[RFC] Feature Proposal - Level crossing train horn usage (quiet zones, whistle bans)

This proposal consists of a tag on railway crossing nodes to denote that train-horn (whistle) operation at said crossing is different from national law/standard (US quiet zones/Canadian whistle bans, wayside horn operations, or places on a rail network where trains need to use their horns despite such not normally being required). See Proposed features/Level crossing train horn usage - OpenStreetMap Wiki for the details, and please discuss this proposal on its Wiki Talk page.

Please, cross post this announcement on the tagging mailing list on my behalf by sending an email to: tagging@openstreetmap.org


The sound from the horn turns an uncontrolled crossing into a controlled one. It is kind of traffic-signals. I’d like to read a short sentence on this in the proposal. So people can get an idea, how this relates to ongoing debates on the subject of crossings/intersections. Or would that push too much into politics?

I’ve always treated the debates around highway=crossing (pedestrian crossings of highways) as separate from the situation with railway=level_crossing as the two are treated very differently outside the OSM context. (Pedestrians may have rights with regards to cars, but road users never have rights with regards to trains.) You’ll also notice that there is no equivalent refinement to the “type” of a railway=level_crossing or railway=crossing, unlike a highway=crossing. (iD offers a type/markings field for railway=crossing nodes at the moment, but it probably shouldn’t be used for anything since the presence or absence of marking or signalization isn’t as meaningful in this context as it is when you’re crossing a highway feature.)


This looks well-researched. crossing:horn=optional and crossing:horn=wayside make sense to me as an American. It seems like this tagging scheme is sufficient for railway networks elsewhere in the world, though I’d like to hear from more railway mappers outside of North America.

1 Like

I have no idea what crossing:horn=wayside is supposed to mean just from the tag, but I guess it’s clear enough for railway mappers?

One issue that I can see is that it mixes horn location with horn usage. Are there situations where there is a wayside horn but usage is optional?

Yes, not all US train crossings require a horn based warning. Many rural crossings only need to use regular signals to alert those in the immediate vicinity (visual range) of the tracks.

1 Like

Then horn usage requirement and presence of a wayside horn should be orthogonal and use different keys to be able to represent those situations.

1 Like

Rail is all about signals, optional signals are very hard to imagine in the domain. In my local area, most crossings were converted to over/underpass. Problem solved. Not up to what is on topic here, I’d say, where the signal comes from, and if it is optional or not, are two pairs of shoes.

I’m guessing that that might be a German idiom that has failed to leap across the language barrier :slight_smile: In English we might say “that’s another kettle of fish” but that idiom might fail to leap back the other way…

Getting back on topic, although the wiki page does explain that this is referring to a train horn, not a car horn, the tag on its own does not, and people may be confused as a result.

It’d be interesting to know if the audible warnings that occur at e.g. UK level crossings are supposed to count as “crossing:horn=wayside” as well.

A wayside horn device is activated by the strike-in (activation) of the crossing it’s associated with (in particular, it’s triggered off the XR/predictor main output just like the flashers and gates are), so there isn’t a way to have “optional” wayside horns – it’s either going because the crossing’s going, or the device is disabled/OOS/nonfunctional and the crew has to blow for the crossing themselves. (Most wayside horn installations give a flashing X signal to the train crew to indicate that the device is operational when triggered.)

Are you referring to states which don’t require blowing the horn (whistling) for private crossings? That said, it’s not uncommon for North American railroads require it for many private crossings in any case even if not required by state laws – this is to maintain procedural uniformity across the operating territory.

That’s a good question, given that they’re more of a siren sound than a horn sound. Are they universally/widely present? (I found a video of Wybourne AOCL in Kent that demonstrated the siren in action, but I don’t know if that’s a peculiarity of certain crossing types there or something broadly present across UK crossings at large the way the bell is present on just about all active crossings in the US.)

Maybe there should be one (:siren) for fixed supplemental signaling equipment at crossing. The equivalent warnig system using the train mounted air horn (:horn) often used in th US.

Not sure if the siren is universal in the UK or not, there is a crossing in my town which has a siren but due to the location of the crossing it has a volume of pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

The siren sounds when the amber lights start and stop when the barriers have lowered.

I see the siren as more a thing for pedestrians rather than cars, if you are on the crossing it gives a warning as the lights cannot be seen so a pedestrian can turn back or hurry up. Or if a few metres from the crossing start sprinting.:slight_smile:

1 Like

In the UK train horns are used on the approach to PROW crossings, and on the approach to stations if they are not stopping.

1 Like

I’d always assumed (in England with raising barriers) it was mostly to make it clear to pedestrians that a barrier was about to hit them on the head if they didn’t get out of the way! I don’t believe tthat there are sirens here where there are gates, for example.

Here (Austria) there are some railway crossings in cities that are equipped with audible bell signals (mostly) for pedestrians and cyclists (in addition to the light signals). I definitely wouldn’t describe those as as a train “horn”.

Edit: The crossing:bell=* tag already exists for those situations.

The tag crossing:bell=* specifies if there is an audible warning (e.g., bell) when the railway crossing is activated.

1 Like

Yeah, we’d definetely need to take this into account.

From Austria as well: I know bells only from crossings with lift gates. I do not understand them as signals, in the meaning of a horn honking or a bulb flashing.

Different crossing warning methods:

Signal; blinking lights at crossing. Similar to those at pedestrian crossings.

Bell; localized bell-like auditory warning system.

Barrier; vehicle blocking system. Often ues the traditional block bar. Barrier=bar

Siren; fixed larger area warning system (UK).

Horn; if and how train’s air horn needs to be used at crossings.

Ideally crossing:bell=yes/no would be something along the lines of crossing:audible_warning=bell/siren/wayside_horn instead, but it’s unfortunately a bit too late to change that tag.

Whistle boards seem to be extensively mapped in Germany and Austria, but only the signal beside the track itself and not on the crossing.



1 Like