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Question about rules for horn usage at grade crossings

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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, September 29, 2022 2:29 PM

BigJim
"Then put it in their rulebook"? Ha! You sure don't know a lot. That rule has been in the books for ages!

Just as a reminder, what I said was:

"I suppose a railroad could choose to put up a whistle board at every public crossing that required a horn to sound, and then put it in their rulebook for employees that you only blow the horn when there's a whistle board."

Since you're saying that there are railroads that have done that (and have done it 'for ages'), please provide documentation of a railroad's rulebook that says 'the horn or whistle is to be blown only at grade crossings where there is a whistle board'.

Of course, that would only confirm that a railroad did/does have such a rule. If you recall, my original point was that railroad trains are required to sound the horn at all public grade crossings (unless it has been established as a quiet zone) based on FRA regulations. I have yet to come across a regulation that all US railroads have to put up whistleboards at all public crossings on all their lines, but if there is such a rule, please provide a link to it.

Stix
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Posted by BigJim on Wednesday, September 28, 2022 9:56 AM

Not every RR uses the GCOR. The N&W didn't. Yes, a "whistle board" is a "fixed signal" and must be complied with.

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Posted by dehusman on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 7:43 PM

As long as you are bringing up the rules, the GCOR requires the whistle to be blown at public crossings (except in Calif. & Montana where it is blown at ALL crossings.)

The GCOR says that at locations where whistle signs are located the horn is blown regardless of the type of crossing it is.

The whistle must be blown at all public crossings regardless of whether or not there is a whistle sign.

The whistle must be blown at all crossings where there is a whistle sign regardless whether it is public or private.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

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Posted by BigJim on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 3:21 PM

Every public road crossing, with the exception of "quiet zones", that I ever crossed had a whistle board. If you don't see one, maybe you didn't look far enough. Or, as I said before, there may be a rule in the "Empolyee's Timetable" that concerns the matter.
"Then put it in their rulebook"? Ha! You sure don't know a lot. That rule has been in the books for ages!

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Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 8:46 AM

...and again, that's why I was only talking about PUBLIC road crossings. NOT PRIVATE. I don't know why folks seems so confused about what I'm saying.

FRA rules say the horn must be sounded at every PUBLIC CROSSING unless it has been designated a quiet zone. So that's a federal requirement. That seems to agree with my experience. Railroads always blow the horn at the public crossings I've lived by even though they don't have whistle boards.

Someone else says no, that's wrong, the engineer only has to blow the horn if the railroad has installed a whistle board. No whistle board, no requirement to blow the horn, regardless.

If that is true, it should be easy to show a government rule or regulation saying that every PUBLIC grade crossing where the horn must sound must have a whistle board, and the horn is only required to be sounded at those crossings so marked. However, I suspect whistle boards are installed voluntarily by railroads as a reminder to engineers of an upcoming grade crossing where they must sound a warning, particularly where the crossing may be hard to see, like around the end of a curve. 

I suppose a railroad could choose to put up a whistle board at every public crossing that required a horn to sound, and then put it in their rulebook for employees that you only blow the horn when there's a whistle board. But that doesn't make it a federal requirement that the horn only has to be sounded if there's a whistle board at the grade crossing. It would just be a railroad rule.

Stix
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Posted by OldEngineman on Monday, September 26, 2022 9:49 PM

Agree with BigJim.

Although you weren't required to sound the horn for private crossings, if I saw someone coming and they were relatively close, I'd sound the horn anyway to try to warn them.

I think most engine guys would do the same.

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Posted by BigJim on Monday, September 26, 2022 11:01 AM

wjstix
Please provide a link to an FRA...


I don't have to prove anything to you!
After 40+ years in T&E service I/WE never blew for a private road crossing! That is unless we thought that we needed to stir someone's attention. AND, never had an FRA inspector say anything to us!

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Posted by wjstix on Sunday, September 25, 2022 5:01 PM
Which is why I have not once mentioned "PRIVATE" crossings, only public. I cited an FRA post saying the horn must be sounded at all PUBLIC crossings. Please provide a link to an FRA or other government agency saying "No, you really only have to blow the horn at a PUBLIC crossing if the railroad has put up a whistle board". As I said, I lived for over 40 years across the street from a railroad line that runs through Richfield, MN. If you go to Google Maps and look it up, you will see the north-south railline crossing 76th, 73rd, 70th, 68th and 66th streets. All of those are PUBLIC roads. Every train ever crossing those street sounded the required horn or whistle warning. Yet the line has not to my knowledge ever had a single whistle board.
Stix
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Posted by jeffhergert on Saturday, September 24, 2022 10:43 PM

We have 3 crossings that are public crossings on my run where there have never been whistle posts for the 24 years I've been on the railroad.  Two are on minimum maintenance roads where you seldom see a vehicle.  The third crossing is now just a glorified field entrance.  There once was a road, but a bridge about 500 feet beyond the railroad crossing has been long gone.  On the other side of the tracks is US 30 and a county gravel road.  Signage coming down the gravel road indicate traffic has to go either left or right on US 30.  Even so, it's still technically a "public" crossing. 

No one, until fairly recently blew the horn for any of these crossings.  PTC is equipped to sound the horn for crossings and will blow for these 3 crossings.  (I started blowing the horn for the first 2 crossings a couple years back when I realized they still are listed as public crossings.

And we do have some private crossings that have whistle posts because they are private access roads to some industries and can have heavy vehicle traffic at times.

Milwaukee Road employee time tables used to have an item in their special instructions section that stated Iowa law required the horn to be sounded at both public and private crossings.  Of the ETTs I have for railroads operating in Iowa, none of the others have that item. 

Whether or not Milwaukee crews blew all the crossings, I couldn't say now. 

Jeff

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Posted by BigJim on Saturday, September 24, 2022 12:04 PM

Once again, try to get this through your head..."Public" is different than "Private"!

NO WHISTLE BOARD...NO HORN BLOWING REQUIRED!

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Posted by wjstix on Friday, September 23, 2022 10:12 AM

BigJim
 
wjstix
Can you cite a federal regulation that says all public grade crossings must have a whistle board? As I pointed out, in my old home town the rail line through town crossed a number of city streets - all public road crossings - and the whistle/horn was blown every time a train crossed them. But there were no whistle boards to be seen.

 

What I can't do is quote any specific instructions regarding the road crossings in question that are governed by the employee timetable. Can you?

 

No because I'm talking about federal regulations, not railroad company rules. The FRA says trains must blow their horn for all public grade crossings, unless the crossing has been designated a 'quiet zone' (which the FRA does allow).

A railroad can put up whistle boards to alert crews to upcoming crossings. But whether the railroad puts up whistle boards or not, the federal regulations still say they have to blow the horn at public crossings.

Stix
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Posted by zugmann on Tuesday, September 20, 2022 5:31 AM

jeffhergert
Where there are multiple crossings close together they may use one whistle post with a number on it. The number indicates how many crossings the whistle post is for.

Must be a UP/GCOR thing.  

 

Ours just say "WMX".  No number.  You just have to blow for all the crossings coming up. 

  

The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of

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Posted by BigJim on Monday, September 19, 2022 9:21 PM

wjstix
Can you cite a federal regulation that says all public grade crossings must have a whistle board? As I pointed out, in my old home town the rail line through town crossed a number of city streets - all public road crossings - and the whistle/horn was blown every time a train crossed them. But there were no whistle boards to be seen.

What I can't do is quote any specific instructions regarding the road crossings in question that are governed by the employee timetable. Can you?

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Posted by jeffhergert on Monday, September 19, 2022 5:51 PM

Where there are multiple crossings close together they may use one whistle post with a number on it. The number indicates how many crossings the whistle post is for.

Jeff 

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Posted by wjstix on Monday, September 19, 2022 10:37 AM

BigJim
 
wjstix
if they can show a rulebook saying "if there's not a whistle marker, you don't have to blow the horn", then I guess that's correct.

 

Note that the document that you linked states "all public road crossings". Public road crossings will have whistle boards...blow the horn. Private road crossings will not have whistle boards...horn blowing NOT required and also applies to quiet zones.

 
Can you cite a federal regulation that says all public grade crossings must have a whistle board? As I pointed out, in my old home town the rail line through town crossed a number of city streets - all public road crossings - and the whistle/horn was blown every time a train crossed them. But there were no whistle boards to be seen.
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Posted by Overmod on Monday, September 19, 2022 10:00 AM

Just read 49 CFR 222.  There you will learn that at all public grade crossings without suitable SSM with satisfactory QZRI to satisfy annual review against the NSRT by the FRA, you blow based on time -- at least 15sec but no longer than 20sec before the crossing, with the last note prolonged if needed until the train is on the crossing.  (Gracefully, the Government allows a good-faith exception for engineers who can't gauge the time to a crossing effectively: a whole five more seconds (e.g. 25 seconds of blowing) before enforcement kicks in.  (You can find the consequences of that  enforcement elsewhere in the CFR but I'm not going to bother.)

There is, in fact, a mention about distance in the horn rule.  It states that you start blowing not more than a quarter mile from the crossing, even if that means that the train will reach the crossing in less than the 15 seconds minimum mentioned in the rule.

This produces a curious mathematical result.  A usual 'cadence' for a long-long-short-long is about 6 and a quarter seconds.  Taking the quarter-mile as a guide, that implies about a mile in 25 seconds before the 15-second concern would be exceeded.  I make that right around 145mph, which is 35 miles faster than permitted across non-four-quadrant gates and 20mph above the speed where no grade crossings are permissible at all.  

As far as I know, if whistle posts were ever 'mandated' the current Federal statute ought to override that.  State law (which I am NOT going to go through) MIGHT justify these as enhancing safety.  I always thought of whistle posts as reminders of upcoming crossings, not something required for any public crossing.

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Posted by BigJim on Saturday, September 17, 2022 7:50 PM

wjstix
if they can show a rulebook saying "if there's not a whistle marker, you don't have to blow the horn", then I guess that's correct.

Note that the document that you linked states "all public road crossings". Public road crossings will have whistle boards...blow the horn. Private road crossings will not have whistle boards...horn blowing NOT required and also applies to quiet zones.

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Posted by wjstix on Saturday, September 17, 2022 2:08 PM

Except that would mean each railroad could decide when to blow for crossings. In fact there are state laws and FRA requirements. I know we have some working railroaders here, if they can show a rulebook saying "if there's not a whistle marker, you don't have to blow the horn", then I guess that's correct.

BTW here in Minnesota, state law says it's a misdemeanor if an engineer fails to ring the bell and blow the horn/whistle in accordance with FRA regulations...which are discussed here:

https://railroads.dot.gov/sites/fra.dot.gov/files/2019-11/FRA%20Train%20Horn%20and%20Quiet%20Zone%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

 

Stix
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Posted by OldEngineman on Thursday, September 1, 2022 9:58 PM

Jim writes: "No whistle board...Blowing the whistle not required"

Correct.

The "W" post is a fixed signal, like any other signal. Not all crossings have them, however. Some crossings are "private" (as distinguished from "public") and at many (most?) of these, there's no whistle post. However, I reckon just about all engineers WILL sound a warning if a vehicle is approaching anyway.

Regarding "quiet zones". I can remember years ago, coming through Meriden (CT), which had numerous crossings, you only sounded the horn for the first crossing, then proceeded through the next several without the horn. This was by agreement between the railroad and the town.

Later on (may have been at insistence of FRA, not sure), this was rescinded and you sounded the horn for each crossing (noisy).

Down the line in Wallingford, they now have "quiet crossings" with flashers, gates, and a loudspeaker. The train doesn't blow the horn, but the speaker does. Doesn't quite sound right to me (sitting in a car), but that's how they want it.

I've also noticed a new style fixed signal (installed after I retired) -- a "flashing X" mounted on a mast, in advance of the crossing -- where the "W" post might have previously been located.

When I first saw it (from a road bridge), I wondered "what's that for?". Then I figured it out: if you're operating a train approaching the crossing, the "flashing X" indicates that the crossing sound system is functioning as intended. If for some reason the X is NOT flashing, then it indicates a malfunction and rule 14L should be sounded by the approaching engine...

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Posted by BigJim on Thursday, September 1, 2022 4:21 PM

John-NYBW
I don't recall seeing a whistle board so it seems it might be left to the engineer's judgement.  


No whistle board...Blowing the whistle not required.

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Posted by John-NYBW on Thursday, September 1, 2022 2:22 PM

wjstix

 

 
John-NYBW
I don't recall seeing a whistle board so it seems it might be left to the engineer's judgement.

 

Nope, it's a requirement unless a crossing has been designated to not require blowing the horn. How early, how long, or how loudly the horn is blown may be subject to judgment, but not whether or not to sound the horn.

 

What I was trying to say is that it was left to the engineer's judgement as to when to blow the horn, not if to blow the horn. 

I also don't recall it being the typical two longs and a short although I might be wrong about that. I live about 3 miles from that line as the crow flies and often hear the horns as the train progresses up and down the line. I'm going to pay more attention to the horn next time I hear it.

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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, September 1, 2022 1:33 PM

John-NYBW
I don't recall seeing a whistle board so it seems it might be left to the engineer's judgement.

Nope, it's a requirement unless a crossing has been designated to not require blowing the horn. How early, how long, or how loudly the horn is blown may be subject to judgment, but not whether or not to sound the horn.

I grew up across the street from the 'high line' of the Minneapolis Northfield & Southern, at 67th street. On a still, quiet day, you could hear the whistle (they used Hancock air whistles) being blown at 76th street, 73rd, 70th, and 68th as they came up from the south. There were no whistle posts on the line.

To put it another way, if the engineer "chose" not to blow the horn at a crossing, and then hit a car, the railroad would be in BIG trouble, as the survivors and/or next-of-kin of those killed in the auto would be suing the railroad for a huge chunk of money and almost certainly winning, since they could show the engineer was negligent for not blowing for the crossing.

Stix
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Posted by gmpullman on Thursday, September 1, 2022 1:20 PM

 

 

Regards, Ed

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Posted by John-NYBW on Thursday, September 1, 2022 12:35 PM

OldEngineman

How fast was the train moving when it passed over the crossing?

Perhaps 10-15mph? Faster?

You're going to begin use the horn further away if you're moving at 70. A lot closer if you're only going 15.

Start blowing the horn 1/3 of a mile away at 15mph, and you're going to have to repeat the crossing horn sequence so many times, that folks are going to start complaining.

There's a balance here. It's based on the engineman's judgement, etc. At least... that's the way it used to be...

 

I would estimate the speed at 10-15 mph. After the rear loco passed the crossing, I hopped in my car and drove to the next crossing to the south and got there just after the lead loco and passed the crossing. If you look at the Google Earth view, I had to drive to the next road and then turn about a quarter mile east to reach that crossing and still had to wait for the train to cross. 

If you are correct, then the speed of the loco does impact how far away from the crossing the horn will start sounding, which was my question. I don't recall seeing a whistle board so it seems it might be left to the engineer's judgement.  

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Posted by dknelson on Thursday, September 1, 2022 11:28 AM

Local ordinances can proclaim this or that crossing (or an entire town or city" to be a "no horn" location, or at least portions of the day (usually night time) might be so proclaimed.  I believe federal law or regulations allows the engineer to "violate" those restrictions if he or she feels safety is at stake.  In my village they routinely blow anyway and that is because vegetation trackside makes most crossings pretty "blind" for both drivers and engineers until the last moment.

I do not know if this is something in rulebooks or just engineer training but my experience is that many, and perhaps most, locomotive engineers time their horn's "-----  ------  --  ----------" so that the last long horn is sounding even as the locomotive enters the crossing.

Years ago there was an LP recording of Pennsylvania Railroad steam locomotives and in one cut, the program notes mentioned that the engineer of the K4 Pacific must have been angry or impatient because the whistle blown for the crossing, presumably at a depot area where the train had stopped, was the "legal minimum" a very short and abrupt version:  "--  -- .  --"

Dave Nelson

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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, September 1, 2022 8:52 AM

Normally, "quiet zones" aren't the result of some government official trying to be all-powerfull, but rather are the result of people near the crossing getting together and asking their local city council or county officials to declare the crossing a quiet zone. Generally, such a crossing is protected by crossing gates.

An example is Revelstoke BC - if no train is running, you can scroll back up to several hours, but usually there's a couple trains an hour - and once in a while, a bear!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BahXDYWQAKk

BigJim

Where is the whistle board...hmm? Signaling should start at the whistle board or no longer than 20 sec. away. If there is none, then they don't need to blow the horn. 

Unless designated a quiet zone, trains have to blow the two longs, one short, one long, at every grade crossing. Whistle boards are reminders set up by the railroads, usually on mainlines and/or in places where the upcoming crossing may not be immediately visible, that a crossing is coming up. Lack of a whistle board doesn't mean not to blow the horn for a crossing.

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Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, September 1, 2022 7:26 AM

While all of the foregoing discussion is relevant to real trains, it hardly seems applicable to model railroad layouts. In HO scale, one mile is just over 60 feet. I consider my layout fairly large, but my longest stretch of straight track is less than 40 feet. One-half mile is 30 feet, and one-quarter mile is 15 feet. I just blow the whistle on trains approaching unprotected crossings at about 5 to 10 feet. That's about 450 to 900 feet in 1:1 scale.

Rich

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Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, September 1, 2022 7:16 AM

PM Railfan

If you dont want to hear a train horn at the crossing next to your house at 2am.... MOVE TO SIBERIA!

If i were an engineer, piloting a train past just such an occasion, id stand on that horn lever (push button for you safety cabbers). Id rather take the hassle of whatever trouble this could avail me than run over your kid at the crossing becuase i couldnt warn them!

If my kid is standing on railroad tracks next to my house at 2:00 AM, go ahead and run him over. Just don't blow the horn and wake me up.  Smile, Wink & Grin

Rich

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Posted by zugmann on Thursday, September 1, 2022 7:02 AM

PM Railfan
If i were an engineer, piloting a train past just such an occasion, id stand on that horn lever (push button for you safety cabbers). Id rather take the hassle of whatever trouble this could avail me than run over your kid at the crossing becuase i couldnt warn them!

Quiet zones are in the rule book/timetable/special instructions, etc and disregarding that rule will result in discipline.

 

In this day and age, PTC calculates when you need to blow the horn, (and will do it for you if you neglect to).   

  

The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of

my employer, any other railroad, company, or person.

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