Union Pacific installs gates on Castleberry

Thursday, April 5, 2007
Employees of Union Pacific Railroad installed the crossing-guard arms at the Castleberry Street crossing last Wednesday. Installing the first of the two arms are, (left) Jerry Weibercht and Ron Ruple. (Times photo/Tim Blair)

On May 19, 2004 a fatal truck-train accident in Piggott claimed the life of 18 year old Leland Sells. The mishap, which occurred at the Castleberry Street crossing in the city, prompted a public outcry calling for crossing guards at the location. Now, nearly three years later, the guards have been installed by Union Pacific.

Sells died when his pickup was struck by a southbound freight train that was traveling about 70 mph. The accident sparked a public debate on the safety of the city's rail crossings that eventually included the mayor and city council. In-turn, several petitions were circulated that called for crossing-guard arms at the location.

At their meeting on May 24, just days after the fatal accident, Mayor Gerald Morris and the council discussed the city's role in the matter. He also set up a meeting between city officials, the Department of Transportation and the railroad.

In subsequent meetings the city found that their powers were very limited in dealing with the railroad, and that it could be up to ten years before the crossing guards would be installed. The council also looked into possibly closing the Lincoln Street crossing, which would facilitate the installation of guards at the other crossings in town.

Finally, this past Wednesday, after three years, Union Pacific work crews completed the job.

Mayor Morris has been a strong supporter of the effort. He talked about seeing the crossing guards finally installed. "I was very elated to see that," said Morris. "I'm sure the community is glad to see them up as well."

He added that getting the gates installed will really mean a lot to the young man's father, "Nobody will be more proud than Larry Sells."

The Union Pacific work crews arrived early in the day last Wednesday, but wiring problems delayed the actual installation until late in the afternoon. Now, according to Mayor Morris, the crossing features state-of-the-art equipment, "They reiterated that the crossing at Castleberry has the most up to date equipment and technology."

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