Every day, a new story

Metro train driver Stephen King working the Sandringham line. 30th November 2017. The Age Fairfaxmedia News Picture by JOE ARMAO
Metro train driver Stephen King working the Sandringham line. 30th November 2017. The Age Fairfaxmedia News Picture by JOE ARMAO

It is nearly 8am when Stephen King takes a seat in his office chair.

But his "office" is not of the corporate variety. It is a train cab. And today, it will glide along the scenic Sandringham line.

Small coloured lights in the cab are blinking now, as King steadily performs a safety check on the train waiting at platform 13 of Flinders Street Station.

It is 7.42am: departure time. King shuts the doors and checks for the blue light. The whistle sounds and he slowly ushers the train out of the tunnel towards the clear morning sky.

King has been driving Melbourne's trains for 33 years and still, when asked to speak about his work, there is a twinkle in his eye.

"This is an amazing job," says the driver, who is taking Fairfax Media on a rare tour of Melbourne's railways as part of a series profiling popular characters in Melbourne's transport network.

"First and foremost, it is just satisfying driving a train. Dead set fair dinkum, just taking a person or group of people from point A to point B, in a safe and orderly manner, is in itself rewarding."

The train snakes through Balaclava, Ripponlea and Brighton Beach, revealing a unique vista of Melbourne's bayside.

King is a silent watcher of the city, catching glimpses of Melbourne life from the vantage point of his cab on every suburban line.

Every day brings a new story. There is the father on the tracks looking for his child. There is the elderly man who paces aimlessly. There is the young couple from overseas, eager to ride Melbourne's trains.

"The whole city is alive, at every hour, there is someone doing something."

It is now close to 8.30am, and platforms are starting to fill up with commuters - women and men in suits, headphones in ears, phones in hands, thumbs scrolling.

A woman is darting towards the train, which is now heading back into the city. She hops on just in time.

Over his years as a train driver, King has watched his city change.

Where the landscape around parts of the Hurtsbridge Line still feels like bushland, the landscape between Dandenong and Pakenham has transformed from just a smattering of houses in open land 15 years ago to dense suburbs, he says.

"It's getting really populated now; some of it wasn't even there three years ago. You just see how quickly it all builds up."

The train is now leaving Richmond station. It will arrive at Flinders Street on time, at 8.48am.

He pulls out the microphone and clears his throat. He is ready to deliver his morning message.

It is melodic, reassuring, doting.

"Attention, commuters. Good morning to you, and what a glorious Thursday morning we're having. This train is currently running on time, that is on time to the very minute, therefore we should all, myself included, get to our destination on time.

"For your general information, if you did happen to own some type of major vehicle and you were travelling down one of the major arterial roads this morning, the current travelling time between Sandringham and the CBD stands at one hour and 47 minutes. On behalf of my family and myself, may you enjoy your Thursday. Thank you."

This story Every day, a new story first appeared on The Age.