Bit of a sneak peek, sort of testing out an early draft of the text. Here’s the descriptions of the staffing at a typical railway station in the Gruv.
Whether these roles are filled at any particular station depends on the function, location, and local infrastructure available for support. A predominantly cargo station won’t have a tearoom at all, just a sandwich trolley with a single tearoom lady running it if you’re lucky, maybe an enterprising local vendor with a tray or a cart that comes by. A mixed-function civilian and military station such as Camp Burlington will have two platforms, one for civilian passengers and one for officers and troops, both with a cadre of porters, and then a pair of lower platforms, one with a ramp suitable for horses, the other with a ramp built for artillery and kettles to drive across, both with roustabouts and crane operators and livestock wranglers. The muddle that results when the boffins have large kit to be offloaded and the cavalry are bringing in new mounts and sending back a few for treatment or retirement simply can’t be avoided without putting in yet another cargo platform and extending the station’s boundaries, which are already a bit lengthy.
- Stationmaster: As previously described, the person in charge of the station. In a larger station, look for the older person in the finely tailored railway uniform with the gold braid across their cap, and the large fancy pocket chronometer that may double as a calculator or even a zibaldone.
- Ticket Clerk or clerks: The weary and overworked people behind the barred window that sell you your ticket, that make change, that patiently explain that your return ticket is only valid for three days from the date of purchase and this one’s a week old, you can’t get a refund, I’m sorry, I don’t make the rules. They’re not obstinate. They’re just too tired to fight. Do bear in mind that this patient, long-suffering person, who’s taken all the abuse of the traveling public for policies they have no control over, has a loaded firearm under the counter and is trained in its use, should the need arise.
- Post Office clerk: Not an employee of the A&G, but instead resplendent in the scarlet waistcoat of the Royal Mail, this person can sell you stamps, weigh your mail for postage, ship your packages, receive your letters, and generally run the entire branch themselves if need be. In a larger station, there may be an entire crew, including specialists who work with the TPO cars to sort and repackage and swap mailbags with passing trains.
- Porter, Senior Porter: There might only be one local person, a likely youth of strapping build, available to help shift items on and off the train, or there may be a cadre of uniformed A&G crew professionally trained in baggage and cargo handling, and acting under a senior porter with a bit of gold on their uniform. In larger stations with separate baggage and freight platforms, the porters who handle passenger baggage will be uniformed, but the freight porters will dress more like traditional navvies, in loose shirt, weskit, wool trousers, and bowler hat. Don’t tip a porter more than three shillings unless it’s a big job, then figure three shillings per porter, another six for the senior, and give the sum to the senior for distribution. They won’t short their crew if they know what side their bread is buttered on.
- Tearoom Ladies: The A&G has had to flex a bit on the definition of “lady”, partly due to Gruv conditions and partly to keep their facilities staffed. They now define the role as being for a woman of Human or Boojum lineage, or female of the Saurid race, or female-presenting person of any race (having been confronted by a sil’kayissos), able to meet the standards set forth in the grooming and uniform code. Whether such a person has difficulties with life off the job is not the railroad’s concern, although any railway employee would be swift to defend an efficient and pleasant tearoom lady, they’re a treasure worth rising up for. These ladies come in early to put the kettle on for everyone, clean up after passengers who are in too much of a hurry or too important to be less of a slob, and do their best to make the cheap ingredients and standardized recipes actually palatable.
Tearoom ladies are the nursing staff of the railway world. Better to go toe to toe with the stationmaster in a red-faced slanging match than to offend the tearoom ladies. They can make or break the entire station, and everyone knows it.– Artemis Spencer, Mechanic Second Class, A&G (Maintenance, Fort Alice)