Big Toot

The other day, an alert (and noise-sensitive) “06880” reader asked:

Do you have any idea how long the trains are going to blasting their horns through Westport? It started before we went away March 1st. I’m sure they must be getting a lot of complaints.

Though I live a couple of miles from the tracks, I’ve actually heard the horns myself. Well, maybe they’re car horns from drivers trying to navigate the increasingly chaotic Playhouse Square parking lot. Whatever.

I sounded out (ho ho) Aaron Donovan. He’s an MTA spokesman, and — because “06880” is “where Westport meets the world” — a 1994 Staples graduate.

He reported back:

This is a result of the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s long-term project to replace all the New Haven Line overhead wires, which were first installed in 1907. These original wires use antiquated “fixed termination” technology, which unfortunately allows the wires to sag ever so slightly during periods of high heat (it isn’t visible to the naked eye) or contract during periods of extreme cold, causing operations problems for trains. The DOT is updating the wires, more formally known as catenary, with a state-of-the-art “constant tension” system that will better accommodate the extreme temperature that can impact our region.

catenary lines

The good news is that this is the very last leg of the project. The DOT recently completed the section between Southport and Bridgeport, and are now turning attention to the section between Norwalk and Southport. In the current phase of the project, DOT’s contractors are out on the tracks digging holes to sink foundations for the gantries from which the new wire system will be suspended. For the safety of all personnel who are on or near the tracks, trains are required to sound their horns when approaching work zones.

The project is scheduled to be completed in September 2017.

Thanks, Aaron! That’s a lot more information than those signs that say “Good Service”!

(To learn even more about the DOT project, click here and here.) 

7 responses to “Big Toot

  1. There’s no better sound than that of a train whistle, or the rumble of trains on tracks! Think: prosperity, travel, less congested highways, etc.
    I live two blocks away from railway tracks, and find the sound quite soothing, reassuring.

  2. i.e. Better than the sound of a Maserati. Good luck with that, by the way.

  3. Sandra Wagenfeld

    Get over yourself, ‘Noise Sensitive Reader’! Where’s the romance in your soul? Aren’t we glad there is hustle and bustle around Playhouse
    I agree with Nancy. Square?

  4. Nancy and Sandra- I live on the Old Mill Pond and the trains are blaring every 7 min from 4 AM to 11 PM and this has been going on for over a month. Everyone that lives in this area has been completely understanding but it has reached a level where we all just want to know when this is ending since it’s been a month and half of this. It blasts you out of your sleep at 4 in the morning. Believe me it’s not a “rumbling or soothing”

    • Thank you, Sara, for the clarification. Blaring horns (not whistles) every seven minutes from 4am to 11pm? Really? That does seem over the top.

      If only more tax dollars were spent on infrastructure.

  5. David E Pettee

    Great post Araron …

    In short, the overhead electrical system was designed and built by Thomas Edison and backed by JP Morgan. At the time, it was one the most ambitious electrification projects the world had ever seen. The fact that the New Haven Line and it’s “fixed termination” technology” took over 20 years, from 1885-1907, to build out between New York and New Haven and lasted over 100 years is a testament to their accomplishments.

    Great to read The MTA Spokesman’s post using the current project in a historical context. Go Wreckers!

  6. Loretta Santella Hallock

    Thank you Sara.!!!