Publisher’s note: After this story was posted Wednesday, we received reports from citizens indicating that the train engineers were still using their horns despite the new system. We have reached out to the City of Edmonds, Burlington Northern and Sound Transit to clarify why this is happening, and will update readers when we learn more.
At 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, City of Edmonds Signal Engineer Darren Browning opened the control box at the Main Street railroad crossing and flipped a switch to activate the new wayside horns and quiet zone signals, making those loud, blaring train horns that force many waterfront visitors to cover their ears a thing of the past.
“Downtown rail crossings are now quiet zones, at least as far as rail traffic is concerned,” he said as he put the new system into operation.
Rather than an approaching train sounding its horn from hundreds of feet away as it nears the crossing, the wayside horns isolate the audible warning to the crossing area only. This ensures that the sound will be loud enough to get attention along the streets approaching the crossing, but will be less intrusive to those not directly in the path and cut down on auditory pollution.
Along with the wayside horns, additional visual signals alert train operators that downtown Edmonds is now a quiet zone where sounding the traditional onboard train horn is not permitted. The new horns take over the legal requirement for an audible warning to pedestrians and traffic that a train is approaching.
“The wayside horns are very directional and should really enhance everyone’s enjoyment of our waterfront,” explained Browning. “To hear the maximum volume you’ll need to be 100 feet away and directly in front of the horn. If you’re closer, further away or off to one side they’ll be much less loud. You might even completely miss them!”
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel