I live on the north end of Colorado Springs and have been wondering if there has been an increase in the number and frequency of trains passing through town in the middle of the night. In the past 14 years I don’t recall hearing as many trains between 2:45 a.m. and 5 a.m. as I have been hearing lately.
- D. Gallagher
ANSWER: We had similar e-mails from Monument and Gleneagle, and Karen Liptrap from Widefield had this observation: “Not only do there seem to be more trains but the whistle blowing frequency and duration has increased, and is very annoying during the sleeping hours. There are times that it sounds as though two trains are playfully signaling each other.”
There has been a major increase in train traffic, according to the railroads. It’s estimated we get 35-40 trains each day. James Barnes, director of media information for Union Pacific Railroad, said, “In general, business customers are looking at railroads as the most cost-effective way to move automobiles, grain, heavy freight. There are more, larger and heavier loads being moved.” Barnes said this trend is “being driven by increased trade on the West Coast from the Pacific Rim, goods coming in from China.” As we’ve seen here, they are also delivering "a great deal of coal.” Barnes said that as quickly as trains are loaded “we’re moving them toward their destinations” so they’re rolling day and night. With these increased loads you’ll also see and hear more railroad work crews, Barnes said. “When you’re carrying heavier loads you have to maintain the corridor, the infrastructure.”
Now about those horns. Since 2005, federal law has required that train crews blow their horns for 15-25 seconds when they approach a crossing. They are also required to blow the horns when wildlife or people are close to the tracks. There is no set sequence to the horn blasts, although in days gone by engineers had a horn message system.
What can you do for peace and quiet? They’re called “quiet zones.” Towns and cities can request “quiet zones” where no horns will be blown by trains passing through. However, those towns and cities must have safety features in place at all crossings. It’s expensive. Four crossing gates with flashing lights are at least $250,000 per crossing. Monument requested a “quiet zone” in 2005, and Security and Colorado Springs have looked into establishing “quiet zones” but financing them will always be an issue.<