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Why do trains coming through in the middle of the night need to blow their horns so much?

Ken Little

Blame the late-night noise on regulations, says Gary Sease, a spokesman for major freight carrier CSX.

“In general, trains blow horns at crossings and in certain other situations as required by federal regulations,” Sease says in an e-mail response to the question.

At a crossing, Sease says train crews sound the horn in a prescribed sequence – “two long sounds, one short, followed by a long.”

“The horns are for the safety of motorists and pedestrians,” Sease says.

Some communities have worked through the Federal Railroad Administration to gain approval for “Quiet Zones,” in which trains do not blow horns at crossings so designated, Sease says.

Those crossings generally must have special equipment, such as four-quadrant gates, which effectively seal off the crossing and prevent motorists from driving into the crossing. Other crossings have barriers to keep drivers from

pulling around stopped traffic and proceeding through the crossing.

“This special equipment can be costly,” Sease says.

For more information on the FRA Train Horn Rule, go to www.fra.dot.gov/us/Content/1318

User-contributed question by:
Craig Newkirk

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8 Responses to “ Why do trains coming through in the middle of the night need to blow their horns so much?”

  1. On February 17, 2010 at 10:23 pm Richard Rhoads wrote:

    We went through this issues several years back at Trolley Path Condominiums in the 2300 block of Wrightsville Ave. , right by the tracks. After several complaints by our home owner’s association and other residents of the Forest Hills area, and our city attorney, we did eventually find out that trains have a volume control on their horns. Some of the nicer operators use a softer setting after midnight.

  2. On February 19, 2010 at 5:42 pm Mister wrote:

    Regulations are regulations. The railroads existed well before any fancy housing developments or condominiums. People that build, buy and live in these places KNEW the railroad tracks were there.

    Would any of you be happier with a train not blowing it’s horn at a grade corssing, and then a motorist that isn’t paying attention gets slammed by the train and get injured (or killed), and that motorist happens to be a loved one?

    The trains blow their horns for a reason…to get attention. If motorists would actually pay attention and OBEY warning signs, lightd and bells at these crossings, perhaps a change in the regulations could be warranted. However, collisions between trains and motor vehicles at grade crossings CONTINUE to happen and happen more and more every day. Most of them just happen to minor (luckily) and the drastic ones are the ones the media puts out for us to see.

    I have lived right beside railroad tracks for most of my life. I got used to it rather quickly, and now I actually miss the trains since there are no tracks anywhere near my house…

  3. On May 31, 2013 at 10:58 pm Patti St Laurent wrote:

    I live on Beacon Hill above the trains and they blast day and night, yet there are many crossings and signs, etc…can’t you turn them off please??? Once in a while??

  4. On October 22, 2013 at 11:56 am an wrote:

    It is very unfair to say you know about this when you purchase a home. Unless the sellers disclose this information no you dont know about it. The are no tracks directly near our house but there is about a mile or so away in which we hear the sounds frequently in the middle of the night early morning. Those tracks have gates that drop when the train comes as well as flashing lights and signs so there should not be a need to awake the public when proper precautions are made to block off the tracks from motorist. Again you cant say a buyer knows about this because the sellers most definitely did not disclose this information to us or we wouldn’t have bought the house. I”m guessing many sellers don’t tell buyers because it would be harder to sell there home.

  5. On November 19, 2013 at 9:51 am kevin wrote:

    I live in Santa Rosa NM and there are no crossings just over and under passes, and yet they still blow there horns. I do think they want attention but its not needed. People get hit by trains because their not paying attention, even while the horns are going off so they dont work. The big light on the front is enough at night to warn people. I mean if you where deaf it wouldnt do any good to blow a horn. Everybody has ear buds in there ears anymore, or stereos so loud they cant hear anything. They still get hit by trains regardless of the horn, its just noise pollution.

  6. On February 16, 2016 at 8:09 pm Penny Thostenson wrote:

    Trains blow their horns for 15 min. straight at night and they are still blowing them on their way out of town. They aren’t just blowing them at intersections. I feel sorry for anyone who lives near the tracks. They should not be allowed to do this in the middle of the night!

  7. On November 30, 2017 at 7:15 pm Gary T.R. wrote:

    The trains about a mile away from my house blow their horns all through the night. I’d gladly sacrifice the life of the occasional retard who crosses the tracks for some peace and quiet.

  8. On December 7, 2017 at 3:23 am Kathy Moore wrote:

    The regs I read say a long, two short, and a long whistle is required as a warning for a crossing. I am once again awake because of how long a train sat stationary and blew his whistle at 1:30 am and this is not the first time tonight. Give us a break.

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