Essays, Poetry, Observations, Etc.

Of Trains and Silence (and not)

In life on June 4, 2012 at 11:16 pm

A semi-peaceful night.

After what has been more than a couple of hours, the incessant bells of the nearby railroad crossing have ceased.

Trains of the Burlington Northern railroad come through from the northwest and turn east at White Oak Bayou and the crossing right after the bayou is TC Jester, a half a block from where I live. Now, once the train comes through, more often than not, the arms of the crossing stay down and the warning bell continues its plaintive alert. Sometimes it stops after about 20 or 30 min. and sometimes it doesn’t stop till another train comes through.

Tonight it was particularly annoying. a train came through about 8:30 PM and 30 min. later the railroad crossing arms were still down and the bells still ringing. I hiked out to the crossing, determined to finally get the telephone number and call the railroad.  There I ran into a Houston police officer who managed to get a hold of the Burlington Northern signal alert phone number and gave it to me.

I called and within about 30 to 40 min. a railroad employee was on the scene. He jumpered the arms open, but didn’t/couldn’t stop the bell. Then he waited for some more employees to come along while he monitored the crossing in case another train came through. A decent employee is he.

Maybe this time they can figure out what’s causing the problem, because this has been going on for at least the last six or seven months. Trouble is, according to the railroad, nobody has been calling the problem in, so the signal problem has gone unreported. I haven’t done it because I live about a half a block away and I had no idea what the telephone number was.

And I did learn something interesting, something I’d been hoping for the last few years. I talked to the railroad guy and he told me that the silent crossing system is coming to our neighborhood. They are working on it from Antoine to Watonga. And the next crossing after Watonga is the street around the corner from me! Hallelujah! Given the railroad bureaucracy, it may be another year, but at least it’s progressing.

After all of these years, the sound of the train horns don’t even bother me while I sleep, but when I’m watching movies, I have to hit pause until I can hear the soundtrack again. Then again, the lack of train horns may be just as disturbing to my sleep… until I get used to the quiet again.

Of course, there will always be the rumble of the train as it rolls past. After all these years, there is some comfort in that, something satisfying as the deep throb courses through the earth as steel meets steel.

Some things, at least, won’t change.

And in between, there will still be the silence I treasure.

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