I Left My Camera Bag on a Train


Yep, it happened. It really did…

I just recently finished a whirlwind Euro-trip traveling with my sisters. The itinerary was Germany (where I am currently living as a soldier with the incredible fortune to be stationed there) to London to Dublin to Paris to Barcelona and back to Germany.

We had just gotten off the plane from London and were catching the DART from Dublin city to Clontarf Road, where our hotel was located. I didn’t know the area, and instead of being my usual attentive self, my lethargy from traveling had made me slip up a bit — I didn’t recognize our stop until the train doors were opening.

Casually looking up to the sign to see where we were, “CLONTARF ROAD” on the track platform resulted in “Crap! This is our stop!”

We made it off the train without any issues and without causing delays thanks to having our stuff located right by the door and our seats right there as well. We surveyed the area and figured out which direction to take for about 2 seconds, but as soon as we were about to move out along the platform, it hit me…

“Where is my camera bag?”

I was traveling with a large hiking backpack that was my luggage bag and my Canon 200 EG camera backpack that was my cameras/lenses/snacks/flight papers/everything else carry-on bag. As such, I would walk with the large pack on my back and the little bag on my front, so the lack of the counterbalance in front threw me off.

One of the last photos we took in London. Also the only real family photo we had taken. The next morning we left for Dublin.

One of the last photos we took in London. Also the only real family photo we had taken. The next morning we left for Dublin.

And then it really hit me, despite my trying to hide my soldierly ways in front of my 12- and 14-year old sisters: “OH F***!” I drop my large pack and run to the train doors that I just strolled through on the way out, but they snap shut before I can reach them.

The open button doesn’t work. I can’t force the door open.

I run 2 meters down the train to the large window we looked out of from our seat, and then I see it: my camera bag casually lying on the seat with no one around it. And then the train starts to move…

I start running after the train along the edge of the platform despite having severely ripped tendons in both my ankles (the left was a rock climbing accident a couple of months ago that refuses to heal, and the right was the result of catching a loose rock while doing a sprint workout up the side of a hill). The adrenaline causes me to feel no pain in either ankle.

For some reason, I believe that I can somehow run faster than the train and reach the very front of it where the driver is and get him to stop the train. Oh, and I was sitting in the rear-most train car in a train of over 15 cars.

Finally, I stand there defeated, and watch the train race off into the distance before disappearing around a bend. Then it hits me! Run to the information desk and get them to contact someone on the train!

“Oh please let there be someone in there!” I say to myself as I run up the steps to cross to the other side of the tracks (of course it would be on the opposite side of the platform), because let’s face it: more often than not (at least in my experience), when you need someone at the information desk there’s no one there. But thankfully a heavily wrinkled (albeit young) man stood behind the counter.

“AGH! — TRAIN! — BAG! — MY!” I say between gasps. Completely confused, he stares at me for a few seconds, which I take as my cue to repeat myself in a lucid manner. “Sir, I left my bag on the train. It has all of my photography gear in it, as well as my and my family’s passports.”

That’s right, not only did my bag have my…

  • Pentax K-5 IIs
  • Pentax DA* 60-250mm
  • Pentax DA* 16-50mm
  • Pentax DA 18-135mm WR (yes I know there’s overlap with the first two, but I had an extra slot in the bag and was trying it out as a travel lens)
  • Pentax FA 77mm Limited
  • Sigma 8-16mm
  • Rokinon 8mm Fisheye
  • Metz 50 AF-1 P-TTL Flash
  • Sirui T-025 Travel Tripod w/ Arca Swiss L-Plate
  • Wireless Shutter Remote
  • Extra Batteries, ND Filters, etc.

…in it, but also my and my two sisters’ passports. The holy grail of things to NEVER lose.

Eyes growing incredibly wide, he picks up the phone and calls someone. He explains the situation to the person on the other end of the phone when I hear him say “Don’t joke like that.”

He hangs up the phone and says, “There’s no one on the train other than the driver, and he can’t stop the train. You will have to wait for it to reach the end of the line and then have my guy at Howth (the final stop) check to see if it’s still there. I’m going to be completely honest with you: I don’t think it will be there. That train is passing through some really bad areas.”

And so the wait begins.

And continues.

And continues.

The phone rings, and I can’t hear what he is saying, nor can I read the emotions and expressions on his face through the glass. He puts the phone on his shoulder and asks me to describe everything in the bag, which I do in a level of detail that would befit the most meticulously planned of military operations. I give the names and dates of birth on the three passports. And then it comes — the smile.

“I don’t know how, but your bag has been found. Take the next train to Sutton (the stop before Howth), and see the guy behind the information desk.” He lets me get on the train for free, and let my sisters wait in the lounge with all of our luggage.

By now my adrenaline had subsided and my ankles are really starting to throb, but my excitement numbs the pain. After an agonizingly long 20-minute train ride, I get to the info desk and am ushered around the back to enter through the employee entrance.

“Would you like to look to see if everything is there?”

“Yes, please,” as I display my prepared ID card that would match the photo and name on my passport as proof of ownership.

I open it, go through every pocket, and not a single thing is missing. Not the photo gear, not the passports, nor the couple hundred Euros I had stashed in my passport for safe keeping so I wouldn’t have a lot of cash in my wallet. (And because I knew I would never lose my backpack.)

“Just curious, and without meaning to be rude, but can I ask how much everything in that bag is worth?” he asks me. Still staring down at my lenses hiding their smiles behind their caps, I slowly reply, “several thousand Euros.”

“You are a very lucky man. Three girls came right in and said that they watched you chase the train, and that they had found your bag. They held onto it for the entire train ride to make sure no one else took it and got off here on their way to the beach and turned it in to me. They said they also tried calling your hotel because you had the hotel printout in the bag, but apparently you hadn’t made it there yet.”

I saw those girls. I remember because they were all very pretty and were seated in the seats behind us. But they were very young, about 14, and starting their partying on the train as part of a larger group of about 15 kids. So you can imagine my shock to hear of their level of integrity.

“Where are they now?” I ask quickly.

“They are on the beach, but you won’t find them.”

I legitimately stood there and considered combing the beach for a solid 10 seconds, and then realized that I couldn’t leave my sisters by themselves any longer than necessary. Had I been entirely alone as I am used to traveling, I would have absolutely spent the entire day on the beach looking for them, but instead I left my contact information with the guy behind the desk and instructed him to keep a look out for them in the hopes they would get back to me.

I wanted to personally thank them, and take them out to dinner or even just offer them a substantial reward as a sincere, humble appreciation for not only saving me from a photographic meltdown (because I wouldn’t be able to recover from such a valuable loss), but more importantly for returning the passports. Yes, the photo gear was monetarily worth a substantial amount, but the loss of passports while traveling trumps that.

I remember vividly that while I was waiting at the train station, I prayed, despite not at all being a religious man. “Let everything be gone, let them swipe the camera and lenses, but I beg you to leave the passports.” Oh, and the military orders authorizing me to be on leave and exit Germany were in there as well.

Had the Irish girls on the train not had such integrity,

…I would never have taken this portrait of my sister.


…I would never have woken up at 3 in the morning to go hiking and photograph the stunning Irish landscape at twilight.


…I would never have taken this photo of my sister at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.


…I would never have taken this photo of Ballintoy Harbor, one of the most beautiful seaside villages I’ve ever seen.


…I would never have taken this shot of the pyramid at the Louvre.


…I would never have been able to share photos of the first time the three of us ever saw the Eiffel Tower, which coincidentally happened to be on Bastille Day.


…I would never have been creative at the top of the Eiffel Tower.


…we would never have spent over 30 minutes on this clichéd photograph, to include finally asking a random passerby to help position our hands and fire the shutter.


…I would never have taken this photo of the Plaza de Toros in Barcelona, which the three of us had all to ourselves. Now illegal in the region (not all of Spain), it has been relegated to a museum of a bygone era for Catalonia. I didn’t realize until after I took the photo that my youngest sister had run onto the sands and was charging like a bull.


…I would never have taken off my shirt and instructed my sisters to reenact a bullfight.
I may not be Irish (despite my looks), but the Luck of the Irish was felt that day and for the remainder of our vacation.


Since I returned I have contacted three different Dublin-based newspapers in hopes that they would run the story and the girls would discover it, but none of the newspapers have returned my emails from several weeks ago.

About the author: Alexander Jansen is a US Army officer and photography enthusiast who’s currently stationed in Bavaria, Germany. You can find his photography on his website. This article originally appeared here.

Image credit: Connolly Station – Dublin by infomatique, and all other photos by Alexander Jansen

  • keyofnight

    Pentax just inspires the best in people. :)

  • Timofej Nenarokov

    Sometimes it’s good to be the underdog…

  • Kenyatta Abasi

    I love how the bag was there even though it went through some ‘really bad areas’, lol. So annoying.

  • Rob S


  • teohyc

    Good story. Pay it forward

  • Rob S

    I remember picking up my body armor for the flight back and being so confused about how little it weighed. I thought I must have grabbed someone else’s gear. Nope, It was not having 330 (I cheated!) 5.56 rounds.
    Branch just offered me a 6 month IA but I would be chained to a desk a KIAA. No thanks.

  • Rob S

    I think it is going to be my xmas present to myself this year.

    What do you think of the Sigma 8-16?

  • CK

    @Heie, @david_o_neill:disqus , thanks for highlighting. Sorry if I offended any Irishman!

  • bhughes

    I did the same thing and lost $7,000 worth of gear in Italy last year and I never got it back and have had zero leads on it.

  • alexcookemusic

    Ahh, lovely story. I was at the Eiffel Tower for Bastille Day too! Here’s one of my shots:

  • unlucky me

    dude you are damn lucky…

    a month ago, with exactly same scenario, I forgot my backpack at train when leaving at essen station. At information desk they told me Achen is the last station of train’s route. No one speaks enough English also. I lost my optic and sunglasses (500 euros) plus a watch worth around 300 euros.. The important thing was my insulins at the bag, and for the rest of my trip, needed to go to a dr. he wrote me the medicine than I ve been able to buy it. Totally that stupitidy cost me around a sweet 1000 euros. Damn German bahnof.. :)

  • …..

    who caees??

  • Dhaval Panchal

    This story restores faith in humanity. We aren’t all bad. :)

  • mauipete

    I wonder if he would have got it back if it the train had gone South?

  • Siobh

    As a Dubliner and a photographer this story makes me happy!

    As for getting the story out to the Irish media, I recommend contacting radio stations. Try [email protected] (Seán Moncrieff Show), [email protected] (Derek Mooney Show), and [email protected] (Ray D’Arcy Show).

  • Caca Milis

    Lucky guy and cool pics. I went to Howth yesterday and then after to a restaurant and while paying I left my K-5 (with 70-200mm) on the counter and luckily enough on leaving one fella reminded me of my stupidity. The Irish aren’t that dishonest.

  • ripley

    I live in New Zealand, the winters aren’t too great, but the summers are amazing. Also, I’m an Irish citizen, so I’d like to go back to the town where my great grampa lived, Sligo. Just gotta save up some money, and pay off my student loan :(

  • resist

    if you don’t support the American wars petapixel will delete/censor your comments.

    what a shameful moment when “photographer” become propaganda tools.

  • Jst23

    Faith in humanity restored. :’)

  • aliendreams

    There are! I drove up to an ATM that had someone’s card still in it and it’s asking me do I want to make another transaction? OMG! I popped that card out and took it right into the bank asap!

    I found someone’s insurance payment check on the ground. The company was within walking distance so I gave it to them and they contacted the woman. All was good.
    I’m always finding money or wedding rings, etc. I always turn them in or call the owner, if possible. I know someday I’ll need a good Samaritan to help me out! Good always returns ‘good’, IMO. I know I need it, how about the rest of us?

  • aliendreams

    Okay, Debbie Downer. You’ve done your job…

  • aliendreams

    Unfortunately, there are many people who love to bring down other people’s joy or thankfulness. Pay them no mind. They are not worthy of your time. Glad things worked out so well for you. People will always amaze us with their unexpected kindnesses.

  • Alexander “Heie” Jansen

    Thanks everyone for the absolutely INCREDIBLE outreach that has happened as a result of this. I have been BOMBARDED with phone calls, voice mails, texts, and emails from all over the world, with the most persistent being from reporters in Ireland. I went on the Ray D’Arcy show today, and you can listen to it here!

  • Alexander “Heie” Jansen

    I absolutely love it. A bit of distortion at 8mm indoors, especially in landscape orientation (pillars/poles/walls start to get really funky inward angles!), but outdoors? It’s breathtaking. I’ve gotten pretty good with correcting the distortion manually in lightroom, which has made me use it a lot more. Here’s a montage of 82 (!) photos that I took during a trip to New Zealand with only two lenses – the 8-16 and the DA* 16-50.
    Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions :)

  • Rob S

    Like you I spent my entire tour working myself out of a job. I trained my counterparts so they could take back their country from extremists – a concept @resistance should be very familiar with. I left behind true friends who I continue to be in contact with and who I know will welcome me back if I ever return.
    I love to hear people who sit on the sidelines tell those of us who do things that we are wrong.

  • Rob S

    thanks! Beautiful series. I need to stop by PF more often!!!

  • GLW

    A few years ago I did the same thing, left backpack with loads of photo stuff on a train. I was lucky because I did it in Tokyo, and as many people know it is virtually impossible to lose anything of value in Japan. Someone handed it it to the lost property office at Shinjuku station and I retrieved everything in about 2 hours!

  • Laura

    I have never left the US, but your photos make me want to go to Ireland all the more intense. This story almost made me tear up because I have felt that immense fear that I left my camera bag in places and it turned out it was on my couch that I passed 100 x’s looking for it. The couch is black and my living room is dimly lit. When I found it, the sigh I let out was…. It’s almost enough to make me not want all that equipment. I am just an amateur so, I can’t even imagine. I did have a robbery occur recently and all I could think of was they took my computer and hard drives that had all my pictures and my dog is shot. Luckily both were as I left them. They got other stuff, but I was dreading even coming into my house because I just knew that my computer and all my back ups were gone and my dog was going to be dead. I am not religious, but I thanked God when I found both were fine. Another big sigh of relief

  • corey zwegers

    If you leave something on a train in Japan, it will get cleaned and repaired and then returned to you in a ziplock bag. My friend left his lunch bag on a train and it was washed before it was returned to him.

  • KeeFyBeeFy

    So in this case. If you knew that no thanks/appreciation would have been given you’d done differently?

    As i said, as long as your conscience is clear. Stop dwelling in how you were not thanked for your good deed. Move on and relish in the fact that you Sir, are a good person.. which IMO is a dying breed in current money grubbing society. And for that I applaud you and thank you.

  • kenyee

    Recently found a bag in Boston w/ a few Russian passports and some CDs and electronics in it. No contact info. I guessed from their russian language names and dug w/ Google and found their Facebook accounts and tried contacting them there.
    Then I called the local police station and was given a lecture about how “you never know these days…you shouldn’t be contacting people…just drop it off at the police station” which I did end up doing. They responded to be on Facebook and thanked me…and they weren’t terrorists :-)
    This was a few months after the bombing incident in Boston so everyone was and probably still is paranoid. I thought contacting them was the right thing to though…can’t be paranoid all your life and you just have to think some people in the world aren’t jerks even though there seem to be more of them nowadays…

    Glad you met some nice people as well…

  • James

    Dude, that’s awesome.

  • Hypatia

    - Back to eating your crayons please foolish troll

  • Hypatia

    IF I knew someone’d be so ignorant, I certainly wouldn’t – IF. Someone who can’t even be bothered to send a simple ‘Thanks’ via FB?! They don’t deserve their stuff back, manners cost nothing.
    Glad this A.J. got his bag back, lovely story! – hope the girls on the train get to see this & realise how their actions had such a positive effect