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Have you ever been mistaken for rail staff, or helped those less familiar with the network?

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185143

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Oh yes. Many times.

Firstly when I was travelling to and from school I'd get asked a lot as my school uniform was quite similar to the Northern Rail uniform of the era-and I looked older than what I actually was. I pretty much always knew the answers though. :D

Though it's not just that. I had to laugh at being asked by a group of lads at London Bridge wether the train I'd alighted was going to Caterham who thought I was staff. I was walking down the platform wearing nothing that resembles uniform in any way and was almost certainly hungover!

I've had people ask me questions a long way from home and have seemed surprised when I've said I didn't have a clue as I'd never been there before. I've even had that happen in Ireland, where I'd never even heard of the place.
 
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Watershed

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The other day, the doors on my train had just been shut and the train was about to move, when the guard rushed towards the front of the train.

I found platform staff gesticulating to me through the windows. They thought I was the guard and wanted me to deal with the passcom that had been pulled!

To be honest, that almost seems "worse" than some of the examples above, because those very same staff had just dealt with the conductor to dispatch the train!
 
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DaveTM

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If I've worked an early turn I'll sometimes pop in the shops on my way home. If I'm in a shop that people don't frequent regularly (i.e. not Sainsburys or the like), people see a uniform and make the assumption I'm a staff member. The temptation is so strong to give false information: "you need aisle 75 which is over there", *points vaguely to the other side of B&Q*.
 
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If I see people desperately struggling with a tube map I will often help them if I can overhear the conversation. Pre covid I used to regularly hear French and Spanish families desperately trying yo figure out where they were going. On one occasion I was on a southbound Victoria line train and an Argentinean family with two fairly restless small children got on at Green Park. They both looked exasperated dealing with the kids and the wife clearly wasnt convinced the husband had any clue where they were going, despite him swearing blind they were on the right train (spoiler: they weren't, they wanted to go to Covent Garden). I put the husband out of his misery and gave him directions before he ended up in Brixton with two screaming children and one screaming wife. The wife was very appreciative, the husband less so but it made me chuckle.
 

Mag_seven

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During hot weather I often used to travel in just a collar and tie without a jacket and bag. For some reason that seems to make people think you are a member of staff!
 

cosmo

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Not mistaken for railway staff per se but pre-virus, I often found myself being asked for directions and advice, can't say I've ever helped anyone on the national network before. Closest thing to that was just helping my family buy tickets etc!
 

JRT

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I do have one of those faces that people seem to ask me directions, so it wasn't too surprised when on a few occasions late evenings people asked me general questions (is this the Huddersfield train etc) whilst waiting for trains (in 1980s so BR era) on platforms at Leeds railway station.
Eventually I realized that my dark blue windcheater jacket was very similar to the BR uniform of the time!
 

GRALISTAIR

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Like several of the above, I am always being asked - regardless of what I wear! I suspect the sight of a shoulder bag, camera and notebook must trigger an instinct in people that says: "Ah! An enthusiast - he probably knows..."
I am pretty sure that is a correct observation. Same with flying - frequent fliers often know way more than some staff.
 
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JRT

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When working for an agency on behalf of “the railways”, we were issued with bright yellow coats, it did say “northern” on there though.
Unfortunately walking from the station through town not necessarily where I live always brought questions, where is the car park (ok it's similar to car park workers’ coat) . That was really annoying and had to explain I worked for the railways and had no idea what they were on about and I don't drive or even live there so why ask me.
 

Paul Jones 88

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Years ago, dressed as a SS officer on the way to a fancy dress party, two teenage boys came up to me and apologised for not having a ticket and asked if I could sell them one, I just told them to ask staff when they got off the train.
 

Tracked

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Think I've mentioned it on here before, but I was once mistaken for East Coast staff whilst on a rover and waiting for my first train of the day at Doncaster. Possibly might've been the purple jumper, grey jeans and (slightly lighter) grey trainers that made people think "he's dressed in colours a bit a bit similar to those of the trains we're catching, so he must be staff" :rolleyes:
 

Bletchleyite

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I am pretty sure that is a correct observation. Same with flying - frequent fliers often no way more than some staff.

Yep, I've certainly wandered round with Flightradar24 on my iPad showing people where the inbound flight was when the displays were just uselessly saying "delayed due to late arrival of the incoming aircraft" and staff nowhere to be seen.
 

306024

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Even as non-uniform wearing rail staff it is surprising how often you get asked questions. There is a theory we have some sort if stamp on our forehead that identifies us.

Never truer than on a journey once from Toronto to Montreal and back. Practice seemed to be for the conductor to identify a passenger to help evacuate the train in an emergency. Having been selected it was obviously a surprise for the conductor to find I was not only UK rail staff, but also had experience of helping get people off trains down to the track a couple of times. So I got a tour of the train, an explanation of how the doors worked (they were those split level type where you can open the top half only), and a free coffee.

Then the same thing happens on the return journey when I get selected again. What are the chances?
 

Bletchleyite

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Never truer than on a journey once from Toronto to Montreal and back. Practice seemed to be for the conductor to identify a passenger to help evacuate the train in an emergency. Having been selected it was obviously a surprise for the conductor to find I was not only UK rail staff, but also had experience of helping get people off trains down to the track a couple of times. So I got a tour of the train, an explanation of how the doors worked (they were those split level type where you can open the top half only), and a free coffee.

Yep, that's standard practice and I've done it, I think they asked for volunteers in my case. No free coffee though. Interestingly the demo was done by opening the door (both parts) with the train moving at (Canadian levels of) speed!

North American rail practice does take a lot of features from airlines, I suppose, so it's similar to sitting in the exit row and getting a briefing.
 

norbitonflyer

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I also seem to have an "ask me" face and, when I worked in central London often got asked directions (usually tourists exiting St Pauls station looking for the cathedral). And as I always wore a suit to work I often got mistaken for staff if I went shopping in my lunch break.

Many years ago, at the London Transport information kiosk that used to be on the concourse at Victoria station, I could see that the young lad manning it was quite out of his depth and as a result we were making very slow progress in the queue. Understandably, given the location of the kiosk, lots of the questions were about British Rail ("how do I get to Woking" ,etc) for which the poor chap had been provided with no information, so I chipped in with the advice to change at Clapham Junction. When I eventually got to second place in the queue, the person in front of me asked him how to get to Hampton Court - cue long involved answer, after consulting a bus map, using the District Line and a couple of buses. Again, I had to butt in to suggest that "change trains at Clapham Junction" would actually get them there before the palace closed!

Why I was in the queue in the first place? - I was with a friend who needed to renew her Travelcard.
 

Master Cutler

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I recall waiting for the Robin Hood to Mansfield on platform 1A at Nottingha station with a 158 standing at platform 1C.
A young woman waiting near me wearing an orange high vis jacket with the name of a building company on the back was asked by several people, "is that the Robin Hood" pointing up towards the stationary 158 further up at 1C.
After being asked several times, she finally took the high vis off and duly caught the Robin Hood 158 which arrived on time at 1A.
 

Taunton

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I was waiting outside of Euston Train station waiting for my grown up kids coming down from the hotel opposite, an Italian couple asked me a few questions, I politely answered them the best I could, next thing I noticed that I had a queue of three other couples wanting similar advice
I've had a queue as well, from visitors to London on an Underground platform. Number 4 (American) introduced himself as "As you are doing such a good job here ...". Notably, too, he had a question which I wonder how many platform staff could answer - "I'm going back home through Heathrow airport tomorrow, this time getting the Tube there, and wondered does it come above ground on any sections so I can take photographs out of the window ...".

For those trying their best English, I've always found an opening "Where are you travelling to?" is the best start to any guidance.
 
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matt_world2004

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Passenger repeatedly had a go at me once because the district line was suspended. I told them to get stuffed in less polite language.
 

Vespa

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In the early 1990s I worked for Royal Mail attached to Crewe office temporarily, as part of my commute I had to go to Crewe station and check out the TPO coaches, Royal Mail uniforms is very similar to British Rail uniforms and I did get asked by customers for information which I do my best to help out otherwise I just directed them to the information office.
 

Tio Terry

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It's several years ago now but when we were first thinking about extending platforms at London Waterloo to enable 10 car trains I decided to photograph the area country end of 1&2 to show what would need to be moved out of the way. So, to comply with the rules, I donned my full ankle to neck Hi-Vi, hard hat, gloves, eye protection and boots, walked the length of the platform, took my pictures from the top of the ramp and walked back towards the ticket barriers. As I got towards the barriers two young ladies, probably early 20's, pointed at the train in platform 2 and enquired:-

"Hampton Court?"

To which I replied:-

"No, I always walk like this"

A moment's hesitation then much laughter.
 

Ianno87

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Happened to me quite a few times. I must have a look of "that guy looks like he knows about trains"!

My proudest one was doing it in French at Liverpool Street to assist a tourist trying to find the Stansted Express :)
 
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zero

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I appear to have an "ask me for help" face too. However, as a person of East Asian appearance I have had mixed experiences (and I'm not talking about COVID-related racism).

In areas of the UK with few non-white people, I may be waiting at a station or bus stop, and sometimes a person will come along wanting help. The first guy they ask doesn't know, so they move on to everyone else in turn but pointedly avoid me. Happened enough times that it isn't a coincidence. If I overhear the question, it turns out that I often do know the answer, but if they aren't going to ask me then I won't volunteer.

This is by no means always the case, and sometimes I get picked first. At Manchester Piccadilly I was once asked how to get to the tram. I responded that out of the 50 other people nearby, they chose the one who had been in Manchester for less than 2 minutes ever! I wanted to know where the tram was too so we located the platforms together.

In Greece I was approached on two occasions by Greeks asking for help in Greek and I wanted to say "do I look like I'm from here?" Same in Poland, from behind but they shied away when they saw my face.

In other European countries it is not necessarily the case that people who look like me are overwhelmingly tourists. Refreshingly, I have been asked for help in French, Spanish, German, and Danish as though I was a local. In Zurich airport station a Spanish tourist asked if I spoke Spanish and I was actually able to help him in that language.

Once in Estonia I may have been picked because I don't look like a local, as they spoke English off the bat, however they wanted to know if I could translate a timetable notice in Estonian....
 

ANDREW_D_WEBB

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I also have one of those 'faces' which means I get asked directions, even in foreign cities. When cycling I wear an orange hi viz (similar to those used on the railways), which I had left on when popping into Tesco last week. Approached by two girls with a question about the Krispy Kreme donuts, thinking I was Tesco staff.
 

peters

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Turns out if you stand in the doorway of a 323 (pre-Covid) at Manchester Piccadilly and wear a big blue coat, people will assume you're Northern staff

I've experienced that when I was waiting for someone at a station while wearing a blue coat, someone turning up with a disabled passenger thought I would be responsible for arranging assistance!

Although, I think generally if you look like you know what you're doing then people who aren't sure may ask you for help, regardless of whether or not they think you're a member of staff.
 

peters

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I appear to have an "ask me for help" face too. However, as a person of East Asian appearance I have had mixed experiences (and I'm not talking about COVID-related racism).

In areas of the UK with few non-white people, I may be waiting at a station or bus stop, and sometimes a person will come along wanting help. The first guy they ask doesn't know, so they move on to everyone else in turn but pointedly avoid me. Happened enough times that it isn't a coincidence. If I overhear the question, it turns out that I often do know the answer, but if they aren't going to ask me then I won't volunteer.

This is by no means always the case, and sometimes I get picked first. At Manchester Piccadilly I was once asked how to get to the tram. I responded that out of the 50 other people nearby, they chose the one who had been in Manchester for less than 2 minutes ever! I wanted to know where the tram was too so we located the platforms together.

In Greece I was approached on two occasions by Greeks asking for help in Greek and I wanted to say "do I look like I'm from here?" Same in Poland, from behind but they shied away when they saw my face.

In other European countries it is not necessarily the case that people who look like me are overwhelmingly tourists. Refreshingly, I have been asked for help in French, Spanish, German, and Danish as though I was a local. In Zurich airport station a Spanish tourist asked if I spoke Spanish and I was actually able to help him in that language.

Once in Estonia I may have been picked because I don't look like a local, as they spoke English off the bat, however they wanted to know if I could translate a timetable notice in Estonian....

I've been asked for directions from locals in both Germany and the south of Spain in German and Spanish respectively, the latter was a bit surprising because I have a pale skin colour so don't look I like I'm from a Mediterranean country and often in the south of Europe I get greeted in English because I don't look local.

Reading your post has reminded me on one occasion I was travelling on a Northern train that terminated short due to a driver being unavailable, the guard had walked through the train and told everyone in person about what was happening, so all passengers had seen him. It meant the passengers and the Northern guard had then boarded a Virgin train. When I alighted the Virgin train, the people who were sat opposite me on the Northern train that terminated short also alighted, as did the Northern guard still with his Northern uniform clearly visible, who was just behind me. Guess who the passengers asked about an onward train connection, yes me!

Out of interest when you said about people not asking the person of Eastern Asian appearance, were they of the same gender as you or not? I'm just wondering whether they thought you might not be local because of your appearance or whether they think there might be a cultural issue where it's strange for men and women who don't know each other to talk to each other in the street.
 

507 001

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Yes, all the time. I even get it in work when I'm using the system but not in uniform, it's weird.
 

Class 170101

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Yes, all the time. I even get it in work when I'm using the system but not in uniform, it's weird.

Same for me, wonder if I have railway expert on my forehead in invisible link (well invisible to me anyway).
 

L401CJF

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Happened a few months back to me, waiting at Hamilton Square on Merseyrail for a connection home from work. Saw a Chinese man looking quite panicked going up and down stairs, platform to platform etc. I was in my work uniform (bus driver) and he approached a girl on the platform who directed him to me! He didn't speak any English at all, he showed me a booking, and was trying to find the "train" to Belfast. I tried to explain that it isn't a train he needs, its a ferry from the nearby Stena Line. In the end I took him upstairs to the booking office and told staff he needed the Stena Line shuttle bus to the terminal.

All quite a panic as I only had 2 mins until my train arrived!
 

Tio Terry

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Had the reverse once. I was sitting in the restaurant car of an HST at Kings Cross on my way to York when I was approached by Judith Chalmers and was asked if I would mind answering some questions about rail travel. I pointed out that it wouldn't be appropriate for a BR employee to comment on his employer!
 
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