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

Exactly, so I think it would definetely make sense to tag the usage of a horn as a property of the crossing, too.

In Germany, the whistle sign stands usually in front of all railway crossing which are publicy acessible and have crossing:barrier=no. This is the idication when a train has to blow its horn then there. (Only not when crossing:bell would be “yes”, but most railroad crossings in Germany which do not have a barrier also do not have a bell).

This proposal is about indicating whether a train is required to sound its horn at a particular crossing, not whether a jurisdiction is required to require trains to sound their horns at every crossing in the jurisdiction.

Now that you mention it, the other tagging gap from a U.S. perspective is that there’s no established tag for an exempt crossing. The exact meaning of an exempt crossing varies from state to state (and even from city to city in some states), but one possible consequence is that school buses don’t have to honk their horns when crossing an exempt crossing. But there’s already honking for this kind of horn.

If we need to better differentiate train horns from car horns, crossing:whistle might be an alternative. We don’t tend to call them train whistles as much in the U.S. anymore, but it would be understandable.

In the U.S., a bell is distinct from a wayside horn. A conventional bell sounds any time of day at any signalized crossing, but a bell is never sufficient for a conventional rail crossing in this country. For one thing, it’s too quiet for many motorists to hear. It also sounds the whole time the gates are down, whereas the train horn inherently means the train is nearby.

I live next to a partial quiet zone. The bell sounds any time of day. From 7 in the morning until 10 at night, trains also blow their whistles (horns) when crossing; from 10 at night until 7 in the morning, a wayside horn simulates this exact sound instead. The wayside horn is directed at the street, so as to alert motorists without awakening nearby residents.

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In Austria (a country in Europe) there is a special sign roadside, that shows a steam locomotive on railway crossings, where there is no light signal or gates. There may be an additional text sign that says: “Beware the whistle signal” - So this alternative may not just meet blank eyes. On the other hand, the rationale for using horn is quite convincing.

PS: The Austrian code allows railway-crossings unsignalled to the motorist/pedestrian under a tight rule, when visibility of oncoming trains covers long enough a distance and, and, and.

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Does anyone here have strong feelings about this before I put the proposal out for a formal vote?

One more question before I ballot this: does the issue of synchronization with the railway signal/sign tagging (which uses :whistle) outweigh correspondence with modern US practice (which is why I initially went with :horn)? (And before you ask, yes, I know that OSM tagging is based on British English…)

What about light rail vehicles and streetcars? Did they even use whistles historically? Or has it always been horns? If a streetcar system uses bell-like sounds to satisfy the requirement of a train horn, I think “horn” would still be understandable.

In fact, the light rail system in San José equips its vehicles with an outdoor speaker system (i.e., a horn) that plays either a bell-like sound or a honking sound seemingly at random. It avoids sounding this horn during the partial quiet zone hours, when only the real bells at the crossing gate would sound. (I don’t know what the wayside horns sound like on that line.)

Streetcars themselves historically only had bells. Larger interurban vehicles were commonly fitted with horns, though, and sometimes an air-operated whistle as well or instead (see P&SR 63, SN 1005, SL&UT 751, or Peninsular 52 at the WRM for examples of whistle-equipped interurban cars).

Is there different between them. Both are train mounted. Are they used in a similar manner or is it worth keeping them as separate sub values?

There is no difference in how a horn and a whistle are employed (RR operating rules, as far as I am aware, do not distinguish the two)

I made an executive decision and changed the proposal to use crossing:whistle due to the synchronization issues with signal/sign tagging (North American practice still uses the term “whistle board” for the actual wayside signage posted to remind crews to blow their horns for crossings, so it’s not too out of place, even.)

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Are there any final objections before I take this proposal to a vote?

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This proposal is now out for voting: [Voting] Feature Proposal - Level crossing train horn usage (quiet zones, whistle bans)