Jul 9, 2014

Why are train horns so loud?

I live near, but not close, to the railroad crossing at Pipe Street. It seems that the air horns on the trains have gotten a lot louder recently. In 2005, the Federal Railroad Administration set a maximum train horn volume of 110 decibels at 100 feet. It seems like it is 110 decibels from three blocks away. I support railroad safety, but the sounding of horns at crossings — two long, one short, one long — are really loud. Is it possible the trains have gotten louder and are exceeding the maximum loudness level? Jeff on Cleveland Road

Norfolk Southern spokesman Dave Pidgeon provided the following answer:

The Federal Railroad Administration mandates that train horns sound between 96 and 110 decibels, and NS endeavors to follow the regulations. Our locomotive horns cannot go above 110 decibels.

If you believe a train in your neighborhood is exceeding these limits, contact your local authorities on their non-emergency lines.

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You win....the dumbest question of the day award! Now, complain about the jets flying 35000 feet above you, leaving those terrible streaks in the sky.

The Bizness

WHAT THE......... these questions are getting to be hilarious.


Then move...those train tracks have been there since the 1870's...


And so has coal been there since 1870 you preserver of conservatism you! But soon coal won't even be able compete with solar even if they get it for free. ANd cocaine was legal in 1870 as well. Along with statutory rape....and all kinds of things that (wait for it, dirty word coming)
C H A N G E D ! ! !


But until trains are out of style...they should either deal with it, get hit by a train, or move.

For the record, I'm anything but a conservative...I happen to like Obamacare so let that sink in for a few, Holyghost.

JudgeMeNot's picture

off-topic mumble jumble. ^^^


Depending on the weather and heat index along with the obstacles that have either been erected or removed it could possibly make seem as though the trains horns have gotten louder. Environmental variables should also be considered such as snow and humidity.
The guy at the end of the bar explained this to me in great detail awhile back. He explained the reason they do not hold outdoor concerts in the winter is because the sound is muffled from the cold and snow and it takes much more power to produce the same volume which in turn cuts into their profits. He also mentioned that a 1973 Greatful dead show was the last good winter concert because the Dead was a super band with a unlimited budget and could afford the electric bill.


Wow! you are purchaser of all things. Will you buy anything?


The guy at the end of the bar is a sage! They still have not disproved his theory on Malaysia Flight 370.


He has some knowledge about it. Cold air is denser, thus sound has a harder time traveling through it. Hot air is much less dense and sound passes easily. Humidity will also affect the density of air and the sound waves that go through it.


Contrary to your assertion... The more dense a substance/medium is the faster the sound travels. Thus there is no propagation of sound in deep space/vacuum.

That said, higher air temps, even though less dense propagate sound more easily due to the higher energy of the air molecules. Just saying.....


Train horns can be painfully loud and are in fact extremely disruptive for those that live or work near the tracks. Proper technology exists to eliminate train horns for most crossings if they would be willing to spend the money, but you know, the shareholders must be thought of first. Dividends always necessarily get top consideration.


You realize train horns exist for our safety, correct?

JudgeMeNot's picture

holysee doesn't realize he is an idiot.


I work near tracks. Doesn't bother me one bit. Grandparents lived by them for 20+ years, they never complained. Pretty sure the tracks were there LONG before you moved by them.

Also, do you know of this "proper technology" that should replace/remove them? Are you an expert on them? Horns are pretty good at warning people about oncoming trains, yet how many people get hit by them? People already ignore the existing crossing gates as well.


Next time you're in Vermillion, check out their "hornless crossings".

looking around

It's to be heard over the ghetto blasters your neighbors have blaring out of their cribs and cars.



Fibber Mcgee

To Jeff, the engineers turn up the volume only when they pass your house.


What a stupid ? Lol


Why are the trains so long? It seems like they been getting longer recently can we do something about that?


Sure, increase prices as well on products. Trains are the life blood of the transportation system now. Either have longer trains or more shorter ones.


Another reason they don't have outdoor winter concerts..... Its freakin cold out!
Oh yea BTW what a stupid question in the first place!


They still make ear plugs, don't they?

Sitting In The ...

Jeff...thank you I noticed that train horns seem louder when my windows are open vs when I have them closed. Especially while I'm waiting at crossing and I would swear the horn gets louder the closer the train is to me.

Fibber Mcgee



Train Engineers love to wake you up at night, they really hate it that you are sleeping while they are working, ha ha

he said she said

When you are at a crossing where the gates are down, look at the train down the track. It doesn't look like it's moving very fast....train speed is almost like an optical illusion. A train that is moving at 79 MPH looks like it is stopped. If the engineer didn't blow their horn at crossings, people that decide to go around the gate or not even stop when the crossing doesn't have a gate wouldn't give it a second thought to look to see if a train is coming. The train horn is a warning that the train is there and coming fast.


Because they are really having that problem in Vermilion (sarcasm).


We need more "Quiet Zones!"


Yes we do!!

Dr. Information

This has to be the dumbest question ever asked, and holysee gets the award for dumbest poster.

2cents's picture

I believe some communities have no horn crossings. It requires if I remember correctly that the crossing gates close down all travel paths, in other words you can not go around the gates. Ask the city to have these installed.