How often does the freight train pass by this house I wanna buy?
April 20, 2014 8:49 AM   Subscribe

How often does the freight train pass by this house I wanna buy? is it annoying? I wanna buy a house near here and I am curious how often the trains pass by, if it will be annoying or not. Can anyone find a schedule of the trains that pass by so I can go stand there while it passes by and see how annoying it is? Does anyone have history or advice on living near train tracks?
posted by lijiaxiaoniu to Home & Garden (26 answers total)
I lived pretty close to train tracks as a kid - the freight trains would pass a few times a day, I think - and you really, truly stop hearing them after a while. Eventually it is just background noise.

I was pretty small when we moved to that house, so I don't remember exactly how long it took to stop hearing the trains, but almost certainly less than a month or so.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 9:06 AM on April 20, 2014

Just very vague but I've lived near two train tracks and for me distance was the most important factor, 50 feet away vs 5 houses away. And related but more importantly, proximity to crossings (and so whether they'll be blowing the very loud whistle, how often and for how long - time and distance). The type of crossing may matter as well, are there stop lights, warning lights, barriers or is it just a really basic road crossing. I think the whistles come into play more with the later kind (so louder and longer).
posted by pennypiper at 9:09 AM on April 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

A lot will depend on the frequency and the timing of the trains, as well as proximity to crossings which may require warnings, either from a traffic gate or train horn. Trains often pass through urbanized areas during off-hours (i.e. night) to reduce traffic delays. A lot will depend on the condition of the tracks and track bed as well as any curves in the nearby area.

I would be concerned about what kinds of goods are generally being transported. Toxic/combustibles are more recently in the news for problems.

I would try to ask the residents in the area about their experiences. You might also consider whether the house is significantly discounted in price from what similar houses in non-railroad areas are priced.
posted by uncaken at 9:09 AM on April 20, 2014

I've twice lived about a block from train tracks where freight trains went by pretty infrequently (less than 10x/day). It was startling at first (loud! house shaking!) but we got used to it and by the time I moved I rarely even noticed the trains. The only problems I had were that the house-shaking caused lots of cracks in the plaster.

You don't want to be by a crossing where they have to blow their horns every time they pass through. That would be much more annoying.
posted by belladonna at 9:10 AM on April 20, 2014

It can be an issue if you want to resell. I have no data, but I often hear about these homes staying on the market longer than expected. I'd look into the history of sales, and talk to the neighbors if that kind of thing matters to you (it would to me, but if you plan to live there the rest of your life you may not).
posted by Aranquis at 9:18 AM on April 20, 2014

To find out the schedule you might try something like the city/county traffic or road department. If they don't have a schedule perhaps they can tell you who owns the track and contact them.
posted by uncaken at 9:27 AM on April 20, 2014

Something else to consider if you're checking it out right now:

I live near an airport. Like others said, you get used to it and eventually tune it out.

Every year, around October, I will suddenly notice that the airport has gotten a lot louder. This is because the leaves have fallen off the trees between me and it.
posted by Hatashran at 9:31 AM on April 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Can somebody find me a schedule please? From my bedroom to the train is about 20 meters.
posted by lijiaxiaoniu at 9:44 AM on April 20, 2014

According to this and this, no, no one can provide an exact schedule because there aren't any for US freight trains the way there are for passenger trains.
posted by rtha at 10:14 AM on April 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hey, Columbus!

I use to live along King Ave, about a mile from the tracks. IIRC, the trains along that line weren't that frequent. I mostly see CSX trains on that line, for what it's worth. There aren't any at-grade crossings nearby, so I don't think you'd have that much horn noise. But I would suggest googling reviews for the Varsity Inn South (also right near the tracks) to get an idea of the train noise.

With that location, I would be more worried about noise from highway right there (315), tbh, especially since you'd be right near an on ramp.
posted by damayanti at 10:17 AM on April 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

The house we're currently in is about 60 feet from a rail line - I fell in love with the house but was very worried about the proximity of the tracks, just like you. The development that the house is in backs up to the rail line, so there are 6-8 more homes with a similar distance to the line. We canvassed the neighbors and asked them what they thought about train noise - about one or two said they regretted moving in, the rest said that they no longer noticed the noise.

Watching the trains go by I could see that it was a BNSF rail line. I wanted to be in the house the next time a train passed, so I wanted a schedule like you're after. I got some contact information from their website and sent off a request... which was duly rejected. They would not share a timetable with me - or even a time window - for 'security reasons'.

I was able to contact the builder and confirm that there was extra soundproofing in the house, so there was at least some forethought to the planning of the neighborhood.

I managed to luck out and be in the house as a train passed: it wasn't nearly as loud as I had expected, but it was definitely noticeable. Some trains seem to be slower/heavier and some faster/louder - but most don't last over 90 seconds. Over the past year, it has indeed faded into the background.

Unfortunately it's a really subjective thing - if you explain your concern to the current owner or the realtor you are working with you should be able to work out something where you can spend an afternoon or evening in the house waiting for a train to pass. There's no easy answer other than to be there when a train goes by.
posted by HannoverFist at 10:24 AM on April 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

As mentioned above, trains passing aren't that big of a deal - it's the whistles that will cause problems. Looking at the map, the closest crossing that requires a whistle is a good bit away from you. If I was looking to live in this neighborhood, I wouldn't be concerned - after a month/two weeks - you'll be habituated to the train.
posted by Brent Parker at 10:42 AM on April 20, 2014

Seconding proximity to highway will be the bigger noise issue, as well as a dirty air issue. I live a couple of short blocks from train tracks that go right through city streets, it doesn't bother me, but when I lived 100 ft from the track my house shook every time the train went by.

I would strongly urge you to find another place.
posted by mareli at 10:56 AM on April 20, 2014

I live about 100 feet from the Long Island railroad. They run about 40 trains a day, and they're not really that disturbing. There are some exceptions. When it's really hot and humid I have all the windows open and (of course) they are noticeably louder.

But freight trains are different. I don't see that many, and they're not really louder, but they shake the house a lot more. The first time a coal train went by I was in the basement, and for a second I thought we were having a small earthquake.
posted by Marky at 11:19 AM on April 20, 2014

I'd be more concerned about the freeway noise, which is going to be constant.

I live in an old neighborhood where several train tracks and crossings exist. The closest crossing is about 500 feet away. I like the train sounds, when I notice them. But the freeway roar from 1/4 mile away is much more annoying - again, when I notice it.
posted by caryatid at 11:32 AM on April 20, 2014

Living that close to the tracks and freeway is definitely a health risk--for respiratory diseases like asthma, and cardiovascular disease. There will be constant freeway noise, and even if it's somewhat muted, that noise can cause other health problems. There are windows (I think called Indow) that can reduce noise--they have a demo video with a train going by virtually silently. But it seems like a bad idea to voluntarily live somewhere that polluted.
posted by three_red_balloons at 12:36 PM on April 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Schedules won't exist. You should ask the neighbors.

Not being near a crossing is a very good thing. My sister's rural house was directly across the street from a cargo line crossing, and occasionally (like on her wedding party weekend) the crossing warning would get STUCK ON CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG.

We live one block from a low-speed cargo line and barely notice the sound at all. A mile away that line crosses a street and we can barely hear the horn blows at night, although it must suck for those living a lot closer. Cargo trains run at all hours.

And do what damayanti said above.
posted by intermod at 1:05 PM on April 20, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks guys for all the great answers. By the way, does anyone know how to get a good inspector in Columbus Ohio?
posted by lijiaxiaoniu at 1:34 PM on April 20, 2014

As others have said, freight trains don't run on a set schedule. That said, there's a few resources that may be useful.

The FRA (the regulatory agency for railroads) has a map that lists all crossings in the area. (Go the the crossing inventory page, choose "Maps" from the list near the bottom.)

From there, we can find a DOT number for a crossing on that line, and once we have that, we can look up the report the railroad last files with the FRA about that crossing. (Keep in mind that even closed crossings/overpasses/underpasses appear in this database, so the nearest one may not be the best one. From a bit of trial and error, I found that 228636U is a mile or so north of your house, and has a useful report.

Go back to the crossing inventory page, type in the DOT number, and select generate report. You'll get this PDF that has the most recent data reported to the FRA. That gives us several pieces of information, some which we can use for further research:
  • The railroad reported that they run (on average) 15 trains per day down that line. (Keep in mind that these numbers can be a few years out out of date, but are generally good for a ballpark estimate.) On average, they run 2 switching moves, which are usually local trains moving cars back and forth between nearby industry and a railyard, and will often involve coupling/uncoupling cars, etc. (Note, however, that if the industry is not nearby, they may not stop in your neighborhood.)
  • Maximum speed on that line is 50 MPH, average train speed at the crossing is 45 MPH.
  • It is not in a quiet zone, so trains passing through will be whistling at the crossing.
  • The line is the CSX Columbus Subdivision, which happily has a Wikipedia page. (This may be useful for additional research, but note that CSX also has a Columbus Line Subdivision, just to make things confusing.) It's part of the Huntington Division.
The wikipedia entry mentions unit coal trains, which are slow and heavy, so you'd likely have additional engine noise, any banging from flat spots on wheels will be louder, and (depending on who you believe) coal dust may be a concern. Given the recent coal boom, the train count numbers given above may be low, but I'm thinking that not much of the new traffic is going through Ohio.

There's probably several groups of railfans that would know the current usage of the line. Here's one possible group. That said, I'd definitely ask around the neighborhood, or stick around for a while and observe yourself, since it's going to be highly variable and not something that we can answer from the internet.
posted by yuwtze at 1:43 PM on April 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

I've actually asked CSX for a schedule - so I could take the kiddo trainspotting - and they said, for security reasons, that they could not provide one. They did send a couple of nice CSX baseball caps though.

I agree with upthread comments, you're likely to be woken by nighttime horn tooting than by the sound of the train itself.
posted by carter at 3:29 PM on April 20, 2014

Oh OP, don't do it. I lived by the tracks for two years. The CSX trains would routinely idle outside my window in the early morning hours, their deep-throated diesels shaking my very bones, their air brakes hissing at irregular intervals of a minute or two to punctuate my sleepless discomfort. You don't get used to it. You will lie awake tossing and turning, resorting to earplugs and eventually noise-canceling headphones for a modicum of relief, but they won't stop the basso-profundo rumbling that penetrates your very soul. You'll lie in bed staring at the ceiling for countless unsettled hours, all the while thinking to yourself, why, God, why did I rationalize my way into moving to this forsaken spot?
posted by killdevil at 4:14 PM on April 20, 2014

yeah, i had friends who lived a bit farther from the tracks than you might, but they finally had to move because of the rumbling that never ended. sounds ilke the same kind of tracks too, mostly cargo stuff.
posted by andreapandrea at 4:56 PM on April 20, 2014

I live about 10 minutes away from there up in Worthington near the other set of tracks that pass through Columbus. I don't live close enough to regularly feel the rumble (although I do sometimes) but I hear the horns pretty regularly even late at night. In all honesty I don't think I'd want to live much closer.
posted by Poldo at 6:45 PM on April 20, 2014

Everyone is different. I lived in a house where I could have reached out the bedroom window and just about touched the fence along the right of way. The street in front of the house had a grade crossing - no crossing bells, but the required horn signals from the locomotives.
(as a note, very few people around today have ever heard a whistle - those are on steam locomotives. Diesels and electric engines use air horns.)
Santa Fe ran some unit trains of molten sulpher on that line - had to get from the gulf coast to where ever it was going before the sulpher cooled and solidified. So, they'd come cranking past the house about 50 - 60 mph at around 2-3 in the morning, blowing for the crossing.
It woke me up for a few weeks, but not after that.
posted by rudd135 at 7:09 PM on April 20, 2014

Thanks guys for all the great answers. By the way, does anyone know how to get a good inspector in Columbus Ohio?

I'd ask a housepainter/plasterer for a referral. (An old-school painter, not a college-kid franchisee.) Painters are fussy detail-oriented.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:26 PM on April 20, 2014

Can anyone find a schedule of the trains that pass by so I can go stand there while it passes by and see how annoying it is?

A schedule, even if you could get one, might not mean anything 6 months from now, when they decide to route 10x more cars of light crude or something along that line.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:29 PM on April 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

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