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Jeanine Fritz
Jeanine Fritz

One of the things I failed to consider before moving from my little Boulder apartment to a house in Longmont: sounds.

The tick-tick-tick of the dog’s nails on the hardwood floors as he sashays from one place to the next, the din of a man and his chainsaw doing who knows what in his backyard, the hollow whoosh of the washing machine a floor below me filling with water: all sounds which didn’t exist at the last place. But the one that’s driving me insane is a sound I’ve been hearing from different angles for about 20 years now.

When I first moved in, I kept waking up at 4 a.m. I figured it was new-house nerves. Then for a short while as I Frankensteined to the kitchen for a glass of water and back to bed, I decided it might be a ghost. (That made waking up at 4 a.m. a lot scarier for a few nights, and yes, I know I’m an idiot.) Two weeks in, I finally discovered the problem: the low rumble of a train followed by the most obnoxious horn action I’ve ever heard.


Turns out, it doesn’t matter one bit what side of the tracks you live on — what matters is how close you are and if the dude driving said train takes the “conductor” part of his job title in the wrong way.

Now at night, I picture that sonovabitch in the train engine, overalls and conductor hat whipping around the room, hitting that black bubble at the end of the horn with his fist, kicking it with his boot, putting his ass on it, headbutting it, throwing things at it, giggling like a maniac. TRAIN! I’M IN! A! TRAAAAAAAAIIIIIIINNNNNNN! WAKE UP! WAKE UP! TRAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIINNNNN!

It appears I’ve got the Federal Railroad Administration to thank for that. Longmont has 17 railroad crossings — near my house there are five crossings in five blocks. And every time the train hits a crossing, the conductor lays on the horn.

Apparently in 2005, the Federal Railroad Administration decided the horn blasts needed to be louder and longer. I looked it up — the rule is 15-20 seconds at every crossing. This means trains blast through town sounding the horn for nearly six minutes during the time it takes them to go from one end of town to the other. And putting in the gear necessary to make parts of town quiet zones would cost about $7 million.

I’m not sure what it’ll cost me to make my bedroom a quiet zone. It’s one thing to shut all the windows at night and stuff pillows behind the blinds to muffle the sound in the winter, but I’m fairly certain that won’t work in the summer when it’s all hot and stuffy. I’m hoping I’ll eventually get used to it, but until then it’s Next Stop: Insomnia.

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