The Finishing Line

The Finishing Line is a short film produced in 1977 by British Transport Films, warning about the dangers children face on railway lines. Although it is not strictly a public information film, it is often considered to be so by fans of the genre. It was broadcast in its entirety several times on television, but was so controversial that it was replaced less than two years later by the slightly less graphic Robbie.

The Finishing Line
Directed byJohn Krish
Written byMichael Gilmour
John Krish
Produced byJames Ritchie
Distributed byBritish Transport Films
Release date
1977
CountryUnited Kingdom

It won at least two creative awards: Certificate of Appreciation (Top Category) and Oberhausen Mention at the Festival of Youth Paris. The film was also shown in several schools by invitation.

PlotEdit

The voice-over of a headmaster tells the children he knows that some have been playing on the railway. A young boy is sitting on a railway bridge wall. As the boy ponders on his thoughts, he pictures a school Sports Day-style event being held on the railway line. The rest of the film shows his imagined idea of what would happen, with children being split into four competitive teams to take part in different activities often carried out by young people trespassing on the railway.

Four "games" are held, in which the children are challenged to break through the fence surrounding the railway line, play "chicken" with the trains and throw things at passing trains. Each time, the consequences of these activities are shown, such as one scene where a driver and passenger are left badly injured by broken glass after a child throws a brick through the train window. The final task is for the children to run through a tunnel, but after they enter, a train approaches. Only four children cross the end of the tunnel, each of them injured terribly. One boy who crosses the finish line collapses as the overhead speaker announces the final results.

The film finishes as a group of adults appear and go into the tunnel to carry out the bodies of the dead and injured children, which are then laid out in a long line along the railway track. The camera pans out to show all the dead and bloodied children along the track before returning to the boy sitting on the railway bridge wall, who seems to be reconsidering the idea.

FilmingEdit

The film was directed by John Krish, written by Krish and Michael Gilmour, and produced by James Ritchie. It was filmed in the vicinity of the then-closed Watton-at-Stone railway station, Hertfordshire. The bridge that the boy at the beginning and end of the film is sitting on is the southern side of the Station Rd railway bridge. The main filming area for the actors was located immediately southeast of the bridge sandwiched between Church Lane and the railway line. The "stone-throwing" competition was filmed immediately north of the railway bridge on the western side embankment where the AWS signal ramp is. The "Great Tunnel Walk" scene was filmed about 3.5 miles (5.63 km) south of the current Watton-at-Stone railway station. The "start" was at the northern portal and "finish" was at the southern one.

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