Nicky Elliott loves her daily commute from Wairarapa to Wellington. It’s the heart of her social life, and she’s already on to her second train husband.
My train journeys started about nine years ago when my husband was offered a job in the Wairarapa. I didn’t even know where that was; I had married a Kiwi and only been in Wellington for just over a year, but I had moved two countries already – so what was there to moving to another town? Or Greytown?
At the time I had a temping job in Wellington and we had a little 8-month-old girl. I had commuted in Sydney; the trains ran frequently and my journey was only 20 minutes or so. But now my journey was going to be over an hour each way, and I still needed to sort out childcare. There were limited train times to and from Wellington; the Wairarapa service has three services in the morning and three in the evening only. You need to be organised to make it work.
So my travels started. For the first weeks I travelled with my baby on the train, leaving home at 6.30am to catch it and be in Wellington by 8.30am, and then drop her off at daycare. I found out quickly that these trains were not the same as in Sydney – you’re not allowed to leave your pram up, with your baby in it. She had to sit on my lap the whole way.
We would leave Wellington after 4pm and get home around 6pm. From door-to-door it’s about a two hour trip each way, so 20 hours a week, and it’s a lot of time travelling.
In the first few weeks my focus was getting my child sorted and making sure I kept to the train times. But it was during these first few weeks that I made my first friend. A lady was sitting opposite me putting on her make up, and my little one was intrigued by her. She was kind and started up a conversation, and this conversation triggered another conversation. From these first two women, I made my first true train friends. We even gave our group a name, “The International Women’s Congress Forum”. It sounded so much better than the train ladies.
Life got settled, and my daughter started daycare in Greytown, and I started travelling by myself. I learnt there is an unspoken train etiquette, seating arrangements, card-playing – and no liquor licence.
We are a tight group of people; we sit in the same seats going to and from Wellington. We host lots of morning breakfasts, afternoon cheese and biscuits (wine hidden in tea cups) and social engagements outside of the train.
Sometimes there are strange people sitting in our seats. Do they not know they are reserved for us? Sadly no, and so alternative seating arrangements have to be made. But we still manage to catch up with each other.
Nine years later I’m onto my second train husband (my first moved away), I’ve watched my train daughter grow up; we’ve discovered too many similarities too name and made some lasting friendships. These people are more than just people I travel on the train with every day; they are my soul mates, confidants, family, and true friends.
Over the years there are have been changes to timetables, carriages, and people coming and going. There’ve been a couple of hook-ups, we’ve fallen in love and out of love, we’ve experienced medical emergencies, significant birthdays, retirements – and sadly two deaths.
I sometimes wonder what people think when they see us together, and how close we are; I bet they are jealous and want to join our crew. You have to be pretty special or have a hidden talent. But we are always welcoming. So if you are ever on the train and looking for new friends, come and see us.
Read more from the Spinoff Commute Week here.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.