Monday, December 15, 2008

Missing the station in 1904

Travelling by rail at night these days can be a disorientating experience, despite the 21st century's benefit of obiquitous neon/fluoro and streetlights. Losing track of exactly where you are on the Western Line is easy to do -- which is why some carriages these days have the helpful automatic signs which tell you which station you're leaving, and which one is coming up.

In the very early 20th century, with few streetlights and none of the techological help we expect today, confusion must have happened from time to time. Such as this occasion, reported in the Observer, 4 June 1904.
"Three business men on the northern suburban train one evening last week got into a heated argument on the population question, or the training of children, or something of the kind, with inconvenient results all round. One of the party, whose destination was Mount Albert, was so absorbed in the discussion that he failed to notice his station, and was over-carried to Avondale before he remembered home and family. Then he got out quietly and the other two, still occupied in their weighty problem, and never dreaming of the Mount Albert man’s mistake, reckoned there was still the distance to Avondale to be run.

"Presently, one of them espied the reflection of the fire from the brick kiln at New Lynn, and worked himself into a fever of excitement over a supposed burning of the Avondale railway station.

"When they found themselves at New Lynn instead of Avondale, they bound each other by a dreadful oath to keep the adventure a close secret, and stole back to Avondale by back lanes, with their coat collars up and their hats over their ears. But the story of the over-carriage has leaked out, and they are now hard put to it to explain to fellow travellers how the mistake came about."

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