Trainsmanship, or Fall Down the Gap

Fall down the gap

You’re a rail traveller. You’ve been on the platform for 40 minutes, your train is not only delayed, it appears to be non-existent. The waiting room smells and is draughty. The Public Address System tells you periodically that bing bong your custom is valuable bing bong. You are cold, wet and tired. It’s going to get worse. You have got yourself caught up in the great train game.

In the bad old days pre-privatisation, the only game to play was Monopoly. It was tricky getting hold of a ticket, passing Go was cause for celebration, but everyone knew the rules and you got to where you were going. Eventually.

The new system is different. The games are many and varied and the unwary — or even the wary — commuter is likely to come unstuck. To help you out, here are some of the currently more popular games and the rules to help you survive. Play on:

1. Hunt the Train. This is when the commuter stands at platform 3a. The departures screen says that the 0815 to Retford is here, at this platform. The public address system summons the players: The train now standing at platform 3a is the 0815 to Retford. There is, however, no train. There is a rather ramshackle affair about twenty yards away at platform 3b that no one seems to own. The destination on the front of this train is ‘Sheffield’. As this is Sheffield station, this seems logical. A walk to the back of the train tells the commuter that this end is going to Sheffield too, because this train is playing:

2.Commuters bluff. This is an easy one, and simply involves concealing the destination of the train from would-be travellers for as long as possible. A variation of this is Platform Jump. This involves parking a train that is heading to, say, Ashby-de-la-Zouche, next to a screen that says: 0815 to Retford. 30 seconds before lift off, the on-train team welcome the passengers aboard the 0813 to Ashby-de-la-Zouche. Points are scored for the number of passengers trapped by the closing doors as they scramble to exit.

3.Slow Attrition. For quiet days. This is usually played in combination with Hunt the train. When the Hunt the Train players are lined up on the platform and on their marks, the announcement is made ‘We are sorry that the 0815 to Retford is delayed by approximately 10 minutes.’ This is announced at 8.28. The announcement is repeated, adding increments of five minutes to the delay, at seven minute intervals. After about 40 minutes, the game switches to:

4.Musical Platforms. This game is played after several rounds of Slow Attrition. When the commuters who have been playing are reduced to full zombie mode on platform 3, the game can start. The public address system announces: The train about to depart from platform 22 is the delayed 0815 to Retford. This is best played in stations with a lot of stairs and bridges, and long distances between platforms. It works best if not all the stairs and bridges lead to all platforms, or if repairs are underway and the crucial staircase is blocked off at the last possible exit point: We are sorry for the inconvenience. Passengers for platform 22 are advised to cross the bridge and use the stairway from the far end of platform 1.

5.Two Trains for the Price of One. One train — two destinations! Half way through the journey, the train splits. One half goes to — for example — Hastings and the other half goes to — again for example — Littlehampton. Passengers are told, at the start of the game, that the front of the train will go to Hastings. All train operatives then hide. The passengers have to guess whether the front of the train is the end that came into the station first or the end that will leave the station first. As the train is also playing Commuters Bluff, consulting either end of the train will not help. NB to players: it is not advisable to stand in the middle with one foot in one end of the train, the other foot in the other and your possession clutched in your arms. You may find yourself involved in a game of Snap.

6.Now you see me, now you don’t. Usually played after a round of Slow Attrition and a few rounds of Musical Platforms. The public address system announces: We are sorry that the 0815 to Retford has been cancelled. This is repeated until three train loads of passengers who have had a good morning honing their games skills are queuing in the station. The game then switches to a popular variation on Two Trains for the Price of One, aka:

7.One Train for the Price of Three. It’s usually six carriages long. Now it’s two. There are three train-loads of people waiting to catch it. Which leaves everyone ideally placed for a game of

8.Squash.
The important rule to remember is this: you’re the passenger. You can’t win.