“In our house, you can’t even talk when a train is going by”
Published: June 26th, 2008 01:30 AM | Updated: June 26th, 2008 06:19 AM
The whistles of passing trains blare nearly 70 times a day in Steilacoom. Now residents face an indefinitely noisy future, just months after train horns appeared destined to become a romantic memory in Washington’s oldest town.The Town Council voted in September to spend up to $130,000 for a wayside horn at the Union Avenue crossing. The automated device would limit the noise to the area near the busy ferry terminal. Train engineers would then be free from routinely blowing their whistles, which scatter a rock concert-level din through surrounding hills and neighborhoods. They could still blow them at their discretion in an emergency.

But rail regulators now say the town also must install a fixed horn at the Sunnyside Beach pedestrian crossing – doubling the cost – or else trains will keep blasting their whistles each time they pass through town.

Steilacoom staff members recommend that the Town Council approve spending more than $280,000 for the pair of wayside horns. The council is holding its second public hearing on the issue next week.

For now, the sound – and among some residents, the fury – continue in the town of 6,200 residents.

“Either you love the train whistles and you moved to Steilacoom to hear them, or they drive you crazy and you can’t sleep,” said resident Harry Meloeny.

He counts himself in the latter group, even though he has nostalgic feelings from his days switching cars in Pasco for Northern Pacific railroad. But that was a long time ago, in the late 1950s, when he was a college student.

“In our house, you can’t even talk when a train is going by,” Meloeny said.

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