Living near Railroad Tracks - How Noisy Is It? (Chicago Suburbs)
January 10, 2013
I've found a lot of great homes whose only drawback seems to be proximity to railroad tracks (combination of freight and commuter trains). How noisy would it be to be 1-2 blocks from a major railway? They'd be newer homes (no more than 15 years old), so perhaps they'd be soundproofed? I'd appreciate some input from those who have lived that close to RR tracks.
Tam, that is an EXCELLENT point that I hadn't even considered. Thank you for that!
I have lived near train tracks my whole life, used by both Conrail and Amtrack. I love the sound of trains. I couldn't stand being near an airport or major highway, those would be deal breakers for me. But trains? Nah, I find the sound quite soothing.
We used to live right on the tracks in a condo in Downers, we even faced the tracks and it wasn't too bad. you hardly notice the metra trains. Empty freight trains are worse than full ones because they rattle. If you really like the house, I wouldn't let proximity to the tracks deter you.
I remember when I was a teen my aunt and uncle who lived in California came for a visit and stayed with my grandparents. Both got up the first morning they were there and complained about the noise the train made and that the city clock tower chimed 13 times at midnight. My grandparents only comment was what train -- what clock tower. There home was only 2 houses from the tracks and about 2 blocks from the clock tower. They were so used to the sounds they never heard them any more.
I grew up on a major highway. Many years later my grandpa had moved in with my parents and he would get up early in the morning complaining about the noise the trucks made, my parents reaction -- what trucks?
You get so used to the normal sounds around your home that after a time you do not even notice the noise.
When I first met my husband he lived in an apartment that had a major railroad track about a half block behind his apartment. He loved it. It took me a LOOONG time to get used to it and even though I never really did get used to it, eventually it's irritating factor diminished. It still woke me up though when it would roll through at night.
If I were you, I would canvass the area and ask your would be neighbors what there take on it is.
~When we were looking to buy a house we ran across a real nice one on the river but also close to train tracks...husband was in heaven but I had to veto it. Railroad tracks in close proximity and children together scare the holly living daylights out of me. I would never be comfortable letting them go out and ride their bikes or anything!!
I think it is all relative. If the train comes through once a night than no big deal. If it is a major train thoroughfare than I'd think twice. I doubt there is any amount of soundproofing that could be done. In addition I think you'd have a hard time reselling it when the time comes.
My parents (and I when I was in high school) live 2 houses down from a set of railroad tracks and crossing. There are three crossings within a half mile, the one near their house being the middle crossing. Pretty much any house in their town is a mile or less away from a set of railroad tracks.
The trains are noisy, even more so near a crossing since the horns will be going off. That being said, you get used to it. The trains in their town come through all day and night and the horns would never wake me up at night. If you are a light sleeper, this could be a problem. My house now is about a mile away from a set of tracks and when I hear the horn of the train, it reminds me of home.
I live half a mile north of those same tracks and in the summer with the windows open, we can hear the train. The train traffic over night is a lot less than during the day and commuting hours. Are there street crossings near your house or is it all over/under pass? The trains can't blow their horns during certain times, so you don't have to worry about that.
You get used to it. My grandmother's house is right across the street from tracks and they get about a train a day. You might want to go visit and see how loud it is outside and guess how loud it would be inside. I will say that good windows help, but the trains might shake the house a little. I used to notice all the time, but now when I visit, I barely notice the train at all.
In addition to sound, please also consider the potential impacts on air quality. Trains do alot of idling in the Chicago region. If you live along a corridor where trains idle, you'll hear and smell it -- at all hours of the day or night. Check in with the Village Hall and ask them about this. Talk with the mayor's aide or to the planning department staff. They should be able to give you some insight. Good luck with your move!
I find the comments below so interesting!! I grew up in a house, I'd say...3-4 blocks from the railway. It's a freight and cargo railway. I would have friends come over and they would comment on how loud the train was, and we all never noticed. We definitely got used to it!! My parents live in the same house, and my husband commented on it the first time. Now, he doesn't even notice. They have lived in that house 30 years, and really forget a train runs.
Have you been in the places, when the trains were running? If you could do that, you'd be able to tell how loud it is.
Eta: Their house is close to the crossing, and we also stopped noticing the horns.
When we lived in Maryland, we were pretty close (2 blocks) to a commuter train that went to downtown DC. After a few weeks, everyone said we wouldn't notice it. I would say, that everyone but me. I'm a good sleeper, but noises bother me. So I heard it often and would wake up to it frequently.
So, you should gauge the track based on how you personally respond to noise while you sleep.
I have a brother in SoCalif who owns a large piece of property with the train tracks running right down the back, and only he could turn it into a true benefit. His son knows the schedule and stands out there and waves at all the conductors, and they toot their horn for him. So precious!
I live about 10 blocks from a train station in the burbs and it depends on the day but I can faintly hear the train whistles and more so if the windows are open. I don't notice the diff. between Metras or freight trains so I must sleep thru the freight trains at night! Being that close I'd be more concerned about kids playing on the tracks when they get old enough to wander the neighborhood with friends. If they are El tracks forget about it. You can't even hear yourself think when they go by!
When we remodeled our home we stayed, temporarily, in a townhome about a block off train tracks in our area (the Florida East Coast railway). When the train rolled through, it would literally rattle my fingers as I typed on my computer.
At night the whistle seemed very loud.
The "L" train in Chicago wouldn't bother me as much probably.
I used to live about 2 blocks from a commuter station-- passenger and freight trains round the clock. It was definitely loud, but after a while we barely noticed the noise. The only negative I remember was being unable to hear the TV while a train was passing. Nowadays, with a DVR you could pause until the train is gone. ;-)
We live a few blocks away from four sets of tracks. Honestly I didn't notice the trains much at all, I had lived near tracks most of my life. My daughter took a long time to get used to them. In our town they are allowed to blow their horns at all hours, and they often do all through the night. She was 2 when we moved here, and there are around 100 trains a day, I believe they are all cargo. My husband and I would wake up and find her sleeping in our room or wake up to her climbing into our bed, because she was scared. This lasted several months. My son never had a problem, but he was 4 weeks when we moved here.
Now my daughter is 4 and has no problems, and my son, now 2, never had any issues with them, so all is well.
You should be aware of the noise sensitivity of you and your family. If none of you are noise sensitive, and all are good sleepers, it might not be a problem and you might adjust. The comments indicate this is not uncommon.
I happen to be noise sensitive and a light sleeper, so it would be a no-go for me. I also work in environmental noise, so I'm way more attuned to these issues. I also would not live in a house on a busy roadway or a bus line, either. If I were a better sleeper, though, I might consider it.
That said, proximity to an at-grade crossing is going to be much more important than proximity to the railroad. Locomotive horns are exceptionally loud. I would suggest visiting the location later at night (as late as feasible) and try to catch a freight train passing by to see what you think. Freight trains are also louder than passenger trains.
We moved into the flight pattern of O'Hare, when I was age one, from living with the "L" running through our backyard on Sheffield, south of Cubs' Park. I grew up listening to the airplanes, and I was used to them, and never could understand why the schools (I didn't have air conditioning and closed windows) and the neighbors complained about the noise, in the last 25 years or so. But I moved to Franklin Park for seven years, about 8 blocks from the train yards. The squealing of the wheels on the tracks was like fingernails on a chalkboard. And in the summer, I would wake from the sound of the trains coupling and uncoupling. I waited, imagining that I would hear sirens of fire trucks from a train car "leaking some hazardous material". Of course it never happened. But now I am very happy to be back in the house that I grew up in--in the O'Hare plane flight pattern!
We have a commuter railroad which is against the back side of our building. Our apartment isn't on the same side as the rail. We can barely hear the train. In an area like NY, there are so many sounds to be contended with that the train is hardly a disruption. (see the my cousin Vinny references in the answers below).
Our DS loves trains, and we visit the station at least twice a day to watch people board and exit trains. As a special treat, we take him on the subway on weekends.
The noise would be less of a concern for me. I would be more worried about whether you would have a lot of street parking congestion, i.e. if you were near a station. Also, if the houses are priced right given their proximity to the tracks. If the tracks are making you hesitate as a buyer, chances are, it would be the same for others in the event of an eventual re-sale.
1 - 2 blocks shouldn't be a problem. There are train tracks that run alongside our housing tract. In fact, the train runs directly behind the houses on the other side of the street. I was in one of the homes one time when the train came by and I could not believe that those people could put up with the noise and the vibration! BUT on my side of the street, we barely hear it. We have double-paned windows which I'm sure helps A LOT.
Our friends bought a house in the country next to the rail road tracks. It isn't the sound of the train itself that is annoying, it is the whistle that blows because the train is crossing a street right next to their property. I grew up under the flightpath to the airport and I never noticed the planes.
I live about .7 miles from the rail tracks, the noise is minimal, and when my kids actually hear it, they enjoy the sound and think it is "Thomas". We bought the house close to the train station because we did not want to have to deal with traffic on 59 during rush hours and we both worked downtown. Now the situation is different, but from what I have seen, the homes close to mine actually get bought within 3 months from being on the market.
I hope this helps.
My home was built in 2002, I am less then a block away from the train tracks, and we have heavy traffic on those tracks. They used to be allowed to do their whistle, and when they could you could easily hear the whistle and train with our windows open, but with windows closed it was very faint so you only heard it if it was quiet. Now that they made it a whistle free zone I barely notice the train at all. The helicopters flying low over cause our house to vibrate and are very loud though, lol.
SO, if you are more then 8 houses away from the tracks it's a minor irritation at most. I am super glad we didn't buy a house that backed up to the tracks, I have visited neighbors in those houses and when they were still allowed to do whistles you had to stop conversations until it was done. Now with no whistle it's still VERY loud in those houses. I can't believe they are allowed to have houses that close to the tracks personally!
It might depend if you are "windows open" or "air conditioning" people in the summer. We are about 9/10 of a mile from the Canadian National railway in Aurora, and little more than that from the Burlington Northern. In the summer, with the windows open, the trains will wake up my preschool son at night, and sometimes us as well. If you usually have the windows closed, don't have any small children to be startled, and/or are really heavy sleepers, it might work.