Glitches continue to plague Edmonds’ wayside railroad crossing horns

The wayside horns are designed to alert motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and others about approaching trains. Installed in 2019, they have experienced numerous problems. 

Since their installation in June 2019, Edmonds’ two wayside crossing horns have been beset with a series of problems including coordinating operations with BNSF, electrical issues and even a suspected lightning strike.

Aimed at enhancing quiet zones in Edmonds, the horns were envisioned as a way to warn motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and others about approaching trains, while limiting unnecessary noise pollution leaking into adjacent residential and commercial areas by focusing the warning signal where it is needed. Two warning horn systems were installed at the Main and Dayton Street at-grade railroad crossings. The work was done by Texas-based Quiet Zone Technologies, at a total project cost of $421,000.

According to city officials, the recent problems stem from moisture intruding into the Dayton Street crossing horns and causing short circuits in the electrical system. 

The latest in this series of problems began in December 2023 involving what city officials describe as “intermittent electrical failure” of the Dayton Street horns caused by the heavy December rains. City crews worked to dry out and repair the system, and while these measures initially allowed the wayside horns to return to operation, continuing heavy rains are causing intermittent failures and the system has been taken offline.

City electrical crews are again assessing the problem hoping to make a permanent fix. In the event they cannot, the city is also assembling leads on outside contractors with experience with wayside crossing horn systems. Compounding the problem is that in 2022 the original vendor – Quiet Zone Technologies – informed the city that it was shutting down its wayside horn operations. Its website returns a 404 error.

The wayside horn system will remain offline while this work progresses and until a solution is found, trains will again sound onboard horns as they pass through Edmonds.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

  1. Sometimes newer isn’t better. Train horns are part of my growing up in Edmonds. Along with the ferry horn. And you can still use them!!

    1. Yes, Cynthia, the sounds of trains and ferries are an integral part of the Edmonds experience, and I have missed them since these horns were installed. I live on 5th and I hear them as loud as the train whistles they were intended to replace “to reduce neighborhood noise.” Not very successful in my opinion, and the sound is obnoxious and annoying. Another failed City initiative. Remove them and go back to normal horn whistles! People who live in Edmonds need to adapt to the sounds around them and not force the City to respond to the whims of newcomers.

  2. $421K…. could use that money for the budget right now!

    “Quiet Zone Technologies – informed the city that it was shutting down its wayside horn operations. Its website returns a 404 error.”

    “the wayside horn system will remain offline while this work progresses and until a solution is found, trains will again sound onboard horns as they pass through Edmonds.”


  3. A $421,000 system designed to be outside that can’t handle the rain? What a joke! Edmonds get your money back!

  4. I too grew up in Edmonds and live in Edmonds and have always loved hearing the trains. We live a mile up and don’t hear the new horns! Glad old horns back.

  5. Flagstaff, Arizona, converted to this system several years ago. THey have several crossings of a major east-west transcontinental route. From all I have seen (heard?) when visiting my son there, it seems to do a fine job, and it clearly has helped solve some of the noise pollution in the community. Perhaps local officials and railroad staff should contact them to learn from their experiences.

    1. I’d say that it’s a darn sight drier in Flagstaff than it is in Edmonds. Edmonds has existed for how many years with the trains sounding their horns, as required by law, at each crossing.

  6. Full disclosure: we love the train horns. We do have a question: Does anyone know where the “code” came from for the train horns? Long, long, short, lonnnnggg. Is it like Morse code for trains? The artificial horns use it, and the real trains use the same pattern, all in their own style. We’re curious….

    1. Non-resident headline reader here… the train “codes” are as old as the railroads that use them You are correct in the “Morse code” similarity. These codes preceed radios, cellphones, telegraph, intercoms, etc on trains, for the crew to communicate where they are on the road, upcoming landmarks like crossings, bridges, tunnels, stopping, moving, etc.
      The popular 2 long 1 short 1 long is usually for roadway crossings, and now not only for the crew but for vehicle drivers approaching crossings. Intercrew comms are now usually by radio, so the other codes are unnecessary.
      A list of codes can be found on the web.

      sidenote… as a firefighter/paramedic, I would use the 2L1S1L code on the emergency unit approaching some intersections. Nice to see the reactions of those who know where that code comes from…

      1. Richard, thanks! This info is most helpful. And thanks for all the work you did as a firefighter and paramedic. Take care.

  7. Remember when the Train Horn Noise Advisory Committee went around asking us Edmonds residents to sign a petition to have RESIDENTS pay for the warning system? It was a joke then, as it is a joke now. It is baffling to me that our “city leaders” cannot figure out something as simple as a railroad crossing. It is not like railroad crossings are a new thing! Maybe our new mayor can appoint another Blue Ribbon Committee of his cronies to start a five-year investigation for a potential solution.

  8. It’s not a waste of money for those of us near the tracks. We lived for 40 years up the hill to the north and actually enjoyed the horns.
    Now we’re jolted awake whenever the horns blow.
    One difference seems to be that there are more trains through the night than ever before.

    1. But you knew the train and ferry were there. So of course horns would be louder! It’s like moving next to a garbage dump and complaining about the smell. Just sayin.

  9. How much extra money will be spent on this? It seems there are more important issues to spend on in the tight city budget. I do not remember public comment when this idea came up originally? Judging by comments, seems more people are in support of the horns. It’s time to ask public opinion Before any more money is spent. I’m not understanding the issue. Trains have been part of the history of the city since the 1800s. Ferry horns, fog horns, for safety, also here longer then all of us. Anyone upset by the noise, you knew there were train tracks, a Ferry and a commerce shipping lane here when you bought your home!

  10. I’m sorry that the system isn’t doing it’s job…seems like a bad investment that a piece of equipment installed not far from water and in a rainy town doesn’t like working when wet!! All I can say is I’m tired of being awakened by the train horns and I live near 5th. I feel sorry for the folks who live even closer!!

  11. Yes, that was a lot of money for something that wasn’t weatherproof. Maybe the city can form a committee, hire some consultants and or do a community survey to figure out why it rains here in December.

  12. Apparently Quiet Zone Technologies was much better at producing “Quiet” from their equipment than installing horns that guarantee some sort of “Quiet Zone.” Maybe the Blue Ribbon Finance Commission might want to ask some probing questions about the vetting of and selection of this company as a vendor? Here’s another prime example of Edmond’s Municipal Government blowing money on WANTS while ignoring many NEEDS. How about tell the public how many successful jobs this company had completed and what references were checked before signing on the dotted line.

  13. The wayside horn not working really has nothing to do with sound preference. It also has nothing to do with a select few. The waterfront is walked by mothers and fathers pushing their babies in strollers , families, children and the elderly not to mention the numerous dog walkers. Also restaurants, businesses, hotels, assisted living and numerous residents living near there. The engineers indiscriminately and very aggressively honk the horns day and night all the way from the south end of the port to the north end dive park and beyond. The noise is very jolting and harsh for ears and blood pressure! It is not healthy. I have had to cover my small dogs ears numerous times. I am sure others have had concern for their children’s ears and their elderly being affected as they walk the waterfront and use the waterfront center, beaches, and restaurants. One can’t plan for the blast because it is at the discretion of the engineer -how loud, or long, or often, he or she feels like honking it. The wayside horns were established after years of Edmonds citizens petitioning for a solution that could provide safety for the numerous pedestrians and vehicle traffic in that area and solve the noise pollution. As you can see it is not a matter of “if one does not like the horns they can just move away from the waterfront”The only thing that is able to protect the safety , health and well being of all, is the Wayside horns! We need to get them back on line as quickly as the water issue can be remedied.

    1. Living above the tracks is very loud as far as train horns are concerned. Maybe living at a distance the sounds are nostalgic but I don’t like being woken up at night about every hour by train horns. I loved it when we had silence during sleep hours then suddenly a few months ago here come the train horns again. There are so many more trains now. During the day I don’t care. I’m for Wayside safety and quiet nights!

    2. I have a solution for you, Paula… if you don’t like it, move to someplace quieter where you don’t here the noise of the trains and the ferries. I used to live near Paine Field and lived with that for 40 years. When commercial flights started there we moved to a relatively much quieter rural locale near Granite Falls.

      1. Actually Jerry, I don’t think you read my comment. Or you would have seen the part where I said “As you can see it is not a matter of “if one does not like the horns they can just move away from the waterfront”, which was based upon all the facts I wrote prior to that. I love the ferry horns. They have a code , but the train engineers honk as often or as long as they like. It is the health of the whole community that I was addressing.

  14. Can anyone explain why a more effective gate system, one that totally prevents crossing the tracks, could not be a simple, effective solution? Flashing lights with perhaps a “backing up” noise such as on trucks would surely prevent accidents AND be quiet. For examples, please see

    As it is, I can hear the crossing horns at my house all the way up by Stamm Overlook Park.

    1. “Effective solution”? The wayside horns at Dayton are already a solution in search of a problem. When trains approach, Dayton has a lowered crossing arm that blocks the right-of-way, with a string of blinking red lights on it, and with large alternating lights mounted high above it, and a loud “dinging” sound emanating from it. With all that, a driver approaching the crossing would need to be both deaf AND blind not to understand that a train is coming, and that the crossing is blocked for that sole purpose. Adding a “wayside horn” to the crossing adds nothing of actual informational value. The locomotive horn is blown to inform you as to where the approaching train is, but the wayside horn doesn’t do that and merely adds additional noise pollution at the crossing. Wayside horns are useful at uncontrolled crossings (where there aren’t lowered arms, bells, and flashing lights), but wayside horns at Dayton are actually pointless. Finally, I’m really curious as to why the company that sold that junk to Edmonds apparently went out of business. I have my suspicions.

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