The Czechs are fun people, aren\’t they!

So, back from a day trip to Usti nad Labem to look at a factory (\”Yes, that\’s a factory OK, I\’ve seen one before you know!\”) and I\’m at the train station waiting for the Hamburg Express.

Which is going to arrive/leave from platorm 3. So I am on platform 3.

The station has 6 platforms. Number 6 is by the exit, and is reached by stairway 1. Numbers 5/4 (different ends of the same platform) and 3 are reached by stairway 2.

Platforms 1 and 2 are reached by stairway 3.

So, does the Hamburg Express arrive/leave from platform three, as the listings, my ticket and the station announcements all say? No, of course it doesn\’t, silly. It leaves from platform 1 which is above stairway 3.

When I talk to the train conductor (who is having a quick breath of fresh air at the halt and this being an international train yes, he speaks English) he says yes, Platform 3 means up stairway 3, not anything as stupid as what is actually marked as platform 3.

Dang, why are the English so dim? Are you a conservative or something?

Ho hum. And that is today\’s news from parts foreign.

23 thoughts on “The Czechs are fun people, aren\’t they!”

  1. Yes–having particular words apply to discrete concepts is undoubtedly a conservative concept (and marker). After all, it’s a favorite Rush Limbaugh expression: “words mean things.”

  2. This sounds a bit like the French discrimination of ‘quai’ (platform, meaning the thing you stand on which has one track on either side) and ‘voie’ (track – which particular side of the platform). I think in English we’re used to the ‘voie’ being called a ‘platform’ and we don’t have a word for ‘quai’. So it’s puzzling when other cultures identify the platform and track individually (and in translation voie and quai might both be correctly or wrongly translated as ‘platform’).

    Or maybe I’ve missed the point completely.

  3. Ceri

    I think you are right – with perhaps the further complication that at Amsterdam Centraal station, each platform (voie) is sub-divided into 2

  4. “Woking… This is Woking… The train now standing at platform two will divide here.

    “The front four carriages will go to Brookwood, Farnborough, Fleet, Hook and Basingstoke.

    “The rear four carriages will go to Mitchet, Aldershot….”

    “Shit!” Frantically looks out of window trying to decide which end of the bloody train he’s on.

  5. I used to live in a little town near Milan. The station had four platforms, called 1, 2, 3, and 6.

    Sheffield station (which I used to commute to – I promise I am not a trainspotter) has a mess of through platforms divided into A and B segments, and various rarely-used bay platforms called “C” or in some cases with their own number.

    All of which points to railways being run for the convenience of those running the railways, rather than the customers or shareholders. A rant for Tim in there somewhere.

  6. JamesV

    The renumbering of platforms can often be as confusing for the staff as it is for passengers and the operators traditionally have used their own jargon for different lines, such as ‘up main’, ‘down local’ and the like, rather than platform numbers. Recent re-building or re-ordering of stations has led to some fairly weird numberings I agree, such as ‘Platform 0’ but it’s really not for the convenience of the staff, more a result of some abstract planning that makes logical sense to the planners but not necessarily to others. There is a actually a long history of this sort of confusion on the British railway system, due to the rather random organic way that stations have grown.

  7. The dividing of platforms into ‘A’ and ‘B’ is due to the need to provide extra space for trains without building extra platforms or completely re-numbering. I can’t see that there’s anything terribly confusing about that.

  8. Ceri Read.
    The British railway term for a ‘track’ is ‘face’. So an island platform for instance is one platform but at least two faces. This term isn’t in general public use however, perhaps it should be.

  9. Huh. The Zoogarten station in Berlin was a hell of mismanagement for anyone who just wanted to find his bloody train. Does it still exist?

  10. Berlin Zoo station does still exist, but it has been downgraded to a relatively unimportant station since they opened the new Berlin Hauptbahnhof. This is much easier to navigate, but in a slightly strange place where relatively few people want to go to.

    Not quite the Czechs, but in Bratislava railway station last year there were ticket windows labeled as “Basic ticket service”, “Complex ticket service”, “Express ticket
    service”, and “Additional ticket service”. I didn’t have clue which one of these I should use to buy a ticket to Brno. Perhaps it might have made sense if I could read the original Slovak. Or perhaps not.

  11. I don’t know how you can describe Berlin Hauptbahnhof as easy to navigate. It took me some time to find my way out the first time I went there.

    And its first class lounge is a diminutive and inadequate afterthought – rather befitting of Berlin’s political leanings. Perhaps I should be grateful it’s not equipped with lampposts and anarchists.

  12. Yep, and the czech for ‘yes’ is Ano which in everyday speech is shortened to – you’ve guessed it-‘ No! Oh and if you hold up your index and middle finger attempting to indicate 2 items wanted you may be surprised to get 3 things – they often use the thumb for one and index for 2 etc.. And the word for motorbike is Motorka; I could go on, but I won’t.

  13. Dear outsider,
    I’m afraid I’m nothing so grand as a designer just a humble, soon to retire, railwayman but I would quite like to have a bash at designing a railway station, fortunately for the passengers that’s very unlikely to happen.

  14. There is no platform 23. It’s code for the pub next to the last platform, which is 22

    Sounds like the 19th hole 🙂

  15. I’m from Melbourne, Boy on a Bike, and tend to get lost at Central. I thought there was a platform 23. Maybe that’s why I missed my airport train.

  16. There are 25 working platforms at Sydney Central. There were two more underground platforms built in the 1970s, but the Eastern Suburbs Railway was ultimately scaled back and they were never used. The State Rail Authority uses the space to store some of their archives, but there is no public access to them.

    I think signs pointing to these (no access) platforms may also have pointed in the direction of the pub, however. It would be platform 26 though, not 23.

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