Monday, July 9, 2012

Train Whistles in the Crowsnest pass

Wow did not expect all the comments on train whistles.
But seeing it is such a hot topic I did a little research to see what experience other municipalities have experienced with this issue, came across this excellent report done by Strathcona County recently (July 2011)
There council decided to drop the issue after receiving this report please take a few moments to check it out at the following address

For those that don't want to read the whole report I will provide a few highlights:

Train Whistle Sound Requirements
The Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR) state that:
 Trains exceeding 70 km/h must sound whistle signal 400 meters before the crossing, to be prolonged or repeated, until the train has fully entered and occupies the crossing.
 A marker post or whistle post will be located 400 meters before each public crossing where required.
 Trains operating at 70 km/h or less must sound whistle signal to provide at least 20 seconds warning before entering the crossing and continue to sound their whistle signal until the train has fully entered and occupies the crossing.
 Whistle signal is not required when manual protection such as a flag person is
provided or when rail equipment is approaching a protected crossing with automatic
warning devices; the exception to rail equipment are rail snow plows as they are still
require to sound their whistle.

There are some safety recommendations and warning requirements to fulfill before a grade level crossing can qualify for the whistle cessation. The requirements come from the Procedure &;  Conditions for Eliminating Whistling at Public Crossings: Guideline 1, Appendix A, Transport Canada, and from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). These include:Enclosure I
Page 5
Train Whistle Cessation Report  July 2011
Document #45814:  EEP Transportation Engineering.5715
 Flashing lights, automatic gates and bells are required at crossings where maximum operating speed of train is 80 km/h or greater.
 Railway advance warning signs should be installed on all vehicular approaches as per the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Canada.
A 6 foot high chain link fence for the length of 800 meters along the track on either side of the roadway is required to prevent trespassing.
 Median islands are recommended to restrict drivers from going around the lowered
gates. (As per FRA)
 Four quadrant gates can be considered for additional safe

7.0 Policies/Considerations in other Cities/Counties
Strathcona County staff researched the experience of other municipalities that have considered implementing whistle bans. The City of Kamloops, Tofield, and Parkland County have whistle bans at certain grade level crossings. The City of Edmonton had a bylaw in place however have since rescinded the bylaw as it was difficult to enforce even though trains typically travel below 70Km/hr making it easier to identify offending trains, however since the conductor always has the final judgment when blowing the whistle, in addition to liability concerns for reduced safety. St. Albert, Red Deer, Olds, Yellowhead County, Sturgeon County, Red Deer County, Camrose County and Beaver County have investigated whistle cessation, however to date do not have 
whistle cessation bylaws.  
More information regarding these decisions is detailed in Appendix B

8.0 Considerations 
Of the nine level crossings identified in the report, four have automatic gates, flashing lights and bells and five  have flashing lights and bells. Roadways with higher traffic volumes may require supplemental safety measures such as median islands or four quadrant gates. Additional requirements include:
 Removing any debris, structures, trees or vegetation within the stopping sight distance of thee train track to provide a clear unobstructed view of approaching trains.
 Installation of advance warning signs to alert motorists of whistle ban.
Safety measures such as flashing lights, bells, gates and 800 meters of chain link fence on either side of the crossing along the track.
The municipality pays to upgrade the crossing which could cost from $300000 to $500000 per site. Additionally the municipality becomes liable for collisions on the tracks when the gate system fails which has been the deciding factor against implementing the ban for many towns, cities and counties. It is important to note that train engineers have an obligation to sound their whistle if they believe there is a danger.
Transport Canada has a grade crossing improvement program where lights and gates are funded 80% by Transport Canada, 12.5 % by the municipality, 7.5 % by CN rail. However, grant money is not available for changes due to whistle cessation legislation

There is conflicting evidence identifying an increase in collision rates when a whistle ban is implemented. The FRA states that collisions increased as much as 50% in the United States upon whistle cessation. It is noted that only 40% of crossings with bans have gates, and 12% of crossings with bans do not have any safety feature and several other factors have changed between the study periods.  
Administration does not recommend pursuing whistle minimizing policy to be completed. Due to the experiences neighbouring municipalities have had with assuming liability for intersections, extensive monetary commitment for intersection improvements, reduced level of safety, drawn out and lengthy approval process, lack of enforceability, and mixed public opinion.  The challenges and potential issues that arise from implementing whistle cessation at this time do not outweigh the positive

There are some things to think about before a municipality goes out and does this, in 2005 I spoke to a Transport Canada Rep at the AUMA convention about this issue his advice was "you don't want to deal with this issue" based on what I have read above I can see why.
Number of crossings in the Pass I am guessing the following 2 in Hillcrest, 1 in Frank, 4 in Blairmore, 2 in Coleman.


Anonymous said...

What great information. Thank you. Well, I guess they are here to stay. It would be nice if they were a little more considerate though. Sometimes I think they do the continual blow just for the fun of it. Some are really good. I think 70 km speed limit is way below what actual is - probably 100 plus. It is too bad they make it so hard for municipalities though as it is a detriment to people visiting.

Anonymous said...

And that should quickly end the debate as to why we do not have these.
Maybe we should make Bellevue the hub as they have no train running through town.LOL

Anonymous said...

Dean why don't you do a little more research on that gopher hunter story that was floating around you would be amazed????????

Anonymous said...

Gopher hunting story? Lousy Liberals want to take that away from red blooded Albertans now?

Anonymous said...

How come the Coleman bushtown rail crossing has crossing arms?

Anonymous said...

Yes how come???