This is my first train ride experience. I can’t believe it took more than three decades for me to actually see and enjoy a train ride. Guess where it happened…in the north. I had given up hope of ever seeing or boarding a train in Nigeria. I only thought it would happen when I travel abroad.
Before now, I had never been on a train. Most of my friends haven’t either. While in secondary school in Ibadan in the mid 90s, the train was still working. Some of my classmates boarded the train to school by joining from Dugbe to Odo-Ona, Apata. They regaled us with tales from the train which seemed a lot normal to them. But to many of us, it was a very tall dream, especially as we were kind of ‘locked’ away in the boarding house.
When the train started working in the north about a year ago, I was one of the happiest people to receive the news. But since the Nigerian Railway Corporation hadn’t put much information about its movement on the internet or built a dedicated website for train bookings, I lacked the required information, so I kept on postponing by first train journey. I still travelled to the north like every other month, but I kept going by road.
Last month, after getting the information that I needed from a boss in my office who had boarded the train from Abuja to Kaduna to attend his daughter’s graduation ceremony, I was very excited and knew I was ready to take my first trip by rail.
Here are the most important things about train rides from Abuja to Kaduna that no one might tell you.
1. The first train leaves by 7am officially
Because I was a J.J.C I left my house around 6:20 and got to the train station at 6.30. My hand luggage was checked at the entrance before I could proceed through the security door. Nothing fancy here. Think of bank entrance lobby and you get a picture of what I am talking about.
2. Everyone joins the queue to buy a ticket. It’s 1500 flat rate from Abuja to Rigasa station, Kaduna. First class coach cost 3000. What’s the difference between first class and standard class?
Unlike in planes, nobody serves you tea or water in first class train coach, it’s only that the seats are more comfortable, well padded. There is a restaurant within or close to the first class coach where you can buy whatever you want. At least, so I heard.
In standard class, the seats are still new but normal, nothing extraordinary. A girl moves around selling hot meatpies and drinks(but I guess this only happens in the morning because I didn’t see it in the evening). A meatpie is 300 and it is very tasty. I guess it comes from the restaurant within the first class coach.
3. After getting your ticket, there are available seats where you wait till the announcer speaks. When it is few minutes past 7am, the announcer speaks in a heavy Hausa(not igbotic/Yoruba)accent telling all first class passengers to move to the ticketing stand.
Five minutes later, everyone moves outside to the boarding area. Then, the train comes and you go in.
4. Your ticket has a number on it. Don’t bother looking for your seat number, just sit anywhere comfortable. Though, some still make it a duty to look for their seats. It depends on you. Most times, everyone sits anywhere in the coach. There would even be many empty seats available around.
5. Train rides is free for kids from age 0-8 years with an accompanying parent. An official had earlier told me it’s from age 0-3 but his point was debunked by another who told me it’s 0-8years. There are usually plenty children on the train.
6. There was an inscription whereby you are supposed to be charged for luggage exceeding 75kg(7.5?) but I didn’t see anywhere where any luggage was weighed. Therefore, the advantage of the train is that you can carry all your heavy luggage and place them above your seat conveniently. You are not likely to be charged.
7. If you want to have a hitch-free journey without the usual bumps and police checkpoint or stopover, the train is your best bet. Moreover, your body doesn’t suffer at all. You don’t squeeze yourself at all. After the ride, you almost feel as if you didn’t travel. It’s a very unique experience.
8. I didn’t believe that trains were faster than cars but we moved at 7.25am from Abuja and arrived Rigasa station, Kaduna at 8.57am.
9. If you have to leave your seat to the loo, make sure you note the number of your coach because the coaches all look very alike and the available loo may be around the 8th coach. There are toilets in every coach but most of them are locked. There’s usually a display of info at the top of every coach, read it.
10. Choose a window seat so that you can wave at those little kids in nearby villages who line up to wave at the train in child-like fascination.
11. If you are still going to Zaria or Kawo or any other destination, there are buses and cars available at the train station to take you to your destination. Zaria is 600naira by car.
12. If you want to do a round trip, you can’t buy two tickets ahead and can’t book online yet. So, you make sure to get to the train station by 2 or 6pm to buy your next ticket to return.
13. The A/C in the train is working pretty well. If you make the 6pm journey and don’t like cold like me, make sure you prepare ahead.
14. Since it’s evening and let’s say you are very ‘lucky’ to have old Yoruba men on the same coach with you, be ready to listen to Wasiu Ayinde being played from their phone at high pitch. Old evergreen songs of Ebenezer Obey too would be played for you without request. Even Ayinla Omo Wura or something like that. Remember to enjoy the experience. Good luck on your trip.
Have you been on a train recently? How was the experience like? How is it like being on a train abroad? Care to share?
Photo Credit: Dreamstime