Tired of being “sleepless in St. Jacobs,” a group of village residents is looking for a solution to the late-night blaring of train whistles that have regularly interrupted their slumber for the past two years.
The freight train that runs up a spur line to Elmira used to pass through St. Jacobs early in the evening, but for the past couple of years the return trip occurs nightly between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., with the crew sounding a piercing whistle at each level crossing.
Residents have had enough, presenting a petition with 153 names to Woolwich council this week in hopes the municipality can find a solution with the Goderich-Exeter Railway, which operates the line.
Paul Kalbfleisch, who addressed councillors Monday night, suggested the railway move back to its earlier schedule or find a way to avoid using the whistle at crossings in St. Jacobs.
To compound the noise issue, the train sometimes stops – with a great deal of grinding and screeching – along a stretch of track near Henry Street, allowing the crew to head down to the Tim Hortons restaurant.
The whistle is a safety requirement used unless the crossing meets certain standards, including the presence of flashing lights and bells, for instance.
Coun. Mark Bauman agreed with Kalbfleisch’s call for the company to look at returning the schedule to an earlier time. He also asked staff to find out what it would take for the railway to eliminate whistles while passing through the village.
“It’s irritating, there’s no doubt about it. I’m awakened at all hours of the night,” said Bauman, who lives in St. Jacobs and has fielded “numerous phone calls” since the train began running later.
Mayor Bill Strauss suggested the trains were travelling through Woolwich at a later hour because of demands that chemicals from Elmira plants such as Chemtura Co. be transported late at night.
In a later interview, Bauman dismissed the rationale behind that decision, pointing to the downside of a spill or derailment in the middle of the night while people were in their homes asleep.
A quick solution to the whistle issue is unlikely. Neighbouring Waterloo, for instance, has a longstanding complaint about night-time noise, noted Coun. Murray Martin, who added he can sometimes hear the St. Jacobs whistles from his home in Conestogo.
Councillors directed staff to look into options, including discussions with the railway.