Station Stories

everyday stories

Pram in the pit


After changing my shoes to catch my homeward train, I step back out onto the platform to tell the assembled multitudes they have 11 minutes till their train  A terrible sight meets my eyes.  A line of people are on the platform’s edge and there are several others including two children on the tracks.  A pram is being lifted up from the pit.  Oh my God! A pram has rolled off the platform and fallen on to the tracks

I lunge at the red button and scream “Stop the trains.  Child in the pit.”  Fortunately the control room crew are on the ball. They do their part without question.  I race to the platform’s edge and yell and reassure people the train is 10 minutes away and help people pull people out of the pit.  The two children, both under 12, race to the pedestrian crossing to get out.  The platform walls are as tall as they are. Everyone is terrified. The 18 month old child who was strapped the pram when it rolled onto the track is wailing hysterically.  Possibly indicating it is ok.  The incident is over in a couple of minutes.

The family – its one of those big school holiday families with three women and countless (about 8) kids, all running here and there – refuse an ambulance and also refuse to give their names.  I suspect they are afraid of getting into trouble. Someone left the brake off the pram and given the slope of the platform, designed thus to shed rain water, it rolled away.    No judgement here. With lots of kids, mothers get distracted.

The child does seem unhurt.  It yells and yells – plenty air in those lungs.  Then exhausted, it falls asleep.    A man brings his little boy over to see the child.  The boy saw the pram go over the edge and needs reassuring the little one is ok.  Later someone says to me I’m lucky I missed the actual incident.  It would stay in your mind that pram dropping over the edge.  I suspect they are right.  I’ve seen awful things in station work, fist fights over parking and over drugs, people threatening suicide, domestic abuse. But I’ve never been so close to tears before.

Trespasser on the tracks



Not a safe place to walk

The call comes out on the radio “All trains stop.  Trespasser on the tracks” and everybody’s heart sinks.  There are several disturbed individuals, known to us all, who get a kick out of disrupting trains and who despite being banned from railway property, return again and again to trespass where they can create the most havoc.

But this is not one of them.  15 minutes later the trains start again, and railway security are lecturing a slim man out in the front of the station about the dangers of walking on the track.  Apparently, he “overstayed” last night in one of the trains, woke up in the yards and alarmed some poor train driver by walking out along the tracks this morning. The guy is let go with a warning and the trains start again.  He goes over the Woollies opposite and treats himself to a hot potato gem breakfast (I know this because he comes back to the station to eat it) I suspect the “overstay” is no accident – someone looking for a safe place to sleep.  Though it’s a mystery how he managed it.  Station staff check every carriage for sleeping bodies before the trains go into the yards and there is nowhere inside to hide.



The loaded bike

Yesterday I was called to the front of Junction Station to investigate a man lying on the street.  I discovered two men with spanners who were dismantling a bicycle so that they could load it and a number of milk crates onto two other bicycles.  For about ½ an hour I kept intermittent watch on the complicated procedure – the jigsaw like placing and replacing of bike parts and the delicate threading of rope through the load.  It didn’t seem possible to put such a load on a bicycle.  But at last they finished and climbed on their bikes.  And rode into the station.  The main bike was so big I had to open the bypass gate for them.

“Will you fit in the lift?” I asked.

“We’ll just have to see,” shrugged the cyclists cheerfully.  They had that alternative lifestyle look and attitude.

Last I saw one of the cyclists was giving me a thumbs up from outside the lift to Platform 6

Who interrupts someone in the toilet?

Up at 5 and at work by 6am.  Still dark.  Buses replacing trains on one of our lines.

People are complaining about the lack of toilets and, yes, one has been engaged for over ½ an hour.  Two of us bang on the door and get no response except the smell of cigarette smoke.  Given the danger of overdoses in station toilets, we take the plunge, warn the person we’re coming in and open the heavy toilet door.  Someone is sprawled across the floor face down.  Skinny bare ankles and feet.

“Oh God!” says my co-worker. “We’d better call the ambulance.”  While she’s doing that, I push open the door again to check if there’s anything I can do.  The body has rolled over into a fetal position, a single dark eye open, peering brightly out from under a coat.

“Can we help you? Do you need help?”  We call.  “Are you ok?”

There’s a cushion under the guy’s head.  He mumbles, seems to be conscious.  The situation has changed. We call off the Ambulance.  We obviously have a rough sleeper.

The station Master arrives,

“Do you need help?  You can’t sleep here.  You have to get up.”

“Go away!”

“If you don’t get out, we’ll have to call the police.”

The door slams and we stand in the corridor talking about calling the police.  A minute later the door is flung open again and the three of us, all women are confronted by this huge angry man who screams at us…

“How dare you interrupt someone in the toilet! What sort of people are you to interrupt someone in the toilet? Don’t you know any better?”  He’s huge and he’s yelling. At me, maybe because I’m the tallest of we three smallish women. “Stop smiling.  How dare you interrupt someone in the toilet.  What kind of people do that?”  I feel a spark of terror because he’s really angry and big and it’s a small space. I call on my wireless for the ticket inspectors who are all men to come and give us back up.

The man slams the door again.

“We’re calling the cops,” says the Station Master as we retreat.  But we don’t need to. A few minutes later, the man appears cushion under his arm and stalks off towards the trains.

“What sort of people interrupt a man in the toilet?” he mutters loudly enough to be heard all the way.   Such wounded dignity.

It’s not yet dawn.  The beginning of a 9 hour shift.

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.