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Train Horns
Wayside Horns
The Village of Elburn has installed wayside horns to alleviate much of the noise associated with train whistles. When the railroad gates are activated by the railroad, the wayside horn is also activated to alert motorists and pedestrians of the approaching train. In the event of a second train approaching while a train is already using a crossing, the horns will sound again to alert for the second train. The amber flashing "X" indicates to the train engineer that the system is functioning normally so it is not necessary to activate the train horn.

Theory of Wayside Horn Systems
The U.S. Department of Transportation has published the following information about Wayside Horn Systems (WHS):
  • "The WHS system operates in conjunction with train operations. Under normal conditions at an active crossing, the train’s locomotive will normally engage its horn approximately one-quarter of a mile from the crossing. The train horn will continue to sound several additional times until the train enters the crossing. The WHS focuses the sound of the horn to the road user, thereby eliminating the requirement that the locomotive sound its horn from such a far distance (currently trains typically sound their horns a quarter-mile from the crossing). The WHS is located at the crossing on a pole in close proximity to the Crossbuck. Once the train has approached the crossing where the train horn would begin to blow its horn, the WHS is engaged.
  • "The WHS emits a digitized horn sound that is directed in the path of the user. Based on the location and orientation of the WHS, significant sound abatement is created for the general area surrounding the crossing, and provides a warning to road users approaching the crossing. Additionally, a visual signal is placed along the rail corridor’s right-of-way in advance of the crossing to notify the locomotive engineer that the WHS is operating. Pursuant to FRA’s Interim Final Rule (49 CFR 222, Appendix E), the locomotive engineer has the right to engage the onboard train horn, when it is determined that it is in the best interest in safety (for both the road user and the train)."
  • U.S. Department of Transportation Memorandum

What the Research Says About Wayside Horn Systems
The US Department of Transportation has published the following information about Wayside Horn Systems (WHS):
  • "The effectiveness of the WHS has been studied and documented over 10 years at active highway-rail grade crossings, and has shown substantial benefits to such grade crossings. The studies were conducted by agencies/organizations such as the FRA, Volpe Center; Northwestern University; City of Richardson, Texas; Association of American Railroads; Iowa State University, and Texas Transportation Institute. Key conclusions of the studies include:
    • The studies showed significant reduction (more than 50 percent) in the number of motorists’ violations of the crossing gates as compared to the baseline data collected with the train horns sounding.
    • The WHS was well accepted by both motorists and locomotive engineers.
    • The WHS gives equal or greater audible notification as compared to train horns.
    • The WHS provides a good balance between providing adequate advance notification to road users and minimizing community noise levels.
    • The WHS appears to continue to be an effective alternative to the locomotive horn"

Wayside Horn Systems in Action 
Railroad Controls Limited provides such WHS / AHS systems. Railroad Controls Limited provides a graphic to show the different sound patters from a train horn versus the WHS / AHS, and several videos you may enjoy.
  • Note: The Village of Elburn does not endorse any particular company.

When You Will Still Hear a Train Whistle
Even with a Wayside Horn System, there are still times when you will hear a train whistle. Federal rules require a locomotive engineer to whistle:
  • At least 15 seconds, but no more than 20 seconds before reaching a crossing, except when such crossing is protected by Automated Horns (Wayside Horn Systems). This means that when the flashing "X" is not operating, the engineer will sound his horn because the flashing "X" indicates that the system is functioning correctly.
  • At any time when whistling may save a life or property. 
  • When a situation of danger arises, which may be lessened or eliminated by whistling.
  • When persons are seen crossing the track, walking on the tracks, or trespassing on railroad property.
  • When visibility is impaired by track configuration, equipment, or weather.
  • When railroad or contractor employees are working on the railroad right-of-way.
  • When a train is stopped and begins to move again.
  • When two trains occupy or approach the same crossing.