Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Every time I start writing a reply to a comment here, I end up remembering things that need a whole new post.

For example, stairwells. Or stairways. I'm not sure what the official name is. But if you don't know what they are (and if you don't, why are you reading this?), they allow passengers to get off on either ground-level stations or platform stations, depending on how they've been set.

For platforms, there's a steel floor plate which covers the stairs.

To exit at ground-level, open the door, step on a switch, lift the plate, latch it to the wall, and a stairway is exposed which goes down to ground (i.e. track) level. I'm sure that passengers aren't supposed to open or close the stairways, but some of us have figured out how to do it - out of necessity.


Because some conductors don't feel like bothering to open or close stairwells. That can be mildly annoying, when they force two coaches worth of departing passengers to file through one stairwell, instead of the usual two. But I remember one time when it was more than inconvenient.

This happened about three or four months ago. As they sometimes do, the conductors on the Franklin #715 disappeared. Unfortunately, they'd left both of the station-side stairwells closed in the vestibule closest to where I was sitting. Since most stops past Ruggles don't have platforms, that meant there was no way for passengers to leave the train - unless they opened a stairwell for themselves.

The pregnant woman who was starting to panic in the vestibule obviously didn't know how to open a stairwell. Or possibly, since she was fairly well along, she wasn't physically able to open the stairwell; the steel floor plates are pretty heavy, particularly if the spring that pushes them up is weak. So I ran over and opened a stairwell for her.

She got off, and an elderly handicapped veteran who'd been waiting for someone to open the damned stairwells hobbled on. How do I know he was handicapped? He had a cane, and was limping badly. How do I know he was a veteran? He had a cap on with the name of his ship - not proof positive, but enough to convince me that he was a veteran.

I have to wonder: wasn't ANY conductor looking down along the train? I'm sure that's part of the job description. How long was that guy standing there, waiting for someone to open the stairwell?

Incidentally, this time the train wasn't too crowded for the conductors to make it through the cars to do their jobs. I remember clearly that it was actually rather quiet that day - only one person got off from that vestibule, and only one got on. It was quite unusual.

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