Caution, Do Not Stop On The Tracks!

According to an article in the Jan. 19 edition of Diario Extra, the Sala IV court has ordered that the trains running between San Jose and Heredia try to keep the noise down. A woman in Heredia complained that the noise of the train horns was causing her severe physical and emotional problems. Having heard the horns both up close and from my apartment at least a kilometer away, I can believe it.

A friend was staying at the Hotel Amistad and was rather rudely awakened (or was it, kept awake?) by the horns at 5am when the train began its run to Heredia. If you can be awakened by an alarm clock, you would certainly be awoken by the train horns. The Amistad came up with a solution: they hired crossing guards to stop traffic so the trains wouldn’t have to blow their horns to warn drivers not to get in the way of the trains.

I grew up in a town called Roseville, California.

When we moved there in 1958, it boasted the largest switching yard west of Chicago. The sound of train cars banging into each other, train horns, and the clickity-clack of the wheels were all part of the background music of all our lives. There was a lot of rail traffic back in the 50s, 60,s and 70s. Nowadays the train yards are a shadow of their former selves, but you can still hear a few trains going through every day. Even back in the heyday of the Southern Pacific (I think it’s Santa Fe now, after all the mergers) we had automated crossing barriers and warning bells. And unlike Costa Rica, houses (and hotels) weren’t built right alongside the tracks. During the big growth boom and yuppification of the 90s and early 2000s, the newcomers complained about the noise and were able to get special crossing barriers installed that blew quieter horns so the trains wouldn’t blow their loud ones and molest the yuppies.

The trains were pretty much abandoned after the earthquake of 1991 and only recently have any trains begun to run again.

In order to alleviate some of the traffic congestion between Heredia and San Jose, a new service was implemented in late 2008. The new trains caught some drivers unawares and there were several accidents. Visibility at some of the crossings is poor, to put it mildly. I can’t say that there were no crossing barriers erected before the trains began to run, but I can say that there were plenty of crossings that had no barriers, and still have no barriers. Will they ever? I doubt I will live long enough to know.

So the engineers blow their horns to warn drivers (and pedestrians) that a train is a-comin’ and they better ‘get out the way!’ And if you live close to the tracks… Incofer (the train people) say you should have known that someday trains might run again, and that trains have horns, and that you shouldn’t have bought the house if you were bothered by train horns blowing a few yards from your ears. Two sides to every story, right?

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