New train noise rankles Cocolalla residents

by KEITH KINNAIRD
News editor | August 11, 2020 1:00 AM

COCOLALLA — Landowners on the east side of Cocolalla Lake say they are being vexed by a peculiar noise emitted by southbound BNSF Railway Co. locomotives when they are traveling at speed.

Resident Bob Weir has grown accustomed to the clatter of passing trains over the last 10 years, but said trains traveling on the original line are making an uncharacteristic high-pitched sound he only started hearing about a month ago.

“It’s gotten progressively worse,” said Weir, who has taken to recording the noise with his mobile phone and sending them to the BNSF in attempt to address the issue.

Weir described the sound as “harmonic,” “annoying” and “deafening.”

“If you listen to it, it changes pitch,” said Weir. “I thought a 747 was landing in my backyard.”

Clint Stewart, a community affairs official with BSNF, said there are sometimes limitations in lessening the sound of passing locomotives, even with rail lubricators. Stewart told Weir in an email that such devices are located north and sound of Cocolalla Lake.

“Rail squeal is from the friction of metal wheels on the metal track and is common around curves, like the one near the north end of the lake, as there can be a slight lateral movement across the tracks. It is can also intensify as wheels interact with rails that have recently had a rail grinder on them,” Stewart said in his reply to Weir’s complaint.

Weir said he is appreciative for the BNSF’s responsiveness to his complaint.

“But that is not the issue,” Weir said, referring to the metal-on-metal explanation.

Weir suspects that the racket has something to do with the installation of double tracks in the area, although it only seems to emerge when trains are using the original set of tracks, heading south and running at higher speeds. He further suspects that the noise has to do with the angle of the moving train.

“It wasn’t doing this a month ago,” said Weir.

Stewart was apologetic about the noise and said in the email he would be forwarding Weir’s complaint to a local engineering team to see if the issue could be mitigated.

Weir said he is trying to obtain a decimeter to further document the noise.

“It’s well over 100 decibels,” said Weir.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.