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At the railway station

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AT THE RAILWAY STATION In the railway station in a large town the first thing you will notice in the main hall is several ticket offices. There people buy one-way tickets or return tickets, and those who go regularly to work by train can get season tickets. The station clock above the entrance to the platforms is anxiously watched by passengers in the queues outside the ticket offices. To miss a train can be rather unpleasant; the next train may not leave for several hours, or perhaps you will have to change trains somewhere and wait for connection. Another complication is that the person who is planning to meet you at your destination will not know what went wrong with the arrangements. That is why it is better to plan to get to the station early; a quarter of an hour should be enough leeway to allow for any traffic jams on your way there. Besides the ticket offices, the main hall of a station has an arrivals and departures board. People check it to make sure that they have looked up the right train in the timetable, and to find out whether their train is overdue or not. Nearby are the inquiry office and the booking office, where seats can be booked for long journeys some time in advance. (Some express trains cannot even be boarded without a reservation.) The waiting rooms are full of people waiting for their connection. If they have to wait for several hours they may put their luggage in the left-luggage office or in luggage lockers for a small charge, and go out to see the town. Passengers with several pieces of luggage or a heavy suitcase can have it registered; the luggage then travels in the luggage van and there is no need to bring it into the compartment and put it up on the rack. Hungry and thirsty passengers can get a snack or a meal in the refreshment room or in the restaurant. If they have forgotten to bring some reading for the journey, they can buy magazines, newspapers, and paperbacks at the bookstall; if they have forgotten to ask a neighbour to water the flowers in their garden, they can phone him from a phone box. Other facilities inside a station include lavatories a barber’s shop, and vending machines. Outside there are usually bus and tram stops as well as a taxi rank, and most central stations in European capitals are now linked to underground transport. But porters have largely vanished, and most people are now used to the idea of carrying their luggage themselves. Now let’s imagine a platform at an English railway station just at departure time. A number of people will be saying goodbye to each other. Perhaps a lady will be leaning out of window of the train, taking leave of a friend who has come to see her off. A couple of people may be shaking hands and some young people embracing. Maybe there will even be two sailors on leave arguing about whether to return to their girlfriends or to their ship. If they do not make up their minds quickly, the train will leave without them. Once everybody is on board and the train has started to move, the passengers will wave their scarves and handkerchiefs to the friends they are leaving behind. When their friends disappear from sight they will wipe their tears and sit down. The women will open their fashion magazines and the men will started reading a James Bond story or Playboy or the Financial Times or whatever they have brought with them. Some passengers will watch the suburban landscape until they fall asleep. And the sailors in love? Probably they will soon be making eyes at the pretty girls sitting next to them in the compartment. When they arrive at the terminus, they will be in love again.

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