Friday, September 07, 2007

Goodnight America, how are ya?

Here's something I never knew until yesterday: When a train nears a crossing it blares its horn four times. Two long, one short, one really long blast from the horn. How do I know this, and why did it take me over 40 years to discover this esoteric bit of knowledge? Well, for the past two nights I've been jarred awake every hour by the passing of trains on the BNSF Railway.

Hwaaaah Hwaaaah Hwaa Hwaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh. Here, take a listen.

Although the code is always the same, there are subtle variations. Some horns are more baritone. Some engineers wail longer on each note. A sleepy person grows sensitive to these little variations of the nocturnal locomotives. It only takes one night of this auditory assault to become discriminating of style. I wonder--does the horn-blower relish this task? Is it fun to pull the lever that releases that piercing compressed air into the still night? Does he work on his style and delivery? Who is he and how do I find and kill him?

Our course, all this just makes me curious enough to google. The BNSF is a huge conglomeration of railroad transporters. I understand it works hard day and night for America. How else would all the stuff we like get to the shelves at the grocery store? These following italicized fact alone soothes me enough to forgive for now:

  • BNSF is the largest transporter of beer and wine by rail in the United States.
  • BNSF transports enough canned beverages to supply every resident of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles with one beverage a day for nearly one year.
  • BNSF moves enough sugar to make more than 3 million batches of cookies a year.
Still, it is time to move on.

No comments: