Somebody at some point asked me why trains pause for a little extra time in stations before leaving. I blandly rattled off the possible reasons but I’ve been thinking it over during the last couple of days and I think I’ve come up with the definitive list. So here it is: The top ten reasons that trains don’t leave platforms when you expect them to.

1) The most obvious is that there is a train immediately in front. Only one train can be in a signal section at a time and as soon as it passes a signal the aspect turns to red. The train behind must then wait for train number 1 to exit the signal section which turns the signal to (usually) green. TPTB frown upon those who drive up the arse of other trains and have found a neat way of preventing it happening. No, not red signals. No, not trainstops. No, not line controllers noticing what is going on and having screaming fits over the radio. What they have rather neatly done is make the driver’s cab a flimsy little box on the outside of the train. Any incident where the cab was hit would lead to it collapsing and the death and/or dismemberment of the driver. In such small yet efficient ways do they discourage things like SPADS, speeding and winding up towards brick walls.

2) Something is blocking the doors. Sometimes rubbish, sometimes an inconsiderate passenger who thinks everyone wants to wait for his friends. Generally drivers will try to open then close the doors again to see if that dislodges the blockage. When you see the doors opening and closing rapidly that’s not the driver trying for lift-off; that’s the driver wondering if that bloody muppet is ever going to get out of the way of the doors and coincidentally, dreaming about hooking the doors up to the posi rail.

3) A small defect with the train. Lights suddenly come on. Lights suddenly gone off. Things going fsssss. Other things going pshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! You get the idea. These are usually rapidly fixed as the driver is used to them happening frequently. Although once I had to stop at every single station and hunt the cab for an odd, high-pitched tone just at the edge of my ability to hear and which didn’t actually affect the running of the train and thus prevented me from calling a train maintainer but which was still REALLY ANNOYING. I never did find out what that was…

4) More major defects with the cab. Most of the delay here is caused by the driver being startled at that strange noise/light/lack of response from the train and then from gazing around the cab looking for the big arrow with the sign saying ‘This’ in neat writing underneath.

5) Communications. It might be that there is a notice on the information board at the front of the platform and drivers not being the most literate we need a few minutes to sound out the longer words. Or it could be that The Voices have taken it upon themselves to call up for a chat about whether the train in front is thinking about moving soon. Or possibly that we’ve seen a member of station staff we haven’t seen for aaaagggeees – probably not since we were both doing dead earlies and had to get the taxi in together and how are the kids and did you ever go on that holiday to Vancouver etc. And of course we might have seen a member of station staff we’ve never clapped eyes on before but who looks friendly and we were wondering how the kids were and whether they’d been on leave recently cos we’d heard that Vancouver was very nice…. (Actually this reminds me of a story a CSA told me once. She was working very early at a major station with practically nobody around. Suddenly she heard a whistle sounding long and hard so legged it downstairs. Then down the escalator. Along the corridor. Down the other escalator. Through the cross passage and up to the front of the train. And there was a driver she’d never met before leaning out the window to tell her ‘Hello, I just haven’t seen anybody but the DMT today and I just wanted somebody nice to say good morning to. Good morning’).

6) Hmmm? Oh yes! Sorry, I drifted off there. OK, signal is clear, so I better close the doors and be off.

7) Customers asking questions. Including on one memorable occasion the teenager who tried to lean in the open cab window when I was still about a car’s length from the stopping mark and travelling at about 10mph! She’s not the only one who is a bit clueless though. I find it strange as I would never think to bother the driver if I needed directions. I’d find out before I got on the train. It’s not as though most websites dont’ carry the relevant information and there are always staff upstairs and maps around. Even as someone who hates train stations I wouldn’t just turn up and look vaguely for the nearest train and then ask where it was going which reminds me of another story with my thoughts in the asterisks:

Passenger: Does this train go to Wherever-it-was?

Me: Yes. :o)

Passenger: Oh, 😦 I wanted to go to Someplace Else.

Me: *then why the fuck did you ask for Wherever-it-was???* It also goes to Someplace Else.

Passenger: But it says on the sign that it goes to Wherever-it-was.

Me: Yes. It goes to more than one station.

Passenger: It goes to Someplace Else?

Me: Yes.

Passenger: Are you sure?

At which point I beat her into a bloody pulp and fed her to the rats. Some of that last sentence may not be wholly truthful.

8) Oh I closed the doors didn’t I?! Sorry, drifted off there….

9) Passenger Emergency Alarm going off. You know, in all the time I’ve been driving I’ve only known there to be actual problems TWICE. And both of those were when people managed to lose (admittedly valuable) things down the back of the seats. Not exactly what I’d call an emergency. All the rest are people messing around or sulking at LUL but what they dont’ realise is that the driver doesn’t actually care. Other than the chance to stretch their legs and the interest of what might be going on, the only thing the driver cares about is whether or not the delay will mean the shift runs over slightly and overtime to be had.

10) You see, Jack Daniels make these really interesting adverts with cool olde worlde photos and long, entertaining stories and nine times out of ten they are positioned up towards the front of the platform. There’s other stuff too but JD make the most fun ones.