eventually home was reached, the security light started burning for me as soon as I was within range. After the doorbell was rung I was then greeted by my family of two (three if you include Rusty the rabbit) and started telling them what you have just read.

So did you make it to the end? Promise the next post will be on a model theme.


  1. G'day Bob

    Sounds like it just got worse and worse. I was on the 3:30 Central to Gosford, and apart from a few stop starts between West Ryde and Hornsby, I think we ended up getting to Woy Woy around ten past five, about twentyfive minutes late, so not too bad really.

    Our guard was a bit of a character as well, keeping us informed with a running commentary and letting people out of the train when we happened to be at an intermediate station.

    Ahhh the joys of public transport, but on the whole, my 3:30pm Central to Woy Woy trips are 99% of the time on time, hassle free, and a good way to catch forty winks on that one hour fifteen minute commute, thankfully still on the good old V Sets.


  2. Darren,
    I must say most of my trains run well on time and so they should with all the extra running time added.
    Just a long trip home that night

  3. Kamilaroi Railway23 October 2010 at 20:12

    As a retired signalman, I mostly blame the "Train Controllers". They call the moves and alway changing their minds. Their only aim most of the time, is to get the train to it's destination on time, irraspective of what happens in between or who is left behind. This accounts for their "on time running" when the train arrives at it's destination on time.

  4. Bob,
    It is sad that you are the Failcorp..opps..sorry Railcorp network as this does not happen up in the ARTC network. The NCO's in their respective control areas take great pride in their work and try to avoid massive delays where possible.
    Ex Signalman