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Humor – I wonder why
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Humor – I wonder why

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By Bill Frazer

One of the interesting topics around LaFayette is the sign that Charles Gatlin has erected in his yard reference the company that insured his residence. It is a huge sign, about the size of a scoreboard located at the end of a football gridiron, and lets the townspeople know what he thinks about the company that cancelled his homeowner’s insurance after a fire. In the day of Twitter and Facebook, Mr. Gatlin’s approach is certainly notable. (Mr. Gatlin also stated that the sign has generated many on-line comments, airing their insurance complaints as well.)

Frazer Railroad Bike

Hmmmm! I think I will take that approach with my gripe about the railroad ear splitting noise.

On my daily bike rides in West Point, frequently the train interrupts my course and I stand there and wait for the train to go by. The train engineers seem to enjoy creating an almost constant horn blast as they approach the crossing all the way between the river trestle and Charter Bank. The decibels are so high that I stick my finger in my ears to avoid hurting my ear drums.

Sign In Yard On Avenue A In LaFayette

I stand there wondering why the horn blasts are necessary as the arms are down blocking the crossing, the red lights are flashing and the bells on the posts are ringing. Why the horn blasts that can be heard all over town?

But wait–what happens if there is a power outage and the gate arms fail to block the crossing? I checked that out and found that there are emergency batteries located in the switchbox in case of a power outage. Also, if there is power outage, the arms of the gate automatically fall across the tracks and stay in place until the power is restored. That is why periodically the police must go and direct traffic until the power is restored.

I have noticed when visiting large manufacturing facilities, most have signs posted reading SAFETY FIRST. I understand the need for gates and noise, especially with all the texting going on while driving. The old saying is true that “You can’t stop a train.” Ensuring that vehicles (and people) stay off the tracks is important. But I don’t understand the need for the ear-splitting horn. During the 44 years of my residing in West Point, I don’t recall any accidents.

I think that I will erect a large sign on both sides of the crossing that reads “RAILROAD BOYS, THE GATES ARE DOWN- -NO HORN BLOWING ALLOWED.” Do you think that they would throw a grumpy old 89 year old in jail for trespassing?

A Silent Railroad Crossing

Maybe it is because I am old coot and nostalgia reigns. But it seems to me that the train whistle was not as obnoxious as the horn. The whistle was almost melodic.

Well, it comes to light that Point University is building a huge dormitory adjacent to the tracks in downtown West Point. There is no doubt that ear splitting sounds every hour around the clock will be unacceptable to the student residents. I am told that Point University asked the City to make the downtown crossings a silent crossing. The difference would be that the gates would have to completely block any access to the tracks. CSX Railroad estimated that the cost would be well over $500,000. The mayor of West Point, Steve Tramell, stated that when he received the figure, it was end of discussion. Hmmmm, for this elderly penny pincher, sometimes putting up with a shrill horn may not be so bad.

Speaking of railroads, do you remember when as a lad you would compete with other brats to see who could walk the longest length of rail without losing your balance? The first one that fell off the rail was a “rotten egg.” The ones I hated were the hot shots who could leap across to the other rail without falling and keep on walking.

And like the train horn and Bob Dylan’s song, am I just “Blowing In the Wind?”