How dangerous is the third rail?

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MistaMatthews

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I have recently started work as a PTS trackman but I'm finding that my fear of the third rail is hindering me...

Obviously in training, I was taught to treat it as live and dangerous at all times and any contact with it could be fatal. Coupled with the fear that was put into me as a child, going anywhere near it stresses me out. But having watched other experienced staff working around it, they seem rather less worried about getting close to it.

On a recent job, I opted to walk a further 20/30 metres down the track to where there was a gap in the third rail to avoid having to step over it. Is this the right attitude or do I need to relax a bit?

If when I'm stepping over it, my shoes or trousers were to make contact, would that be the end of me?
 
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Stuart-h

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im a trackman as well with dccr on my pts. As long as you walk ballest to ballest you'd be fine. Idealy using a gap in the 3rd rail is the best bet unless the group has shelids.
 

furnessvale

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I have recently started work as a PTS trackman but I'm finding that my fear of the third rail is hindering me...

Obviously in training, I was taught to treat it as live and dangerous at all times and any contact with it could be fatal. Coupled with the fear that was put into me as a child, going anywhere near it stresses me out. But having watched other experienced staff working around it, they seem rather less worried about getting close to it.

On a recent job, I opted to walk a further 20/30 metres down the track to where there was a gap in the third rail to avoid having to step over it. Is this the right attitude or do I need to relax a bit?

If when I'm stepping over it, my shoes or trousers were to make contact, would that be the end of me?
In dry weather it really isn't that big a deal. Wet weather is a different matter. A co-worker brushed the 3rd rail with the hem of his saturated long mac and got quite a jolt in the back of his neck. We thought about putting him in for the high jump at the next Olympics but no lasting damage!
 

Philip Phlopp

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I have recently started work as a PTS trackman but I'm finding that my fear of the third rail is hindering me...

Obviously in training, I was taught to treat it as live and dangerous at all times and any contact with it could be fatal. Coupled with the fear that was put into me as a child, going anywhere near it stresses me out. But having watched other experienced staff working around it, they seem rather less worried about getting close to it.

On a recent job, I opted to walk a further 20/30 metres down the track to where there was a gap in the third rail to avoid having to step over it. Is this the right attitude or do I need to relax a bit?

If when I'm stepping over it, my shoes or trousers were to make contact, would that be the end of me?

You're taking precisely the attitude more track workers should be taking - maximum caution, use safe walking routes/take a longer but far safer walking route etc and I'd strongly implore you to keep that attitude, but for the benefit of a spot of peace of mind...

I think I've said this before, almost everybody who comes into contact with 25kV AC will be included in the statistics, virtually nobody who comes into contact with 750V DC will be included in the statistics.

The example by @furnessvale is typical of most staff contact with the third rail - bloody great jolt, chance of a burn, punchy pain through the body, almighty yell and much profanity, looking pale for the rest of the shift, and avoiding it like the plague for months afterwards.
 

bramling

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I have recently started work as a PTS trackman but I'm finding that my fear of the third rail is hindering me...

Obviously in training, I was taught to treat it as live and dangerous at all times and any contact with it could be fatal. Coupled with the fear that was put into me as a child, going anywhere near it stresses me out. But having watched other experienced staff working around it, they seem rather less worried about getting close to it.

On a recent job, I opted to walk a further 20/30 metres down the track to where there was a gap in the third rail to avoid having to step over it. Is this the right attitude or do I need to relax a bit?

If when I'm stepping over it, my shoes or trousers were to make contact, would that be the end of me?

I think the answer is to treat it with respect, but not fear, as one needs to be confident when around it.

Follow the training, use official walking routes where available, make sure clothing (especially shoes) are in good order, and don't ever rush are good guidelines to follow. Injuries and fatalities to staff are extremely rare, but they do happen occasionally.
 

TheLastMinute

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I think the answer is to treat it with respect, but not fear, as one needs to be confident when around it.
Agreed. I would also think that overly focusing on the juice rail could well be dangerous in and of itself as less care and attention could be given to the other, perhaps more, significant risks.
 
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When I first got my PTS all those many many years ago we trained on 3rd rail systems because Merseyrail...
It was always best practice to cross at a safe point if you could. ie if there is a section gap 20 meters down the line and its safe to walk to it and cross there then do it.

Stepping over the 3rd rail is always a risk no matter what anybody tells you, no matter what you think the under foot conditions are there is always a risk of making some kind of mistake and coming into contact with the 3rd rail, and touching it will either ruin your day or life.

The rule on the railway is safety first.
 

Horizon22

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I've stepped over the 3rd rail before at a depot visit and even though there was a kickboard it was still very worrying and the guide was fairly nonchalant about it, possibly because of how often he does it.

As others have said maximum respect, don't take short-cuts. Safety is your number one priority.
 

Bald Rick

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I have heard so many stories - first hand - of people who have slipped, ‘just caught’ or had something they were carrying unexpectedly touch the con rail that it fills me with dread, even walking alongside it, let alone crossing it.
 

Gloster

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Agreed. I would also think that overly focusing on the juice rail could well be dangerous in and of itself as less care and attention could be given to the other, perhaps more, significant risks.

Indeed. The only time I ever got a tickle from the juice rail was when I was concentrating so hard on keeping the lamp that I was carrying up high that I failed to lift one of my feet up enough.
 

GB

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I have heard so many stories - first hand - of people who have slipped, ‘just caught’ or had something they were carrying unexpectedly touch the con rail that it fills me with dread, even walking alongside it, let alone crossing it.

Much much better to have that sort of stuff in long thin strands suspended above out of reach!
 

43066

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I have heard so many stories - first hand - of people who have slipped, ‘just caught’ or had something they were carrying unexpectedly touch the con rail that it fills me with dread, even walking alongside it, let alone crossing it.
Much much better to have that sort of stuff in long thin strands suspended above out of reach!
As long as you're not under OHLE...

Of course this is why maintenance depots servicing third rail stock use overhead trolley supplies.
 

Pinza-C55

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I used to work as a guard at London Bridge and one of my colleagues was climbing up onto an EPB at Slade Green and he was wearing steel toe capped boots but he hadn't noticed the leather was damaged and the toe brushed the third rail. He said it felt like he was kicked in the back of neck and the thumbnail of one of his fingers which had been touching the train went black.
 

philthetube

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Never trust your boots to protect you, even though they should, it is worth checking the soles for nails occasionally just in case.
 

James H

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Having witnessed a teenage boy (fuelled by alcohol) being fried by the third rail I would recommend maximum caution
 

Pinza-C55

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Having witnessed a teenage boy (fuelled by alcohol) being fried by the third rail I would recommend maximum caution

In the early 90s when there were a number of IRA bomb scares I heard that a suspect package was seen south of London Bridge station and a posse of police officers were sent to investigate, complete with Alsatian dog. Supposedly BR didn't turn the juice off and the dog wagged its tail and got a shock from the rail whereupon it turned round and sank its teeth into the third rail ! Not sure if this is true.

One I know is true because I witnessed it myself was when one of the china "pots" supporting the third rail beside the platform at Charing Cross had some kind of malfunction and the current shorted through it , causing it to glow red and explode it with a deafening bang which was amplified by the new concrete roof. Everybody hit the deck when it happened.
 

ChiefPlanner

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In the early 90s when there were a number of IRA bomb scares I heard that a suspect package was seen south of London Bridge station and a posse of police officers were sent to investigate, complete with Alsatian dog. Supposedly BR didn't turn the juice off and the dog wagged its tail and got a shock from the rail whereupon it turned round and sank its teeth into the third rail ! Not sure if this is true.

One I know is true because I witnessed it myself was when one of the china "pots" supporting the third rail beside the platform at Charing Cross had some kind of malfunction and the current shorted through it , causing it to glow red and explode it with a deafening bang which was amplified by the new concrete roof. Everybody hit the deck when it happened.

Exploding "pots" and even worse 25kV insulators can be very terrifying. Seen and heard both - "memorable" .......

Always treated 3d (and 4th) rail with extreme respect. Best way. Plus live pick up shoes. Was taught well.
 

MistaMatthews

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Thanks for all your replies. Not sure if they've made me feel better or worse :lol:

The site I'm on tonight has quite a drop on the outside of the ballast shoulder to the cess and the juice rail is on the cess side of the track :frown:

Good to hear from people in the industry!
 

route101

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How far can the electricity jump?

Ive also felt uneasy under OHLE at stations.
 

GRALISTAIR

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I think the answer is to treat it with respect, but not fear, as one needs to be confident when around it.

Follow the training, use official walking routes where available, make sure clothing (especially shoes) are in good order, and don't ever rush are good guidelines to follow. Injuries and fatalities to staff are extremely rare, but they do happen occasionally.
Fantastic advice imho
 

furnessvale

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Never trust your boots to protect you, even though they should, it is worth checking the soles for nails occasionally just in case.
Not forgetting the "black" in non approved soles or wellingtons is often carbon which, as we all know, is a good conductor.

How far can the electricity jump?
10,000 volts per centimetre in perfect dry conditions, obviously it jumps easier in wet or other imperfect conditions.
 

Leeds1970

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when being trained on 3rd rail and OHL our instructor explained it as follows -- 25kv will kill you and throw the body away, 3rd rail will grip you to give you an unforgettable cuddle, also don't step forward over 3rd rail but to stand parallel lift leg high and step over sideways then lift trailing leg high and bring together.
 

bramling

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when being trained on 3rd rail and OHL our instructor explained it as follows -- 25kv will kill you and throw the body away, 3rd rail will grip you to give you an unforgettable cuddle, also don't step forward over 3rd rail but to stand parallel lift leg high and step over sideways then lift trailing leg high and bring together.

Must admit I’ve never done it sideways, however I have long(ish) legs!
 

Bald Rick

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I should have mentioned - there’s been a few trespasser fatalities on the con rail this year, most recently the other week.

And a few workforce injuries too. Constant vigilance required!
 

6Gman

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I've stepped over the 3rd rail before at a depot visit and even though there was a kickboard it was still very worrying and the guide was fairly nonchalant about it, possibly because of how often he does it.

As others have said maximum respect, don't take short-cuts. Safety is your number one priority.

Our school railway society used to take a party of 20 or so 11-18 year olds to London every December (with 1 or 2 members of staff). We used to visit Stratford each year + one other depot (I remember Old Oak and Finsbury Park). One year we did Stewarts Lane.

No Risk Assessments in those days!
 

najaB

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How far can the electricity jump?

Ive also felt uneasy under OHLE at stations.
Treat the safe working distance for 25kV OHLE as around about 50cm - don't let anything you want to see again get within that distance of the wires. (This gives you a bit of leeway). You'll be perfectly safe standing on the platform.
 

GRALISTAIR

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One year we did Stewarts Lane. No Risk Assessments in those days!

I have literally lost count of the number of times I went round Stewarts Lane in the 1970s though I will have the records somewhere. Just walked all over the depot =- never a problem.
 
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