The toot of madness
Original post made by Don Frances, Mountain View Voice Editor, on Jul 29, 2009
"Has anyone else noticed the new noise from the train station?" asked Liz Siegel. "It seems that the trains are blowing their horns longer and louder. What has brought on this new annoying development?"
"I have written to the mayor with my disapproval of the louder horns and the fact that the city of Mountain View, Caltrain and Moffett Airbase all have no subsidies in place for residents wanting to upgrade their single-pane windows to dual-pane windows," said another reader named Brian. "She has not responded."
"My family and I live along the Caltrain corridor across from the Mountain View station and overall are big fans of Caltrain," avows Ryan Spratt. "However, these past couple weeks something has changed with the sound of the horn. ... To hear it once gets your attention, but to hear it countless times throughout the day might drive someone mad."
Unfortunately, madness may be in the cards for Spratt and other neighbors. Following a few days of complaints like these, Caltrain officials finally explained the noise through a press release:
"During a recent routine safety inspection it was discovered that Caltrain's horns were not producing the distinct, separate, sequential blasts (tweet and toot) required by federal regulations.
"Previously, the horns had been moved to the underside of the locomotives and cab cars in response to community concerns about noise. To comply with federal regulations the agency has returned the horns to their original location on top of the trains -- at least for the interim."
So it turns out they're the same old horns, but in a new spot. Caltrain authorities added they are "working to reduce the volume, while making sure that the horns remain within the range established by the Federal Railroad Administration."
Train engineers are required to sound their horns a quarter mile before every grade crossing, of which there are 44 on the Peninsula, including several in Mountain View. (They also sound the horn whenever they see a person too close to the tracks.) "The engineers do not sound the horn gratuitously," assured Caltrain Deputy CEO Chuck Harvey, and they are aware of the annoyance.
I don't know what final solution Caltrain is considering (pillow and duct tape?) but for the sake of the many residents along these tracks, we're all hoping they arrive at it soon.