Author Topic: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!  (Read 10609 times)

Apocalyptica602

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Hi all,

We're in the later stages of considering a property that is near a freight line. Obviously biggest concern is noise, then resale value (if this is an issue that scares buyers away) followed by (incredibly unlikely and thus a much smaller concern) hazardous spills / derailments.

What I mean by 'close' is that our house would be approximately 1,200 feet from the tracks themselves, and ~2300 feet from the nearest crossing. Some research leads me to understand that freight trains are mandated by law to sound their horns 1/4 mile from a crossing, which pretty much puts it sounding the horn at 1200 feet from my potential future house.

Terrain details: The house is on a slight (~50-100') hill relative to the tracks and there are approximately 300 feet of tall trees and one row of other homes buffering.

Anyone have experience living this close to a freight train? I don't mind hearing a faint horn in the distance every once in a while, I'm a pretty heavy sleeper. But I'm not sure if 1200 feet constitutes 'faint'. Not sure what to expect. I can't seem to find an estimate of how active the line would be, apparently freight train schedules are kept hush hush due to national security and theft risks.

My wife grew up ~2000 feet from the end of an active runway of LaGuardia Airport in NYC and says she 'hated it at first, but eventually her brain tuned it out' so she's not very concerned.

Thanks for any and all advice!
« Last Edit: March 01, 2016, 02:46:54 PM by Apocalyptica602 »

AZDude

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2016, 02:47:44 PM »
Not that close, but I grew up in a house where we could hear the horn sounds every morning, if you were awake. Never bothered me because I grew up in a place with dogs, cats, siblings, and a house that is on a busy roadway. There was always noise and eventually you just tune it out.

I currently live in a home that is maybe 2 miles from the tracks. Train goes by a couple times a day. You can clearly hear the horn inside the house, but again... I just tune it out. 1200 feet, however, is really pushing it. That noise *might* wake you out of a deep sleep until you get used to it.

I guess the answer depends on how nice the house is and what kind of discount are you getting?

bobechs

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2016, 02:53:47 PM »
Many, many of the little towns built up along the tracks of the railroad main lines aren't even 1200 feet, city limit to city limit.

Yet people live and work in these places for years, even their whole lives, without their heads exploding.

Maybe those most prone to cranial explosion all moved away, I dunno.

You seem to have some explosionistic tendencies so probably ought to avoid the experiment

ketchup

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2016, 02:54:52 PM »
"How often does the train go by?"  "So often you won't even notice it."

I'd figure out just how busy the freight line is.  Talk to neighbors.  Creepily camp out near the tracks for a day.  That'll be your single most important factor.

Freight lines can range from multiple trains an hour (I work near one like that), or one slow train a week (used to live near one of those), and there's a pretty big disparity there in terms of impact on your eardrums and sanity. 

Also, I'm currently probably no more than a few hundred feet from the tracks, but there's a few hundred thousand square feet of industrial warehouse in between, so I hear nothing unless I'm outside.  Lots of variables.

BeanCounter

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2016, 02:58:06 PM »
I live in a neighborhood very close to a very busy rail line. We purposefully avoided lots that backed up to the tracks, because we have kids and that scared me (that they might become curious and play around them). But the noise isn't terrible, certainly less than plane noise, and our brain tunes it out for the most part. Sometimes I even find it comforting. I would not want it on the edge of my property.

galliver

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2016, 03:00:26 PM »
I lived in a house 1.5 blocks from train tracks/crossing first few years of grad school. Trains on that track weren't too frequent, but they did happen, most often in the middle of the night. I don't think it bothered my sleep much (especially after a while). Sometimes when it came up JUST as I was going to bed and tooted every 5 minutes it was bothersome (I'd *just* start drifting off and it would jerk me awake. Ugh.) I second suggestions to see how common the trains are.

One other potential concern, if you have or are planning to have kids, they can be scared by nighttime trains. We moved to a place with a train within audible range when my sister was 18-24 mos and IIRC she woke up crying every time one came by (fortunately not every night) for the year we lived there. I was only 6 though so it may have only been a tense month or two and I forgot.

Cassie

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2016, 03:13:46 PM »
I grew up in a house like that and the house shook whenever the train went by and you could not hear if you were on the phone. YOu get really used to it and then it doesn't bother you. However, the trains only went by maybe 6x's/day I am guessing. Yes it did affect resale value but they sold it to a young couple starting out.

KCM5

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2016, 03:21:19 PM »
I used to live about that distance from a very busy track. Like, we timed it and it was 9-10 freight trains per hour.

Bedroom was in the basement, so that probably makes a difference, but after a couple of weeks we never noticed the trains.

Hazardous spills 1200 feet away? Not that it couldn't happen, I just don't think I personally would spend much time worrying about it.

ncornilsen

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2016, 03:54:29 PM »
I live about 600 feet from a railroad track, that is about 100 feet higher than the railway. There's nothing but an apartment building between me and the tracks. They recently put in a quiet-crossing, so the horn blasts are rare, but I honestly don't even notice the train any more.

But it was HILARIOUS when I was looking at buying the house with the realtor... the windows were open, and the horn blasted. The realtor was sweating bullets for a bit till I told him it wouldn't bother me haha.


Cassie

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2016, 05:28:09 PM »
I did forget that while it did not bother us kids my Mom ended up on anxiety meds for the 20 years they lived in that house. She got off them when they sold and moved to a quieter house.

BeanCounter

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2016, 05:40:56 PM »
I did forget that while it did not bother us kids my Mom ended up on anxiety meds for the 20 years they lived in that house. She got off them when they sold and moved to a quieter house.
Are you sure it was the house causing the anxiety and not the kids???

Cassie

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2016, 05:48:09 PM »
Yeah because they lived there 30 years not 20 and she needed it long after we were gone. She said later that after a year she knew the train was driving her crazy but my Dad would not move because they got such a nice house so cheap.

Dollar Slice

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2016, 05:50:46 PM »
I've lived ~1/3 mile from a commuter train crossing, 1/2 mile from a freight train crossing, and I currently live basically on top of a very busy subway line. None of it ever bothered me. I like train sounds, I find it soothing. (I would always fall asleep on the Amtrak when I used to do BOS>NYP a lot.) I do find a lot of other noises very very annoying, so I'm not generally laid back about that stuff.

But... if I were you I'd look up the train schedule and try to be in the neighborhood while you know the train will go through. Then you'll hear it for yourself and you'll have an idea of how often they will run. Different people will react to things differently... my dad hated the highway noise at their old house which no one else even noticed because it was just a faint, distant white noise.

Prepube

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2016, 06:34:27 PM »
My sister lived pretty close to freight tracks, and I was never able to sleep there.  If you're going to have guests, they'll hate it because they'll never have time to get used to it.  On the other hand, I work in a building next to tracks, actually it's next to a a very active diesel repair facility with at least ten tracks.  There's also four light rail commuter tracks there.  I rarely, if ever, notice the noise any more after working there for fifteen years. 

If it's a great deal, take it, but if it's not, why even consider it with all the questions about whether it will retain its value? 

CindyBS

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2016, 07:03:58 PM »
I live within a 1000 ft of tracks and it is true that your mind just ignores it.  Logically, I know that we have about 4 trains per day go by including 1 in the middle of the night, but I honestly can't remember the last time I heard one.  I do occasionally get awakened by a middle of the night train and that is typically when instead of the soft horn the conductor literally just lays on the horn (crossings are only like 200 ft apart for miles)  so instead of a soft toot, soft toot, we hear him/her lay on it and keep it on full blast.   

Another thing to keep in mind near tracks is that railroads typically own a certain amount of land on either side.  To keep the weeds under control, they just send a train down the tracks with sprayers and spray herbicide on the property.  In my city people whose properties abut the railroads have complained about run off concerns.  I'm not sure if you have plans for any gardens near the actual tracks, but something to keep in mind. 

cjottawa

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #15 on: March 01, 2016, 07:05:26 PM »
Quality windows make a huge difference to indoor noise level. Last house I was in, we put in the new, double-pane, energy efficient type and you couldn't even hear the commuter bus go by, about 3-houses away from us. (it was accelerating at full-throttle away from a stop at that point and quite loud)

EDIT - I just Googled it...and I used to live 1,200 feet from a rail line that saw regular traffic! Ha! No, not a problem...never kept me up at night, barely heard a thing.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2016, 07:17:19 PM by cjottawa »

messymoneymay

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #16 on: March 01, 2016, 07:05:58 PM »
I grew up in a house with busy freight tracks right behind our back fence. The tracks were so close that the house would rattle when the trains went by. I remember people visiting us and when the train went by their eyes we get really wide and they would panic a little and ask what was going on.  It would take a few seconds to understand what they were talking about because after living in the house for a few weeks we didn't hear the trains anymore. I only remember the horn waking me up once.
My Dad worked shifts so I think it was a little more bothersome for him if he was trying to sleep during the day.

Kitsune

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #17 on: March 01, 2016, 08:20:10 PM »
I used to have an apartment where the bedroom window was literally 30ft away from the train tracks. Commuter trains, every morning (no horns, though). Yo just ignore it... We'd sleep with the windows open in summer, and sleep through it. Only issue was that it seemed to make things really dusty.

BlueHouse

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #18 on: March 01, 2016, 08:39:42 PM »
I live a few blocks from freight rail.  The train must sound he horn upon entering and leaving the tunnel, so I hear the horn occasionally. I like it and find it soothing.
Here are a few other things to consider:
1. Due to the widening of the Panama Canal, freight rail is making a huge effort to become more competitive and to ship fast enough to fill supertankers. This meansis going double-decker and high speed, so if your tracks haven't been upgraded in the past 10 years, expect work on them in the near future. Research projects like the capital gateway project on the east coast.

2. Police and fire departments are required to have a safety plan in place and are required to be advised when hazardous material passes. They don't notify the public due to security issues, but they need to have a plan. Try to meet with the fire chief or police safety officer to find out about the safety plans.

3. While railroad companies won't tell you what they're shipping, it's easy to find out by watching the trains. Anything with hazardous cargo must be labeled with the contents in case of an emergency. Just watch and write down a list of what you see, then check it against the fire departmrnt's safety plan. Make sure there is a plan in place to handle those chemicals.

4. Find out which railroad owns your tracks. These aren't like highways open to the public, they are owned by a single railroad such as CSX or B&O. Go on their website and see if they are planning work near you. Call their safety officer and ask about plans.

5. Check out websites such as dcsaferail to see what some of the problems are of people who live closest to freight rail lines. Many good resources there

6. Weigh everything you learn with a grain of salt. It would bother some people to be so close. Me, not at all.

Nothlit

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #19 on: March 01, 2016, 09:49:29 PM »
My grandparents' house is less than 250 feet from a freight line. Trains go by a handful of times a day, and usually at least one or two overnight. Not only is the horn pretty loud, but you can also feel the vibration of the train through the ground since the house is so close. But everyone who lived in that house (grandparents, my mom, aunt & uncle) all say that you get used to it, which I don't doubt. However, since I only visited a few times a year, I never got used to it. It didn't bother me during the day -- I always kind of enjoyed it as kind of a "fun thing that happens at grandma's house". But it definitely woke me up at night. Just keep that in mind if you plan to have regular or even occasional overnight guests.

slipslop

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #20 on: March 01, 2016, 10:22:00 PM »
Know thyself. I lived a few hundred feet from a freight/commuter tracks for 5 years and never adapted to the noise. When my wife and I married, she moved in, and rarely heard the trains after a few months. If you're the type of person who, like me, is sensitive to noises you might never be able to ignore it. My wife, and most of our neighbors, didn't have too much of a problem with it.

Apocalyptica602

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #21 on: March 02, 2016, 07:23:15 AM »
OP here. Thanks for all of the responses!

I might have come off a little overly sensitive. I'm a heavy sleeper and not particularly sensitive to noise. The house is up to modern codes and is double pane windowed and well insulated.

I'm definitely not concerned about the house rattling or even hearing the rattling of the track. As someone mentioned 1200 feet is 3 football fields away, it's the horns. We're near crossings and they aren't 'quiet zone crossings'.

I claim that I'm 'not sensitive' since when I stayed over my wife's former residence 1/2 a mile from an active LGA runway, I didn't notice that planes were landing (although that might be because her family is so loud, haha).

Still though, I like to prepare for every possibility, especially when making a decision of a large magnitude like this. So I think this weekend I'll camp out in my car for a few hours by the house with the windows open and see if a train goes by, maybe knock on some doors, meet some potential neighbors and ask their opinion etc.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #22 on: March 02, 2016, 09:15:49 AM »
The horns don't bother me at all. I live 1400 feet from a double-track Norfolk Southern line that has 35 trains a day. I work out of my house and when I work on a porch it interrupts calls, but if I'm inside even with the windows open, it doesn't. At this distance it doesn't shake the house at all. My house has brick structural walls, so that might be different if it were wood - I don't know.

One's going by right now. I can only hear it when I'm not typing.

Posthumane

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #23 on: March 02, 2016, 09:47:32 AM »
I live about 300m (1000 ft) from one of the main freight tracks going across Canada, with two crossings within a km of my house. The train noise doesn't bother me at all, and I only ever notice it in the summer when sitting on the patio or have the windows open. With the house windows closed I don't notice it at all, although if I can definitely hear it if I pay attention. Honestly, the furnace coming on bothers me more.

I remember talking to someone on skype and they asked me "hey, what's all that noise? Do you have a train going by??" and I had to stop and listen. I was honestly surprised they could even hear it, but apparently they found it quite loud through the mic. Occasionally when we are watching movies in the summer we will close the windows if there's a lot of quiet dialogue and we don't want to turn it up.

Lis

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #24 on: March 02, 2016, 01:09:00 PM »
My ex lived very close to a freight rail. I admit the first few nights I spent with him at that place there were some jumpy moments, but I'm a very jumpy person and a light sleeper. Honestly, after the first weekend I stopped noticing hit. I don't think it ever bothered him.

The biggest frustration was crossing over the tracks to get to his place or leave, and have to wait 10 minutes for the damn train to pass.

Abe

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #25 on: March 02, 2016, 01:31:15 PM »
I live <200 feet from a busy above-ground commuter rail station with a train passing every 10-15 minutes. They don't blast a horn, but one can hear the train quite loudly outside. I was initially very sensitive to it, but now barely notice. One thing that helped was getting polycarbonate sound-deadening windows installed in the bedroom closest to the train.

Bill76

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #26 on: March 02, 2016, 02:40:16 PM »
Our house is 300-400 feet from a freight line.  200 feet of that is a wooded buffer between us and the tracks.  Thankfully, we own most of that buffer and the railroad owns the rest, so we don't have to worry about someone cutting down all the trees.  We're in a quiet zone, so we don't get horn blasts in our immediate area.  We probably get one train an hour on average.  Generally fewer of them late at night than during the day.

When we're in the house, we hardly notice it anymore. It doesn't disrupt our sleep.  It doesn't bother the dogs. When we're outside, conversations become difficult until the train finishes passing by, but it's not that big a deal.

The only time it really bothered me was when we were huddled in the basement watching the weather guy on TV say a tornado was passing through our neighborhood... at the exact moment when a louder-than-usual train sped past the house. We were terrified for about 45 seconds!

I am a little bit concerned about resale, but we paid $75k less than we would have for a comparable house in a fancier neighborhood across town with less land, so I figure it'll balance itself out in the end. We're not planning on moving any time in the next 15 years anyway.

o2bfree

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Re: Considering buying home near freight train. Experiences needed!
« Reply #27 on: March 02, 2016, 03:06:04 PM »
I lived across the street from train tracks for a couple years. Trains weren't required to blow their horn nearby, so that wasn't an issue. Trains going by didn't bother me much. But sometimes the engines would park there for hours with their motors idling. That got a little old if we were sitting out on the deck wanting to enjoy a quiet moment. But overall I got used to them.