So Loud You Can't Get Used To This

I like loud car stereos, loud festivals, loud parties, loud machines. I have trained myself to focus regardless of the surroundings and can watch an episode on Hulu not hearing a word you are saying to me. I am not afraid of loud. So far I have no hearing damage. (I do use earplugs as needed.)

Recently, I have found myself in a situation that is finally too loud. Train horns. Point blank train horns are LOUD. The building we will be moving our lab to is ON (as in 15ft from) a double set of active Union Pacific railroad tracks. (Yes, we were very aware of the trains when we selected the building. The trains impact the property value for the area.) To add to the stress, freight trains do not run on set schedules so planning around them is out.

What Problem Are We Trying to Solve?

Trains create noise while running. There are loud noises when a stopped train resumes as the car connections reengage. Trains vibrate the ground. Train wheels squeak. Train gates ring bells when active. All those are manageable noises that fade into the background.

The real train noise problem is from the horns. They can be heard for miles. They are supposed to warn everyone that a train is coming because they can't really stop. With 90 to 120 cars, a freight train can be a mile long. It can take at least that distance to stop even when the emergency brake is applied.

The Future

Looking at the data for Texas from Union Pacific, we see train traffic is increasing. It is likely to do so as fuel prices increase and more goods are produced. Trains are incredibly efficient and able to move massive amounts of weight.

Rail Cars Originated in Texas

2009 1,004,422
2010 1,117,415
2011 1,136,020
2012 1,225,430
2013 1,257,341

Rail Cars Terminated in Texas

2009 998,698
2010 1,177,649
2011 1,272,543
2012 1,306,621
2013 1,365,152

What can we do to lower train horn noise?

The most direct solution is establishing a Quiet Zone. We'll look into this path first.

If we can't stop it at the source, the more creative solutions are active noise cancellation, sound dampening techniques, and other exotic additions to the building itself.

We need some actual data. Teaching a Raspberry Pi to tweet a picture of a passing train every time it blows the horn would help illustrate the situation.