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Mike Kilsby

KiwiRail Locomotive Engineer Mike Kilsby says level crossing collisions impact on the whole family of a train driver, including their partners and children.

“My father also drove trains and as a child I can remember him coming home from work after being involved in a fatal level crossing accident.

These incidents had a huge impact on him personally and the resulting stress and emotional trauma he suffered affected our whole family.”

Mike is one of three generations of locomotive engineers – as he follows in the footsteps of both his father and grandfather.

“My grandfather was involved in a fatal collision on his very first trip as a fireman on a steam locomotive,” Mike says.

“He was heading out of the Linwood depot in 1941 and his train hit a car, killing the two occupants.  It was a tragic way for him to begin his job in the railways.”

Fortunately Mike has not been involved in any collisions, although he says he’s had a number of “very close calls”.

“People on the roads just need to take care and be aware of trains at level crossings at all times.  We have right of way, we can’t swerve, and we can’t stop the train in a hurry.

While Mike says driving trains is in his blood, he will always live in the hope that he is never involved in a level crossing collision.  

History

On 25 February 1976 the driver of a Manawatu Power Board truck was killed when his truck was stuck by a southbound goods train on the Hobson St level crossing in Feilding.  The vehicle was completely destroyed.  The train locomotive and 16 wagons were derailed in the accident and the main line was blocked for four days. (From the book     " Danger Ahead " by Geoffrey B Churchman).  


The driver of the locomotive was Mick Balfour (Mike Kilsby's grandfather ) and the Driver's Assistant was Jeff York.  Both were not harmed in the incident.  Mick Balfour retired five years after this collision.


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More of your stories

  • Nicole Vreugdenhil “It's amazing I survived at all”
  • Roni Jacobs “We now always stop at a Stop sign”
  • Ian Thornton “I've lost count of how many near misses I've had”
  • Cathy Turner “I miss my son Michael every day”
  • Joseph Butters “He will never be the boy he was going to be”
  • Mike Kilsby “It impacts on all your family and friends”
  • Paul Johansen “I wouldn't wish it on anyone, and I wish I hadn't been there”
  • Ray Burgess “They thought I would die so I know I'm one of the lucky ones”
  • Willy Palmer “We never want to see the horrific things we do”

Keeping safe


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Latest news

Rail Safety Week launches high tech simulator

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Motorists are being given the chance to take the controls of a freight train courtesy of high tech virtual reality technology, in the name of rail safety.

KiwiRail and TrackSAFE NZ have developed an interactive train simulator for Rail Safety Week in an effort to minimise the number of near misses experienced by train drivers at level crossings around the country every day.

“Every near miss is in reality a near hit,” says KiwiRail Chief Executive Peter Reidy.

“We hope that by putting people into the driver’s seat of a train they will better understand the need to stay alert and always be prepared to stop as they approach level crossings.

Rail Safety Week 2014 was launched in Wellington today by the Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse.

Those keen to try out the experience will be asked to don Occulus Rift virtual reality headsets at a series of events in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Masterton. The simulation is also available online here.

In the year to date there have been 16 collisions with vehicles and cyclists, with five fatalities in four separate incidents. In addition there have been 68 near collisions reported, although the actual incidence is likely to be much higher.

Mr Reidy says a train hauling 1500 tonnes takes up to a kilometre to stop and that is why trains have right of way at level crossings.

“I am horrified to hear the stories from our drivers of the many instances that they see motorists ignoring flashing lights and bells, or driving through level crossings protected with Give Way or Stop signs just ahead of their train.

“We urge motorists to always approach a level crossing prepared to stop. They should always obey the alarms or road signs and never enter the crossing until they have checked both ways to ensure there is enough time to cross safely.”

TrackSAFE Manager Megan Drayton says trains are heavy and take a very long time to stop – and research has shown that many people cannot accurately gauge how fast they are travelling.

“Crossing in front of an approaching train is very risky behaviour, and each one of those instances could so easily have ended in a tragedy that affects many lives.

“Train drivers are so often the forgotten victims in these circumstances. They are simply doing their day’s work, and if someone puts themselves in the wrong place – whether by inattention or misjudgement – there is little a train driver can do to prevent a collision. That is why this year we have made them a big part of this week’s activities by telling their stories.”

Other agencies to support the campaign include the NZ Police, the NZ Transport Agency, Auckland Transport, Tranz Metro, Greater Wellington Regional Council and Transdev Auckland.

Ms Drayton says she recently surveyed all train drivers to find out what crossings they believed to be the worst. “We’ve been able to pass this information on to Police, so that they can target their enforcement activities to the right areas.”

Police will be conducting nationwide spot checks at these hot spot level crossings and in some areas will travel with the train drivers in the cabs of the locomotives.  Read more

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