The Platform at Ludgate. The British public waiting for the 8:37 train

WHAT I complain of is, that they won't even be punctual in their unpunctuality. You can no more rely on their being uniformly late than you can on their starting at the time stated in their tables. As a rule, I am at the station by half-past eight, and then I've generally had to wait for various periods ranging from fifteen minutes to an hour. But on the two or three occasions-the exceptions which prove my rule — when I have reached the station at 8.38 I have found the train had started. The result is, that one has to spend so much time in the station that when the tax-collector leaves a form at one's ofiice, wherein one is directed to “state place of residence,” conscientious scruples arise whether Ludgate Station would not be the proper return to make. If time were money, in a tangible form, the embarrassed company would be able to clear off all its debentures-all its liabilities with the sums accumulated between 8.37 and the arrival of the so-called 8.37 train at Ludgate — the involuntary contributions of passengers.

I may be giving this particular train an undue partiality; there may be — in fact, I know there are — plenty of other trains during the day which fail to keep their engagements. But the 8.37 train is one that takes a man home when he has been kept later than he should have been at business, and it professes to land him in the bosom of his family in time to bid the little people good night, and before the tea-pot has been completely drained of all its virtues. He finds himself on the platform surrounded by other victims, and he hates himself and them, and nourishes a deadly hatred against the elite oflicials (they are not going home by that train), and against 6 passengers who are going off by all sorts of other trains that don't go his way. He bethinks him of one or two little things he might have done before he left the office, one or two little commissions he might have performed on his way, if he had not been in a hurry to catch his train! Catch his train! by, if he were to set out and walk home at once, the chances are the train would not catch him! But then, “Of course!” he says to himself, bitterly, “if I had been late the train would have been early!” — and the chances are that it would. He walks up and down the platform fuming — reads the advertisements with a vague suspicion that their exhibitors may bribe the company to be late in order to give time for their perusal. He makes a mental note never to buy of those advertisers, but has plenty of time to find out the folly of such a determination, because everybody advertises, and he must go somewhere for what he wants. So he asks the ofiicials with bitter sarcasm, whether they think the train will be in soon; and they give him soft answers which do not turn away wrath, but make him feel as if he were a steam-engine with somebody sitting on the safety-valve! How it is that the courteous stout official who has the starting of the trains isn't worn to a shadow I can't guess. [Note. — Allowance must be made for Mar. Durnurban’s irritation. It is of course impossible to expect exact punctuality in trains. But there is room for improvement. — Ed.]

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Suburban, Sylvanus. “The Platform at Ludgate. The British public waiting for the 8:37 train.” Fun. 4 (30 October 1866): 64. Hathi Digital Library Trust version of a copy in the University of Minnesota library. Web. 31 January 2016.

Last modified 31 January 2016