Robbie (1979 - Revised 1986)
13 minutes - Colour

Young Robbie, a keen footballer and a railway enthusiast, is persuaded by his big brother to go through a hole in a railway fence on to the track. He has an accident so serious that he will never play football again.A film for showing to eight to eleven-year old children and their parents, which points out the folly of breaking railway fences and trespassing on the line, and illustrates the immediate dangers.The film is available in three versions, applicable to each type of track situation:-

  • Non-electrified line.
  • Overhead electrified line
  • Third rail electrified line
General showing in schools arranged by PROs, and for accompanying talks by drivers.

Robbie: Robin Crane
Mum: Deborah Norton
Bert: Peter Bolt
Jake: Gary Forbes
Sally: Alison Bond
P.C.: Matthew Roberton
W.P.C.: Philippa Howell

Writer & Director: Ronald Dunkley
Photography: Ronald Craigen
Introduction & Narration: Peter Purves (1979) / Keith Chegwin (1986)
Editor: Richard Best
Unit Manager: Stuart Black
Producer: James Ritchie
In Charge of Production: John W. Shepherd

16mm & V.C.

Peter Purves introduced and narrated all three versions of Robbie when it was originally filmed in 1979. In 1986 it was considered that Peter Purves was no longer a figure that children could relate to so all three versions had a face lift with Keith Chegwin reading the exact same script.

On the non-electrified lines version, Robbie appeared to lose his foot under a DMU (see main screen grabs). The overhead electric lines version featured Robbie getting electrocuted after his brother threw Robbie's football boots onto a pylon and he tried to retrieve them using a metal pole (see below). The 3rd rail version showed Robbie getting electrocuted by stepping on the electrified rail.

Actual screen shots reproduced by kind permission
of the British Film Institute.

Additional Information: The February 1980 edition of Modern Railways magazine contains an article entitled 'Thirty Years of British Transport Films'. It included the following about "A new safety film"

Apart from documentary and promotional films, BTF is of course also responsible for producing a wide range of staff-information and public-service films. In the last-named category is a new safety film, Robbie, designed to warn children - and their parents - about the dangers of trespassing on the railway."

Although it was welcomed by some education authorities, an earlier film on the same topic [The Finishing Line] (see Modern Railways, April 1977), was rejected by others on the grounds of its shock-fantasy element. Robbie is the result of careful deliberation by a steering group, representing a wide range of railway interests, which took into account advice offered by educational, medical, police and safety experts. The new film is factual in its approach: aimed primarily at 8-11 year olds, it nevertheless has a strong message for adults and older children too. There are three versions - each 15min long - to illustrate the particular hazards presented by differing types of railway: with overhead electrification; equipped with third rail; and non-electrified lines. In the first, Robbie's accident is caused by his climbing too close to the high-voltage overhead power lines; in the second, he falls on the conductor rail; while, in the third, he is struck by a diesel train.

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