I know it’s shockingly hard to believe but traindrivers do occasionally sulk and drive their trains slow. The reason for the sulking can be pretty much anything: one of the Voices saying something in the wrong tone, a passenger buggering about with the doors…hell I’ve sulked because a passenger dared to get on my train once. So the train goes slow and doesn’t speed up until The Voices enquire as to whether there is a problem with the train and the driver has to invent some spurious-yet-believable defect which is supposed to have held him up.

I’ve never had one of The Voices sulking at me though. Not until recently that is. The other day we had a fairly busy time of it with lots of little things going wrong on the line. A certain driver (who? me? never!) contributed to the overall effect by messing up their ‘landing’  at the station by going past the OPO monitors. The monitors are there so that when the train is ready to leave the driver can view the full length of the platform and can see that it is safe for him to move the train. Each platform has a stopping mark and the driver ideally stops the train dead on the mark for the best view of the monitors. If he goes past them then he has problems as he cannot safely move the train – so, assistance is required.

The general drill is to call up The Voices, fess up and ask for station staff to come down and act as the driver’s eyes by checking the platform is clear and letting the driver know he can move the train on. It generally takes a couple of minutes to contact the Voice, have him contact the station and for them to send somebody scooting down to the platform.After that the train is on its way with no more harm done than a very small delay and a slightly embarrassed driver.

So there I was sitting past the monitors. I sighed and called up The Voices. Nobody answered which was a bit disconcerting as I could hear no other radio traffic. Generally a good indication that things are going OK and The Voices are not busy. A minute ticked by and I tried to call them again. Eventualy they answered and they said they’d inform station staff. Several more minutes ticked by and nothing of any note happened other than I made a PA to the customers stating that ‘we are being held in the station’. It’s not technically a lie. Although there were no signals holding us there, the rulebook is pretty clear about trains not moving from a station if the driver can’t see.

Eventually somebody turned up, gave me the right to leave and off I went. So a 7ish minute delay but not really my fault (if you discount the whole driving the train wrong thing).

My next trip was to the other end of line. Now as things were running late due to earlier problems I was fairly confident that I’d be short-tripped and wouldn’t have to go all the way. If only. I headed up the road and after a while developed a defect. I called up The Voices and said I’d be stopping at a station to sort it. More delays but fair enough and not something I could help.

Unfortunately I couldn’t work out precisely what was wrong though I had a reasonable idea. I drove on again pondering whether to call for a Train Maintainer to have a look when all of a sudden I got a call asking was I going to be moving the train soon. Ooops, I’d forgotten to mention that bit to them. Having confessed that I was actually a station on by this time (and having got a very polite ‘Thankyou very much for that information, Driver’ in the exact tone Chrestomanci would have used) I asked for the TM and kept going. This was not exactly a screw-up on my part but more of a breach of etiquette. The Voices know exactly when and where a train moves and if they had been watching their screens would have seen me move. On the other hand they had probably halted other trains to allow me time to check mine so it would have been better for me to inform them of my departure so that they in turn could authorise the train behind to move. There wasn’t any particular reason for my not telling them other than I was distracted thinking about the defect.

I picked up a TM en route and he rattled around the train for a bit before confirming my earlier idea and agreeing that my train could stay in service. The TM had been on board for so long that he decided he might as well stay for the rest of the journey, especially since I’d be short-tripped and soon turned back. Um…..

I got the impression that The Voices were a little peeved by now. There was no short-trip to be had and I arrived 20 minutes late which is pretty much unheard of. Still, it was a nice day and I had company so I didn’t mind driving extra. Heading back down we ran into problems which (fortunately) were nothing to do with me and the line slowly ground to a halt. Sort of. We were gradually authorised to move forward one station at a time until I got to the perfect station to detrain and go into a siding where I could ditch it and have an early break. Except that the train behind was told to do this instead of me. Meh. The TM abandoned me and I continued on very slowly. Even slower than was planned at one point as The Voices apparently got both my identity and location confused with several other trains and I had to seek clarification. I expect when you are up to your eyeballs in an incident you don’t really appreciate somebody phoning up and asking the traindriverly equivalent of wtf. We established who and where I was eventually and off I trundled with fresh (and rational) instructions. Until I got to the perfect station at which to reverse. This would mean I could skip the long, slow trundle back to the start of the line and instead I’d be relieved of the train early. Except…The Voices ordered me out of the station and told the train behind to do it. Meh.

At long last I did get to the other end and got rid of my train an hour later than planned and very hungry! I didn’t really mind having to stay on the train since I generally like driving and I’ve got my ‘The line is fucked, go away now’ passenger announcements down pat (had lots of practice). But needless to say, I didn’t dare go near either the radio or the phone for quite a while lest I remind The Voices that I was the one who had been repeatedly annoying them for much of the day. Not until after grub anyway when I had to phone asking for a train (God knows where my one was) and the sudden availability of a free driver made us bestest buddies. It’s amazing how friendly a Voice can be if they need a favour. 😉