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Washington Voices

Simple Rules Could Settle Whistle Flap

Thu., March 16, 1995

Regarding train whistles on Trent: Everything I have read talks about an all or nothing solution to the problem. It seems to me that there could be a compromise that would please all involved.

My house in Millwood is literally a stone’s throw from another set of train tracks. Twentyfive years of listening to the trains there (I can also hear the trains on Trent from home) has demonstrated to me the different ways that different engineers interpret the railroad’s rule regarding whistling at crossings.

Some are like a teenage boy with his first fancy car horn. They use ‘em a lot. Sometimes the whistling starts a half mile away from the crossing, and the engineer hangs on the cord until half the train is across the street, whether gated or not.

Others whistle a half mile away, then whistle again just as they cross the street. This has certainly been ample warning for me the times a train has surprised me at the ungated crossing near my house.

Also, on Trent, is there any reason why when there is a train already crossing the street for another train coming either direction on the adjoining set of tracks to whistle?

The road is blocked, nobody needs warning, for heaven’s sake!

How about the wee hours of the morning?

Especially at gated crossings I would think just a short toot or two would suffice.

So, if I could sit down with both parties I would suggest:

A restriction on the amount of time an engineer can hang on a whistle cord, maybe longer at ungated crossings.

Specific places where the whistling should happen (i.e., don’t whistle all the way through the crossing).

Further restrictions on the length of a whistle blast between, say, midnight and 6 a.m.

Restrict a train from whistling if there is already another train in the crossing.

Have these rules apply only in populous areas.


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