Sometimes you get songs wandering around your head as you drive.

Early one morning I rattled up to the terminus and patiently waited for the detrainment staff to come and throw out the passengers and close the doors. At any other station I’d close the doors myself but at the terminus I want to depart into the siding and we are not permitted to take passengers. Apparently it used to be that if passengers did not have the wit to get off the train when they were told to then they were carried into the siding, like it or not. I believe that practice stopped after a passenger thought he had been left alone late one night on a reversing train and managed to squeeze out between cars and was subsequently electrocuted on the track. Hence the need for staff to tip out and close up.

Before I get onto the songs I suppose I’d better do my tipping-out explanation in full. Basically what happens is that the train pulls into the station doing the ‘All Change’ message over the PA and the doors open. Station staff then go to the front and rear of the train and simultaneously pull a particular lever which tilts the train up on its axles by 15 degrees. It’s a bit like those kneeling buses they have these days. Then the staff go and chase any remaining customers out. The reason for tipping the train is genius really. It is uncomfortable to sit slightly out of kilter but not actually likely to cause anyone to fall over. Hence passengers glance up to see what’s going on and realise that they are now required to get off the train.

OK, not really but I did once get somebody to believe that story. 😀

I digress. I pulled in and was waiting for the detrainment staff to appear. A minute went by and nothing happened. I figured they somehow (!)hadn’t noticed the train arrive and blew the whistle. After another minute still nothing! At this point I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to be detraining by myself. Sometimes staff don’t turn up or are late to work and there’s only one to detrain. In that scenario the driver will usually close up the first couple of cars to help out. But I’ve never heard of BOTH staff being missing – if that happens then staff are sent from another location to help. So guessing that there were staffing shortages I blew the whistle again (just in case somebody was around) and called up the controller to enquire. At which point two detrainment staff strolled onto the platform and slowly started work.

I was pretty annoyed. If the train doesn’t get tipped out quickly then it goes into the siding late. And if that happens it comes out late. And if the train is late I get the blame. But I figured that since it was the weekend and there were fewer trains around I could easily make up a few minutes. So when the controller answered I cancelled the call and let the lazy sods get on with tipping out. It wasn’t until I was in the siding and walking back through that I discovered that all they’d done was close the doors. There was a passenger still on the train who was rather rudely awakened when I opened the cab door he’d been sleeping against.

If there’s one thing I hate it’s drunks. Unpredictable, sometimes violent and generally horny enough to leer at a plastic bag but without sufficient remaining intellect to realise that they are about to be stabbed by the rest of the long-suffering world. On this occasion though, I got a nice, albeit slightly befuddled one. I can understand that since he was several miles from where he intended to be and not apparently in any station. So a docile drunk but still one who was creating a huge problem by existing in that particular location. And I had to come up with some solution to this problem and ideally avoid getting into trouble. Now, the one lesson I learned very, very well in training was ‘create some thinking time’. So I scolded him for not getting of the train and told him to walk up to the front while I strolled behind. It was a bit of a swan situation as my mind was paddling along furiously about what to do about this situation.

Since he didn’t seem overly aggressive I was OK with remaining on the train alone with him – it’s always a possibility that some twunt will decide to get stroppy and it’s my belief that THIS is the real reason we have to carry round those oh-so-very-heavy bardic lamps. My other issue was whether to report having him on my train. Because although there are staff specifically employed to detrain, and there is not usually enough time for the driver to run back and check, it remains the driver’s responsibility to ensure the train is empty. If it’s not then the driver gets the blame. If he takes time to check and the train is subsequently late he gets the blame. One of those grey areas where no matter what you do, you get in shit.

I pondered WWJD before remembering that pre-industrial carpenters probably wouldn’t have much useful input regarding the safety regulations of underground electric railways. At which point I switched to WWSD and followed the advice of one of the guys who had trained me. “Admit nothing if you can possibly get away with it”. Sounds good to me! I scolded the passenger some more, pulled back into the station and told him a faster route back to his original destination. Then with a few suitable lyrical amendments I drove off humming gently.

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