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History's Echo or Intrusive Blast?

January 24, 2004

Re "End of the Lonely Call of the Rails," Commentary, Jan. 18: "You could hear that whistle blow 100 miles ... Oh me, oh my, you could hear the whistle blow 100 miles." Warren Zanes overlooked this traditional song lyric in his reflections of the wistful enjoyment of the lonely call of the rails. From our home in the Silver Lake area, we will miss the train whistles we've heard for the last 50 years. So much for progress!

Frank L. Burke

Los Angeles


My husband and I both enjoyed reading Zanes' commentary, but how could he not mention Glenn Miller's wonderful hit "Chattanooga Choo-Choo"?

Ardis and Frank Dahl



When I was a boy there was no nicer sound than the "lonesome" sound of the steam locomotive's "whistle" as it pulled a mile-long freight train across the Midwest farmland.

But when the steam locomotive was replaced by the diesel locomotive, the romantic-sounding steam whistle was also replaced -- by what is essentially a truck's air horn on steroids -- and now, when we hear that "lonesome whistle" blowing, it ain't what we're a-hearing.

W.E. Dietsch



I agree that mournful sounds coming from distant train whistles can indeed evoke all of the emotions and nostalgic feelings Zanes describes. But I can only welcome any possible end to them.

I don't live in a Southern town but here in Southern California in an unincorporated area near Whittier. Trains run within a half-mile of my condo. I saw the article about their whistles' possible demise but was discouraged because it only stated that cities could petition for a reduction under certain circumstances.

The city of Whittier proper is on the other side of the hill. I don't look for any help there.

I wouldn't mind a certain amount of train whistles, but what I get is not just a few toots to warn but blasts that go on and on -- to the point I think it has to be a deliberate effort to be intrusive at 2 a.m., 3 a.m., 4 a.m. In the two years I have lived here I have learned to tune out much of it, and yet there are times I wonder what the purpose is of those prolonged, discordant blasts.

A recent guest woke up thinking he was in the middle of a nightmare.

So, Mr. Zanes, I think where you live is exactly the point.

Marty Wilson


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