Train-whistle blares won’t subside until at least August

Delay due to wayside horn company’s late paperwork
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Elburn residents throughout the village will continue to hear train whistles blaring regularly for up to six more weeks, since alternate safety devices—wayside horns—were not installed at the end of June as Elburn had expected.

The project start was delayed because the installer, Railroad Controls Limited (RCL), was late in submitting documents to the Illinois Department of Transportation needed for permission to bore under Route 47, Community Development Director David Morrison said.

RCL obtained the permit this week and likely will start the installation Monday, July 13, Morrison said.

Village officials decided in 2008 to install the horns as a safety measure so that trains do not have to blow their whistles while rolling through town. The measure received Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) approval last year: With the wayside horn installation, the FRA will allow Elburn to be free, for the most part, of the train whistles heard throughout the village since locomotives started coming through in the mid 1800s.

The wayside horns will direct their sound only toward the immediate area of pedestrian and vehicular traffic near the crossings. Both the First Street and Route 47 crossings will have two wayside horns each, as well as a flashing “X” sign posted at a height of 20 feet.

The approximately 10-day installation will be followed by a 30-day waiting period, during which Union Pacific (UP) railroad will confirm the visibility of the flashing X sign to train engineers, as well as to make sure the wayside horn’s audio component is performing properly, Morrison said.

After the wayside horns are up and running, trains will still will blow their whistles if the “X” is not flashing, indicating wayside horn malfunction, or if the locomotive engineer sees a safety hazard, according to a letter from UP Public Affairs Director Thomas Zepler.

The village agreed in April to pay RCL $124,125 for the horns and installation at the First Street and Main Street crossings, with contract approval from the Illinois Commerce Commission and UP, which owns the crossings.

Among the many safety measures village officials studied for the past several years to meet federal regulations allowing for a whistle-free zone, the wayside horns was the least expensive, village officials said. Other ways they considered included installing a center barrier of pylons at the First Street crossing, for $400,000.