Station Stories

everyday stories

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.

Kangaroo on the Tracks

Last Monday week while I was going to work, my train suddenly stopped between Brunswick and Jewel two inner suburbs famed for their small streets, crowded houses and coffees.

“We have a kangaroo on the tracks, folks, and we need to stop for it to be removed,” explained the driver.

Just then the two men above walked past my window followed by a little knot of zoo staff carrying clipboards and cloths. One man carried what was obviously a tranquilizer gun and the other was carrying a some kind of technology.


We waited and waited and then this little procession came back past us carrying the tranquilized kangaroo in the make shift cloth stretcher.  Talk about being on the spot.  Later Chanel 7 contacted me on Facebook and asked me if I had footage (I didn’t.  Another chance at fame and fortune missed.)

The kangaroo was taken into the local Zoo where sadly it died of stress and earlier injuries later.    Kangaroos occupy the same ecological niche as deer and can be similarly nervous.

This one had already endured a two hour trip to the city in the back of a hay truck a couple of days earlier and been chased by dogs on a nearby oval.  Wildlife spotters had been trying to catch up with the poor frightened creature for a couple of days and finally ran it to ground on a suburban railways track.



No really.  On behalf of grown up children everywhere who worry about their elderly parents, I have to call this one out.

I was working at the junction the other day. Coming out of the office, I saw a woman in her 70’s in a bike helmet sitting on the concourse floor at the top of the escalators.  She’d fallen.  I helped her 70 + husband lift her up, collect her bicycle and sit her down in the waiting room.  She seemed mercifully unhurt.  But I had to write a report so I asked them what had happened.

Apparently having discovered that there were no trains on their line, they planned to cycle to the station they wanted. So far so good.  But deciding to see if they could take a short cut through the station, they set out to take their bicycles down the escalators to platform 1.

“I forgot to put on my brakes and I lost control of it,” she said.

I was furious.  Visions of broken hips and necks danced in my head. Thank God she herself hadn’t made it onto the escalator when she lost control!  Thank God there was no one else on the escalator at the time!  Didn’t they realize how dangerous it was to take a bike on an escalator? (not the mention against the rules)

I was a paragon of self-control and did not use the word “stupid” as in “Are you two completely stupid?” once. I probably I didn’t need to.  When I suggested politely that next time they use the lifts, they got very defensive.

People disappear

About 3 years ago a nice lady regular confided in me that she had stage 2 esophageal cancer. Then I didn’t see her again. Over the years I’ve wondered how she’d fared. I knew she worked at the hospital nearby but I didn’t know her name. So naturally when I asked others among the hospital workers passengers if they knew of her, they were unable to identify her from among the thousands of other workers at the hospital. I came to the melancholy conclusion I would never know how she went or even see her again. Then Hooray! Hooray! she turned up again. She had survived the cancer and was now well enough to go back to work. I’m so glad!! It’s so nice to know what happened to someone and even nicer when the ending is good. And we swapped names. It may not help if she disappears again, but you never know.

Bird Wrangling

The limping magpie matriarch

I have added bird wrangler to my list of skills. Recently I spotted one of the local magpies – the limping matriarch I have written about before – climbing into one of the carriages of a halted train with her eye on a squashed biscuit inside. I rushed down the platform yelling at her. I should instead have rushed towards the driver making the stop signal.
The doors closed on us both inside the carriage and a panicked magpie was between me and the emergency button. She yarped and pecked the window and flew up and down the carriage causing people to duck and cover their faces. A generally terrifying time was had by all for the next 2 minutes. The largeness of a magpie and the fierce pointiness of its beak are particularly noticeable in an enclosed space.
When the train pulled up at the next station, everyone pulled open their closest door and after a bit of prompting, the magpie matriarch got out and flew off.
I went back to Zoo station on the next down train after a 15 minute wait and wondered if she’d find her way back.
Great relief when I saw her an hour and a half later, seemly uninjured, limping around the platform looking for biscuit crumbs. Hopefully she will not climb into a train again.

Designer by Train

Complete with Bucket hat

A very odd couple were sitting in the waiting room although I shouldn’t really say that because the man kind enough to explain my blue tooth to me. Also should I perhaps be more humble towards those so pointedly more materially sucessful than me? 
But I shall call it as I see it.  They were both wearing North Face by Gucci outfits complete with the bucket hats pictured above and because they had normal shaped bodies they looked like a pair of shiny gold and tan tents. Between them, they were wearing $14,000 of blingy clobber. I wonder what material that Gucci stuff is made of. It looked rather ungiving.
I’m always startled when I see designer gear at the station. But after all, rich people like animals too and it’s sensible, easy and safe to come to the zoo by train.

Passenger behaving erratically

It’s 9 degrees which is cold for Melbourne. The wind is freezing. The trains are running late. When I ask the control room why, they tell me they are waiting for the police to come and collect an erratically behaving passenger at the end station. The passenger has taken off his clothes and is rolling round on the platform. Poor man. Presumably its drugs. Too many of the wrong ones or too few of the right ones.

A day in the life of customer service

12 degrees, a sharp wind and torrential rain. At the station 20 well wrapped up elderly people are off for an excursion to the city. They seem to have picked up an escort of four police officers and 3 ticket inspectors. It’s probably a coincidence that they are all traveling together. Melbourne hardly has the level of crime that requires the elderly to be so guarded. Although… could they be guarding us from the delinquency of the old folks??? Al a the Goodies and Monty Python.

As the rain comes down in sheets a group of damp Singaporeans draggle into the station, just missing a train. I feel so sorry for these tropical folk. Its 12 degrees. They’ve come down to Melbourne to see snow, but the snowfields aren’t open yet. The Kangaroos and Koalas in the zoo are all hiding from the cold.
Then a dear little toddler arrives in the waiting room and everyone enjoys cooing over him and trying to warm up his little hands. He takes the attention with bemused calm. Grampa is relieved to have a break. He’s very damp and cold whereas his grandson is wearing a very impressive snow suit.

Chatting to one of my regulars we are joined by a nice smiling but slightly odd man. Somehow we get chatting about the meaning of the word sartorial. Which is how we find out this pleasant man has had a brain injury and has trouble remembering the meanings of words. He tells us all about it, how he was dead for several minutes and how they had to rebuild his skull. Apparently he was a very high functioning aeronautical engineer before it all. Now he gets lost trying to come to the Zoo by train, he tells us happily. “Once they saw my brain scans they said I’d never work again. Look” and he show me the brain scan on his mobile phone. “Look at all that black” he says.
The fact that he’s so happy makes the experience of looking at a stranger’s brain scans much less disturbing than it might otherwise be.