The 12:50 to Moscow



Journey’s end – Moskwa Biloruski

(Click to see original and for details of licensing.)

Our story about the lady waiting at the tram stop brought us a follow up from an ex-pat Brit living in Poland. He had some important guests to look after who had flown into Warsaw from London and had asked for his help to catch the 12:50 Moscow train the next day.

He came to their hotel early on Saturday morning and joined them for breakfast. They booked out in good time and a couple of tram rides took them to Warszawa Centralna station. (They preferred tram to taxi.) At this point there was some 90 minutes to go before the departure of their train.

He guided his VIPs to the Whittard coffee house underneath the Marriot hotel and then took one of them to the foreign exchange bureau to change some money. They drank their coffee and made their way through the underground passages to the railway station. Leaving his guests temporarily he took the escalator to the booking hall to check the platform number. Some 30 minutes still to go.

No 12:50 on the departure board. Of course, being an important international train it will be shown on the special InterCity board. But the InterCity departure board was showing non-stop advertisements. He found an old fashioned paper timetable – no 12:50. Hold on, it was there, but shown as departing from Warszawa Zachodnia (Warsaw West).

He rushed downstairs with the dreadful news. We can get to Zachodnia in 5 minutes, he told his guests, but the next train is in 15 minutes. Let’s grab a taxi, said the leading VIP. Precious time ebbed as they rushed to the taxi rank, agreed a price and bundled in their luggage.

They rushed off, going up Aleje Jerozlimskie – all was well they would just make Zachodnia in good time. At this point my friend did what he should have done at the start he asked to see the railway ticket. There it was the 12:50 – departing from Wschodnia (Warsaw East). He had misread the time table – left to right is East to West not vice versa.

He turned the taxi round and the driver performed a miracle in getting them to Wschodnia – 3 minutes after their train has left! A large some of money was paid to the taxi driver and my friend – at this point on the verge of having a stroke – went off with his friends’ ticket to the information office.

Here he learnt three interesting things. First another group of Brits had had a similar experience a few moments earlier. Second, his friends could still make their destination in good time if they took the 15:40 train. Third the rebooking fee would be less than their taxi fare across Warsaw!

They made their way to the international ticket window. There was only one person ahead of them, but it took the booking attendant 40 minutes to service the customer. Finally they were at the window. Ten minutes later they were clutching their new tickets. With plenty of time to spare they went for a beer and a meal at the restaurant across the road from the station.

All’s well that ends well, although there was a moments panic when my friend misheard the platform announcement and nearly put his guests on the train from Moscow which arrives a couple of minutes earlier.

(Intending passengers please note, all Warsaw – Moscow trains call at Warszawa Centralna with the exception of the 12:50.)

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6 Responses to “The 12:50 to Moscow”

  1. Robert Hall Says:

    “Every rail traveller’s nightmare” — though mercifully, in this case with a happy ending. And I always have problems anyway with “west” and “east” in Polish, with their looking uncomfortably similar, to a non-Polish eye.

    Though even in my own language, if I’m not careful I tend to say or write “east” when I mean “west”, and vice versa. Am well aware of the difference in theory; in practice, in the heat of the moment, am inclined to “get them twisted” re what comes out. No similar trouble with north and south — they are more clear-cut somehow, with the existence of the North and South Poles (geographical features, not humans…)

    • dyspozytor Says:

      Some people have problems with “left” and “right” which at least sound different. There were serious difficulties with “larboard” and “starboard” until some some unknown genius invented “port”.

  2. Robert Hall Says:

    Just leaving the problem for non-sailors, of remembering which is which between “port” and “starboard”; and which is represented by red, and which by green. Handy aide-memoire: “There’s lots of red port wine left”.

    • dyspozytor Says:

      I was taught a more pessimistic version: “There wasn’t even any red port left.” The red coloured, even-numbered buoys marking the left side of the navigation channel when proceeding upstream from the sea.

  3. Robert Hall Says:

    Your cited version seems a good one: covering as it does, the matter of buoys even-numbered one side, and odd-ditto the other. That was completely new to me; but Joseph Conrad I ain’t — a lot of nautical stuff is, for me, impenetrably mysterious.

  4. Michael Says:

    Hmm, why on earth is there a train to Moscow not starting from Centralna?

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