(Maple Hill, Kansas – April 27, 2018)
A Kansas farmer was killed by a Union Pacific train Friday evening at about 6:00 P.M., CDT, when he had a trailer detach from his 2017 Ford F-150 pickup truck as he attempted to drive across the intersection of Willard Road and Union Pacific tracks about two miles northeast of the Wabaunsee County community of Maple Hill, KS.
David W. Miller, 58, of Maple Hill, was attempting to reattach a trailer he was towing that came loose as he drove across the two tracks at that location. The crossing, which is equipped with both gates and lights, was the site of a fatality in 1983 after it had been redesigned by previous owner St. Louis Southwestern (Cotton Belt) Railway. The tracks had been originally operated from Topeka to Herington, KS as a double-tracked railroad before being rehabbed by St. Louis Southwestern (Cotton Belt) Railway as a single track route with the former second main track cut up into a number of lengthy sidings. Due to difference maintenance standards between the mainline and siding tracks, Union Pacific has slowly been changing the elevations of the two tracks. There was no train in view when the victim’s trailer disconnected as he drove over the dual elevations of the two tracks.
The train, one of a daily average of 19 UPRR freight trains that can operate at speeds as high as 70 mph, struck the victim as he attempted to re-enter his truck and drive it and the reattached trailer to safety.
The reconfiguring of the rail line that crosses Willard Road was completed in 1981 after it was purchased from the former Rock Island Railroad and caused much consternation to residents and public officials as the long sidings that were previously a second main track caused many motorists to sit for hours as they awaited stopped trains to move and unblock grade crossings.