May 9th, 2012

Changing Tracks

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

Anyone see the news today, apparently there is a new advertising campaign to stop people killing themselves on railway lines. It showed clips of people having near misses on the lines.

My first ever dead body was a railway line fatality. I was a very young probationer at the time. I was on patrol with the sergeant when the call came over the radio. A train driver had reported hitting something on the approach to the station in the town I worked.

We arrived at the rough location with a couple of other officers, it was probably 3/4 a mile outside the station. We split up into two groups, one went north, the other south. I went with the sergeant towards the railway station. It wasn’t long before we picked up what looked like a bundle of clothes in the torchlight.

As it turned out this was about the cleanest of any railway death I ever attended through the years. Most of them have occurred at the station where people have just jumped in front of the train as it whooshed past. They can be very messy.

This one was much cleaner; the guy had just laid down beside the line and put his head on the track. The train had taken the top of his skull clean off. There really wasn’t much mess. I was given the job of collecting up what brain, skull and hair matter we could find.

We took the body to the mortuary by which time the black humour had fully kicked in. I won’t recount it here as times have moved on and things that happened back in the day wouldn’t happen these days.

One case I will recount was a guy who had been chopped in half by the railway wheels.  I had arranged to take some probationers up to the mortuary to see a post mortem. This was in the days when it was mandatory to see a PM as your first taste of death on joining your team back from training school. The mortuary assistant must have thought it would be funny to wind up the new police officers. When he had laid the body out on the slab he put the top half the correct way round, i.e chest facing up, but he put the bottom half the wrong way round i.e. bum facing the sky.

It was interesting checking out the probationers’ faces when the body was revealed prior to the pathologist arriving.

It’s funny but whenever I see something about railway safety I always think back to that guy in 1980. I forgot his name a long time ago. I sometimes wonder how many dead bodies I’ve seen over the years. I have long since forgotten the details of why he came to be lying on the railway tracks in the middle of the night, but I can still picture him.

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  1. Oi says:

    I cant sat that attending any sudden death was my idea of spending a sparkling hour or two, but rail deaths in all their glorious technicolour had to be getting near the bottom of this particular barrel for me.
    [There were worse, but thankfully, even less often than rail]

    May 10th, 2012 at 00:03

  2. Aaron says:

    I know you are thinking about the blog, so as a reader can I suggest that once the x years are done you stop seeing it as a chore and instead post whenever you have something to say.

    I read your blog every day and love it, but I suspected that something was up when, a few months ago, you posted a repeat video.

    We all love you and your blog, but that will last only so long as you love it. Good luck in finding the right balance, wherever it lies. And I, and everyone else, will try and comment more.


    May 10th, 2012 at 00:52

  3. Ginger Mick says:

    Back in the day, we irreverently referred to these deceased as ‘squishies’, referring to the sound effects created when removing bits from the train wheels and bogies.

    Ah! “Sad memory brings the light of other days around me.”.

    May 10th, 2012 at 05:25

  4. R/T says:

    Went to a couple of “1 unders” on the LU when I started but only 1 BR. They were hit by the Portsmouth Harbour “Fast” train and were cut in half. Google the Iron Maiden LP cover where Eddie is cut in half with his spine hanging out if you must know what it looked like! Grim.

    May 10th, 2012 at 15:52

  5. boy on a bike says:

    Bloke I met had to clean up quite a few suicides who had been cleanly decapitated.

    He said it was easy if they had long hair, as you could pick up the heads by their hair. But if they were bald, or had crew cuts, you had to stick your fingers in their ears.


    May 11th, 2012 at 08:12

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