Letter writer: Silence Biltmore train blasts to allow neighbors to get some sleep

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Last year, as part of a River Arts District development agreement, the railroad crossing at Lyman Street was upgraded so the trains would not have to sound their horns at night. When will the same be done for the Biltmore Avenue crossing in Biltmore Village?

The Biltmore Avenue crossing, like the Lyman Street crossing, lies at the end of Norfolk Southern’s railroad yard, so instead of just an occasional passing train, rail yard engines are frequently crossing back and forth, shuttling freight cars from track to track. In order to avoid blocking the intersection during heavy, daytime Biltmore traffic, Norfolk Southern does most of its shuttling late at night, when the street is empty. But engines still must sound their horns each time they cross the road.

These horns are not the nostalgic whistles of the steam era. Modern diesel locomotive air horns make commercial truckers’ horns sound like “little Nash Ramblers” by comparison. For most people living within half a mile of the Biltmore crossing, especially in older homes without triple-pane glass and air conditioning, sleeping through the horn blasts is not an option. And they’re blasting often, all night long, including weekends and holidays. I’ve counted as many as 22 horn blasts during a single half-hour period between 3:30 and 4 a.m. Some engineers seem to try to be considerate by just briefly tapping their horns, while others must want to ensure that everyone is awakened.

The upgrades made to the Lyman Street crossing suggest that all that is needed to silence the trains at night are two additional barrier arms to completely block the road so that impatient fools and drunks can’t weave their cars or other vehicles between the existing barriers into a train’s path. These are trains that are only creeping slowly along. There’s already a pedestrian fence blocking the tracks through Biltmore Village. Is it asking too much to finish the job so people can open their windows and sleep through the night?

— Paul Huisking


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17 thoughts on “Letter writer: Silence Biltmore train blasts to allow neighbors to get some sleep

  1. Big Al

    Biltmore Village is a MUCH more used crossing than Lyman St. in the RAD. How will the letter writer feel when his desire for more uninterrupted sleep leads to an increase in injuries and death from unwarned drivers, who tend to keep THEIR windows UP with the A/C and radio blasting, hence the NEED for loud warnings?

    Also, I doubt there is anyone living near Biltmore Village whose residency predates the railroad. Buyer beware, ya’ know.

  2. Big Al – right on the money – the trains were there first – it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone buying a home after 1895 or so….:)

    • Alicia Finley

      Well my home was built in 1912 and my neighbors in 1922 and I can guarrentee their are more trains running at night and louder horns being blasted than back in that era. My home should not be devalued and sleep regularly lost because of that excessive unnecessary noise when two additional cross arms would make significant improvement to this situation.

  3. c

    That’s silly – “the trains were there first”. I”ve heard the laying on the train horns as if the engineer had a malicious wish to piss everybody off – ” I’ll wake up them rich yuppies in them fancy houses” – it’s ridiculous. What? Can’t figure it out? That’s the only way it can be done to ensure everyone’s safety? B.S. Because someone wasn’t there first they have no rights? It’s a big country. It’s changing everywhere. Population’s growing and people relocate. Get used to it.

    • Big Al

      They “lay on the horn” because stupid drivers either stop on the tracks or try to race through the barriers as they go down. I have seen this happen at the Biltmore Village crossing. Engineers have a responsibility to ensure that drivers have plenty of warning not to die in their path.

      As for rights, no one has a “right” to peace and quiet when they buy a home near a train crossing, an airport, etc.

      • Oakley Resident

        harsh! Why are you so adamantly pissed off at us Oakley residents wanting to silence the trains?

        • Big Al

          Because by “silencing the trains” you are acting against the public good by removing a neccessary safety feature. That is both selfish and stupid.

          • Alicia Finley

            Not true. The noise permeates even closed windows and is overheard through the ac. My house was built in 1912 and the horns are more frequent and louder than ever. There are OTHER SAFETY FEATURES that can be installed to insure the track is notified of an oncoming train.

  4. Easy

    That’s easy. Clean up the neighborhood and no longer have shootings and stabbings in that neighborhood and watch the train horns stop overnight.

  5. Oakley Resident

    I don’t see what the big deal is, why not just update it? Why would that bother anyone? Why does it bother you so much, Big Al?

    The fact is if you live in the area and the windows are open, those train horns are LOUD as shit.

    And some engineers lay on the horn while others don’t. And BTW, newsflash people, the neighborhoods near Biltmore Village are not made up of rich people, quite the opposite, it’s a true, working, middle class neighborhood.

    It would be really nice if those trains didn’t have to honk everytime.

    • Big Al

      It always bothers me when entitled people expect the world to change for their sake, even at the expense of the health and safety of others. In other words, STUPID and SELFISH.

      The trains are loud for a reason: to save lives. But all the letter writer cares about is their comfort.

      • Oakley Resident

        We’ve already established that horn honking is an out of date and unnecessary practice. They simply have to modernize it like they did the other railroad crossing.

  6. Chris

    I live right above the RAD and my house is positioned a stones throw away from the Rail Yard proper. My wife and I on our first night sleeping in our house were scared “poop-less”!! when we were introduced to the sound of train cars hooking together. Now it’s just white noise. You cant stop that kind of commerce. I to can hear the train as it crosses biltmore with its horn. It really is what it is.

    • Jill

      Exactly the way I felt when I lived near a RR track and crossing. After awhile I guess I just incorporated the sound as it no longer woke me up – and I’m something of a light sleeper.

  7. wheatie

    The same obnoxious blast horns happen in the RAD at Craven Street and Riverside Drive crossing. I live across the river from the tracks and these blasts always wake me. One train had 14 loud blasts in the middle of the night. Another had 3 soft horns (anomaly). The spokesman for the RR says legally 3 horns are needed. Guess who doesn’t know that? The trains are moving at a snails pace and the crossing has cross bars at this tiny intersection. This is not necessary to save lives.

  8. Alicia Finley

    I’m wondering if we crowd funded for the funds for the “two additional barrier arms” needed, if the city would install them and implement a no horn blowing crossing at that intersection?

  9. A Finley

    Norfolk Southern says adding cross arms won’t stop the horns at night. Only by petitioning the city to create a “Quiet Zone” for the builtmore crossing will release Northfolk Southern operators from following federal guidelines requiring them to blow the horns.

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