CN Whistle, a necessary intrusion

Many Vanderhoof residents have mad complaints about the passing train whistle becoming a daily intrusion into their lives.

A loud and lengthy train whistle has been disturbing Vanderhoof residents.

A loud and lengthy train whistle has been disturbing Vanderhoof residents.

Choo Choo! Coming through!

A loud and lengthy train whistle has repeatedly caused late-night disturbances for some Vanderhoof residents living close to the tracks. Despite the fact that the train whistle represents a warning, some folks still find it to be intrusive.

“I know they are trying to be safe but some conductors are just rude about it. They should be considerate to people who live close by. Some hold it down all the way through town and it wakes me up where I’m sitting straight up in bed,” said Nadina Raphael, 19, who lives by the Country Pub on Church Street.

There is however a reason such a loud horn is used. According to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, BC railways see an average of six trespasser fatalities and two crossing fatalities each year. Across Canada, 127 people died in 2013 on CN railways, which is why CN employees must go through extensive safety training and continually adhere to safe practises. This includes use of the trains whistle.

Laura Besinger is the spouse of a CN worker and feels strongly about the correct use of the whistle.

“My boyfriend drives train for CN and yes some guys overuse the whistle but they do have a certain protocol that they must follow. He’s had many close calls with people and that’s nothing anyone should ever have to deal with,” said Ms. Besinger.

At crossings, the locomotive engineer must sound two long, one short and one long blast of the whistle. The final long blast must be soundly as the locomotive enters the crossing. Since there are three crossings in Vanderhoof, the train must repeat this sequence. The whistle volume is also preset and does not vary. Whistle requirements are laid out in the Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR) and are continually monitored by an on-board computer. Should an incident occur, the ‘event recorder’ can be checked to ensure the conductor did indeed use the whistle.

“But it’s just too loud coming through town near residential areas. It would really frighten [my daughter] when she was little but over time she has gotten used to it,” said Todd Rickard, who lives in the towns core. 

Years ago only a few trains passed through town while now, upwards of 20 trains can be seen and heard on any given day. Considering CN worked hard to have people settle along the railway, Mayor Thiessen feels they have the responsibility to work with the community.

“They should work with us to make it livable with peace and enjoyment. They need to work with us to find a solution,” said Mayor Thiessen.

Although the town’s bylaws have regulations  about noise, bylaws do not apply to CN because it is federally regulated. There is however the possibility to review a railway junction to see if whistling can be waived at that particular crossing.

The town has looked into the steps required but have determined it would be much to expensive. First the municipality would have the cost of hiring a CN appointed engineer to do a report on what exactly would need to be done. The town would then have to run fences 400 meters in each direction at both crossings and the junction near the museum would have to have barrier arms put in.

“The ball park would be about $500,000 to get the whistle to stop,” said Tom Clement, director of community development. “It would be nice to have it but its unlikely we would find funding to do that type of thing.”

Even if the proper measures were secured to exempt the whistle, onus would continue to be on the municipality for injuries and fatalities.

Janine Lindstrom-LePoidevin grew up but the tracks in Vanderhoof and feels the whistle is necessary because people are careless.

“I grew up close to the tracks and heard them all the time, day and night,” said Ms. Lindstrom-LePoidevin. “Personally, I would much rather be woken up if it means it might save a life.”