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Series / The Day of the Roses

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"As stipendiary magistrate and coroner, it is my duty to conduct the inquiry into the deaths of 44 men, 37 women, and two young girls in what has now become known as the Granville Disaster. For many of you, this inquest will be painful, and the court sincerely regrets that. But we ask for your patience and your support, as we reconstruct the train's last journey."
Tom Weir, calling his inquest to order.

The Day of the Roses is a 1998 Australian two-part Docudrama miniseries surrounding the real-life Granville rail disaster and the resulting investigation.

On the morning of January 18th, 1977, a commuter train derails and collides with a bridge in Granville, a suburb of Sydney, causing the bridge to collapse on top of two packed coaches. 84 people are killed and countless more are injured.

Four months later, as Coroner Tom Weir prepares to hold an inquest into the disaster, he starts getting pressure from the New South Wales government (which owns the railway) to wrap up his investigation quickly and uncontroversially. Weir soon calls upon the expertise of engineer Boris "B.O." Osman, who feels that the inquiries done up to this point are missing some key pieces of evidence, and that a more thorough investigation is in order.

The series soon flips back and forth between Weir and Osman navigating political meddling in their investigation and the resulting coroner's inquest, and a recap of the disaster and its aftermath from the perspective of survivors, first responders, and victims' families.

This miniseries provides examples of:

  • Ad Hominem: The railway's lawyers try to attack Osman's credibility as an expert witness by pointing out his inexperience with certain railway standards.
  • Amazing Freaking Grace: During a particularly grim part of the rescue operations when there's concerns that the bridge will collapse further, a Salvation Army worker who was among several personnel to refuse to get out from the parts under the bridge sings a rendition of it. He gets cut off when the bridge does indeed drop a bit. Thankfully it doesn't come all the way down. Gerry Buchtmann wonders if God heard the hymn.
  • Brave Scot: Played With with paramedic Micheal "Scotty" McInally, as he's shown to pull out all the stops in helping victims of Granville after the crash, but is also shown to be dealing with trauma from his experiences – the death of Bryan Gordon in particular.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Weir takes a principled stand and goes against the government's wishes by officially accepting Osman's findings that the locomotive's wheels were also at fault, but it's heavily implied that it factored into his being removed from his position several years later. Additionally, survivors, the bereaved, and traumatized first responders still have to live with what happened.
  • Burn Baby Burn: Once he gets home, Scotty burns the dirty and stained shirt he had on at Granville as he tries to process all he's gone through.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Erica Watson had to give up dancing due to injuries she sustained in the wreck.
  • The Coroner: Tom Weir is of the more judicial variant, as is usual in Australia.
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat: Chief Stipendiary Magistrate Murray Farquhar is portrayed as one, being the closest thing the series has to an outright villain as he leans on Weir to speed up the investigation before anything gets unearthed that might embarrass the government or the railway. The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue notes that he was later jailed over an unrelated matter.
  • Cutting Corners:
    • The railway company was found to be doing this, as mentioned under No OSHA Compliance.
    • The reason the government tries to speed up Weir's inquest is because $200 million had already been allocated to repair the network's tracks after the derailment and the initial investigation. If it were found that the engine was at fault as well, the costs of making both track and trains safer would be more than the government could afford.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Eight people are killed and more injured when the derailed engine uproots a utility pole and the pole, still suspended on its wires, rips through the first carriage "like a chainsaw" as Osman puts it.
  • Deathbed Confession: The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue notes that shortly before he died, Weir released a letter noting that Murray Farquhar tried to lean on him to finish his investigation quickly.
  • Death of a Child: Two young girls were among the dead at Granville (as were their grandparents who were riding with them). Additionally, what the series didn't mention was that an unborn baby was also killed, but they weren't added to the official death toll until 2017.
  • Dramatic Irony: It's established early on that Bryan Gordon died as a result of the wreck. This only serves to twist the knife further when we see Scotty try and keep Bryan's spirits up, and later on when he is removed from the wreck and taken to hospital where he is reunited with his wife, only to die as a result of Crush Syndrome.
  • Ending Memorial Service: The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue takes place at one, where 84 roses are dropped onto the site of the wreck every January 18th by survivors, victims' families, and members of the rescue crews.
  • Everybody Smokes: Inverted. It's noted that the reason there was so many people in the crushed carriages was because they were non-smoking carriages.
  • Flatline: Bryan Gordon's death.
  • Fight to Survive: The scenes shortly after the wreck feature first responders dealing with the challenging task of pulling survivors out from a train that's been crushed under a concrete bridge.
  • Foreshadowing: When the train is being prepared to go on its journey, the driver passes a cabinet marked "CAUTION – L.P. GAS BOTTLE INSIDE." After the train derails, gas bottles like these would rupture, creating an additional hazard that would make rescue efforts all the more challenging.
  • Glass Slipper: Margaret Shuttler loses one of her shoes when Gerry pulls her out of the wreckage. She has to find Gerry at his workplace before she gets it back.
  • Heat Wave: It's repeatedly mentioned that the derailment took place on a hot summer morningnote .
  • Help, I'm Stuck!: Much of the film revolves around trying to extract survivors of the wreck from under the collapsed Bold Street Bridge.
  • Hope Spot:
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: The first thing the shell-shocked Police Rescue Squad does after their work at Granville is done is wordlessly amble their way into a bar.
  • Lack of Empathy: Murray Farquhar doesn't seem all that interested in Granville's human cost, as shown in his phone call with Weir, where he all but threatens to replace Weir if he doesn't toe the line.
    Weir: I have to have someone look over that train. We are talking about 83 deaths.
    Farquhar: 83, was it? Dreadful… No wonder there's so much work.
  • Mistaken for Servant: The Justice Department agent sent to lean on Weir at the beginning of the first part bumps into Weir and mistakes him for a paper-pusher, telling him to "get stuffed" when Weir asks him for a hand with the (literal) truckloads of paperwork he's trying to tote in. Needless to say, he's in for a rude awakening when he finds out just who Weir is.
  • Morning Routine: The first part of the recap of the wreck is devoted to this, as the train was carrying commuters on their way to work.
  • Moving Beyond Bereavement: A portion of the series is given to show the families of some of those who were killed in the wreck dealing with their losses.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished:
    • Gerry Buchtmann nearly loses his job because he helped out with the rescue operations while on sick leave. He does not take this well.
    • It's heavily implied that Weir's decision to go against Murray Farquhar's pressure and accept Osman's findings that the locomotive's wheels were a contributing factor in the derailment is what led to him being removed from his post several years later.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The investigation exposes a number of instances of this trope:
    • The Granville wreck wasn't even the second time that that particular locomotive had derailed…
    • …or even the second time that the Bold Street Bridge had been struck by a train.
    • Not to mention, when the Bridge was built, it was found to be too short, so the builders put a heavy layer of concrete on top of it to level it out, making it more than three times its planned weight.
    • And the tracks were also found to be rather worn.
    • Trains on that route were encouraged to go faster than was safe because the suburbs they served were a key swing district in state elections, so voters would take their frustrations out on the government of the day (who owned the rails) if they were late for work.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Weir and Osman are confronted with these when they try to examine the train's engine.
  • One Last Smoke: Rescue workers oblige a dying passenger this.
  • Robbing the Dead: There are stories that some onlookers ran into one of the carriages to do this, but rescue workers were more concerned with looters making off with their vital equipment.
  • Sassy Secretary: Greta, Weir's secretary, is shown to have a razor-sharp wit, and her knowledge of the coroner's office's internal politics means she has her finger on the pulse of things more often than not.
  • Sinister Surveillance: The railway sends private detectives to follow widows of men killed at Granville to see if they talk to any other men – with their compensation money getting cut if it seems like they were cheating on their husbands.
  • Squashed Flat: A horrifying example in the derailment. After the bridge loses its supports, it takes a good while, but then it collapses onto the train, resulting in the bulk of the casualties.
    Osman: Most of the victims will not die immediately. The impact will push them forward in their seats, so that their shoulders are literally lower than their knees. Here they will stay, unable to move, many of them conscious, trapped in the heat and the darkness, as the suffocating gas leaks all around them. 141 people, 320 tonnes…
  • Take Care of the Kids: Scotty keeps his promise to Bryan Gordon, and becomes a friend of his wife and daughter.
  • Thanks for the Mammary: Due to the nature of her injuries, Gerry has to grab Margaret Shuttler by the breast to help her out of the wreckage.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Weir is confronted with two options; either he bows to government pressure and rejects Osman's findings about the locomotive, possibly putting more people at risk due to unsafe trains, or he accepts Osman's concerns, which would cost the government more than it could afford to fix both tracks and trains, and would likely be the end of his career. In the end, he picks the latter.
  • Track Trouble: Part of the reason the train derailed was because the tracks it was running on were badly worn, as were the locomotive's wheels.
  • The Tragic Rose: The series' name comes from an annual memorial service held at the site of the wreck, where 84 rosesnote  are dropped onto the tracks by survivors, victims' families, and members of the rescue crews, as depicted in the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The final scene of the series informs the viewer what happened to most of the people depicted in the show, with shots of some of them at one of the annual memorials to the disaster.
  • With All Due Respect: When there's concerns that the bridge might collapse further, Ray orders all civilian rescue workers out of the area under the bridge, even though there are people still trapped there. Some of the rescue workers don't take kindly to this.
    Sister Margaret Warby: We don't leave our patients!
    Gerry Buchtmann: That's right, sir. With all due respect, you can get stuffed!
  • You Did Everything You Could: The emergency response personnel at Granville have to enact this trope among each other.
  • Your Television Hates You: Sister Margaret Warby has to get the staff at the restaurant she and an equally shell-shocked doctor are at to turn off the TV after it keeps playing news broadcasts of Granville.