Would you live near train tracks in a nice apartment?
January 6, 2008 4:54 PM   Subscribe

Given a choice between two nice apartments with the same rent, would you take one that is directly next to a train track (just moving people-- no freight) and about two floors up, but with nicer interior and better appliances, or would you take one that's slightly smaller and without any train noise? Along the same lines, do you get used to the noise? I was in the apartment when an express went by and it was quite loud...
posted by phaedrus441 to Home & Garden (37 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I live right on the T in Boston and I barely notice it. It's only an issue when some moron stops on the tracks and the trolley is blasting its horn at the guy. Granted, trolleys are a little quieter than full-size trains...
posted by backseatpilot at 4:57 PM on January 6, 2008

How often do trains go by? If it's every few minutes, it would drive me nuts. Turn the radio up, turn the radio down, turn the radio up....
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:57 PM on January 6, 2008

I was in the apartment when an express went by and it was quite loud...

Sounds like you have your answer there.
posted by grouse at 5:01 PM on January 6, 2008

I used to live on the corner of one of the main streets in Vancouver. Lots of buses and even some semi trailers. I got used to it as long as the windows were closed, but in the summer, I had to keep the windows up and it was pretty loud. If you have windows that face toward the train that you're going to have to keep open a lot, that can make a huge difference.
posted by Nelsormensch at 5:01 PM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I used to live next to a short line freight railroad. Literally less than a hundred feet away. It vibrated the whole house, although not so much that it damaged anything. I still got used to it. It never woke me up, although I heard it (obviously) when it went by if I was awake, which was several times a day.

They run passenger trains a few times a week also, and they are much, much, much quieter.

Also, it'll make a big difference whether they use diesel traction or electric. The diesel engines are the loud part. Electric trains are much quieter, as the rest of the noise noise is all wheel noise and general vibration from a thousand tons of steel and people rolling by.

Personally, I'd take the one next to the railroad. I probably wouldn't if I were a light sleeper, though.
posted by wierdo at 5:02 PM on January 6, 2008

My last apartment was near a train track and a quarry. If trains weren't going by the quarry was blasting and shaking the whole place. But I got used to it.

However, if you plan to have overnight guests frequently or if you plan to someday sublet the place or take on a roommate, it might bother them. So take that into consideration. If you can you might want to ask some of your soon-to-be neighbors how intrusive the noise is.
posted by christinetheslp at 5:13 PM on January 6, 2008

Response by poster: I guess my only worry is my girlfriend-- she stays over a lot and says it'll drive her crazy. But then again, if she stays over a lot, I'd imagine she'd get used to it, also. I should mention, these are tiny apartments I'm talking about-- the train track one is 29 sq. meters (~312 sq. feet) and the other is smaller (though honestly not that noticeably) at 22 sq. meters (236 sq. feet).
posted by phaedrus441 at 5:22 PM on January 6, 2008

i spent 4 months in a house that was about 50 feet away from a freight train track. the train ran twice a day, and honked its horn every time it went by because there was a crossing about ten yards down the track.

i got to where i could sleep through it, or only half-wake up, but because it only ran twice a day, i knew i could roll over and go back to sleep. if it went by every 10 minutes, i think it would have been a lot more annoying.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:23 PM on January 6, 2008

I grew up near freight train tracks, but I've moved away. They lull me to sleep when I visit, & I actually taped them when I was last there.

But then I live near a fire station now, & the only time the sirens get on my nerves is when I'm on the phone or watching TV.
posted by Pronoiac at 5:26 PM on January 6, 2008

Lived on the 2nd floor right next to a train for about a year. Passengers during the day, freight at night. I'm a pretty light sleeper, but after a month or two, I learned to sleep through the noise. The worst it got was during the summer, when the windows were open and the bells and honking interrupted TV watching. (Wouldn't have survived without DVR.) Otherwise, I got so used to it that when visitors commented on the loudness, I'd be like, "What train?"
posted by loulou718 at 5:27 PM on January 6, 2008

I lived next to a train track for over a year in Japan. My window was less than one yard from the platform. A train stopped at the station every two minutes. People said I would get used to it. It eventually drove me crazy and I moved into an even more poorly considered location. Now I live about 100 feet from a commuter rail track in Philadelphia. The twice-hourly train barely registers on my senses. Your situation sounds more like the former, my hell year at Ishibashi Station. Beware.
posted by vincele at 5:29 PM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I grew up two blocks from a freight line (and three blocks from an interstate). I only noticed the train when I was actively paying attention to it.
posted by drezdn at 5:33 PM on January 6, 2008

Quiet anything will wake you up less frequently than loud. That said, I've lived next to the commuter rail lines around Boston numerous times, whereas now, I live on a relatively quiet, but heavily-travelled street. I've been woken up many more times by a loud pedestrian than a loud train. A regularly scheduled train always sounds like a train. The occasional drunken pedestrian at 2AM sounds like an emergency. I think you have to figure out what kinds of noise you will get if you take the smaller place.
posted by not_on_display at 5:37 PM on January 6, 2008

I sleep a meter away from my radiator (small bedroom), which vibrates quite a bit in the winter, and often wakes me up. I also sleep with the door closed whenever I can, because the sound of the fridge motor coming on and off also wakes me up. Hell, even this wall clock I bought from IKEA was bugging me with the ticking sound it made ... ALL THE WAY FROM THE KITCHEN.

All you people saying you get used to the sound of a train going by are blessed!

In the winter I need to sleep with earplugs, because it gets too hot for me to close the bedroom door (the building controls the radiator).
posted by TheyCallItPeace at 5:43 PM on January 6, 2008

I get used to noise easily. I think I'd need to enumerate the pros and cons of each and choose the one that is going to be the nicest to live in. I'm thinking rent $$, type of heat, amount of light, condition/floors/walls, appliances if included, how the landlord seems, bathroom condition, etc.
posted by loiseau at 5:46 PM on January 6, 2008

Hey TheyCallItPeace, have you considered getting a fan, or a even a white noise machine to use while you sleep? Those noise machines work like a charm...drowns everything out. Here's one that we've used for a long time now:

Marpac White Noise Machine
posted by Ike_Arumba at 5:50 PM on January 6, 2008

I never got used to it. We used to live in a really nice condo. One problem though. It was one mile out from the airport, directly under the east to west landing zone. Probably didn't help that we lived on the top (3rd) floor. I could go out on my balcony and watch the planes maybe 100 yards above the condo. Straight above the condo. The planes were really my biggest issue, but we also had a freight train no more than 200 yards from the complex. Every 15 minutes without skipping a beat. After a while, you start to get used to it, but if you are a light sleeper, or you have issues getting to sleep at night, this is probably not the best situation.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 5:51 PM on January 6, 2008

My mum used to live in a house about 100 feet from a railway - passenger trains during daytime, freight trains at night. Each time a train thundered past, it would vibrate the house and make a lot of loud rumbling noise. My mum definitely got used to it, and eventually I got used to it, even though I didn't live there. I would visit once every couple of weeks and only notice if i was watching TV because the TV would rattle.
posted by Joh at 5:59 PM on January 6, 2008

I think you might want to take your girlfriend at her word and decide if that's important to you. Also, consider that living next to the train when it's summer and you want to have windows open may mean more dirt and soot settling in your apartment, depending on the fuel type that the train uses.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 6:01 PM on January 6, 2008

I used to live right next to an airport. I totally never noticed it.
posted by konolia at 6:02 PM on January 6, 2008

I grew up a few streets away with a train track, have lived near the T in Boston, and am now in the flight path of a major airport. Maybe it's me, but I found I've been able to completely block all of those kinds of sounds out after a short while. The thing that would worry me is if it shakes the floors and walls a lot -- annoying to have to keep picking your nicknacks up off the floor!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:05 PM on January 6, 2008

Ugh, no. Don't do it...that's just my opinion. Are you talking about NYC by any chance? My friend lived in a place in Astoria right near the N/W and the sound was outrageous. He never got used to it and moved out a few months later, breaking lease and everything.
posted by infinityjinx at 6:22 PM on January 6, 2008

I was dating a guy for a little while that lived directly across the street from a train station (LIRR). The first night I stayed there, the train was awful. It woke me up earlier than I thought commuter trains would even be running into the city. However, I got used to it much quicker than I thought was possible. I was sleeping through the train by the second time I stayed there. My point is that I would go for the better apartment, just because it's easy to get used to noise like that.

I had a similar experience when I moved into the place that I live now, which is on a really busy traffic street that basically sits on the highway.
posted by piratebowling at 6:39 PM on January 6, 2008

I used to live in an apartment behind which the TTC (Toronto subway) ran above ground (my balcony and windows faced the subway line. I not only got used to it, I liked it. If it's really close, it might be harder to get used to, but I'm a super-light sleeper and hypervigilant when I'm trying to go to sleep, and even I didn't find that it disturbed my sleep.
posted by biscotti at 6:47 PM on January 6, 2008

Jake: How often does the train go by?
Elwood: So often that you won't even notice it.

(Somebody had to...)
posted by deCadmus at 6:57 PM on January 6, 2008

I lived directly next to a train track for a year and honestly, after a few weeks, the noise was a comfort. It went by two times a day--once in the afternoon, and once after midnight. Personally, I'd take the bigger, nicer apartment.
posted by sian at 7:11 PM on January 6, 2008

Response by poster: There are trains going by about every 5-10 minutes from 5am to 1am.... Still think it's a good idea?
posted by phaedrus441 at 7:16 PM on January 6, 2008

I also grew up alongside the Long Island Railroad. I now find the sound of trains comforting.
posted by astruc at 7:38 PM on January 6, 2008

I strongly believe you should not take the apartment near the train.

Freight rail lines are the major transportation corridor for chemicals of all kinds. There are stories here in the states monthly of derailments, toxic spills, and significant evacuations. Even if there are no outright spills, many important chemicals are highly volatile, and are shipped as liquids at cryonic temperatures in thermos-like cars which vent continuously at a low level as their contents slowly warm up. Moreover, the lines themselves are kept free of plants by very high levels of applications of herbicides, and if wooden rails are used, those are treated with a noxious and volatile cocktail of toxic compounds.

I see from a previous question that you have celiac disease, and I think this could make you more vulnerable to chemicals than an average person would be. Celiac disease is, among other things, an autoimmune disorder, and I think autoimmune disorders generally can vastly amplify the impact of toxic chemicals because the aroused immune system can interpret (if you will) the tissue damage from a toxin as the action of a pathogenic organism and come in behind that damage and make it much worse in a misguided attempt to eradicate infection. This is a risk I feel you should not take for the sake of a few extra square meters of floor space.
posted by jamjam at 8:04 PM on January 6, 2008

I lived right next to a train line in Omaha for two years. I noticed it, but I grew to love it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:30 PM on January 6, 2008

I lived in a third floor apartment across from Wrigley Field in Chicago that featured the Wrigleyville El Station directly behind us. Someone above quoted the Blues Brothers movie and this was pretty close to that same situation. You'll go through a phase where you hear it all the time and then it will magically go away.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:38 PM on January 6, 2008

There is an eL stop about 50 feet away from the rear of my apartment building. 4 tracks total, and the red line doesn't stop here, so it blazes through, often at fairly high speed at night. I got used to the sound within a week. I'm quite fond of it.
posted by ninjew at 10:22 PM on January 6, 2008

Like many of the previous answerers, I had the experience of living next to train tracks for a while. Mine was in Minneapolis, and it was a very active rail line; freight trains many times a day. There was a small trestle right outside our house (well, just across our street). The first night I woke up every time and cursed myself for renting there. After that, I was fine, and never noticed it at all. I am, however, known to be a sound sleeper. I regularly sleep through telephones, people knocking on the door, etc. I live under a flight path now and it doesn't bother me.

The apartments you've described are really tiny, though, so I'd go for the larger one. You can get used to the train noise. Unless you already know that you are hypersensitive to noise or a light sleeper.
posted by litlnemo at 11:04 PM on January 6, 2008

I'd go with quiet any time. You can make ambient sounds louder - if you want. But you can't make them quieter.
posted by flutable at 12:46 AM on January 7, 2008

I guess my only worry is my girlfriend-- she stays over a lot and says it'll drive her crazy. But then again, if she stays over a lot, I'd imagine she'd get used to it, also.
posted by phaedrus441 at 2:22 AM on January 7

I truly believe you should take this up with your girlfriend. It could be that she gets used to the noise of the train tracks, like you say. However, maybe she doesn't. Not only will it drive her crazy, she will most likely blame you for that craziness. And quite rightly so, in my opinion*. Even if she doesn't blame you, she could be bad tempered from and irritated by the noise and the noise-related lack of sleep.

But, you know your girlfriend a lot better than I do, so maybe I'm completely wrong with my preachy comment. And that's, again, an excellent argument for discussing this with your girlfriend.

I should mention, these are tiny apartments I'm talking about-- the train track one is 29 sq. meters (~312 sq. feet) and the other is smaller (though honestly not that noticeably) at 22 sq. meters (236 sq. feet).
posted by phaedrus441 at 2:22 AM on January 7

Hypothetic reasoning: what if the apartments were 29m² en 27² (=not noticeably different), which one would you choose then? Nicer interior and better appliances or peace and quiet?

*However, I'm a very biased internet stranger. I hate loud noises, repetitive noises, noise in general, the ticking of a clock, whistlers, repetitivly tapping people, airplane noise, train noise, car noise, bicycle noise, people who speak loudly, ...
Personally, I would loathe my boyfriend for choosing the apartment which I told him would drive me crazy. But this only demonstrates that I really can't stand noise and you shouldn't listen to me, but talk to your girlfriend instead.

posted by lioness at 1:16 PM on January 7, 2008

Things to consider when making your decision:

How sensitive are you (and your gf) to noise?
How quiet does the room have to be to allow you to sleep?

My parents' house is a short distance from a freight train track and we all got used to it very quickly- I don't wake up from it even now when I visit them, and actually find the noise kind of soothing.

But then, I like a little noise (fan, computer, air conditioner, traffic noise, SOMETHING) when I sleep; as a college student I lived in a dorm right on a large major highway and used to open my windows to hear the traffic noise at night. (Of course, it was bad for my allergies, but that's something else again.)
posted by oblique red at 2:31 PM on January 7, 2008

i grew up with a freight train going through our back yard. no problem. but living next to the el tracks, with one blasting by every ten minutes, drove me out of my skull. i would have dreams involving incredibly loud dragons threatening to crash through the wall above my bed. it was just like the Blues Brothers scene.

this is how i discovered what it was really like to be an insomniac.

only take the train apt if you're *really sure* you're both heavy sleepers.
posted by RedEmma at 2:48 PM on January 7, 2008

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