Stranded in the snow

I love snow. Whenever I hear the forecaster announce we’ve got snow on the way, it brings to mind images of blue skies, pretty snow everywhere, and a great opportunity to get my camera out to try to capture next year’s Christmas Card photo. It puts me in the mind of ski holidays when I get to spend quality time with good friends, throwing myself down mountains with only two piece of wood under my feet! It’s a happy time when I think of snow.

But Tuesday night wasn’t a fun night thanks to the snow …! I had jokingly asked my boss the previous day what the procedures were if I got snowed in. I really didn’t expect we would – but it’s always best to be prepared. However, not expecting it to happen, I didn’t take the laptop home, or anything else I needed, as the snow wasn’t going to be THAT bad was it!!!That meant, when snow had indeed arrived on Tuesday morning, I had to venture into work in order to pick up the laptop and other things I needed if the snow got any worse.

So, I arrived at Reigate station on Tuesday morning, as the snow was falling, to be faced with a very busy platform, and virtually no indication of what was going on. The electronic board just said delays. Everything was delayed. No announcements came over the tannoy, there were no guards to be seen, and the ticket office man just said he was “waiting to be told”.  Some of us figured out that there was a broken down train between Redhill and Reigate when a Reading train was told it could go no further towards Gatwick, and had to reverse from Reigate back to Reading!

I decided to join that train, as it went via Dorking, and I knew from snow earlier this year that I could get up to London from there. However, no one could tell me if I could use my train ticket – or whether Dorking trains were running ok! But I figured it was worth the risk. Dorking were indeed letting people through the ticket barriers, and I got up to Clapham Junction, and over to Richmond a mere two and a half hours after I left home. Usually I take around 65 mins!

As the weather in Richmond was wet most of the day, I kept an eye on the Reigate weather. It was snowing hard by all accounts. I decided about 4pm to take an earlier train home – better to get home and wonder why you worried, than spend hours on the journey. Or so I thought.

I went from Richmond to Clapham with no issues at all. I felt a little foolish worrying, because the station wasn’t too busy and things seemed to be moving well. That was until I got to my platform. There were people about 8 deep on the platform, and at 16.50 the next train advertised to arrive at the platform should have passed through at 15.30 … oh dear! Delays were inevitable heading south – but delays of over an hour? A train arrived, not going anywhere near where I needed, so I let the crowds push around me in order to get onto the train. I was then about 3 deep from the front the platform. Progress I thought! And being in the midst of the crowd of people made me think about the penguins … the ones in the middle stayed nice and warm whilst the ones on the outside took the brunt of the bad weather. 3 deep was looking a good position to be in!

After being on the station for a further half hour, some people in front of me decided to call things quit. They’d been hoping to get to a business meeting, but had been waiting for over an hour, and finally decided they’d never make it in time – and even if they did – would they then make it back home. So, they moved out of the queue – and suddenly I was at the front! But that’s the cold position!! But, at least I was at the front IF another train ever arrived! I was there for about another half hour, before the next train arrived that was thankfully going in the right direction – it would stop at East Croydon, and then head down to Coulsdon South, Merstam and Redhill – then onto other stations to Three Bridges. Perfect I thought! Even if I had to walk from Redhill, I would at least get home fairly easily. By this stage I had left work about an hour and half ago!

Being that I take the train every day from Clapham, my front row position also coincided with where the doors opened … so I scuttled on and jumped into a seat. Horrah! I was on a train heading South and I had a seat! I was feeling smug!

As we set off, the train driver came over the tannoy. Victoria Train Control had told him he could only go as far as East Croydon – but as he wanted to get back to Brighton to his family, he was going to see how far we could get before giving up! We all cheered at our brave train driver for such dedication!! First stop East Croydon, all was well. We sat there for a while, then got the all clear to continue South. The driver announced that Coulsdon South, Merstam and Redhill were still all on the itinerary … so everyone settled down quite happily. We’d been travelling along for about 10 mins when  someone commented that we weren’t on the Coulsdon Line. What did she mean, everyone wanted to know. She said again, that we weren’t on the right line – we’d come onto a different line. We got increasingly anxious – nothing from the driver or guard, and no way to get in touch with them. We’d been going for at least 10 more mins before the guard came on the tannoy to apologise for having to skip the intended stations, but due to two broken down trains in the Redhill area, they’d had to move onto the fast line which didn’t stop at those stations. Suddenly my smugness at having a seat AND getting a train to Redhill evaporated. We hadn’t stopped. We’d kept going. Where were we headed?

The next stop was going to be Horley then Gatwick. I decided I’d stay on the train till Gatwick – after all, it’d be warm there if I had to wait for a train going north. So I settled back feeling less panicky. As we drew into Horley the driver again apologised for not stopping as intended and said we could change either at Horley or Gatwick for a train taking us back North. People were calling out saying there was a train now heading North … so along with about 150 others, I jumped out and ran across to the other platform. But, there were no trains. The boards were no use at all just saying all trains were delayed … there were no extra guards informing us what was going on, or when we could expect a north bound train. Everyone was getting onto their mobile phones, telling friends and family they were stuck in Horley. Thing was, my phone was nearly out of battery. And who could I call anyhow? I didn’t want anyone to come out in this weather as the driving conditions were getting very dangerous. By this time, I had left work 3 hours previously.

I stood on the platform, and got very scared. It was below freezing, there were no trains going in either direction, and I wasn’t sure how many hours it would take me to walk home even if I could figure out which direction home was. My phone was down to its last bar of battery, and I wasn’t really dressed for a couple of hours walking in the snow. What made it worse was that there weren’t people at the station able to help us – no one knew what was happening, and although I tried to hold on to the thought that I was there with probably 50 others (the rest appeared to have been quite happy with the Horley destination) I was still getting scared when thinking about how on earth I was going to get home.

I sent a text to my housemate, asking her to phone our cab company to find out how long till they had a car that could come and get me. In the meantime, I checked my phone, quickly looked on Facebook to see how others were fairing in their attempts to get home, and updated my status with “Stuck in Horley”. I know not everyone has a good view of facebook – but I tell you, I am glad I updated my status with such seemingly trivial information because within a few minutes, a great mate of mine phoned, and said he was getting into his car and coming to get me! I tried to dissuade him from coming out, as it was snowing hard again, and the roads were treacherous. But he was my hero, saying that you don’t leave people stranded, and he’d driven in the snow already that day, and would come out to get me.

I could have cried. In fact, thinking about it even now, I feel tears of relief well in my eyes … I hadn’t realised until that moment quite how scared I’d become. Within about 20 mins, he’d pulled up outside the station, and I was in a warm car, heading home. Apart from a couple of slippery patches (where he teased me for being a nervous passenger) we managed to slide to a stop outside my front door. I really did nearly cry! I’d been well and truly rescued … I don’t remember the last time I was unable to do something on my own … but here I was, having been rescued due to being a damsel in absolute distress.

I walked in my door about 4 hours after I left the office, and am still very thankful to both my mate (those who know me, know who you are) and his wife for letting him go out!!! I know I would do pretty much anything for my mates, but I’m not sure you’d get me driving in the snow! Then again, if a mate was in trouble, I’d probably would give it a go. But seriously mate. Thank you. I know you don’t think it’s any big deal. But thank you for rescuing a damsel in distress. Needless to say, I have been working from home since, and am unlikely to attempt the journey into work until it can be guaranteed that trains are running again!

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