Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

Letter to the Editor, May 1


Dear Editor,

It is a Wednesday afternoon at about 2:30. I am standing at the kitchen window making a late lunch. Hey, I am retired I can eat when I want. I just heard the train horns as it was passing through Niwot. Once again, I am saddened.

I moved to Niwot in the early 1980’s. My family grew up here. My friends and neighbors often joined us on the back deck for maybe BBQ, wine, margaritas or just plan old friendly talk and a good time. Many a time someone would remark, “Hey the train must be coming thru,” as they heard the whistles.

One holiday weekend my brother- in-law and his family were here and we were outside enjoying the day. We had spent part of the afternoon fishing for squirrels but that is another story. Anyway someone, let’s call him Pat, suggested that not all the train whistles were the same. So we all started to pay closer attention as we heard the whistles. Guess what? He was right.

It reminded me of growing up and having a party line for a telephone. Simply stated, it meant that about 20 people shared a common phone line. Each person had a special ringtone consisting of short and long rings. Did I mention anyone or everyone could listen to your conversations and do I have stories about those party lines and Mrs. Kramer.

Anyway, the party line rings are like what you hear when the train whistles blow. A series of short or long horn blasts. Or, for those of you into telegraphs, it was like Morse code with blast of short and long horns.

For the sake of knowledge, I ran to my trusty computer and this is what I discovered. Train whistles are really like Morse code. They mean something. For example, two longs, a short and a long means the train is coming to a public crossing. There are many more locomotive horn signals.

So, the next time you hear the train whistle, see if you can enjoy it and decipher what it is telling you instead of wanting a quiet space. Personally, I like the train whistles as they remind me of a great community and the heritage associated with the trains. Niwot might not exist if it wasn’t for the trains.

P.S.. If you hear a series of short blasts you might want to be concerned.

Michael J Sinnwell



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