Skip to comments.Train Whistles Silenced (No Noise in the City, Please!)
Posted on 01/17/2008 6:14:11 AM PST by Diana in Wisconsin
To the delight of Judy Twesme and other residents, the piercing sound of train whistles will soon fade from Downtown Madison neighborhoods.
The city, which installed $900,000 in gates and flashing lights at 10 crossings in the last two years, has finally won federal approval for three "quiet zones " Downtown beginning Jan. 30.
"People are really, really excited, " said Twesme, a Bassett neighborhood resident. "People aren 't able to sleep through the night. I 'm one of those people. Sleep depravation is not a good thing. "
"The romantic notion of a railroad is not there if there is a train outside your window at 4 in the morning blowing its horn, " said Peter Ostlind, chairman of the Bassett District of Capitol Neighborhoods.
Whistles will continue to blow in other areas, but the city intends to add warning devices at crossings and establish more quiet zones over time, city officials said.
The city will install $780,000 in equipment at eight crossings to create a quiet zone along East Washington Avenue and Fordem Avenue this year. The city can create a zone, which must be a half-mile long, or extend one that's been established.
"Anything the city can do to give residents respite from train horns, especially at night, is really a good thing, especially if it 's safe," said Steve Randolph, the city 's most vocal advocate of a whistle ban, who lives in the area that would be the fourth quiet zone.
"It 's been a long battle with a lot of animosity, " he said.
After a grass-roots campaign, the city adopted a ban on whistles at intersections with at least one active warning device in October 2001, but it ended in June 2006 when it was superseded by a Federal Railroad Administration rule. The rule says whistles must sound at any intersection not protected by both gates and flashing lights.
The city then began a program to improve crossings.
"I 'm ecstatic the city will be able to deliver some peace and quiet for Downtown residents, " said City Council President Mike Verveer, who represents the central city. "The number one complaint by Downtown residents in the last year has been this issue."
Whistles are especially troubling to the many residents who moved Downtown while the city 's initial ban was in place, Verveer said, adding that he hears complaints about people getting ill from sleep deprivation and pets having accidents in homes.
Twesme, for example, bought her home just before the ban ended and was shocked by the first nighttime whistle. "I thought, Oh my God, what 's happening?'"
Funding for improvements came from city tax incremental financing money, not borrowing, said George Twigg, spokesman for Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.
The state provided money to improve crossings on West Washington Avenue and John Nolen Drive.
The new gates and lights improve safety, Wisconsin Railroad Commissioner Rodney Kruenen said. About a half-dozen trains rumble through the city every day, but the number will increase if the region adopts commuter rail, he said.
"Most people have never seen the aftermath of a rail-vehicle accident, " he said. "You have never seen anything so brutal. It is horrible. "
Ken Lucht, community development manager for the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad, couldn 't be reached.
The city, railroad and state are still discussing possible street closures, new safety equipment and a potential quiet zone in the East Rail corridor, Kruenen said.
It would cost between $10 million and $12 million to improve all crossings in the city, said Steve Sonntag, the city 's pavement management engineer.
"I'm hoping the same (quiet) experience can be shared by more residents of our city over time, " Verveer said.
So I guess it’s not true what Paul Simon said. “Everyone loves the sound of a train in the distance. Everyone knows it’s true.”
My house is about 200 yards from a set of railroad tracks, which runs maybe 4 or 5 trains a day, including some that run overnight. When I first moved in, I could hear the trains, but after about a week, you don't even notice them. I find it difficult to believe that these people are being kept up by the trains running by.
...and when someone gets killed because the train was forbidden to blow it’s horn, then what?
“The city, which installed $900,000 in gates and flashing lights at 10 crossings in the last two years, has finally won federal approval for three “quiet zones “ Downtown beginning Jan. 30.”
At the cost of $900,000 taxpayer dollars, these people have increased their property values. Unless you owned your home before 1900, everyone should know there always was a train there and trains make noise! I’m sure they got their homes for cheap due to the noise, now they got a free upgrade thanks to the taxpayers.
Yes, they do. But the key words in the sentence are “in the distance.”
I once lived in a house that was four blocks from a major railroad marshaling yard. You could really hear those train whistles, especially from the upper floors. LOUD. (The house was an old Victorian, with 15 ft ceilings.)
I am a train buff, and a little hard-of-hearing, so they did not bother me, but my wife was not nearly as charmed. To me, the most interesting thing was that each engineer has his own signature whistle. You could tell who was driving by the whistle as they approached the yard.
Which was there first? The complainers or the trains?
If you don’t like noise don’t buy a house near a rail road. Trains are loud. The same can be said about living near an air port that was already there when you bought your house.
As much as I hate to admit it, I even got used to hearing the boom base speakers that make the whole house shake at 2 in the morning. Probably what happened to them is they are having PTSD. Not knowing about the train horns to begin with started the problem. If you know what it is, the adrenalin doesn’t kick in. Just a thought.
The whistle requirement is an example of the government trying to stop stupid people from dying. They will find another way.
stay off the tracks. How hard is it? Trains don’t sneak up on people.
My town has a restriction on the length of the train horn blast during particular hours, but no outright ban. That’s just foolish and jeopardizes safety. Like other postings on here... did you not SEE the train tracks and research the neighborhood before you bought your home? No? too damn bad.
The trains were first in most case, but you asked the wrong question. I believe the whistle requirement throughout the night was a recent regulation aimed to stop idiots and suicidal folks from driving around the crossing guards.
Its called LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION you nerd. Want to bet that the taxpayers are subsidizing the mortgage/rent too.
All well and good till someone dies Train’s have horns for a reason.
They would have LOVED one of the houses I remember living in as a young lad....Lived in one of those ‘claptrap’ type rooming houses that were located right at the grade crossing with a small station that was a typical ‘whistle stop’....I seem to remember everything was covered with a fine layer of coal dust.....Bet that was good for the ‘lungs’....
In this day and age it is PROBABLY PUBLIC HOUSING so back in my day it was allright for you to live there if you paid for it, but today you can’t even GIVE IT TO SOMEONE...
SOME PEOPLE WOULD B—CH IF YOU HUNG THEM WITH A NEW ROPE
“If you dont like noise dont buy a house near a rail road.”
Easy for you to say, Graybeard58 . . .
Guess you didn’t realize that recent Federal legislation forces train drivers to blow horns with certain distances from stations, and the horn noise levels have been increasing for the same reason police & fire sirens have gotten louder, due to better sound insulation on cars and drivers immersed in their own music.
I live less than 100’ fromo CSX/Amtrak/VRE/Metro tracks and the noise of the horns is ear-splitting. But it wasn’t always that way. Has gotten much worse in recent years.
I agree, you don’t have much of a right to complain about something that existed before you made a decision to move in, but if things changed since you moved in, that’s a different story.
I’m going to lobby my local officials for quiet-zones (again). I tried this once before, but this WI example re-inspired me.
The idea that loud horns are needed at every railroad crossing day and night is some sort of “big government” thing. We travel in cars that have good soundproofing and listen to the radio, so most of the time it’s difficult to hear anything outside. Flashing lights and guard rails, especially in urban areas, make a lot more sense.
But, they’re victims; can’t you understand that?
$900,000 for 10 crossings sounds like a relative bargain. The newspaper here in Culpeper, Virginia reported last week that the Town is about to spend more than $500,000 to upgrade (I think) only 3 railroad crossings; for the same purpose, of course. So the train whistles won’t have to blow in order to save stupid people from those sneaky trains.
The horn (or previously whistle) signal for approaching a crossing hasn’t changed in the last hundred year or so: two longs, short, long.
Culling of the herd. I really don’t feel sorry for morons getting hit by trains.
You are reading my mind again. Why people buy houses near these things and then complain is ludicrous.
We have a small airport nearby. It has been there for at least 30 years. It amazes me the amount of people that have bought homes that abut it and now show up at meetings trying to close it down, because they feel its not safe? HUH? No one forced these idiots to buy those homes in that location. Its another symptom of our “but I am entitled” society.
And I stopped noticing them pretty quickly too.
Fortunately, they were electric. Occasionally, a diesel electric would rumble by, and that would draw attention.
One woman I knew lived about as close as you could to the tracks, as in, her backyard abutted them, and during a RR strike, she said she and her husband would wake up in middle of the night because the trains weren't going by.
“Its another symptom of our but I am entitled society.”
What are you talking about? If local residents want to approach their LOCAL governments to make changes for the benefits for the residents, how is that considered “entitlement”? Conservatives believe that whenever govt power is necessary, it’s best kept as local as possible. Getting local officials to make changes is MUCH preferable than over-arching Federal legislation. Unless you’re a liberal, of course.
Capital Metro in Austin just got the first shipment of the new Metro rail cars. They were testing the trains at night and bigger than ****, people started complaining about the horns.
No mention that FREIGHT trains have been using that same track for years, including at night. Most of those are hauling road base, and have three to four engines. I guess the locals there were used to those blowing their horns at night.
Well, this is all just a liberal conspiracy against Country-Western music; do you know how many great Country-Western songs would never have been written if it weren’t for the lonely train whistle sound? ;-)
Relax folks...we’re just preparing the way for the moose limb call to prayers soon to be broadcast in the silence...5 times per day.
Oh, the humanity.
When I was running my attitude was, “I’m up, everyone is up.” Not really but had to blow the crossings or get nailed by management or the FRA.
So, no, not everyone loves the sound of a train in the distance.
“.and when someone gets killed because the train was forbidden to blow its horn, then what?”
A friend of mine lives in a small, mainline railroad town. She says “Everyone who grew up here knows someone that has been killed by a train.”
Then the emergency vehicles called the scene won't be allowed to use sirens either..
I don’t know what to say. I grew up one block from the tracks and LOVED!!!! to hear the sound of the train going by at night. Yes, while I was sleeping. In La Crosse there are numerous houses right next to the tracks. I’ve never heard of any petition to silence the trains as they go by.
I used to live about 2 blocks from the train tracks. Like you after the first week I didn’t hear them. Mine was mostly commuter rail but every night around midnight we’d have a huge freight come through.
My parents live out in the country where it is extremely quiet. I’d go to visit for Christmas for a week or 2 and it would take me 3 or 4 nights to adjust to the ‘spooky’ silence.
What is there about leftists and this train horn stuff. I live in Flagstaff, AZ and the granola and latte crew here have been up in arms and ready to spend millions in everyone’s tax dollars over the same issue. The trains have gone through Flagstaff, sounding their horns, since the 1880’s. That’s many, many years before the current crop of “crystal people” arrived from California. Trains moving mean prosperity; when they diminish or stop, a lot of trust funds underwriting some fashionably “green” lifestyles are going to dry up too.
Regarding the train horns, I tell these aging hippies; “If they’re too loud, you’re too old.”
The engineman is always permitted - indeed, required - to use the horn in case of an emergency, or to warn someone on or near the tracks. This supersedes the "quiet zone" rules.
Not to do so could result in rules violation charges against the engineman if an accident or fatality did happen afterwards. Modern locomotives have event recorders that record such things as the sounding of the horn and the ringing of the bell, headlight position, and numerous other things.
In fact, on trains such as Amtrak's Acela Express, the entire operation of the train is recorded and is retained as a permanent record. They could go back 5 years to a particular trip, and replay it back in front of you.
In the future, things are going to go even further. Today, the information is "recorded" onto an "event recorder", which can be played back later. But I believe Amtrak has invited bids on some sort of "real-time monitoring" system using "data radios", by which the operation of a locomotive can be reviewed continuously and in "real-time" as it is being operated, from a control center miles away. "Big brother is watching you", in real life! It won't be in operation for a few years, yet - but it's coming.
What am I talking about? I am talking about people who move into houses that are located near the trains, airports etc. then decide that they are bothered by them so they feel they are entitled to make them stop. Cut me a break.
I wasnt talking LOCAL vs.Federal. I was talking about idiots who put themselves into positions and think we all should change to suit them. Afterall they are entitled.
I live about a half mile south of a track. A few months ago I woke up because the house was shaking. I thought we were having an earthquake, but it lasted for over a minute. I realized it was a train passing. I can’t imagine how long and heavy that train must have been to wake me up by shaking the house.
That reminds me of coming home after a long cruise and not being able to sleep in my own bed because without all the normal shipboard sounds it was too quiet.
It seems pie in the sky to think that it is saving lives to add the whistle, when drivers have gone right around the arm and stopped on the tracks or idiots have walked around even when they see the train.
But hey, I appreciate the government saving me again.
“Im sure they got their homes for cheap due to the noise, now they got a free upgrade thanks to the taxpayers.”
A similar “windfall” happened for my Aunt, who owns a home near Billy Mitchell Field, outside of Milwaukee, WI.
The airport and air base were there first...then the city kept building subdivisions closer and closer to the airport.
Of course, people started whining about the noise (not my Aunt) and the city (taxpayers) forked over millions of dollars to give hundreds of homes new siding, new windows and doors and for some reason, better heating systems to help cut down on the noise.
Insanity! You KNEW you were buying a home near an airport. Yeesh!
I had a house in Cudahy which was also near the airport. Those planes coming in for a landing practically above my head were unnerving at first, but after a while, I didn’t even hear them and got used to the sound of my windows rattling, LOL!
“There’s the 7:20 coming in from Chicago. Wonder who’s having an adventure today?” ;)
Exactly. See my Post 46. :)
Everyone who grew up here knows someone that has been killed by a train.
Part of the reason these train stories and the endless WHINING by Madistan Hippies about their warning whistles strikes home is that my Father-in-Law lost his first Wife, (”Sweet Ann” as he calls her), his Sister and his Mother-in-Law due to a train/car crash. (He later married my Husband’s mother and they formed a blended family of 10 kids!)
The tracks (no longer in use now) are 100 yards from the edge of their farm, five miles up the road from our farm. The whistle and crossing arm malfunctioned while the three were returning from town and his wife and family members didn’t stand a chance.
Of course, there was a huge pay-out by those that maintained the crossings, but what consolation could that have been? He was widowed with six kids to raise before he was even 40 years old. :(
It’s sad, but that’s why these “in-towners” whining about buying a home near a railroad track in the first place makes me want to spit nails!
My ex sister-in-law lives 50 feet from a set of tracks.
You don’t get used to it.
Where I grew up in Ronceverte, WV, our house was on the mountain above the Greenbrier River and the railroad. We had no air conditioning so everyone slept with their windows open and screens to keep the bugs out at night. I can still remember lying in bed and hearing the coal trains coming down the valley in the distance. My great-grandfather was an engineer with the railroad and would walk down the mountain and hop aboard.