February 24, 2020 - Markham Silences Train Horns

Mayor Frank Scarpitti says Markham has taken steps to silence GO train horns at 13 level crossings in the city, a move that should appease concerns of residents about noise.  This is the culmination of many years of effort and the expenditure of $6 million dollars on upgrades to the the grade crossing infrastructure.  Read the CBC report here Markham Silences Train Horns

August 13, 2018 - Cost Effective Whistle Cessation Is Possible

After three years of research and follow-up with regulatory agencies, we have concluded that implementation of whistle cessation at grade crossings that are protected by Flashing Lights, Bells and Gates (FLBG), should be straightforward without onerous costs to the Municipality or CN Rail.

While there may be a need for additional features such as signs warning that train horns are not sounded at a particular crossing, there should be no need for expensive Detailed Safety Assessments by consultants. 

At this point the Rail Authority (CN & CP) and Road Authority (Cramahe) should have shared all the required information about grade crossings, as mandated by Transport Canada.  Using this information, Municipalities should be able to negotiate directly with Rail Companies to implement whistle cessation along a railway corridor protected by FLBG.

To cover all bases we previously wrote to Transport Canada questioning why train horns were even necessary at grade crossings equipped with Flashing Lights, Bells and Gates (FLGB).  Here is the initial response

May 22, 2018

Dear Gritt and Ernie Koehl:

Thank you for your correspondence of April 4, 2018, regarding the rules governing the use of train bells and whistles at grade crossings.

The safety and security of Canadians and of the transportation system are Transport Canada’s top priorities.  Under the Railway Safety Act and the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, my department is responsible for regulating the safety of federally regulated rail operations within Canada.

I appreciate your taking the time to provide Transport Canada with your suggestions.  Per your request for consideration, your correspondence has been forwarded to the Policy and Regulatory Affairs groups.  Additional information about my department’s mandate, policies and programs can be found at https://www.tc.gc.ca/.

Thank you again for writing.

Yours sincerely,


The Honourable Marc Garneau, P.C., M.P.

Minister of Transport


c.c.       Ms. Kim Rudd, M.P.

            Northumberland–Peterborough South

This vague response was questioned in an email to Transport Canada and we received the following clarification:

May 31, 2018

Hello Ernie,

The Minister’s office has shared with us your follow up correspondence and regarding your suggestions relating to the regulations and rules governing train whistling at crossings.

To answer your question our Policy and Regulatory Affairs groups are the bodies which are primarily involved with the development of and changes to regulations. These groups, in consultation and conjunction with our Legal department and subject matter experts, take information and suggestions (such as the information you provided) into consideration in possible future regulatory development. They would not directly respond to input such as this, rather they would have it as reference for future consideration.


Colin Marlow

A/ Issues Manager, Surface

Transport Canada / Government of Canada

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / Cel: 416-902-0843 / TTY: 1-888-675-6863

This then led to a discussion with Transport Canada staff as to the safety logic of requiring the sounding of horns at grade crossings with FLBG.  While no documented evidence was provided on the incremental safety of using train horns at these grade crossings, the horns arguably enhance the safety of pedestrians.

In a nutshell the federal government has just completed a comprehensive review of the Grade Crossing Regulations and Standards.  This process will not occur again for another 5 years.  In essence there can be no short term changes in these regulatory documents unless there is a glaring safety issue that needs immediate attention.  Any suggestions for change (such as was made in our letter to the Minister of Transport) go into a file for future consideration by the Policy and Regulatory advisory groups. This is made clear in the following email from Transport Canada.

August 13, 2018

Hello Ernie,

With regards to the process of regulation revision, I’ve consulted with our policy and regulatory affairs groups and confirmed that the process is as I had previously stated. Public input (such as your suggestion regarding the sounding of train horns at crossings equipped with FLBG warning systems) is added to the body of knowledge for future consideration when reviews do take place as mandated.

One piece of info I wanted to pass on was that the Railway Safety Act has recently undergone a full review, complete with analysis and recommendations. The mandate of this Review stems from the Act, which requires a comprehensive review of the operation of the Act no later than 5 years after the day that section 51 (1) came into force. As committed in the Government Response to the June 2016 Report of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, and as part of Transportation 2030 – A Strategic Plan for the Future of Transportation in Canada: Safer Transportation, the Minister of Transport accelerated the Review to begin on May 1, 2017, rather than in May 2018, to evaluate more promptly the current state of rail safety in Canada. This entire review is available to the public and can be found at


This information will hopefully help provide a greater understanding of the scope, scale, and overall review process.


Colin Marlow

A/ Issues Manager, Surface

Transport Canada / Government of Canada

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / Cel: 416-902-0843 / TTY: 1-888-675-6863

The information from Transport Canada indicates that there is no clear safety requirement for train horns at grade crossings equipped with FLBG.  Unfortunately due to the timing of regulatory reviews there will be no short term regulatory relief from train horns.  The Federal government has however made it clear that it does not insist on Detailed Safety Assessments in order to implement whistle cessation.  This is a measure put in place by the Rail Companies that makes whistle cessation unnecessarily difficult and expensive.  It should be possible for Municipalities to negotiate whistle cessation directly with the Rail Companies without doing Detailed Safety Assessments.

April 5, 2018 - Letter to Transport Minister Re Train Horns

It has become clear that trying to implement train whistle cessation in small Municipalities or Townships is akin to flogging a dead horse.  There is no desire to spend money on something that only impacts a small percentage of the population, no matter how bothersome it might be to those people.  Furthermore there is no desire to improve the condition of grade crossings because it involves spending precious infrastructure money.  A letter has been written to the Minister of Transport to try and get the government to relax the requirement for trains to sound their horns at  all grade crossings.  The reality is that train horns add nothing to the safety of grade crossings equipped with Flashing Lights, Bells and Gates.  Read the letter here Letter to the Minister Of Transport Re Train Horns

February 14, 2017 Real Estate Brochure for Colborne Creek Subdivision

A resident from the Colborne Creek Subdivision provided the CCA with a copy of a Real Estate brochure (Colborne Creek - The Country Side of City Living).  The brochure states "By choosing Colborne Creek you will embrace tranquil country living in the heart of a specially planned active lifestyle community." The brochure goes on to extol the charms of the "delightful village" of Colborne.  It cleverly fails to mention the nearby train tracks and train horns that sound around the clock.  It also doesn't mention that train traffic is bound to increase with time.  Of course the author of the booklet gets away with it by adding in small print that the "Buyer is advised to do his (sic) "due diligence".  Talk about false advertising!

Colborne Creek Subdivision Brochure

November 3, 2016 Train Whistle Cessation and Quality of Life

The November 3, 2016 edition of The Northumberland News is celebrating 25 years of news coverage. Of particular interest in this edition is the message from Peter Delanty who was the Mayor of Cobourg from 2000-2010.  One of the key points in his article was that he was "blessed with councillors who looked beyond the daily issues of running a town to having a vision of how they wanted to make their town a better place to live in the future."

He goes on to say "We eliminated train whistles... this required extensive negotiations with CN and CP railways and the federal government. It was worth it as it improved the quality of life for our citizens."

The Mayor's complete message is posted here.  Peter Delanty's Message

September 20, 2016 Presentation to Council

On September 20, 2016 Steve Koehl made a presentation to Council regarding whistle cessation at Victoria Street and Ontario Street to give local residents relief from train horns. Read the presentation here (Whistle Cessation at Ontario and Victoria Streets)

Members of Council simply shrugged in response.  Councillor Ed Van Egmond commented that there was no money for such an undertaking adding that if Council implemented whistle cessation for these two crossings others (such as Blyth Park residents) would come forward asking for the same thing.

July 2015 Presentation to Council

In July 2015 the Koehls appeared before Council offering their services in approaching the Rail Company to develop a cost effective strategy for whistle cessation. The Council presentation can be read here (Koehl Council Presentation)

Council declined the offer.

CIMA Report

In 2015 CIMA (an engineering consulting company) issued their report on the suitablility of two crossings (Ontario Street and Peters Road) in the Township for whistle cessation. Read a summary of the report here (CIMA Report Summary).   You can access the full report here CIMA Report (Full Version)

Why do trains whistle?

 Level Crossing 700 pixels

 This is the sound of an Airchime K5LA train horn. The term whistling is used extensively in literature and regulations but the current air operated device is a far cry from the whistles of old.

Train horns are safety devices that are supposed to alert motorists and pedestrians to the presence of an approaching train. They also are used to warn trespassers away from the rail right-of-way. Locomotive engineers supposedly follow a detailed set of instructions in the Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR) that outline when a horn must be sounded and the sequence to be used. The CROR's are based on requirements set by the U.S Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Effective June 24, 2005, the rule requires that locomotive horns be sounded at all public grade crossings at least 15 seconds, but not more than 20 seconds before entering a crossing.  This rule applies when the train speed is below 45 mph (70 km/h). At 45 mph or above, trains are still required to sound their horn at the designated location (usually denoted with a whistle post).

The pattern for blowing the horn remains two long, one short, and one long. This is to be repeated as necessary until the lead locomotive fully occupies the crossing. Locomotive engineers retain the authority to vary this pattern as necessary for crossings in close proximity, and are allowed to sound the horn in emergency situations no matter where the location.

People living adjacent to railway operations sometimes find that noise associated with trains, especially the train horns, intrude on their enjoyment of their home. This is especially true during humid summer months when windows are open and people spend more time outside.

Sounding horns at public crossings may be waived for a specific crossing or series of crossings. In order to proceed with a horn or whistle cessation application, it requires the support of the local Municipal Government.

Summary of procedure to implement train whistle cessation

Since 2006 citizens of Cramahe have periodically petitioned Cramahe Council asking for train whistle cessation.