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Wayside Horns Nearly Ready
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Just a few weeks from now, something will be missing in Escalon.

The incessant blowing of train horns as the Amtrak and freight trains roll through town.

Officials of several different organizations involved in the wayside horn project were in Escalon on Monday morning, calibrating the horns and doing final tests at the various intersections where the horns have been installed.

Done through Railroad Controls Limited out of Texas, the wayside horns are designed to blow a warning blast directionally at traffic stopped at the crossings, so the train engineers do not have to use the train horn as they approach each one. The wayside horns will automatically be set off and the decibel level is much lower, with the horns audible only at the crossing and not throughout the community.

"We had a meeting Monday with Railroad Controls Limited, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and the Public Utilities Commission to go over the wayside horn operation, so we're all on the same page," explained Escalon City Manger Greg Greeson. "We had an overview of the system and went over the various situations where they (engineers) will still blow the horns, the main thing is to make sure the crossings will be safe."

Engineers will still blow train horns if they see people near the tracks as they approach and in foggy weather, when they might not be able to see the light signaling that the wayside horn is blowing.

Wayside horns at the intersections at St. John and First Street were successfully calibrated and all tests completed on them on Monday during the field work portion of the meeting. The McHenry Avenue and Highway 120 crossings were due for completion on Tuesday, with Greeson then able to send a letter out to all concerned parties regarding the successful testing. Once that letter has been sent out - most likely Tuesday or Wednesday - it will be 21 days from then until the wayside horns can officially be used and the blasting of train horns on a continual basis from one end of town to the other will be a thing of the past.

Greeson said after the meeting with officials in the morning to review the system, city Public Works employees visited the sites with the railroad and RCL officials, instructed in the proper calibration and testing of the system.

"I'm excited," Greeson said of seeing the project nearly complete. "Everybody is."

That sentiment was echoed by Mayor Gary Haskin, who said the wayside horns were a long time coming and are sure to be appreciated by residents.

"When you mix in the railroad, the federal government and PG & E, you just never know," Haskin said of how long it has taken to get the horns in and operational.

He reiterated that safety will still come first, and that officials will make sure everything is working correctly before they sign off and get the 21-day notice for wayside horn activation.

"Noise or no noise, we have to make sure it's totally safe, then we're down to 21 days," he said. "It feels good, to tell you the truth ... after all these years, everybody working toward the same goal, it almost seems real."