Wayside Horn Study Under Way in Saguenay

STUDYING WAYSIDE HORNS - Project researcher Gordon English takes trackside readings of wayside horns at highway/railway crossings in Saguenay, Que. that may reduce noise in communities and maintain public safety.

MONTREAL - The whistle of a train approaching a crossing may disturb neighbours in communities near railway tracks. But if all goes well with wayside horn technology testing in Saguenay, Que., communities may be able to have more peace and quiet and still be safe at highway-railway crossings.

Transport Canada’s Transportation Development Centre (TDC) began site testing earlier this summer for its wayside horn pilot project. “The research project began in early December of last year, and is aimed at assessing the safety merits of the wayside horn,” says Anthony Napoli, TDC’s project officer.

“At the end of this project, we hope to have a better understanding of how effective the wayside horn is in alerting grade-crossing users, while reducing community noise levels. We also hope to have a better understanding of how well these units hold up in winter,” he said.

Napoli says this project was started in response to an increased need to know more about this technology by various communities, particularly those subjected to high levels of noise emanating from locomotive horns on trains.

After experiencing noise complaints, the City of Saguenay, in collaboration with the Ministère des Transports du Quebec (MTQ), wanted to see if the wayside horn could be a solution to the problem.

To determine whether this technology could effectively reduce noise levels and provide the same, or higher, level of safety as the locomotive horn, two grade crossings were selected for pilot testing.

Transport Canada’s Transportation Development Centre was asked to develop the project’s scope of work, and a research work-plan for testing at both sites. In addition to testing the safety merits of the technology, the plan includes evaluating its effectiveness in severe winter conditions.

“Transport Canada saw this as an opportunity to get involved in the research project and try and get some insight as to whether the wayside horn technology is as safety effective as the locomotive horn,” says Napoli.

The locomotive horn consists of three flutes to get a harmonic sound and is usually installed on top of the locomotive and sounded at the whistle post. The wayside horn consists of tone modules that are digitally recorded from an actual locomotive horn, and is installed at the grade crossing. The wayside horn is sounded towards the oncoming road traffic, making the sound much more concentrated, while limiting noise throughout the community.

While the hardware was installed in 2004, the project’s researcher Gordon English of Transys Research Ltd., retained by the TDC, was on the scene recently taking a number of readings and configurations from different heights and angles to determine the most efficient configuration for the wayside horn.

“We were taking measurements in vehicle to get the sound pressure level for trains approaching the crossing,” says English. He says the testing went well, and will be completed by the end of the summer, but the technology will be monitored throughout the winter to assess how it fares in harsh conditions.

The research work is being carried out as part of the Direction 2006 program – a special government, industry, community public safety initiative to reduce crossing collisions and trespass incidents by 50 per cent by the end of 2006. Transport Canada’s Transportation Development Centre and MTQ are funding this project. The final report is expected to be ready by March 2006. Napoli says: “If the technology proves to be successful, Transport Canada may consider this as an alternative to the locomotive horn in certain instances.”

A similar study, conducted in Mundelein, Illinois, found the automatic wayside horn system to be successful. The results showed a 70 per cent decrease in violations of highway-rail crossing law, and an 85 per cent decrease in noise levels in areas near tracks. Wayside horns are already in use at several crossings in the United States, in Texas, California, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois.

Contact Information:

Kayla Hounsell
Railway Association of Canada

Anthony Napoli
Transport Canada/ Transportation Development Centre