LETTER: Train whistles mandated by federal rules

Abbotsford city noise bylaws do not and cannot have any bearing on railway engine whistles

In response to letter writer Jim Barrett’s complaint about “Blasting trains”, (Abbotsford News, Sept. 18), it should be pointed out that these trains are not Southern Railway of BC, which generally operates trains to and from its yards south of Vye Road just west of Highway 11 to Huntingdon/Sumas during the day time and occasionally on weekends.

These trains are, for the most part BNSF, CPR or CNR using the Whatcom County ‘Inland Route’ to points south in Washington State and then to other states, such as Montana, mainly because the I-5 rail corridor is so congested north of Seattle.

As for train engine horn noise being “an excessive and constant high level”, Mr. Barrett should consult the Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR) that requires, according to Rule 14(1), that “the train horn must be blown two long, one short and one long succession at every whistle post….and at least one-quarter mile from every public crossing at grade…as well when view is restricted by weather, curvature or other conditions.” There are, to my knowledge, no restrictions on the time of day.

There is a proposed amendment to the rule that requires the “whistle signal must provide warning of 10 seconds minimum duration…”

Furthermore, the whistle must be 10 db above ambient noise. The horn must be more than 96 db but its perceived level can be augmented by the echo due to natural and built environments and should be located at the front of the locomotive for maximum effect.

Seeing that the CPR railway corridor from the Clayburn Diamond south to downtown Abbotsford has one private crossing (Old Maclure Homestead just south of Bateman Road) and five public crossings (Maclure Road west of McCallum Road; McCallum Road near Morey Avenue, at the foot of the hill); George Ferguson Way; and, Essensdene Avenue), the CROR applies, particularly to Maclure and McCallum Roads where there is also a sight-line issue.

Sorry, but the Abbotsford city noise bylaws do not and cannot have any bearing on railway engine whistles and horns as only the Transportation Safety Board can address complaints – if Mr. Barrett were to complain to the city and thecity were to take his complaint to the railways and the TSB.

That is why the mayor and council have “ignored” all these train noise complaints. It probably has not been presented to them with sufficient support to warrant their taking on the issue.

As for all this railway activity happening during the quiet period of midnight to 6 a.m., that is when there is less rail traffic on the CPR / CNR lines that go to and from Roberts Bank Westshore (coal) terminals and traffic will only increase when the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project comes to fruition.

The issue of train engineers using “such excessively long, continuous horn blasts” has already been addressed.

And for the longer trains going through downtown Abbotsford in the imminent future, with greater frequency, enhanced railway crossings might improve the noise situation but at a cost of nearly a half a million dollars per crossing, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

As long as we have as many railway crossing accidents in this area, this province and the country with fatalities and injuries and phenomenal costs to railway companies for cleaning up accident sites due to driver stupidity, we will have two long, one short and one long horn blasts to alert drivers who aren’t paying attention because they have their radios or CDs playing too loud to hear the oncoming train.

G.E. MacDonell


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