Train honking!

I live on the side of a hill. On the other side of the valley, about a mile away from my house, run the main north south BN railroad tracks as well as several sidings used by the switch yards that are about 3 miles south of us. If I am awake around 2:00 AM I normally hear crashing and booming punctuated with shrill screeches that I attribute to the railroad guys “playing trains” at the switch yard.
I replaced my windows and upgraded my insulation several years ago when I remodeled and don’t notice them “playing trains” now unless I have my bedroom window open.
Last night at midnight we were awoken by a train horn, not just a single blast but a continuously blown horn. It went on for over ten minutes, blowing for about 8-10 seconds with gaps of about a half a second.
The train was moving, heading south out of Seattle towards Tukwila. The horn steadily got louder for the first 4 or 5 minutes until my windows were rattling, or would have been if they were my old windows. Then passed and steadily grew fainter as the train passed us and headed off to wake and annoy the people of Tukwila.
It was not an automatic horn as the intervals changed slightly from time to time and we could not discern any Morse code as there were no short blasts only longs.
I opened my window as it passed and could hear it still blowing in the same pattern or lack thereof 8 minutes later, I would guess about 5 miles away.
The GF and I could think of no scenario that made sense unless the engineer just was mad at the world and wanted to annoy as many people as possible.
I have lived there for 44 years and have never heard this happen before.
Any Ideas?

Animals on the tracks?

Maybe it WAS Morse Code and the conductor was tapping out this message:


WAG: The engineer is a REAL HONKER ! :rolleyes:

Or maybe someone from this thread:

… was putting pennies and steel bars on the tracks. :smiley:

Animals or people on track, or maybe signalling for grade crossings? Are there any in your direction? From an engineer’s point of view, motorists seem oblivious to the outside world and need to be alerted. (Sadly, this seems to be a fact… see the National Transport Library for more links on the US situation.)

BTW, the reason they’re “playing trains”, or switching at the yard, is that trains arrive to the yard with cars destined to different places (e.g. one train from a steel mill may have loads for several factories). These are basically re-arranged by destination (e.g. everything for that GM plant goes on this track). The railroads are constantly trying to minimize the number of switching movements required for each train, as each costs money in the form of time, fuel and labor, so every crash, boom and screech the OP hears is the result of careful consideration and has to be done to keep the freight moving :smiley:

(Had the OP lived there 50 years ago, the noise would have been much worse.)

There was a slide on the Sounder tracks last night, but it was in Tacoma. Could it have been a warning about the slide?
My husband suggests you call BN at around the same time, so you’ll talk to the same crew, and just ask.

Does that line carry passenger trains in the daytime? If so, it’s often the case that major maintenance work is carried out at night. When men are on the tracks, the engineer will know all about it before he even climbs in the cab, and will be required to make his presence known in no uncertain terms when passing through the area where the gangers are.

Anecdotally, if you should ever be tempted to call the railroad and complain about the noise, do think twice before doing so. I know engineers who receive staff memos about “minimising noise between milepost such-and- such and some-other-place”, and they just think “snooty residents!” and lean on the horn as much as possible when passing through there.

Maybe someone’s already moaned, and what the OP describes is the result …

There are no crossings in that stretch of track and no animals other than the two legged variety or an occasional dog.
I have lived here for 44 years and it actually has stayed about the same, most of the trains along this route are freight.
I am very very aware of what they are doing when they are “playing trains” down there, I owned a business in a warehouse that backed on the railway for 7 years and every night during the night shift they would be shuffling cars around just 10 feet away from our bay doors and the night shift operators would open the doors and converse with the engineers as they went back and forth. One of my former employees actually went and applied for a job at BN and spends hours watching them still.
I think the best guess is still a pissed off operator, if there was construction all of the trains would have been blowing their horns, not just one.
I didn’t intend to complain, I just like to have reasons for things around me.

My guess is that somebody from Tukwila complained, but said they were from your neighbourhood…!