Station Stories

everyday stories

Bubbles and pushchairs




Yesterday was glorious sun after days of cold rain.

In one hour I had two very different clients in push chairs.  The first client is a regular and kinda scary.  S comes to the zoo once a week with his carer.  He hates going home from the zoo and so his trip home is always one long tantrum.  I’ve seen this before with 3 year olds but though S has the mind of a 3 year old he’s actually a large 40 year old man.  He’s strapped into the chair because he can’t walk and I must say I’m guiltily glad of it.    He swears and tries to push his carer and bangs the bins and walls. But like a toddler, he can be very sweet too.  After he told me to “fuck off” one time I turned away crossly and said I wasn’t going to be talked to like that.  He said he was sorry and looked so woebegone that I forgave him. I asked the carer why he hates going home and learned that he lives in a share house.  He has no family.  His trip to the zoo is probably the only interesting thing that happens all week.  So now I do my best to talk to him and say nice to see you.  He seems glad of the attention and the carer is glad for him to be distracted.  After they get on the train the swearing usually starts again.

The second client was a real 3 year old strapped in her pram.  Out on the platform in the sun, she set off her new bubble machine. For about 5 minutes I was surrounded by cloud of golden and rainbow-hued soap bubbles.  I could barely refrain from dancing round in them.

Suspicious device.

I got to work around 11.00 to be greeted with pictures of this suspicious device that had stopped the trains and caused the Junction and the nearby building site to be evacuated that morning. All in a days work on the railways.




I’ve always been a bit smug/ proud of the fact that the brother of my Great Great Grandfather was transported for theft in the 1820’s, made good brewing beer and sent for the rest of the family, including my direct ancestor in the 1830’s.

The other day I was talking to one of my regulars who I’ve dubbed the Bolshie Lawyer.  This a very casually dressed man who does legal aid cases. He comes from a very privileged background where he went to Melbourne Grammar, Melbourne Uni and was probably put down for membership of the Melbourne Club and the MCC the day he was born. He has the jaded view of the Melbourne upper classes that comes from long familiarity and we were discussing a well-known local politician.

“I was at school with him and he was a (insert uncomplimentary noun here) even then.  So full of himself and his family. And mines been out here much longer than his.”

I couldn’t help bringing up my own ancestor then and the date 1824.

“That’s nothing,” said B.L. “My ancestor was a free settler and came out in 1810.”

That was when I asked him the surname and discovered his ancestor has a suburb and a railway station named after him and had built what is a now National Trust property.  Definitely outclassed.  Serves me right for such unearned pride.

And we must always remember our pioneer ancestors helped steal the land and destroy the tribes.  So is it pride or shame we should feel?  Or a complicated ambivalent mix of both that turns us away from the past entirely and reminds us to try and do better in the future.

This ambivalent looking gentleman is
Australia’s first British governor Arthur Philip from the portrait by Francis Wheatley

In which we lose customers



It’s over 37 degrees and muggy.  Cicadas are screaming in the trees outside.  A family, mum and 5 kids, stagger into the waiting room, red-faced and sweating, and collapse on the seats. At first they take the news that their train has just left with equanimity

Unfortunately Shouty Man has got off the train they just missed.  Shouty Man is a heavily built 40 something man who walks around angrily shouting f*** off you ugly C***  and other such abuse at no one in particular.  He’s a regular. He seems to be harmless.  But he’s scary enough that I’ve had tradesmen get ready to protect me from him. As he strides through the waiting room furiously swearing and telling people to F*** off it’s hard not to take it personally.  He makes it worse by slamming his fist on the telephone kiosk as he goes out the door.

“I’m never coming by public transport again,” breathes the mother.

Can’t say I blame her.

Public transport is one place where the fortunate come into contact with the less fortunate.


Melbourne zoo carousel


This week I met T and his mum, C.  C was a lovely chatty woman in a leopard skin jumpsuit with bright blonde hair who stopped outside the station for a post-zoo smoke.  Her son T stood against the wall nearby.  He was a smiling visually disabled man.  Possibly he was intellectually disabled too although he may just have had a puckish sense of humor.  He started singing in a pleasant tuneful voice and when he got to the part about hopping he jumped up and down.

“Now he knows he’s got an audience he won’t stop,” said C cheerily.  “There’s a spider monkey in the zoo he always sings to.  It loves it. Comes right up to him.”

That and the Carousel were apparently his favorite zoo things.

The other singer this week was an 8 year old girl in glasses and a blue dress who started singing “Twinkle twinkle little star,” while her mother tried to work out the ticket machine.  Was it the weather that bought out this tunefulness? It IS finally summer.

Little Free Libraries

This gorgeous piece of woodwork is a copy of the old Moreland railway station created by Bob Cumming


Local resident Bob Cumming first introduced Little Free Libraries into the area back in 2014.  Its great if you forget to bring something to read on the train.  These days I and lots of other people stroll to the station to see what’s in this beautiful library.  I try not to take anything home but I usually fail.  Oh well. There are worse things than having too many books.  During Covid lockdown Bob built this beautiful tribute to the old station which has since been replaced by grey concrete.  Thank you so much for this and all the other things you do Bob.



Bob with an earlier Little Free Library

Take a Book. Share a Book.


Creekman mark 2

Creekman has been replaced by a tall cheerful Maori New Zealander in his early thirties who always wears dark glasses.  He says he’s met Creekman and gained permission to use his camping site down by the creek.  (I have a feeling there is a protocol among the rough sleepers over campsites) He’s hoping to get a place when he makes enough money from casual construction but till then he says likes camping out in the fresh air and near the sound of water. He bustles about with great verve.  He comes for a regular wash up in my toilets but he’s very neat and organized about it. When his welfare payments come in he celebrates by having a BBQ..  We had a discussion about Bonds underpants yesterday.  Apparently they chafe.  Sort yourself out Bonds.

The small effects of Climate Change

A day of sheeting rain. Now the trains are not stopping at Essendon Station, because the only way out of the historical station is a subway which is now flooded.  Not sure how the staff manage to get out. This means that if you’ve parked there you have to go to one of the stations on either side and walk 20 minutes.  All over Melbourne and the rest of the East coast of Australia there is flooding due to the excessive amounts of rain and this is just one very small effect.

Work hard at COP27 guys.

The fabric of an ordinary day.

Surprisingly popular redback spider toy


Just in case people think my whole railway working life is spent dealing with the mentally troubled, I feel I need to emphasize I spend most of my time talking to little kids and their parents/grandparents.

Every day I hear, “S/he enjoyed the train trip more than the zoo.”

“His/her parents are working so I look after him once/twice week.”

And “Look!”  (as child holds up the plush animal they have bought in the zoo)

It’s important to look shocked if the child has bought a snake or redback spider toy.

Suggesting they wave at the train driver as they come in, is a good way to distract someone who’s very tired or doesn’t want to get into their pram.  Most of the drivers seem to enjoy this too.

Because face facts, little kids are cute, (mostly).

I really enjoy this aspect of my work.

One of my favorite things is to watch a child snuggle into the side of the adult who is reading to them.  (I’m an ex-librarian, what can I say?)  Before Covid I had a box of children’s books in the waiting room just for this but I put them away in case they were a vector of disease.  I’m not sure whether to put them back out yet.  Does anyone have any thoughts about this?


In gratitude



A big shout of thanks to a group of Year 12 (?) students from Bayside High School.  Last week they alerted me to the fact that someone was sitting on the tracks clearly hoping to be hit by a train.  While I let Central know to stop the trains, called the police and ambulance and kept the customers informed, a group of boys went round to the young man and talking gently to him, persuaded him off the tracks by the time the police came.

The students disappeared once the trains were running again.  The young man sat in the office with police for a while until the ambulance came.  He was only 18, had been in rehab and despaired of ever getting off drugs.  I hope those kids helped him find the will to keep fighting.  They certainly inspired me.  Great to have your help, guys!

I swear this is not how it normally is at Zoo station.  Mostly its tots and grandparents.  Its just been a bad couple of weeks.