Saturday, February 12, 2022

Update on Stopping Train Whistles through the Banff Townsite

Richard Patching, PEng, MEng

Some residents of Banff have petitioned the town council to restrict or eliminate the sounding of train whistles in the vicinity of the town. This was reported by the Rocky Mountain Outlook on March 29, 2021 and on Global News on April 8, 2021, after the presentation of a delegation on March 22nd.

AANViS reported in a previous post that during the May 10th meeting of the Town Council, the council passed a motion to have the Town’s Administration consult “with the railroad operator on the feasibility of creating a railway quiet zone along the railway corridor in the vicinity of Banff, and report back to Council before the end of Q3 2021.”

The Town of Banff is the road authority for the railway crossing at Norquay Road, but Parks Canada is the authority for the crossing at Compound Road northeast of the main townsite. Based on an e-mail from CP to the town (November 17th, 2021), the Town would have to hire an engineering firm to conduct a compliance audit to meet all standards for the Norquay Road crossing. The member of the public who made the original request for the quiet zone (aka whistle cessation) would need to engage Parks Canada for the Compound Road crossing.

There have been long-running discussions involving CP, the Town and Parks Canada concerning illegal pedestrian rail trespassing near the industrial area between Compound Road and Norquay Road. CP indicated that they would not likely approve whistle cessation until an engineering solution to the trespass issue was implemented. We assume that such a solution would also have to address the issue of wildlife trespass onto the tracks, although this was not mentioned in the town’s documents.

The town council decided December 13th, 2021 to delay engaging an engineering firm to conduct the audit at Norquay Road until an engineered solution to the pedestrian trespassing issue has been approved. This may end up being similar to the situation in Canmore.

Silencing the train whistles in town makes for a more pleasant experience, but may be counter-productive if measures are not also taken to keep wildlife (and humans) off the tracks. At present, that measure continues to be the sounding of the horns.


Richard Patching is President Emeritus of Patching Associates Acoustical Engineering Ltd.

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