An open letter to A. Bruce Carswell, president and general manager, Portland and Western Railroad:

Trains are great! I grew up with trains steaming through our Garden Home backyard. Big black steam engines pulling tankers, boxcars and flatcars; flatcars of logs out of the Tillamook Forest; logs so big they could get only three on a car; and an occasional passenger train filled with tourists headed to the coast. My brothers and I ran alongside jealously waving to and making rude faces at the excursionists whom we considered affluently lucky.

More recently, we were thrilled a few years ago to show our young granddaughter what steam engines were about when SP and S-700 chugged through our Lake Grove neighborhood a half mile from our home. Our granddaughter was awe-struck as we stood a mere 10 feet from that huge engine as it rumbled along. What a treat. She will never forget it, nor will we. And now she knows, too, the unique sound of a steam engine's whistle. There is no sound like it. It is a grand sound, and from a distance, sort of mournful but still wonderful.

As we said before, trains are great! We are happy to see your trains hauling goods to-and-fro. We hope your railroad is a healthy one. We believe a busy, healthy railroad is an indication that other parts of the economy also are working well. The only issue we have with your railroad is the use of the train-engines' whistles - not whistles, horns. I realize that train laws require the horn to be sounded as a warning in certain instances. For example, as the train nears a road crossing: Two longs, a short and a long (the durations of which apparently are at the discretion of the train person activating the horn). During daylight hours and unless one is near the crossing or otherwise paying strict attention, the sound of the horn is unobtrusive. We hardly notice. It blends into all the other daytime noises.

Our problem with the horns comes during hours of darkness; more precisely, between midnight and 4 a.m. Again, we realize that train rules require sounding the horn as the train approaches road crossings, one of which, you'll remember, is a half-mile from our home. Some mornings the horn blower sounds the horn as if she/he feels guilty about making such noise when most of the rest of us are trying to sleep. Honnk, honnk, honk, honnk. Necessary, but brief, quick honks that are over before we're completely awake.

On many mornings, however, the horn blower sounds the horn as if she/he is not only warning of the road crossing but also signaling 'if I must be awake, everyone is going to be awake.' Honnnnnk . . . honnnnnk . . . honnnnk . . . honnnnnk. The first long, seemingly incessant, wakes us. Then near quiet. We anxiously await the second long, which we know is coming. Eventually it comes, equally dragged out as the first. By this time we know that this early morning horn blowing is going to keep us awake for a while as we anticipate the forthcoming lengthy short and another dragged-out long.

We can't speak for the folks in the McMansions up the tracks that are closer to more crossings and therefore more honks than we are; but, we respectfully ask that there be no discretion for anything but the brief, quick honks. We can live - and sleep - with that.

Rick Newton is a resident of the Lake Grove area of Lake Oswego.

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