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.  


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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  • 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”

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Tawa crossing to get safety boost

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Safety on a Tawa level crossing is about to be stepped up, with KiwiRail set to install voice message units at the Collins Avenue crossing.

KiwiRail level crossing engineer Eddie Cook says the Tawa crossing is the first site in New Zealand to have the units installed.

The system aims to reduce the likelihood of a pedestrian crossing into the path of another train, by delivering a voice message to alert those using the crossing that a second train is coming.

The voice message units activate when another train is approaching, delivering the warning: “Another Train Approaching. Do Not Cross”.

Mr Cook says some pedestrians cross after the first train has passed without realising that there might be another train approaching from the other direction.
“The project is part of KiwiRail’s commitment to put safety first,” he says.

The Tawa crossing had been chosen because there was already a second train detection system in place.

TrackSAFE NZ Foundation Manager Megan Drayton says the initiative is an exciting development which could help to prevent level crossing accidents. 

“We know that people sometimes behave unsafely around railway tracks, due to distraction and other human factors,” she says.  “Any device that can further alert people to the presence of a second train will be a welcome addition to safety at level crossings.”

However Ms Drayton says that the public should remember that the best way to stay safe around railway tracks is to always obey the existing signs and signals that are there to warn of a train or trains approaching.  “Always look both ways for trains before crossing the tracks and only cross at designated level crossings,” she says.

Mr Cook says once the system had been up and running for a while it would be evaluated with a view to rolling it out across the country. Similar systems were used in the United States and United Kingdom, he said.

Work on installing the units is expected to start this weekend (June 25).  Read more

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