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desperately seeking

Trumpets, tiaras, and trainspotting notebooks - a journey through Irish Rail's lost and found

Connolly Station in Dublin deals with a truly heroic amount of lost and found items on a daily basis.

transport Connolly Station Sam Boal / Sam Boal / /

IRISH RAIL DEALS with a lot of passenger journeys – about 37 million each year in fact.

And while the train is a perfectly pleasant way to commute, like all public transport, it does carry one constant threat – the fear of leaving behind your belongings.

What kind of things do people lose on the train? We wanted to find out. So we asked.

Initially, this article was supposed to deal with the items lost and found across the company’s network for a full year between June 2016 and end May 2017.

Then it became clear that the sheer gargantuan amount of consumer durables being left behind on Irish trains every day would make such a request unworkable.

So we concentrated on Connolly Station in Dublin, one of the biggest rail portals in the country, and had a look at all records for five months between 2016 and 2017. The conclusion? Pay more attention to your stuff people.

Once found, it stays

Things you may not know about lost and found on Irish Rail:

  • Travellers lose and find a truly silly amount of stuff – about 20 objects a day on average from the time period in question. That’s at Connolly Station alone
  • Anything is losable
  • The lost and found at Connolly Station isn’t routinely purged, as say the gardaí do with confiscated or lost property – once it’s found, it stays on site until someone claims it

1 A page from one of Connolly's logbooks

  • There is no centralised system for lost property – everything is documented by hand in a notebook, one per station
  • If you lose something, you stand a very good chance of getting it back, so it’s worth trying
  • Despite this, people often lose something, establish where it is, and then never bother picking it up anyway

What kind of things get lost most often? Bags, hats, keys and leap cards. So, so many bunches of keys. Coming hot on those items’ heels are phones (particularly Samsung handsets – although we counted over 70 phones of different brands in total), wallets, and glasses. Lots and lots of glasses.

But leap cards (an integrated card that can be used across Irish public transport services) win out easily – over 60 of them were lost in the five-month period we looked at.

Coming up in the next tranche of often-lost miscellany: Public Services Cards (16 of them), bank and credit cards (21 of them), laptops (13), cameras (10 of them, of the high-spec Canon variety).

Irish people really don’t pay enough attention to their belongings.

“We record all our lost property at Connolly,” station manager Eddie Halpin tells “So that’s everything from the northern line – most of it tends to come from the Drogheda-Dundalk direction (most property on the western line out of Connolly ends up in Sligo).”

WestEndGirls Is this yours? Epic Records Epic Records

Occasionally we give bags of clothes to charity or homeless services, everything else we keep, unless we can redistribute it to people who might need it.

Eddie says matter-of-factly that the station’s lost property section has “bucketloads of stuff” in it.

“Passes, cards, glasses. I’ve literally got a box of glasses here. We keep everything. Because three months later you’ll have a guy come up and tell you he lost one of his shoes on a train. So we keep it all.”

Crutches, dentures, literally everything pops up. People just don’t keep an eye on what they have.

We spoke to Eddie at 12pm on a Friday – and Connolly’s lost property had already had seven items handed in that day – a suit and shirts in a carry-case, two art books, and a couple of bunches of keys among them.

Odds and ends

Some of the odder objects we noted in the logbooks:

  • A 12-inch vinyl recording of West End Girls by the Pet Shop Boys (first released 1985)
  • A sewing kit
  • A Mayo jacket and umbrella
  • Tennis racquets
  • Several wedding rings
  • A violin
  • A trumpet
  • A briefcase filled with “important-looking KPMG documents”
  • A full chef’s outfit
  • Diabetes medication
  • A skateboard
  • Driving licences
  • An epipen
  • A construction outfit with ‘foreman’ stencilled on it
  • A “trainspotter’s spotting notebook”
  • A walkman
  • Several valentines cards and gifts lost on 14 February
  • A tiara

3432956626_21f8c8f308_o How about this? Justin Brockie Justin Brockie

  • 10 canes or walking sticks (“I don’t know how someone gets on a train needing a stick and then gets off without needing it,” says Eddie)
  • Eight dresses
  • Wedding dress material
  • A child’s buggy
  • Two Hogwarts (think Harry Potter) wallets
  • Multiple USB drives
  • Eight e-cigarettes
  • An ID pass for the Four Courts
  • 14 umbrellas
  • A bible
  • A bag full of Labour Party paraphernalia
  • A full child’s play house
  • Countless hats, scarves, jackets, shoes, purses, and books
  • Sums of cash – €200 being the largest
  • Many, many lunches

Lots of branded stuff shows up – generally if someone loses something important to them, they’ll make the label clear when ringing up asking about it. Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Ted Baker. The brand that pops up most in our unscientific search is Michael Kors.

“About the only thing we move on is a passport (nine of them lost in five months, if you’re wondering),” says Eddie.

We bring them up to Store Street (Garda Station) more or less straight away. They’re just too valuable for what can be done with them, so we try to get rid of them straight away.

The oddest thing Eddie has seen in his treasure trove? “The strangest things are generally a bit rude so I couldn’t really say,” is the answer. “But we’ve seen everything at this stage you would think, nothing is a surprise any more.”

5739625159_11f4807d33_o (1) Irish Fireside Irish Fireside

“The funny thing is people will ring up about something in a panic, and we’ll have it. And then they’ll never show up to collect it,” he says.

We’ve got absolutely loads of car keys, the electronic ones that cost a fortune to replace. No-one ever collects them. Every medication you can think of we’ll have seen at some stage.
One lady lost her ipad and called up about it, said she’d be in in a matter of days – she didn’t show up for three months.

To end on a happy note – the lost and found logbooks are scrupulously neat and well-maintained. And people who find things, even cash, generally hand them in.

“People are decent,” says Eddie. “If you’ve lost something, check with us – we’ll probably have it.”

Read: FactCheck: Will 180,000 homes and businesses begin 2020 without high-speed broadband?

Read: ‘If you walk down the street and someone asks you something you’re able to say no and be left alone’

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