Somewhere only we know: Chatswood Station

Liam Donohoe reflects on his experience with the jewel of the North Shore.

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It seems in a few senses inappropriate to pen homage to Chatswood station in this column. For one, it is most certainly not somewhere known only to a rare few. It is, after all, Sydney’s 7th busiest train station, with over 23,000 commuters passing through its turnstiles per day back in 2014. When work finishes on the new North West Metro, an additional 6,000 commuters will come to know its sterile hue.

What’s more, I have a rather fraught relationship with this godforsaken transit hub—an awkward history that makes me reticent to put it on any kind of pedestal.

Every day for eight years I’d alight at Chatty staysh, once in the morning, once in the afternoon. When band rehearsals required a 7am departure from the station, I’d often find myself facing a long early morning wait in the shadows of the Vodafone building (towards the end it became the Huawei building). Other times, when I mistimed the first bus on that journey, I’d sprint for two kilometres to get the only timely connection. More often than not, though, my prize for this exertion was a narrow miss; I’d unleash an abusive tirade as I watched the 632 turn onto the Pacific Highway and away from the possibility of a punctual arrival, powerless.

When I began to catch the bus from the station, some ten years ago now, construction was afoot. With the launch of the Epping-Chatswood line, a renovation was in the works, one that promised a spectacular array of retail and dining options. But while the rest of Chatswood modernised with the construction of the Concourse and the renovation of Chatswood Chase, the Global Financial Crisis would soon halt works on the North Shore’s largest transit node. Instead of being blessed with a McDonalds, which promised to be an after school oasis, I was left instead with green scaffolding, disappointment, and a host of questions.

And so began an investigation that would last six years. In desperate want of some sort of amenity at this crucial locale, I would pour over the archives of the North Shore Times, write to members of council, and send queries to long-forgotten, liquidated construction firms. Sadly, no answers were forthcoming.

When a development notice was eventually put up in 2014, I was, quite frankly, pissed off. Here I was, less than twelve months from finishing school, a true pyrrhic victory.

Despite this, in Year 12 I would venture out to Chatty staysh on lonely late night Maccas runs, after a few hours of ‘study’ at the library. In the early years of university it proved to be as much a social node as a transport one, a place to rendezvous for outings or dates—or even, on some occasions, to waste a foggy night. Even now, despite my deepest desires to the contrary, it’s a place I have no choice but to return to each Saturday morning, a fixture en route to a job.

In many ways, therefore, my relationship with Chatswood station is an ongoing one, bound to grow in ways I can’t yet anticipate. Whatever the case, the future has a long history from which to alight.

It’s a place that has hosted awkward year 7 sojourns, orbiting girls I was too afraid to talk to, timid encounters with peshay lads I was too afraid to stand up to, and bullying I couldn’t think up responses to. A place for banter and boyish tussling, wasted waits and emotional breakdowns, nascent love and a broken heart. A place that’s been a constant, one that has shaped all sorts of iterations of this weird life of mine as much as it has witnessed to them.

God I despise it.