What is the Purpose of the Milwaukee Train Horn?

What is the Purpose of the Milwaukee Train Horn?

Train horn blasts have Walker’s Point residents on edge. But what is the purpose of this piercing noise? Federal law requires train crews to sound their horns at all public railroad crossings unless they meet federal requirements for a quiet zone.

Engineers may also sound the milwaukee train horn if they perceive a safety threat, such as if a vehicle or person is on or near the tracks. They must blow the horn at a loud enough level to provide adequate warning, typically 96-110 decibels. BNSF management and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) spot check train crews on a regular basis to ensure compliance with this rule.

The horn is activated by air pressure from a locomotive’s main air reservoir. When the engineer opens the horn valve, pressurized air flows into the power chamber at the base of the horn and out through its large flared horn bell. The air’s rapid exit causes the diaphragm to vibrate or oscillate back and forth against the horn nozzle, creating sound. The size, length and shape of the diaphragm and horn bell contribute to the frequency of the sound produced.

Purpose of the Milwaukee Train Horn

A horn’s most common use is to warn motorists and pedestrians of a train coming at an intersection without barriers or crossing gates. Train horns also are used to signal the engineer’s intention to move in a specific direction, such as turning left at a signal or stopping for a pedestrian crossing.

In addition to their aural warnings, train horns are useful for communicating with other rail crew members. The American Railroad Association’s operating rules include a list of horn signals, including the “o” for short sounds and the “—-” for long sounds. The horns are also used to communicate the engineer’s location and to alert other rail workers that they need to come out to the tracks to assist with the train.

Horns are sounded when trains enter the Milwaukee Amtrak station. It’s a safety requirement to alert the bridge operator that a train is approaching, so he or she can inspect the movable rail bridge for any signs of wear and tear.

Another reason for frequent horn blasts is to alert a BNSF engineer when the train’s cab doors are opening or closing. This is required before a train can cross a grade crossing, especially when it’s traveling faster than the posted speed limit.

The horns are also sounded as the train leaves the station. Engineers need to hear that their passengers are seated, and they also must be sure to secure all equipment before leaving the station. Walker’s Point residents can’t stop the horns altogether, but they hope to reduce their volume by encouraging businesses along the route to request a reduced noise level. In the meantime, Mayor Tom Barrett and Councilman Daniel Lahner are working with BNSF to lock the quad gate at the Milwaukee Avenue intersection, which would cut down on the number of times the horn is sounded.

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