Ear-piercing train whistles are robbing Blackfalds residents of sleep and driving away potential newcomers, a local resident told town council this week.
Jeff Morrison said he lives on the east side of the community about as far from town rail crossings as you can get but is still woken up several times a night by whistles from passing Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. freight trains. He timed one whistle blasting for five minutes as the train trundled through the town’s multiple crossings.
Morrison said the town’s reputation for being subjected to noisy whistles is well known.
“The thing I constantly get asked is, ‘Doesn’t the train drive you nuts?’ And the answer is ‘yes’ and that is driving a lot of people from moving here.
“During the day is one thing, but at nighttime when people are trying to sleep, especially in the summertime, you can’t sleep. You get woken up three or four or five times a night and you just can’t sleep,” said Morrison.
“I know that everyone I talk to who lives here, it drives them nuts, but it’s just something that they tolerate to be here. But it would be nice not to tolerate to be here. It would be nice to be able to attract more people to want to move here.
“In the summertime, I try to sleep with my windows open and I can’t just, just because of how bad it is.”
Morrison said he understands there are safety reasons for engineers sounding their whistles as they pass through the community. However, many crossings have been upgraded with fencing, lights and crossing arms that prevent vehicles unintentionally crossing in front of an oncoming train.
“You’ve done all the due diligence needed,” he said. “I don’t feel it’s necessary to have (the whistles).”
There may be some additional measures that need to be in place before whistle cessation could be approved, but he doubts that not a lot remains to be done to meet safety requirements. “We’re probably 90 per cent of the way there to be able to stop it.”
Ending the racket would be a big selling point for the town, he added.
“This is a wonderful place to live. That’s the only thing bad about it, is the train. If it’s possible to stop it I think it would be an amazing thing for the entire town.”
Coun. Laura Svab said she would like administration to look into the issue and bring back a report.
Even before she was on council, she heard people talking about the train whistles. Once council has more information, the town may want to survey residents to get their take on the issue, she suggested.
Coun. Rebecca Stendie also wanted to see a report outlining the cost of upgrades to allow for whistle cessation and who would be responsible for costs. Discussions would also likely be needed with Lacombe County, which has rail crossings located near the town.
Blackfalds chief administrative officer Myron Thompson said he has already talked about the issue with CP Rail and would bring back a report to council on its options at the March 14 meeting.
Innisfail residents also complained about train whistles for years. The town worked with CP Rail to have whistles silenced, beginning with four crossings in town where the whistle fell silent in June 2021. Lacombe has also been looking into whether train whistles can be silenced and whether trains can be slowed down.