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How I took the wrong train from Cordoba to Sevilla

This is very embarrasing to write about, but here it goes-

I already had the ticket for a high speed AVE train leaving at 11:20 AM from Cordoba to Sevilla. I arrived at the train station in Cordoba too early, before 11 AM, but you are allowed on a platform only 20 minutes before departure. Shortly after 11 o’clock I put my bag through the metal detector and walked to the window where my ticket was checked; I was told that my train will arrive on a platform # so and so. At the same time an announcement was made over loud speakers that the AVE train to Sevilla is about to arrive. As I was descending an escalator to the platform, I saw the train pulled up and I assumed it was my train, so without double checking it’s destination, I just found my carriage and got inside. The train took off shortly, and I was surprised that it left the station 10 minutes ahead a schedule.
I was sure that we were going to Sevilla but became suspicious that something was wrong when it was announced that this train's destination is Ageciras and the next stop is Antequera- Santa Ana.
My next stop should have been Sevilla, in 45 minutes. Initially I thought that I got on a slow train by mistake and Sevilla will be along the way, however GPS curve on a large electronic map displayed in a carriage showed that I was going in a completely different direction. I was stunned and showed my ticket to a woman next to me, she shook her head saying that I am on a wrong train, this train wasn't even an AVE one. She said that I should find a conductor who usually hangs out in the restaurant car.
I found 2 conductors in the restaurant car, very nice elderly men who didn’t speak any English; my Spanish was nonexistent either, they looked at my ticket and shook their heads; a barman translated that I need to get off at the next stop, Antequera Santa Ana and to find Renfe's customer service desk to explain the situation. So, I returned to my seat to wait for the stop; soon both conductors showed up. I took my bag and stood near the door as we were pulling to the station, all this time the conductor was standing next to me, talking on his phone to someone in rapid Spanish, all I could catch was the word Sevilla. He wrote something on my ticket and then repeated 3 times: “companero Andreas”, even made me to repeat the phrase.
The train stopped, I got off but conductors motioned to me not to go anywhere, they kept talking about companero Andreas, and suddenly I saw a man walking towards us. He turned out to be my companero Andreas who spoke English. He was already briefed on my situation by the conductor on the phone; they exchanged pleasantries, conductors jumped back on board and the train took off. Mr. Andreas and I walked to the customer service. He was very relaxed and smiling, said that this is a common mistake people make, getting on the wrong train, especially when trains arrive on the same platform. At the customer service desk he did all the talking, but it appears that the guy at the desk already knew about me, and even though I didn’t understand Spanish, I could easily guess that by his expression. He was also very relaxed and issued me a new ticket for a direct AVE train to Sevilla from this station, leaving in 55 minutes. They didn’t charge me any money. Mr. Andreas took time to explain the ticket to me, and even showed me where the platform was. He repeated it 3 times to make sure that I got it.
Antequera Santa Ana train station is very small and easy, I sat down on a bench to wait and tried to calm myself down by reading Rick's guidebook.
I was amazed just how nice these people were, and they probably took a pity on me, going above and beyond. I felt embarrassed and like a complete idiot. This never happened to me before, and I took a lot of trains in my life, but probably I was way too relaxed and not paying attention.
Finally, I got on the correct train and arrived in Sevilla 3 hours later than planned.

Posted by
11294 posts

Glad it all worked out in the end!

Yes, in busy stations it's easy to board the "wrong train from the right platform." My brother-in-law did this in Tokyo; the train he should have boarded was only one or two minutes later than the one he got on, and his pass was not valid on the one he got on by mistake. In the end, his situation worked out too.

Posted by
311 posts

What a great story! Meeting local people and learning from them is a big reason that I love to travel. We made an error on our train trip from Sienna to Venice a couple of years ago. There was a mix up with the train we were taking (our mistake I'm sure) and we had to wait some time. When the train arrived, we were supposed to have a reservation which we did not have. The kind conductor took pity on us and told us to go ahead and take a seat even though we had the wrong tickets. I have found that more often than not people are kind and willing to help travelers when they can.

Posted by
293 posts

Perfect story to dine out on for years to come!

Posted by
1825 posts

We were going Avignon to Florence via Lyon. Asked three times if we were on the correct platform. Train showed up and it said Lyon on the side so we boarded. After it left the station we found out we were headed to Gare de Lyon (the station in Paris), they switched tracks and we didn't understand the French announcement. It's as if you wanted to go to Pennsylvania but wound up at Penn station instead. Authorities at the station were not helpful at all and we ended up flying to Florence the next was an expensive goof.
You are not alone.

Posted by
985 posts

Thank you for sharing this, Irene. I'm glad everyone was so kind and that it all worked out for you. Your story helps to take some of the scary out of the possible mishaps while traveling.

Posted by
9727 posts

Love the image of the old conductor having you repeat companero Andreas! What a sweetheart. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by
1503 posts

That's a great story and I'm so glad it ended well.

Even locals get it wrong. A few years ago our train out of Venice was very late leaving. At the first stop, an Italian man came aboard and starting berating us for being in his seat. I was fairly certain we were right and he was wrong, and since we couldn't understand a word he was saying, we didn't budge and didn't reply. Eventually a young woman who spoke English as well as Italian got herself involved. After much heated discussion, he went away and she told us that he was on the wrong train (it was so late he thought his train was early).

Posted by
137 posts

Thanks very much everyone for sharing your stories. I feel better now:)))

Posted by
2450 posts

Yup, but my own story is pretty dull. From Lucca to Pisa is just 30 minutes by train, so I bought a ticket and went for the afternoon. Train came right on time, I jumped on, and was enjoying the countryside and the little stations we stopped at along the way, with very Italian names I had never heard before. After just over 30 minutes I thought we should have arrived in Pisa by about now, so FINALLY I got up to look at the map on the side of the car. Sure enough I had gotten on a train going in the wrong direction. So, I got off at the next stop, Montecatini Terme, crossed the track and very soon a train to Pisa came by and I made the now 60 minute trip to Pisa. I worried the whole time a conductor would find me in the first 30 minutes, without a valid ticket from Montecatini Terme back to Lucca. But no such problem, just that my trip from Lucca to Pisa took 90 minutes instead of 30, and now a reason to share the story. Your story was much better, Irene. Lucky you!

Posted by
1045 posts

Heck, Irene, this happened to me on my first trip to San Francisco! The day I was leaving, I had time to run to Ferry Market and pick up some sourdough and salami to take home to my husband. I hopped on the trolley, got there, made my purchases, hopped back on the trolley, ... in the same direction I had been traveling to get there... it was maybe 10 minutes later I realized I was not where I thought I should be. I got off and took a cab back to the hotel! :)
No need to be embarrassed. All's well that ends well.

Posted by
402 posts

Yeah, I was getting too cocky and confident in my "train know-how" and got on the wrong train. Wanted to get to Gatwick airport, instead headed toward Brighton. Was a bit humbling getting off and make our way back , having to explain the mistake to numerous train personnel.

Posted by
24877 posts

Pre-airline deregulation, the only way to save money on a flight to Europe (if you didn't qualify for a charter flight) was to take Icelandair. I did that several times, flying into Luxembourg and taking a train to my real destination. On my third such trip I decided it was time to see something beyond the capital city of Luxembourg, so I booked a couple of nights there, planning a day-trip on Day 2. On that day I headed to the train station, where I failed to grasp the distinction between Track 1 (which was right in front of me) and Track 1A (which is what I should have been looking for). There was a train waiting right there. I got on it. I was first on the car, so I had my choice of seats. The train departed. Within a few minutes a rail employee came through. I reached for my ticket. But no, he didn't care about my ticket, because the train wasn't really going anywhere, just to a railyard. Within a few minutes the train stopped in Nowheresville and I was ushered off the train and pointed in the general direction of Luxembourg City. I can't say that it was a very interesting walk, but at least I had no luggage with me. This was decades before cellphones, and hoofing it was the only option.

Posted by
2249 posts

Irene, I think this is a wonderful story of people going out of their way to help travelers. No need to feel embarrassed. We all have some of these mis-steps in our journeys. I don't have a specific story to relate but we have certainly wandered around various cities in Europe without having a clue where we were or how we got there and nearly always relied on the kindness of strangers to help us find our way. Travel is always an adventure and I happy to hear about your good ending. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Posted by
9727 posts

In pre:computer days, I remember a man flying LA to Auckland instead of Oakland. After a couple of hours, he began to wonder why he had not arrived yet.

Posted by
8942 posts

Irene, we've almost all been there (I've told the story on the Forum before about my going to a track too early and getting on the train that was sitting there when I first moved to a town in Hungary in 1993. Rather than going to Budapest, this train was headed I don't know where. A gentleman GOT OFF THE TRAIN WITH ME -- thereby completely messing up his own travel day for which he was on his intended train -- and took me to the stationmaster and helped get me set up for the train coming through for Budapest which I had been supposed to be on.) I love their telling you to wait for compañero Andreas. So now you have a great story to tell and got to meet some nice people.

Posted by
440 posts

Hi Irene

I bet you really started to panic when you realised what had happened, but by the sounds of it the very helpful staff put you at ease and you eventually made it to Seville. I am pretty sure in England you would of been made to pay another fare. You have a great story to tell at parties and I am sure you laugh about it now.

Posted by
8077 posts

Bets, computers may make this problem worse. Now that most people book their own tickets on-line, I understand there are frequent problems with geographically-challenged folks mistaking Grenada for Granada, Portland ME, for Portland OR, etc.