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Gents We Need To Talk About: Train Etiquette

In the tenth instalment of our regular column – in which we use our pondering skills to delve deep into clichés, stereotypes, and seemingly unimportant male-orientated issues – we consider the unspoken rules of the crappy land-based version of flying

“Sorry, but i’m afraid you’re sat in my seat.” It might not be those exact words, but it’s usually something similar. The age old motto of getting on trains, so commonly used that it might as well be National Rail’s slogan. There’s something inherently British about apologising for somebody else being in the wrong, isn’t there? And you know who’s the worst for sitting in the wrong seat, don’t you? Old people. Ironically, the people who are most likely to have a seat reservation on a train.

I used to love trains. Everything about them. The silent film that plays out the window, the seats, the power plugs, the speed, the sounds, the smells, the mechanics of them, the look of them, the stations, the design of the tickets, the feeling of going where cars can’t, the excitement of going on an extended journey, the chance to sit and read. I loved it all, but i’m starting to resent them. The magic is waning. I am falling out of love with trains.

Recently, I have been on a lot of train journeys. Long and short, far and wide. I have made some notes and I want to share them with you, so that you can spread the word of train etiquette across the generations to make my next journey a little easier. You don’t have to follow them religiously and of course, some of them are up for debate, but I would hope with a little contemplation you would agree they are the be all and end all. We will start with noise.

Few things on trains are more sacred than the quiet carriage. Let’s face it, it’s the poor man’s first class. If you are in this carriage, convention dictates that for the entire journey, you remain quiet. That means no shouting, no singing, no excitable laughing and no Trigger Happy TV-esque phone calls. If it were up to me, a member of the British Transport Police would be stationed in this carriage at all times maintaining an agreeable level of silence. Hopefully after reading this column, they’ll see the error of their ways.

Now, I never used to be a train drinker, but due to an increasingly impressive selection of craft cans in station branches of M&S (Northern Monk, Adnams, Kona) and the need for a liquid painkiller to dull the pain in the arse that getting on trains is quickly becoming, I have turned to the drink. Drinking quietly, without spilling and making an effort to pass wind in either the toilet or corridor part of the train and keeping yourself to yourself is okay. Drinking in large packs, chanting, harassing others, scaring women and children and destroying one of maybe three max onboard toilets is not. (I hope your team loses and your away tickets are counterfeit and made of biscuit.)

How crap are delays, eh? But take solace fellow traveller. There’s compensation in the offing, (relative to how late you are) and let’s face it, most delays are caused by people stealing metal, passengers fannying around, lack of investment and or people being injured or dying. So when faced with a delay, stay calm. If need be, respectfully crack open a can, return to your book or stretch your legs. Don’t, and I repeat don’t, begin complaining to the staff. Sadly, I was recently on a train that hit and killed a person and the response from fellow passengers was frankly disturbing. “Can’t they just replace the driver?” “Is there not a spare driver on board?” “Can’t we just get off the train here in the middle of nowhere and walk to the nearest station?” In times of life and death, truthfully, your journey means nothing.

On a lighter note, put your luggage on the racks, saviour your Young Person’s Railcard and rally your local MP to roll out the 26 – 30 version nationwide. Don’t brag about being in first class because a lamp and leg room is how it should be anyway. Put your rubbish in the bin, let people off before getting on and be polite, but firm. Most of all, don’t apologise for somebody else sitting in your seat. It’s yours.

Words by Davey Brett
Image Credits by Thomas Sumner