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wundayatta's avatar

What is it like to live next to a train track?

Asked by wundayatta (58377 points ) September 27th, 2012

What kind of track did you live next to? Was this in a rural or urban area? Can you describe the sounds? How did the sounds affect you? What was your relationship with the track?

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35 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

My sister had a store in town for three years. The tracks for the freight trains ran close to the back door (50 yards). The trains (really big ones) roared through 14 times every 24 hours.. It was unpleasant; the whistle with its eerie Doppler effect was unnerving and always a surprise.

There were two apartments above the store and above all the other ones on Main St; the renters simply grinned and bore it. The town was built around the railroad.

I live about five miles away as the crow flies. I hear them when I am awake and find the noise evocative of rural living and rather soothing, but the distance muffles the noise, the vibrations and the air pollution.

JLeslie's avatar

There are tracks about 4–5 miles away from me too. I only hear the train sometimes in the wee hours of the night when everything is very quiet and still. In the winter when all the trees are bare and much of the fauna are gone it is heard more easily. I like hearing it in the distance. It never wakes me, I only hear it if I am already awake. I love trains and transportation in general. I am fascinated by the movement of goods and people across towns, cities, and states.

I would never want to live very close to tracks though, because of the noise, especially if it is an area the train blows its horn. Where I live, the tracks that go through the very populated suburbs (that train is about 20 miles from me) blows its horn as it crosses through, and I am shocked they allow it and want it that way. The train slows as it passes through town, there are signals and bars that come down to warn traffic, the horn seems like overkill, and very noisy.

syz's avatar

I used to live far enough away from the train track that I only heard the whistle on quiet nights with the windows open, which I loved. It just seemed like such a lonely, romantic sound. But my partner’s father lived less than 100 yards from a track, and she said it was awful. The noise, the vibration – she never understood how he could sleep there.

Seek's avatar

There’s a freight line that runs down the US 41 corridor, sub-urban. It’s not used often, and when it is, it’s usually in the middle of the night. The trains are fairly quiet – they’re not more than ¼ mile from my house as the crow flies (from any house I’ve lived in during the past six years), and all I ever hear is a soft, distant chugging. It’s not at all unpleasant.

syz's avatar

Drat, missed the editing window.

I also used to walk home from school along that same track. It was hot and lined with wildflowers (this was in Florida), but it was also private and quiet and was where I first experimented with kissing my first boyfriend (I distinctly remember sweaty-palmed hand holding).

picante's avatar

One of my fond childhood memories is going to bed at night in my grandparents’ home, which was situated about a mile from a track. I loved the distant sound of the wheels on the track and was always a little excited to hear the whistle.

As an adult, I’ve only lived close enough to a track where I could hear the whistle when the wind came from a certain direction. I love the cozy lonesomeness that is evoked.

gailcalled's avatar

Even with signals, crossing bars and the whistle, people are still killed on the rr. crossing. Now with extra distractions such as phones and texting, all possible warning are vital.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Like @JLeslie, there is a train track that runs about 4–5 miles from the house. It’s probably the same one. Oddly though, I don’t hear trains at night…just in the morning around 5am. I like the sound of its warning whistle. It’s far enough away that it isn’t jolting; just a gentle wake-up message.

There is another train track that runs through Memphis about a block away from the office. A co-worker lived across the street, and I once asked him how he put up with the noise. He said that it was difficult at first, but he got used to it. He added that the worst part was dreading to hear the metal-on-metal collision sound from one of the crazy drivers who didn’t heed the warnings.

JLeslie's avatar

@gailcalled I really don’t feel the whistle adds anything in that part of town. People go around the bars, because they are impatient, or try to beat the bars before they completely come down, the whistle means nothing to reckless people. It is a very busy part of town, with busy streets, no one walks along the train tracks, the crossing are really the only concern. In FL we didn’t have a whistle, I have lived and been many places where there was no whistle. From what I understand in downtown Memphis they recently fought and won to stop the whistle by the Mississippi river where new condos are being and have been built. In rural areas where there are no bells and whistles I am all for it.

@Pied_Pfeffer Do you think the train that runs parallel to Poplar needs a whistle?

janbb's avatar

There is a commuter train track about 3 blocks from my house. When I first moved in, the train noise would disturb my sleep. Now, I don’t even hear it.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I love to hear the sound of a train when I am sleeping – but in the distance. However, if you live next to a train track, I think you would get so used to it that you wouldn’t hear it anymore.

Sunny2's avatar

When I was a child, I had a friend who lived right next to the train tracks. The house shook when a train went by. I guess you get used to it.

JLeslie's avatar

Just thinking about the I Love Lucy when the Inn (Inn is an overstatement) they stay at is on the train tracks and the beds move across the room. Hahaha. Too funny.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@JLeslie Yeah, it’s the track that runs parallel to Poplar Ave. As for requiring that the trains blow the whistle when approaching a crossing? The first question is, how many car/train accidents have occurred and why? The second is, how many residential dwellers along those tracks would take issue with it? I agree with @gailcalled. If people would pay better attention and heed the warning lights and bars, it shouldn’t be necessary to toot the whistle at crossings, unless it is an emergency.

And thanks for the reminder of what TV show had the comedy scene about the hotel beds. The Hampton Inn on Poplar gets a plethora of complaints from guests about the trains on the Poplar tracks. Their frequent guests always ask for a room on the North side of the building.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I used to in college and I loved it. I thought it was quaint.

CWOTUS's avatar

I lived near a track in rural Florida many years ago. The noise of the train itself on the track was not so loud or disturbing. What makes living near trains notably noisy is the whistle sounding at all grade crossings. Even in rural areas there are a fair number of grade crossings. Every time the train approaches from either direction, the whistles sound, and those things are LOUD.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer I think @gailcalled was saying the whistle should be blown no matter what for safe measure. I was the one who thinks it should be evaluated by area. Your point about accidents is of course worth considerations. I have no idea of the stats where we live nor other towns with and without whistles.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@JLeslie Whoops! You are right. I stand corrected about the whistle addition.

Aster's avatar

I grew up with a train track two blocks from our house. I clearly recall as a child the fright I’d feel when asleep at night . It sounded like the train was heading for my bedroom. Tremendously loud. On the other hand, I liked playing near and on the tracks with my friends so I guess it’s a toss up.

Ayesha's avatar

It was an Urban area. I didn’t like it so much because there was too much pollution. We had too keep our windows closed most of the time. The noise didn’t bother me as much as the air pollution did. I couldn’t get much fresh air and that bothered me.

rojo's avatar

In college I lived in a suburban area next to a track which ran immediately behind my yard. In addition, we were three houses away from a road crossing so added to the noise of the train itself, we were subject to that darned warning blast every time one went by. For the first two weeks it was hell but gradually we got so used to it. When they were over friends used to ask how we could live there but unless it was pointed out to us we didn’t even notice when one went by

jonsblond's avatar

I live on a farm in a very rural area located between a town with a population of 350 just 3 miles north of us and a town with a population of 3000 just 3 miles south of us. We have train tracks and a crossing just 500 yards from our house. I really enjoy watching the trains travel from one town to the other. We can see the entire length of the trains. I also enjoy listening to the whistles. I’m watching a train at the very moment!

On a busy day we can have up to 20 trains that pass our house. Amtrak comes through 6 times a day. The noise doesn’t bother me at all. I actually find it comforting. There is a house near us that is located right next to the tracks and I do wonder how irritating that must be. I wouldn’t want to live that close. I like our distance from the track.

Coloma's avatar

I couldn’t tell you, but I CAN tell you what it’s like to live next door to 3 little jackasses and 2 big mules. The morning foghorn braying makes the house rumble like a train, no doubt. lol

ucme's avatar

I can’t express what I feel because i’ve gone off track already, lost my train of thought.

YARNLADY's avatar

My parents bought a house directly across the street from a train track, at the intersection. It was very cheap, and a horrible place to spend the rest of your life – which is what they did, roughly 20 years.

It was extremely loud, and every time it went by, it spewed invisible, gritty soot all over everything. It also spewed a hot wind, so no plants would grow on that side of the house. Their house had a basement, and it was the coolest, cleanest part of the house.

It was fairly pleasant in the basement, because the house was built on a hill. There was an outside entrance to the basement on the opposite side of the house from the tracks.

The bedrooms were on the far side of the house from the tracks, but it still took some getting used to. I never actually lived there, but only visited from time to time.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

I grew up in a small town (1960 pop 500). There was a railroad that ran right through the middle of town, and my house was about 100 yards from it. I vaguely remember the steam engines locomotives that looked like this, although early in the 1950’s they changed over to diesel, with the passenger engines like this and freighters like this. Later, in a move toward “streamliner” passenger service, they were using these.

As far as sleeping at night, I remember both extremes. The trains running through at night would wake me only enough to turn over and go back to sleep. Although I do remember warm summer nights, before air conditioning, sleeping with the windows open. I remember hearing the far-off blare of the horn, faintly at first, but growing louder with each signal. I could hear the roar of the diesel engines from miles away. I knew that when the train rounded the final bend approaching the town, I would soon hear the whistle signal (long, long, short, long) indicating the grade crossing, or road crossing, in the town.

I remember learning that there is a complete code of whistle signals. By the time I was 12, I had most of them figured out just from observing the trains coming through the town, and when they would stop to switch freight cars on the siding that served the local grain elevator.

I think growing up so close to a railroad had a profound effect on me. I would spend hours with the US Atlas following rail lines. I always wanted to hop a trains and find out where they went. I never did hop a train, but I have traveled this country extensively both by rail and other means.

Pazza's avatar

I grew up in a bungalow, the garden was pretty big (by English standards), next to the garden was an allotment that was owned by the ‘welsh witch’ that lived in the bungalow behind. Just on the edge of the allotment was the train track. Relative to our house it was about 50 yards away. Anyhoo, to give you an idea how it affected me, I remember my 8th or 9th birthday I had a party and a friend stayed over that night. when everything was quiet later on that night, he suddenly said to me ‘WHATS THAT!?!’, to which I replied, ‘whats what?’, ‘whats that noise’ he said, concentrating I said ‘oh thats just the train’.......

Because I’d lived with the sound for so long, I didn’t even notice it, I think my brain just switched off to the noise to the point where it didn’t even register.

A bit like when your lying on your back trying to go to sleep and you start to snore but you can’t hear yourself snoring.

The only bad thing about the railway line was that on the other side of it was a marsh where we used to play ‘man-hunt’, and also catch ‘great crested newts’ (which turned out to be a protected species?......(we had about 20 in an old plastic fish tank one summer!......), anyway, instead of taking the slightly longer route over the bridge, unbeknownst to mum and dad, we’d just hop over the tracks and into the marsh. We used to do this almost every night of the summer for about 4 years say.

The UK electric lines would fry you in a few seconds if you were to fall on them…....

I can remember running over those lines many times without a care in the world other than being caught by the station master who was about another 50 yards down the track.

If you look on google maps and search for ‘Maghull Train Station’, you can see the marshland we used to play in as kids.

Pazza's avatar

@Yetanotheruser – WOW… they’d have woke me up. They’re a bit bigger and noisier than the little tiddlers we get in the uk like this !

Symbeline's avatar

I lived near a train track for about three years. It was just down the road, longing the river. What I remember the most is hearing trains while sleeping. Most of them were freighters, so they were really long and you heard them for quite a while. I used to love the droning sound it made, helped me sleep. It was a busy area, and in between two train stations, so about ten trains could be heard in 24 hours.
I used to mess around near those railroads a lot too. It was right by the river, (my area at the time, Osborne Village, Winnipeg, was situated in between two rivers) and it had little woods, so it was a fun place to hang around. Since this particular area was in between two stations, (although by foot, one was really far away) the trains went relatively slow when they went by…some friends and I would jump on them and have a little ride lol. Sometimes they were slow enough that you could jump them, but we had to be careful when they sped up again so we could get down and not break every bone in our body. Of course, this was totally dangerous and stupid, for reasons I don’t think I need mention.
But living near the railroad was pretty cool. Offered fun night sounds, and a cool place to hang around. They eventually put up fences so stupid kids like me would stop going, but the woods were still accessible, and they even made a bike trail there.

I also got arrested once for walking on the train bridge haha…the bridges have little sidewalks, but I wasn’t going to use that as justification for my trespassing.

Coloma's avatar

@Symbeline gets splatterd by the 5:01 when her dropped slurpee gets wedged in the tracks. lolol

filmfann's avatar

My grandfather was a hobo from the 30’s to the 70’s. He rode the trains so much, he could tell how many cars were on the train by the sound the engine was making.
When my Mom got him to settle down, and live in his sister’s house, they were 50 feet from a train track. He loved hearing the train, though he knew his traveling days were over.

When I lived in San Leandro, I was 5 blocks from the Amtrak rails, and about a mile from BART. The BART trains made more noise in my house than the trains. Strange, but true.

Symbeline's avatar

@Coloma my poor slurpee

woodcutter's avatar

There’s a railroad about a ¼ mile away crossing the road. Our dogs hear it coming before we do and all the howling and dog yodeling they do when they hear it coming is quaint.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

My collie/shepherd never seemed to be bothered by the trains, although my neighbor’s cocker would howl cry, as @woodcutter said, before the trains came by and for a few minutes afterward, especially the faster passenger and express freight trains.

OpryLeigh's avatar

My dad lived next to a train track for a while and I used to love the sound of the trains going by every hour, this was an urban area. Living close to train tracks would not bother me at all but I would rather it be in the countryside. I find the noise of trains very reassuring, especially at night.

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