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Why are Trains Blaring Their Horns at Night?

Dozens of people in Alexandria, Huntington, Kingstowne and elsewhere have complained about noise.

Residents in Alexandria and surrounding areas may want to buy earplugs. The sound of train horns blaring at night will continue for a few more weeks.

CSX spokesman Bob Sullivan told Patch Thursday the horns are related to track work that CSX began earlier this week. The horns are part of a safety precaution taken to protect workers who are on or near the tracks.

“It’s part of our routine maintenance of our 21,000 miles of railroad in the eastern United States, and they are replacing cross ties and doing some other work,” Sullivan said.

Dozens of residents have complained on various online forums about hearing trains blow their hornes with unusual frequency late at night. Some residents told Patch the noise is preventing them from sleeping well.

"It's frustrating when my 5 year old (who has to get up at 7 and go to school) can't sleep, and my 1 year old keeps waking because of it," said resident Melissa Martinez in an email to Patch.

A post on the Kingstowne Patch Facebook page got almost three dozen comments from residents who are disturbed by the horns. Discussions also have popped up on the Old Town Moms Yahoo group and the Huntington Community Group page on Facebook this week.

The rail work will continue through November along the CSX tracks down to Woodbridge. 

West End Alexandria Patch Editor Rachel Leonard contributed to this report.

Lee Hernly October 12, 2012 at 02:55 PM
The only problem is these horns are blaring overnight - mainly near 3:00am.
Bea Porter October 12, 2012 at 03:04 PM
I live a block from the trains and metro, I hear the metro announcing stops, I hear the tremble of the tracks, sometimes I can feel the vibration and see items in my house vibrate. I love the trains, I love to hear the whistles. I don't have AC so my windows are open almost all year, I love to hear the whistle during the night, it gives me an idea of how much longer I have to sleep. I have small children, they love the sounds of the trains also, and they never wake up hearing the whistles. It kind of lulls them. Its not much longer until the construction is done.
Martha Hudenburg October 12, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Martha I understand why they are doing this ...but...what about people like me that have sleeping problems... If I wake up I can't go back to sleep that easyly it was 6 o' clock and I was still awake!!! I will go crazy if this continue like that... There has to be another way to solve this problem for the community!!!......
Leah October 12, 2012 at 03:28 PM
I am all for keeping workers safe on the tracks, but my goodness, there MUST be another way than just sounding a train horn excessively in the middle of the night right next to a city suburb!
McBrinn October 12, 2012 at 04:51 PM
I came in to say what Bra did. I love the sound and I especially love feeling the low rumble when a heavy string of coal cars pass.
KW October 12, 2012 at 04:52 PM
There is no other way. The horn and bell on a locomotive are the only two things that can warn people around the tracks. The reason it's in the middle of the night is because there are fewer trains that will pass through the work order.
McBrinn October 12, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Bea, rather.
Pamela October 12, 2012 at 06:02 PM
I knew I liked you Kendall.
Pamela October 12, 2012 at 06:05 PM
It's call going to your doctor for sleeping pills. Or better yet take a vacation. Why is your sleeping problem more important then the works on the line????
AND October 12, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Kendall: "There is no other way"? Really?? Maybe that's true when you take away various levels of direct audio communication between the train operations, operations center and those on the ground, as well as GPS that tracks trains locations, plus the fact that trains are already loud without the horn. Nevertheless, why not 1 or 2 horns for all of the remaining work crews who left their communications radio, cell phone and train schedules at home. Does it really require to be blown 30-50 times to get through a construction zone? Those horns can carry for over 5 miles!
KW October 12, 2012 at 06:20 PM
@ AND, you have no clue how the railroad operates. There is a reason why trains have to blow their horns, day or night. 1 or 2 quick blast of the horn will not do when the work order that a train has to pass through is 5 miles long. The horn is not the last level in the alert system on a train, it's the first. Everyone in the long work gang doesn't have a radio and they are operating a loud piece of machinery.
KW October 12, 2012 at 06:21 PM
...oh, and I like you too Pamela.
J marks October 12, 2012 at 07:03 PM
For those who don't work for a living around heavy machinery. They are most likely already wearing earplugs next to heavy equipment with generators etc. if the workers had to stop everytime a train comes by, it would take 5 times longer. The track safety watches on behalf of the crew and his/ her sole focus is on safety, while the crew focuses on the work at hand. Trains are more dangerous than cars on highway because they have less options , they pretty much can't stop or steer clear. The horn alerts those who do have options to mame sure they are out of way. To put your self in thier shoes, approach a busy intersection with headphone or earplugs in and try to cross in impeded. You can't do it, even with traffic lights, crosswalks and signs. Same reason schools have crossing guards. Not to police the kids, but to watch the large moving metal objects. Federal law mandates audible warnings for railroad crossings and other potential unsafe conditions. For all your annoyance, feel for the folks who live on towns where tracks cross every street along main, that's a lot of horn blowing
KW October 12, 2012 at 08:02 PM
CSX operating rule 14. The engine horn must be sounded at all places where required by rule or law or to prevent accidents. The sound of the horn should be distinct, with intensity and duration proportionate to the distance the signal is to be conveyed. Rule 15. The engine horn will be sounded and engine bell rung by trains approaching and passing roadway workers, identified by white or orange hard hats.
Leslie Hagan October 12, 2012 at 09:04 PM
I have lived a block away from Potomac Yard for 36 years. I would give anything to hear the old train yard noises in lieu of the rerouted traffic going up and down my street at all hours, not to mention the fact that the wretched new hump back Monroe Ave bridge now carrys the Rt 1 traffic sounds all over the eastern part of Del Ray when before we didn't hear it. You all are complaining about a temporary situation, we here face a lifetime of constant noise. Live with it.
Pamela October 12, 2012 at 10:15 PM
You people realize you are talking to someone who knows the rail road. You get them Kendall.
KW October 12, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Yes Pamela, for 34 years I have worked for the railroad, the past 27 as an engineer.
Martha October 14, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Thankfully there have not been the 30 to 40 blasts from the train horns for the past few nights. I appreciate the need for safety but due to medical issues, it is hard for me to get back to sleep after being awakened by the horns. I don't like to take pills and any sleeping pill takes a while to work. Just glad that the horns have not sounded loud enough to bother everyone. I don't know what CSX has done but everyone is sleeping better. We live about 1 mile from the tracks and can hear the normal horns which are not a bother. Martha
Stacy October 15, 2012 at 04:29 PM
I live in Island Creek, about 1.5 miles from the tracks as the flow cries. I am a bit annoyed by it, but I guess it's for safety's sake. But it is a LOT of blaring... short little bursts, 10-20 of them each time a train comes thru. Though, not half as bad as Fort B and that horn they got a year or so back, that played Reveille at 0630 and taps at 2300. Thank God they turned down the volume on those.
JJ October 18, 2012 at 04:40 PM
If you didn't look at where the train tracks were - and the rich history of Del Ray/Alexandria trains, before living here, then the fault is yours. Invest in better acoustical isolation in your home, white noise generators or something that does the same job, and/or invest in good earplugs. I chose to live a mile away rather than a couple blocks away, and I can't leave my windows open on nice nights but the noise is completely gone with a fan and double pane glass.
Rumpled Apron October 18, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Only in the DC metropolitan area would someone instantly be able to tell us the status of an OSHA reg. Well done!
Larry McDorchester October 19, 2012 at 12:41 AM
I think that the sound of a train passing is very romantic.
Joseph M. October 19, 2012 at 01:19 AM
If something was, it shall ever be? There's no changing how the way things are done? A train whistle at one point was the only way to warn long distances. It's the 21st century, perhaps all the workers can wear headsets that block outside noise from the heavy equipment they are using, but sounds a loud tone to warn of coming trains. A loud horn every 5 seconds while the train travels miles through a work zone is not romantic.
Mark Williams October 19, 2012 at 02:11 AM
The ICC still exists in the form of the USDOT Surface Transportation Board. All rail-related commercial, rate, corporate, and service authority is held by the STB, and rail safety authority has been vested in the USDOT Federal Railroad Administration for decades. The City's web site is correct; the STB regulations were the ICC regulations, and they are still valid and substantively unmodified. Their adoption notices still say ICC.
BP October 19, 2012 at 05:19 AM
So are the railroad look outs lame brains or what? What if everybody did the whistle thing around the work zone?
SO October 19, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Some people had made such rude comments toward the community!, like "get better earplugs, change the acoustic of your house, go and see a doctor...." They had solutions for every one!. Nobody is complaining of regular sounds of the train.. we were used to that. We are talking about NOW not from a century ago.
Kristy October 23, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Since I won't be one to protest the sounds, I thought I'd offer a well intended solution that has been working for me. I am using a fan (pointed away from me since its cooler now) to block the noise and some inexpensive ear plugs that work really well. They are blocking all of the other sounds in the neighborhood too - barking dogs, late night neighbors, emergency vehicles. I too have trouble sleeping in general. I definitely need more vacations! HA HA! Here is a link to some great ear plugs that are also comfortable. Maybe they will work for others too. http://www.amazon.com/Howard-Leight-MAX-1-plugs-Uncorded/dp/B0033YLEGO/ref=pd_sim_hpc_1 I've also used a sound machine too in the past with good results. Here is a link to the one I've used. http://www.amazon.com/Howard-Leight-MAX-1-plugs-Uncorded/dp/B0033YLEGO/ref=pd_sim_hpc_1 These recommendations are well intended for those folks who may need a quick fix. I've tried many things over the years to drown out noises that keep me awake. (And everything keeps me awake!) It might be worth a try for a quick fix. If you try it, I hope they work for you.
Kristy October 23, 2012 at 12:15 AM
The copy and paste for the sound machine didn't work as intended the first time and ended up a duplicate of the ear plugs. Here it is... http://www.amazon.com/Conditioner-Marpac-formerly-Sleepmate-980A/dp/B000KUHFGM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350950382&sr=8-1&keywords=noise+mach
Lynn Trundle October 24, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Uh, no, the fault is not necessarily ours, JJ, because in my area (Franconia Rd. near Fleet Drive), no train horns blew EVER until Dec. 2006. I did check out this area, since it's fairly near the train tracks, before I bought my townhouse. I parked outside and waited until a train went by. Although it was pretty loud, I realized I was outside, and also I figured it would be much like an airplane going overhead. Some temporary noise, but acceptable. After I moved in (July 2004), I really didn't notice the trains going by much. It was only when they started blowing their horns every time they went through this area that it became a problem. Also, there seem to be more trains going through here than there used to be. I have complained several times to CSX over the years and to the fed. gov., to no avail. I have gotten a different explanation each time of why CSX is blowing these horns, after the first one (being near an at-grade crossing, which is not true here) didn't hold up. When that wasn't the answer, they came up with something else. Believe me, if I could afford to move, I would. The basic issue here--aside from the temporary track work which means even worse horn-blowing than normal--is that CSX can do what it wants because no one controls them. So, they will do what they want.
Only November 12, 2012 at 06:34 AM
I live right next door to the PG plaza metro station and this is getting to be really bad. Every single night midnigth I mean they start with their so annoying horn! Is there something that can be done to stop this! They shoul put it on question 7 for next presidential elections! Ban those F. Horns!

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