At 10:15pm the last bus leaves Liverpool station, going down the Hume Highway. The 872 is my final chance to avoid the walk home.
Three hours later, the last train rambles slowly into the station and terminates, ending its run for the night.
15 or so passengers alight from the train, the longest part of the ghostly commute behind us, the final leg of the trip about to begin.
The 20-minute walk from Liverpool station to my house runs parallel to the train line. If I choose to walk to the station in the morning, I’m running—engaged in a futile race with a 404-tonne steel snake.
At night, as I’m walking home, it’s different. I walk slowly and take my time. My headphones are off and I’m watching the tracks. I’m waiting for the show to start.
Late at night when the city is dormant and silence rings through the streets, in a small number of very special places, you can see the trains going to sleep.
You can see it at Hornsby, Macarthur and Emu Plains. Campbelltown and Cronulla. At Waterfall, Macarthur, Blacktown, Liverpool and Penrith.
It starts off as a squeak in the distance and grows into something resembling a whine. It’s an S-Set. It shudders as it rolls into a siding between Liverpool and Casula. It exhales one last heavy huff and comes to a stop.
It sleeps there, an electric Goliath, whose tremendous size and power is all you’re aware of.
A Waratah rolls past nearby, lights flickering against the shadow of the gates revealing empty carriages. Maybe it’s going to Leppington. It’s definitely going to sleep as well.
At night, the stabling yards don’t discriminate. Old K-Sets and C-Sets sleep alongside swanky Millenniums for a short while—three hours or thereabouts.
I always start to think about how I would feel as a train. On three hours of sleep every night, breaking down at least once a day. Then I think maybe I AM a train.
The mechanical beasts of burden which navigate Sydney’s railways every day, ferrying Sydneysiders across the city’s vast expanse, sleep just like the rest of us.