The 10.12 to Epping

This train…
Carries saints and sinners
This train…
Carries losers and winners
This train…
Carries whores and gamblers
This train…
Carries lost souls

I said this train…
Dreams will not be thwarted
This train…
Faith will be rewarded

Land of Hopes and Dreams, Bruce Springsteen

The Epping line has been part of my life for near on seven years. It’s called the South Morang line now. I can’t refer to it as that. It has no meaning.
Who seeks meaning in their train line? People embark, they disembark. They go about their lives.
Victoria Park is just another stop along the line to many. Those without a love of footy, or the current game’s past, see it as another impediment to a quick journey home.
A father pointed to Victoria Park from the train once, telling his young son that Collingwood used to play football at that ground.
His son was incredulous. He took his time to respond. He replied: “What….real football?”

I board at Regent these days. I’ve moved four stops down the line over the years since returning to Melbourne. I still shudder when we stop at Thornbury. I waited here on the last Saturday of September in 2008. The train would take me to Jolimont – to what would be my greatest glory. There was no doubt.
I had driven from Rutherglen that morning. I was passed on the Hume Highway by a comrade who spotted my Geelong jumper. Huge smile; thumbs up; toot toot.
The Epping train kept its end of the bargain. It delivered me to the ‘G. Geelong didn’t keep its end. I disembarked at Thornbury Station in the dark. Stunned. Empty. I walked my dog around local streets that night for hours. We moved two months later – I’ve never used that station since.

The northern suburbs are changing. Or maybe it’s the reach of the powerful football clubs.
Those suburbs previously the domain of the Collingwood Football Club have been infiltrated, it would seem, by Hawthorn.
A date with the Pies at the G begins at any station dotted on the Epping line.  When I boarded at Regent in July, I was the only passenger wearing the blue and white. My appearance drew gasps. The carriage was silent. Nobody knew what to say. As I took my seat, a boy of 12 sitting opposite broke the silence: “You’ll go down tonight.”
Tension built as the throng waited for a response. How would this sledge be taken?
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” I said. What great relief! The man outnumbered 250 to 1 would cause no trouble. I was taken in by a kind Magpie family who took great pride in the fact their youngest girl had already taken a dislike to certain umpires.

You expect this; a flock of Collingwood supporters on this line. Now waves of young families have moved north of Bell St in search of their first home. Preston, Reservoir and Coburg North are littered with us. And with the families, it appears, has come the Family Club.
Boarding the Epping line three weeks later for a date with the Hawks left me disoriented. Carriage ware was brown and gold. This wasn’t the Glen Waverley line. This was the South Morang. This would never have happened on the Epping.
It was a distressing experience – for them. I was a reminder of the inevitable. The revelry of the night was suspended; their hopes and dreams met reality; the Hawks don’t beat the Cats. They knew it.

I’m sorry we’ve lost the Epping line; I’m saddened by the gradual change of a reassuring past. I’m part of that change. I’ve been told people my age that grew up in Reservoir have been forced further north for their first home. They’ll be boarding the train at South Morang Station. Do they still call it the Epping line? Does it matter? Maybe.

About Stephen Cooke

Cumbersome ruckman of the garden variety


  1. Neil Belford says

    When I think of the baking plains of Thornbury I don’t see black and white. I see that as Diamond Valley. No I see Rick Kane resplendent in his fecal garb. Maybe he started the rot. On the other hand if you fancy a non alcoholic drink with a Collingwood player, forget the Retreat or the Yarra Hotel. You will be needing The Geebung Polo Club, Auburn Road Hawthorn. Funny innit.

  2. Andrew Starkie says

    Agree Cookie. I was talking about this the other day, Sth Morang Line doesn’t have the same ring.

    Always pretty lonely for a Roo on the Epping line.

  3. Sorry gents, have to disagree. As a regular boarder (at Croxton) on what I’ve decided to dub the Lemon Morang, I still feel like I’m jumping on a Magpie army transport.

    My real issue is Jolimont on the way back (particularly after a loss). Greensborough 5 mins (rain begins to fall), Eltham 13 mins (rain heavier), South Morang (nee Epping) 18 mins (soaking wet and grumped up). With 32,000 of the 70,000-strong crowd standing on the platform.

    If there really were lots of Hawthorn fans on the line, I’m tipping the service would improve.

    PS. South Morang actually does roll off the tongue, if you try it out. Looking forward to Haiku Bob weaving it in somewhere soon.

  4. Dave Nadel says

    It’s all a matter of time and perspective. I spent the first 19 years of my life living by the Heidelberg Line. I travelled to Victoria Park from Ivanhoe station. In my first year of Uni, which was my last year of living at home I used to go by train from Clayton to Eaglemont. Eaglemont was further from my parents’ place than both Heidelberg and Ivanhoe, but it wasn’t staffed after six oclock at night. Fare evasion began long before Myki.

    There were trains that terminated at Eltham and Hurstbridge but most finished at Heidelberg and only people from the still rural Diamond Valley called it anything other than the Heidelberg line. On winter Saturdays people wearing black and white got on at every station, even middle class Ivanhoe.

    The other trains that went through Vic. Park and Clifton Hill were called Reservoir trains. Sometime in the mid sixties it became the Thomastown line. I’m not sure that the trains even went to Epping at the time.

    The only thing I knew about South Morang was that they were the perennial wooden spooners of the Diamond Valley Football League. Even after suburbia came to Greensborough and Montmerency, South Morang remained rural with an even smaller population than Diamond Creek or Epping, who were also easybeats in the DVFL. ‘

    For the last twenty-five years I have lived by the Broadmeadows line. Three or so years ago it became the Craigieburn line. Most weekends it is full of barrackers in red and black although over the years an increasing number of Collingwood supporters seem to use the Broadie/Craigie line. It’s all good.

  5. It’s matters Steve. Poignant

  6. I’m with you MOC. Unless you leave 15 minutes early, there is a ridiculous wait for the next sardine can, despite it going to the still most densely populated area for Collingwood folk. And by dense I don’t mean stoopid, though others might disagree!

  7. Mick Jeffrey says

    The last time I had to catch a train to the footy in 2009 from the Craigieburn Line, I was a bit worried considering at Craigieburn there were more Melbourne Storm jumpers than Bulldog or Hawthorn apparel. The numbers picked up once we got further down the line (which due to works probably where Meadow Heights station is located now actually started at Broady), and there were more Hawk fans than Doggie Dudes……that was the night you may recall that Hawthorn drew a blank in the goal tally for the first half. How times change!

  8. Cookie, one small solace, taking the Epping line home after the last Hawks vs Cats encounter was the fact that it was filled with the mighty brown and gold. I was numb. I didn’t want to speak to anyone, including those I’d gone to the game with. However, I did think at the time that the number of Hawks to Cats supporters seemed disproportionate for the suburbs we were heading through and to. I had forgotten about it until reading your reflections here.

    Last night, on that same line, it was magical. After reading about Eagles fans behaviour in Perth recently, it was such a good feeling standing on the Jolimont platform and getting on the train with ‘my’ people and without aggravation. They don’t look anything like the clichés and stereotypes portrayed far and wide. They look like you and me. And happy as!


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