Willy Palmer story

The worst part of driving trains is the "walk of death"

Willy Palmer has been working on the railways for 26 years, and loves his job. But he says the worst part of driving trains is the “walk of death”.

“That’s what happens when we hit a person on the tracks,” Willy says. “We have to walk back along the railway lines, wondering exactly where and what we’ll find along the way,” he says.“It’s a really hard thing to do but we have to do it.

On the rare occasions that the person is still alive, it becomes our job to look after them until the emergency services people arrive.” Willy says not all locomotive engineers cope with the horrors of collisions.

“I know some very good drivers who no longer drive trains because they have been so traumatised by what they’ve seen,” Willy says. “What is tragic about that is that there was nothing they could do to prevent those collisions happening.

We can’t stop our trains in a hurry and when a person is on the tracks there is usually nothing we can do to stop the train in time.
Willy Palmer

Trains are not like a car – we don’t have a steering wheel and we have no means to avoid you. “As train drivers we never want to see the horrific things we see when a person or a vehicle hits our trains,” Willy says.

Willy urges people to always stay off railway lines, to be alert, and to only ever cross at official pedestrian level crossings.

“If you walk on railway tracks anywhere other than a proper crossing, then you are legally trespassing”, Willy says.

“And there’s a reason it’s called trespass – it’s because it’s just so dangerous. Trains are silent, and very hard to hear, and I don’t think some people really understand that.”