Last Train To Edinburgh
Wendy and I are back in the good, ole US of A after our adventure overseas. It’s good to get away, but you appreciate being home more after a trip that had its share of harrowing moments. Through it all, my wife was only brought to tears once.
For better or worse, Wendy relied on my travel planning. I purchased rail passes, made up the itinerary, booked the excursions, made the hotel reservations, etc. I’ve never claimed to be a travel agent . . . but I try.
So we’re in London, relaxing after the Paris leg of our trip. It was Sunday. I told Wendy she could sleep in. All we had to do today was take the train from London to Edinbugh, Scotland. Our rail passes in hand, it should be a snap.
Checked out of our hotel and walked the next block over to London’s Euston station. There, on a big, overhead elec tronic board that indicated train departures and arrivals, I looked for the train to Edinburgh. But I didn’t see any.
I approached the information desk, asked about the train to Edinburgh and was told that it would depart at 12:30 p.m. That was a couple hours off and later than I’d planned on, but we got coffee and waited.
As more trains departed Euston, the big electronic board updated the departure schedule and I noticed that train departures past 12:30 p.m. were now listed on the board. But still no train to Edinburgh. I made another trip to the information desk and THIS time was told that no trains went from Euston to Edinburgh during the day, only at night.
He said I needed to go down the street to the Kings Cross railway station, about a ten-minute walk away. We did that, dragging our luggage along too. Sure enough, the big, electronic board there said the next train to Edinburgh would depart at 12:45. Good.
We still had about an hour wait, so we sat at a bench outside the train station, noting fashion styles and the nicotine addiction of so many Londoners and visitors who often lit up their cigarettes right under the “no smoking” signs posted about. Their second-hand smoke swirled close to us. Wonderful.
Finally, the boarding call was made for the train to Edinburgh so Wendy and I hustled along with scores of other passengers to find a good seat. But I noticed little cardboard tags saying “reserved” on every seat in the first coach we tried to board. Got off and checked all the other coaches only to find the same. Every seat was reserved.
At the last coach we ran into a couple train officials who confirmed my worst fears. And not only was every seat reserved on this train, but on the trains following to Edinburgh as well. He suggested I board a different train to Newcastle (wherever that was) than take a bus to Edinburgh. What??? A bus?! What about my rail pass? What if I don’t know where the bus station is?
Feeling frustrated, we went back into the station at Kings Cross and got into the ticket queue, thinking that the ticket agent could help. He was about as cold to us as the iceberg was that hit the Titanic. And just as helpful too.
Now Wendy was in tears. She positioned herself among the scores of passengers staring at the big, electronic board, refusing to move. Quite angry and frustrated she was. I went to the information desk and asked for help. The agent there started punching keys on his computer and I began to feel some hope.
He told me to go BACK to the Euston train station we had been at earlier and catch the train to Glasgow, but get off before Glasgow at Carlisle (wherever that was) and a separate train to Edinburgh would be along shortly.
So we dragged suitcases and all back down the street to the Euston station and waited about an hour for the train to Glasgow. And we boarded without a problem. Home free? Nope. Somewhere down the line, at a station in Preston (wherever that was) the train conductor announced:
“I’m afraid I have some very bad news. They are having major problems north of Carlysle. This train is being terminated and is returning immediately to Euston.”
Noooooooooooooooooooooo! We left the train and stood on the platform, confused and stressed, along with scores of other passengers with no clue how to proceed. But Wendy with her sharp ears heard a train official mention “platform 3” to another passenger, so we headed in that direction, weaving through throngs of people not in a big hurry to part and let us by either.
At platform 3 sat a train with “Edinburgh” on its destination window. YES! We quickly boarded—the train was almost already full—and took separate seats, our heaviest bag sitting on my lap as there was no more room for luggage.
There was no assurance that this train would reach Edinburgh either, we were told. We made a few unscheduled stops. During one of these, the conductor announced that the railway was going to bend the rules in a big-time way in order to help passengers through this harrowing ordeal. People were allowed to smoke on the rail station platform, which was normally against the law. Wonderful.
Wendy and I hadn’t eaten since early morning and it was now past six in the evening. But all we could muster up in the snack coach were two bags of peanuts and a diet Coke. They were nearly out of everything. But the train DID eventually make it to Edinburgh, where we spent about another hour dragging heavy luggage through the streets trying to find our hotel.
Moral of the story . . . if I ever plan to ride the rails in Britain again, I’m going to take up smoking first.