Thursday, 23 August 2012

Every morning one of my acquaintances

takes a bucket and a brush and heads off to the railway station at the back of his home. Once there he cleans off any graffiti which has appeared overnight and clears up any rubbish left lying around.
He has been doing this before dawn almost every day for the past twenty years. If he is away then another neighbour does the job for him.
The railway station, which is heritage listed, is neat and tidy and clean. It is all because of the efforts of this man and a small band of gardeners who go in once a week and keep "Nellie's Garden" tidy.
"Nellie" was the wife of one of the station masters - in the days when the station had such a person. They lived on the property and, while her husband dealt with trains and switches and parcels and tickets, Nellie gardened.  In their off-duty time they rode a motor bike - Nellie sat behind. There is a mural depicting them on the wall of the old switch "box". Their neighbour keeps all that clean and free of graffiti too.
The result is that, although the car park area still gets used for the almost inevitable drug deals, the station itself is remarkably free of crime. There have been just three serious incidents there in the last twenty years - things that even the neighbours could not have prevented with their vigilance.
It is the railway station I use. I would not use it at night but then I would not use any public transport at night. It is, sadly, no longer safe to do that. It is however much safer to use the station during the day largely because of the efforts of one man. No, he is not around during the day but other people are. They will use the station because it is clean.
Once none of this would have been necessary. There would have been a station master living on the property. The train to Melbourne actually used to stop there and pick up passengers and parcels. Now it is just infrequent suburban trains as the long goods trains roar through without stopping.
Soon our line will be closed for months. They are building an underpass on a part closer to the city. This is not for our benefit. It has something to do with the needs of the long goods trains - which will be getting even longer.
My acquaintance will continue to maintain the station though. He will do it as long as he can.
And when he stops? Will someone take over?

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