Friday afternoon late train blues

It was a Friday afternoon, and I was waiting at the train platform for the train home. Half-past five came and went; no train. But I had my iPod, I had some internets on my phone. I could wait for a while. And finally the train came about 20 minutes late.

All was good until the train arrived at the public transport jewel of Lower Hutt, Waterloo Station. An Englishman got on the train, lugging a suitcase, wearing a Lonestar steakhouse t-shirt and looking rather bothered.

He started complaining aloud to anyone who would listen. “The bloody train was half an hour late”, he moaned. (There must have been a tear in the delicate fabric of the space-time continuum that suddenly added on 10 minutes to the time around Lower Hutt). “I don’t know why I came to this bloody country. Trains run every 5 minutes in London,” he proclaimed, somehow mistaking the suburbs of the Hutt Valley (population 100,000) with being akin to London (population 7,350,000).

No one responded or sympathised. He then proclaimed, “The country’s going to the pack, why wouldn’t the trains be any different?” This drew a response from a middle-aged lady sitting nearby, who’d migrated to New Zealand from England 15 years ago. She asked him why, if he disliked it so much, didn’t he leave. “I am bloody leaving. I’m going to Australia on Monday. Biggest mistake of my life coming here.” Oh, really?

“This country’s 30 years behind the rest of the world,” he angrily exclaimed. But, kind sir, that’s why we like living here. The trains might not run as frequently as in other places, and sometimes there are stoppages, but trains don’t get blown up by wannabe terrorists, and innocent people don’t get killed by paranoid police.

The accidental tourist eventually shut up, and the train made its way on to Wellington. Just past the Kaiwharawhara platform, the Englishman got up and stood by the door, obviously wanting to get off the train as soon as it reached Wellington station.


But – ha – the train stopped and stayed stopped. The conductor came along an explained that the signals system wasn’t working and had to be operated manually, so only one train at a time could enter or leave Wellington station. There was going to be a long wait.

Another passenger really really had to wee, so he walked out onto a connecting platform between carriages and went off that. I figured this would just reinforce the Briton’s opinion that he was riding on the “bloody Flintstones railway”.

The conductor came out again with an update. We’d get there, eventually, but, “That’s what happens when you don’t invest in your railway and now we’re paying for it.” We get to blame both the last National and current Labour government for this. Oh, but Wellington will soon have the shiny new trains, hilariously named Matangi.

Secret message

The stopped train gave me a chance to check out the surroundings of the railyard, which usually flash by. I saw some graffiti in memory of Darren. What fate had taken him? Maybe he was an English tourist. I wonder if he’d be happy knowing his memorial place was doubling as a public urinal?

Eventually the train got to the head of the queue and finally rolled into Wellington station, one hour after its usual time. I was surprised by how civil everyone (except the angry tourist) remained on the journey. There were a few phone calls made explaining lateness, visitors to the Upper Hutt scrapbooking expo amused themselves with their goodie bags, but no one was furious.

I suppose, when it comes down to it, spending an extra 40 minutes on a lightly filled Welington train isn’t really all that bad.

8 thoughts on “Friday afternoon late train blues”

  1. Hurrah!

    For some reason, the idea of making every single one of life’s little moments into a vignette is very appealing to me.

    Unfortunately that isn’t very practical. But I salute and enjoy your attempts at doing just that 🙂

  2. Matangi means wind or breeze. Also a Hindu Goddess – “The Dark One”. Not sure how either of these relate to trains, or why you think it’s related to some place up North.

  3. The regional council held a competition to find a generic name for these trains, rather than just call them by their manufacturer’s name (Rotem Mitsui).

    The winner was Brian Bond of Linden who suggested “Matangi”
    as it is te Reo for “wind” (as Dilbert says).

    Said Mr Bond: “We’ve got lots of fresh air. And it’s a term that could relate well, and in a number of ways, to the new trains. They will be fast like the wind, and a breath of fresh air for our transport system.”

    The old trains are just known by their makers’ names — English Electrics (which date from 1949 to 1955) and Ganz Mavags (which are from the early 1980s). For what it’s worth, these trains are in railway-speak also called Ds (the EEs) and Es (the GMs) and the Matangis will be the Fs. These are the “class” of train.

  4. Dilbert: I don’t think the Mataingi trains and Matangi, Waikato are related! I just think it’s hilarious that the new train system will share the same name as the miserable little Waikato hamlet where I grew up. It’s like if it was named the Shitville Express.

    Growing up in Matangi, the official translation for the placename was something like “warm wind” or “gentle breeze”. It doesn’t seem like the right kind of wind that one would name a train system after.

    And then there was the whole business with the Matangi P lab, so back when I read that the winner of the naming competition was ‘Matangi’, oh, how I laughed!

  5. Growing up in Matangi, the official translation for the placename was something like “warm wind” or “gentle breeze”. It doesn’t seem like the right kind of wind that one would name a train system after.

    … (3) swamp gas; (4) a wet, silent and delicate fart.

    In the olden days, when we would get on the turps in town and then take the last train home, it took so long to get there that you’d inevitably have to piss. So, the conductor would let you go out the back of the second carriage, and relieve yourself out the back door. It was always so serene – the heady euphoria of an overdue urination combined with the picturesque-yet-slightly-dangerous experience of barreling along the foreshore beside the Hutt Motorway in the near-black; turbulent air rushing, waves crashing, rain pelting (it always seemed to be raining), and cars tooting.

  6. I suppose it had to happen one day, sterile ugly vapid modern ‘plastic’ trains here as well, as they now are in UK/Europe. The Wellington D/DM class EE’s have become iconic since the first batch appeared on the lines in the late 30s, and still do their job well. Now people will get barraged by a myriad of repeated electronic noises, it could be anywhere in the world, not the good old Kiwi Welly commuter system to J’ville etc. Just like the totally foolish decsion to scrap the worldly iconic Routemaster buses in London with glass and steel box on wheels double deckers, I refuse to visit that city anymore other than transit to from Heathrow when I visit England.

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