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

  • Mandylittler

    That’s so lucky! Must have been such a good feeling. Glad for you :D. I lost my camera at a bus stop. Similar thing but after 5 mins some scum pinched it. Even after reward posters and ringing buses police and watching pawn shops and eBay it was gone £2000 down the drain such a sick feeling..

  • Bryan Hanna

    Lovely story. It makes me proud to be Irish when I hear things like this :)

  • Timofej Nenarokov

    Heart warming story fellow pentaxian.

  • Michael Palmer

    Great story! Good people are out there!

  • Richard

    Great story. Glad it ended well for you Alex.

  • Heie

    Thanks everyone! It was quite the day :)

  • Nikola Ovcharski

    Lucky you

  • John Goldsmith

    So great! I was in Howth in July and I know that train, the beach, and more. It’s great to hear of these young, honest, women to return to many valuables, including passports. It could have been a lot worse.

    When I visited Australia a few years ago, I had done something similar. After all those hours of travel from Canada, I arrived in Melbourne. As I was getting into the taxi, tired and with a headache, I realized my cameras, laptop, and harddrives were still inside the security area of the airport. I had been so busy collecting my young kids and their luggage, I had forgotten about my most precious bag of gear!

    There was now getting back through security. In the age of terrorism, I had even thought they might be in the process of blowing up my bag filled with hundreds of thousands of my photographs and other technologies. But alas, a nice man from customs strolled through the exit looking for a very concerned and stressed out visitor. In fact, I got everything back, safe and sound, not blow up, and with a great big Aussie smile.

  • clipper

    Found a touring Swiss girl’s documents, i.d. & bank cards, with some cash on my street. Dropped it off in the local Police Station, made couple of posters to put on the parking machines and in the popular bunk house she was probably been staying in. Later found her on Facebook (from the id cards) and dropped her a note, with all the details, Police Station contact number, etc, etc. Nothing.

    Went to the Police after the standard period – all had been claimed. Disappointedly, not even an acknowledgement or ‘Thank You’ – via the web. What – 30 secs effort?
    Hope she enjoyed the rest of her holiday ….

  • Óran Desmond

    a man slaped me on the DART once.

  • Brian the chef

    also… you ever hear of traveling light eh? EH? :-D

  • Jouqain Andujar

    Pentax gear? It would not have been that great of a loss…

  • Ovidiu Lazar

    Lucky Pentax…

  • Chive Awesomeness

    I was in Austria after traveling 6 hours by a night-train and we disembark like normal, but then as my brain wakes up, I realize, I FORGOT MY CAMERA!!!! I take a minute and figure out who to talk to and thank goodness it was a final stop because I would have lost my camera gear too. I goto the info desk to check if the crew had found a camera bag… she’s calling around and out of the corner of my eye I see two police carrying MY CAMERA!!! (that’s what was said in my mind) I call out to them and ask to get my camera back in my broken German, they say, come with us we need to inspect it. Once cleared and my passport scanned they gave it back to me.

    I had nearly left $2000 worth of Pentax on that train and the vacation to Italy hadn’t even started. Needless to say, I never forgot anything on a train ever again.

  • theawefultruth

    such a great story. congratulations and I hope you can find them. Awesome.

  • Brendan

    Please be very careful while flying with ‘wounds that won’t heal,’ particularly in the legs. I don’t mean to scare you, but be aware of deep vein thrombosis. A friend went through this recently after only a sprained ankle and a single flight. She had no symptoms until she felt like she had laboured breathing that turned out to be tachycardia.

  • Barb Hermann Wewers

    That’s great of you, but awful for her to not even acknowledge what you did.

  • Sandra Chung

    It’s stories like this that give me some hope for our species.

  • Rex Maximilian

    Wonderful story!

    In my life I have found numerous wallets with money inside as well as cell phones also. The one thing I do is if there is any identification in which to contact the owner, even indirectly like calling the people in speed dial/favorites list, I make it a personal mission to contact and return the items to the owner myself, as I trust no one as much as I do me to see that it is returned. Only when it is obvious that there is no recourse to contact the owner do I turn it in, (but I do notify hotel security, restaurant or police and give them my number for the owners to contact when I am in the process of locating the owner).

    The look on their faces and knowing the relief they feel when they do pick up their items is reward enough! I wish I was fortunate to say that I’ve always had everything returned to me that I’ve had stolen or lost, but the most important things have been.

  • Andrea Boyle

    As the song says, “Oh, what a lucky man he was…” I would have done the same thing for anyone had I been the finder. I hope there are more of us in the world.

  • Tiera Kekaula

    What a happy ending! I’ve lost way too many things to not feel for this guy. Glad things turned out well & he got some seriously amazing photos!

  • Zos Xavius

    Aren’t you the guy that posted the video where you bury your k-5’s in sand? Thanks for sharing this story. I’ve had a few close calls myself and I know the awful feeling of not knowing where my camera was and assuming the worst. I really love your stadium shot. (actually they are all quite nice) What did you use for that? Also, what do you think of the 18-135? I keep wanting one for covering people and events, but just keep thinking I would be disappointed with it.

  • KeeFyBeeFy

    Knowing you did something wonderful should be good enough :)

    A thank you is secondary.

  • Rob S

    OK, Ill admit it, I would have taken the FA 77 :)

  • Rob S

    Compared to body armor, that was light.

  • Heie

    When I traveled to New Zealand, I was convinced that it would be the place I retire. Nothing would ever compare. Ireland has just made that decision very difficult because the landscapes are just as beautiful and the people are just as warm and welcoming. My fiance said, “Well the solution is Ireland in the summer and New Zealand in the winter” :D

    I am utterly in love your country, and I still haven’t been to the West Coast, which every Irishman tells me is where true natural beauty lies.

  • Heie

    That would be me :) As well as the Afghan Deployment Photojournalism series. And the Handheld Stabilization Guide using the fundamentals of military marksmanship :)

    And I like it. It’s not very good in low light because of the slow aperture, especially at the long end, but in bright light? I have trouble telling it from my DA* 16-50 and the DA* 60-250. Great lens with a poor reputation thanks to the terrible Photozone review :)

  • Heie

    I take my Facebook profile picture very seriously ;)

  • Heie

    The portrait of my sister was taken with that lens. Love it :D

  • Heie

    Ugh, you ain’t lying. 75 lbs (30kg) of gear during a several hour long dismounted patrol through the mountains. But I loved every minute of it :)

  • yawn

    another American thinking being in Europe make him the new Hemingway.

  • Fedupguessing
  • umbrlla

    I too have had some incredible luck abroad with my camera. I arrived at my hotel in Krakow too late check into my hotel as it was about 2AM and they had given my room away to someone else. I decided leave my bags at the hotel and do some night photography. After a little while out, I decided to stop at a little hole in the wall bar for a few drinks and a bite to eat.. after far too many drinks and cigarettes I went out for some air and managed to fall asleep on a bench with my camera bag beside me. Apparently not sleeping for two days and probably more vodka shots than I should have had made it incredibly difficult to wake me up. When I eventually woke up (extremely confused a few hours later in the small square surrounded by the sunday farmers/flea market that had magically popped up without me waking up) I panicked when I realized my camera was not with me and went back to the bar in hopes that I had left it there but it was closed. I went back in the evening after fully sleeping my hangover off in a comfortable bed, only to find it closed again. Dejected, I walked over to the restaurant next door which I vaguely remembered someone talking about the night before in to drink my sorrows away. After about 10 minutes at the restaurant bar the chef (who I had apparently been drinking with at the bar next door the night before) walked out of the kitchen with my camera bag. He said he tried to wake me up but wasn’t successful, he realized that the bar I was drinking at would be closed, so he took the camera back to his restaurant and locked it in the office hoping that I would come back there the next day. long story short, people in Poland are incredibly nice.

    Side note: the waitress at the restaurant went to the same small art school as my dad 30 years after him and her parents had one of his paintings in their living room.

  • Bryan Hanna

    You definitely need to visit the west of Ireland before making a decision like that!
    From the rugged north coast of Donegal to the wilderness of Sligo, to the culture of Galway, to the magnificence of The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher right the way down to the raw beauty of Kerry. Make that your next trip and you will fall deeper in love with the landscape (and the people).

  • DaveOz

    Hahaha – too funny.

    Like you I am a soldier and photographer – I use my marksmanship principles in place of a tripod, combined with IS you can get more than 2s exposures with no blur!

    It’s all in the breathing :)

  • resistance

    If the Irish kids had known how that American soldier made the money to buy his equipment they would have probably thrown it under the train.
    That guy is a paid murderer, paid for invading and occupying foreign countries in war of aggression and killing the locals.
    good that the Irish press don’t give this scum a platform.

  • monica

    My previous post apparently didn’t go through–apologies if it did. In any case, you might very well find the girls by getting in touch with a call-in radio show called Liveline; RTE website should have details and if not, the number to ring is called out often during the program. Good luck.

  • Heie

    While I disagree entirely with it, I respect your opinion. I will have you know though that my entire purpose for being in Afghanistan — one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever been to — was to train the Afghan Army to fend for themselves and not require foreign invaders the next time their country is invaded by extremists.

    And my desire for a platform would have been to give a reward for uncommon integrity and my appreciation for it.

  • Heie

    Ugh. My credit card still hasn’t recovered from that trip last month. You aren’t making things any easier let me tell you :D

  • CK

    What’s with England and camera bags left on trains? It happened to me too!

    I was in London 3 years ago for a holiday and took a train to Durham to meet a fellow photographer friend of mine. I put my backpack which had my Nikon D200, 18-70mm kit lens, 12-24mm and other stuff in the overheard compartment. When the train arrived at Durham, I disembarked with only my main luggage, leaving my back pack on the train bound for Edinburgh.

    For some reason, I didn’t realise until I met up with my friend and we drove up to see the Angel of the North that I realise my backpack wasn’t with me. We made a police report and also went to the lost and found counter at the train station. The staff told us the best bet is now to check with Edinburgh. I was kind of upset, not so much for the loss of the camera but of the photos I’ve taken of London, Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral. I’d have to make do with the photos I had also taken on my iPhone 4 and Panasonic LX3 if I don’t get it back.

    I still had my Panasonic LX3 with me at the time, and used that for the rest of the day, along with the D3 that my friend has loaned me. After dinner, we drove to Edinburgh where we were supposed to continue our trip and stopped by the lost and found counter at Waverly Station.

    Lo and behold, someone had found the backpack and handed it over. I was so happy! Either I am very lucky (like you) or the Brits are mostly honest people.

  • Heie

    Great story!

    One thing though. I was in Ireland. I’m sure there are many an Irishman reading your story and foaming at the mouth after being called Brits and being from England. Just so you know ;)

  • resistance

    Not to take what doesn’t belong to you is that so uncommon? probably for an American soldier who thinks invading and occupying other countries and killing the locals can be justified.

  • yoyo

    but a Travel Tripod w/ Arca Swiss L-Plate and some spare lens caps. that i would call a loss and would tell everyone in the internet about it.

  • David O’Neill

    I’m Irish, was genuinely just commenting to correct him :)

  • David O’Neill

    Sounds pretty unlikely given American soldiers get no grief while transiting through Shannon.

  • markgdub

    As a life-long resident of the supposed “pretty bad areas”, the train passes through en route to Howth, I am very happy to learn the locals proved everyone in Irish Rail long and handed in the camera.

    Happy snapping!

  • resistance

    probably because there isn’t much media coverage how the NATO soldiers raping and killing the locals in Afghanistan.
    instead you get this feel good stories about a bro and his pentax in a sandy environment. its all war propaganda.

  • resistance

    Hahaha – too funny.

    if all the soldiers would stop breathing we could live in peace.

  • clipper

    I would consider a ‘Thank You’ good matters. And consider all the hassle I saved her, replacing her i.d & bank cards on returning home, not to mention the GBP notes. And what would she have done for replacement cash with no bank cards? etc, etc

  • resistance

    why you need 30kg of body armor for a mountain walk?
    its because you are not welcome there.