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A train horn is an air horn that serves as an audible warning device on diesel and electric powered trains. The horn's primary purpose is to alert persons and animals to an oncoming train, especially when approaching a level crossing. They are often extremely loud, allowing them to be heard from a great distance. The horn is also used for acknowledging signals given by railroad employees, such as during switching operations. For steam locomotives, the equivalent device is a train whistle.

Leslie S-5T train horn being fitted to a restored ex-Seaboard System EMD GP30 diesel locomotive at the 2006 Oak Ridge Horn Honk and Collectors Meet
Train horns are made of multiple horn units called chimes which produce different notes; sounded together they make a chord. The Nathan model M5 pictured is a 5 chime horn.
Leslie S3L locomotive horn, once the most common horn in use on North American railroads

Contents

Since trains move on fixed rails, they are uniquely susceptible to collision. This susceptibility is exacerbated by the enormous weight and inertia of a train, which makes it difficult to quickly stop when encountering an obstacle. Also, trains generally do not stop at level crossings, instead relying upon pedestrians and vehicles to clear the tracks when they pass. Therefore, from their beginnings, locomotives have been equipped with loud horns or bells to warn vehicles or pedestrians that they are coming. Steam locomotives had steam whistles, operated from steam produced by their boilers.

As diesel locomotives began to replace steam on most railroads during the mid-20th century, it was realized that the new locomotives were unable to utilize the steam whistles then in use. Early internal combustion locomotives were initially fitted with small truck horns or exhaust-powered whistles, but these were found to be unsuitable and hence the air horn design was scaled up and modified for railroad use. Early train horns often were tonally similar to the air horns still heard on road-going trucks today. It was found that this caused some confusion among people who were accustomed to steam locomotives and the sound of their whistles; when approaching a grade crossing, when some people heard an air horn they expected to see a truck, not a locomotive, and accidents happened. So, locomotive air horns were created that had a much higher, more musical note, tonally much more like a steam whistle. This is why most train horns have a unique sound, different from that of road going trucks, although many switch engines, which didn't see road service (service on the main lines), retained the deeper truck-like horns.

Strict regulations specific to each country specify how loud horns must be, and how far in advance of grade crossings and other locations locomotive engineers are required to sound their horns to give adequate time to clear the tracks. Standard signals consisting of different sequences of horn blasts must be given in different circumstances.

Due to the encroachment of development, some suburban dwellers have opposed railroad use of the air horn as a trackside warning device. Residents in some communities have attempted to establish quiet zones, in which train crews are instructed not to sound their horns, except in case of emergency.

Horn mounting location in a high-speed train. The horn grille is visible between the train headlights/taillights

Recent years have seen an increase of horn theft from railroad property.

Diagram of a typical locomotive air horn power chamber, showing operation

Train horns are operated by compressed air, typically 125-140 psi (8.6-9.6 bar), and fed from a locomotive main air reservoir. When the engineer opens the horn valve, air flows through a supply line into the power chamber at the base of the horn (diagram, right). It passes through a narrow opening between a nozzle and a circular diaphragm in the power chamber, then out through the flaring horn bell. The flow of air past the diaphragm causes it to vibrate or oscillate against the nozzle, producing sound.

Keep in mind that when an air horn is not operating and has no fluid pressure flowing through it, the interior of the power chamber housing is completely air tight, as the diaphragm disc creates a full air tight seal against the nozzle surface. Referring to the cut-away blueprint diagram of a conventional air horn power chamber on the right, when a constant stream of pressurized fluid enters through the small inlet at the bottom, the pressure in the power chamber increases as it is air tight internally. The pressure continues rising in Chamber 'A' until the air pressure overcomes the spring tension of the Diaphragm. Once this occurs, the Diaphragm is deflected back, and in such, is no longer sealed against the nozzle. From this, the interior of the power chamber is now no longer air tight, as the Diaphragm has deflected off the nozzle. As a result, the pressurized fluid now escapes out of the horn bell. Because the pressurized Fluid exits through the horn bell at a much faster rate than the fluid enters into the power chamber through the base air inlet, the air pressure in the power chamber drops rapidly. As such, the Diaphragm re-seats itself against the nozzle surface. This entire process is one cycle of the Diaphragm operating. In reality, this operation process occurs much faster in accordance to the frequency produced by the horn. The constant back and forth oscillation of the Diaphragm creates sound waves, which are then amplified by the large flared horn bell. The length, thickness and diameter of the horn bell contribute to the frequency of the note produced by the horn.

When vibrated by the diaphragm, the column of air in the bell oscillates with standing waves. The length of the bell determines the wavelength of the sound waves, and thus the fundamental frequency (pitch) of the note produced by the horn (measured in Hertz). The longer the horn bell, the lower the note.

North American diesel locomotives manufactured prior to the 1990s utilized an air valve actuated by the engineer through the manipulation of a lever or pull cord. Use of this method made possible a practice known as "feathering", meaning that modulation of the horn's volume was possible through finer regulation of the air valve.

Many locomotives manufactured during the 1990s made use of push-button controls. In addition, several North American locomotives incorporated a sequencer pedal built into the cab floor beneath the operators position; that when depressed, sounded the crossing sequence.

Locomotives of European origin have featured push-button control of air horns since the mid-1960s.

Current production locomotives from GE Transportation Systems and Electro-Motive Diesel utilize a lever-actuated solenoid valve.

United States

Leslie A200-156, a single chime horn used on locomotives in the early days of dieselization

On April 27, 2005, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which enforces rail safety regulations, published the final rule on the use of locomotive horns at highway-rail grade crossings. Effective June 24, 2005, the rule requires that locomotive horns be sounded at all public grade crossings at least 15 seconds, but not more than 20 seconds before entering a crossing. This rule applies when the train speed is below 45 mph (70 km/h). At 45 mph or above, trains are still required to sound their horn at the designated location (usually denoted with a whistle post).

The pattern for blowing the horn remains two long, one short, and one long. This is to be repeated or prolonged as necessary until the lead locomotive fully occupies the crossing. Locomotive engineers retain the authority to vary this pattern as necessary for crossings in close proximity, and are allowed to sound the horn in emergency situations no matter where the location.

A ban on sounding locomotive horns in Florida was ordered removed by the FRA after it was shown that the accident rate doubled during the ban. The new ruling preempts any state or local laws regarding the use of the train horn at public crossings. This also provides public authorities the option to maintain or establish quiet zones provided certain supplemental or alternative safety measures are in place, and the crossing accident rate meets government standards.[citation needed]

Common horn signals

The following are the required horn signals listed in the operating rules of most North American railroads, along with their meanings. Signals are illustrated by an "." for short sounds, and "" for longer sounds. (Note that these signals and their indications are updated to reflect modern practice.) Those rules marked with an asterisk (*) must be sounded when or where applicable. Those signals without an asterisk convey information to employees; they must be used when voice communication is not available.

Rule Sequence Indication
14 (a) . Applying air brakes while standing.
14 (b) * – – Proceeding. Releasing air brakes. This signal is often referred to as "whistling off," despite it being given by an air horn.
14 (f) * . . – Acknowledging a flagman's stop signal
14 (g) * . . Acknowledging any signal not otherwise provided for
14 (h) * . . . Backing up
14 (j) . . . . Calling for signals
14 (l) * – – . – 1. Trains or engines approaching public highway grade crossings shall sound the horn at least 15 seconds, but no more than 20 seconds before the lead engine enters the crossing. Trains or engines travelling at speeds greater than 45 mph shall begin sounding the horn at or about, but not more than, one-quarter mile (1,320 feet) in advance of the nearest public crossing. Even if the advance warning provided by the horn will be less than 15 seconds in duration. This signal is to be prolonged or repeated until the engine or train occupies the crossing; or, where multiple crossing are involved, until the last crossing is occupied. 2. Approaching tunnels, yards, or other points where railroad workers may be at work. 3. Passing standing trains.
14 (m) * . Approaching passenger station
14 (o) . – Inspect train for a leak in brake pipe system or for brakes sticking
14 (p) * Succession of sounds Warning to people or animals
14 (q) * – . 1. When running against the current of traffic: 2. Approaching stations, curves, or other points where view may be obscured: and 3. Approaching passenger or freight trains and when passing freight trains.

Exception: Engine horn signals required by rules 14 (b) and 14 (h) do not apply after momentary stops in continuous switching movements.

Canada

According to section 11 of Transport Canada's Locomotive Design Requirements, all Canadian-owned passenger train locomotives must be equipped with a dual-tone horn capable of producing a soft sound in normal operating mode and a loud sound in emergency situations. To comply with federal requirements, passenger railways use the Nathan K5CA-LS. This horn has two different air chambers, allowing the engineer to choose between sounding three chimes in "soft" mode or all five chimes in "loud" mode. The "loud" mode is intended for emergency situations, such as when a person or vehicle is on the tracks in front of an incoming train. The loud emergency mode produces a high-pitched and extremely discordant sound to get people's attention.

To maximize sound output, Transport Canada requires that all train horns be mounted facing the direction of travel, near the front of the roof, no further than 1.5 meters behind the rear of the cab, and near the centerline of the locomotive in a location where it will not obstruct exhaust pipes in any direction.

Train horns must produce a minimum sound level of 96 decibels (dB) in a 30-meter radius from the locomotive.

Horn warning signals

According to the May 2018 version of the Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR), specific train horn warning signals must be sounded as per rule 14. Like the American railroad authority, signals are illustrated using "o" for short sounds, and "_______" for longer sounds. In the CROR, it states that warning signals "should be distinct, with intensity and duration proportionate to the distance the signal is to be conveyed". The following table lists the train horn warning signals required by Transport Canada. The signals marked with an asterisk (*) must not be replaced with radio communication.

Train horn warning signals in Canada
Rule * Sequence Indication
14 a) o When standing, to indicate that braking system is equalized, angle cock may be closed
14 (b) o o To answer a "stop" signal (except for a fixed signal)

To answer any signal not otherwise provided for

14 e) o o o o o o To notify crews of fire on the tracks, to be repeated as often as required
14 f) * succession of short sounds To warn people to get off the tracks
14 L) * ____ ____ o ____ To warn people at a level crossing that a train is coming. An indicator, located a quarter mile from the crossing, marks the location where the horn must be sounded when the train is travelling faster than 44 mph (70 km/h). When the train is travelling at 44 mph or less, this signal must be sounded for twenty seconds prior to occupying the crossing. The signal must be prolonged or repeated until the crossing is fully occupied by the lead unit of a train.
* To be sounded at specific indicators located along the tracks in special instructions
* To be sounded at frequent intervals when view is restricted by weather, curvature, or other conditions
Special instructions are given when this signal is not required to be sounded in whole or in part
14 t) When snow removal equipment is being operated ahead of a locomotive, the snowplow operator is required to sound rules 14 f) and 14 L). The engineer operating the locomotive shoving the snow removal equipment is required to sound all other horn warning signals as per rule 14.

Noise from train horns

Residents living in close proximity to train tracks may be disturbed by the sounding of train horn warning signals. However, train drivers are obligated to sound their horns at all times, which may lead to noise complaints. Transport Canada allows municipalities to pass bylaws that prohibit train horn sounding at train stations and level crossings, as long as Transport Canada grants approval to that municipality.

Germany

Horn signals are regulated in the Zp category of the Eisenbahn-Bau- und Betriebsordnung. Their most common use today is when approaching a level crossing that lacks barriers, and for warning purposes.

Whistle posts are labeled with the letter "P" (for 'Pfeifen'). Common signals are:

Sequence Meaning
_ Zp 1 - Generic "attention" signal
o Zp 2 - Tighten handbrakes.
o o Zp 3 - Strongly tighten handbrakes.
_ _ Zp 4 - Loosen handbrakes.
ooo ooo ooo Zp 5 - Emergency; brake immediately.
_ o _ Zp 11 - Come. Used to call out for train staff.

France

Train horns are sounded where a whistle post (marked with the letter "S" for "siffler") is present. If the whistle post is labelled "J" (meaning "jour"), the horn is only to be sounded between 0700 and 2000. Horns must also be sounded when passing an oncoming train, and shortly before reaching the last car of the train. Train horns must also be used upon entering into a tunnel: first horn shortly before the tunnel entrance, second horn when entering, third horn shortly before the tunnel's exit.[citation needed]

India

The IRFCA FAQ lists the following:

'o' : denotes a short blast on the horn.
'--' : denotes a comparatively long blast on the horn.
'-----' : denotes a longer blast on the horn.
'----------' : denotes a very long blast on the horn.

Code [ o ] - Before Starting:

  • Indication to driver of the assisting engine that driver of leading engine is ready to start.
  • Acknowledgement by the driver of the assisting engine.
  • Engine ready to leave yard
  • Engine ready to go to loco yard
  • Light loco or shunter about to move

Code [ o ] - On the run:

  • Assistance of other engine not required
  • Acknowledgement by driver of the assisting engine

Code [ -- ]

  • Normal departure from station on receipt of clear signal. This is usually followed by another long blast about 10–20 seconds after the first one, after the guard's all-right signal is received.
  • Beginning of shunting operation (if shunted rake has passengers in it)

Code [ o o ]

  • Call for guard's signal
  • Signals not exchanged by guard
  • Signals not exchanged by station staff

Code [ -- o ]

  • Guard to release brakes
  • Before starting engine from a midsection/station
  • Main Line clear

Code [ o o o ]

  • Guard to apply brakes
  • Train out of control, guard to assist

Code [ o o -- ]

  • Sudden loss of brake pressure or vacuum (perhaps by alarm chain being pulled)

Code [ o o o o ]

  • Train cannot proceed on account of accident, failure or other cause
  • Protect train in rear

Code [ -- -- o o ]

  • Call for guard to come to engine

Code [ o -- o ]

  • Token not received
  • Token missed
  • With wrong authority to proceed
  • Passing stop signal at 'on' on proper authority

Code [ ----- ] - Before Starting

  • Vacuum recreated on ghat section, remove sprags
  • Passing automatic 'stop' signal at 'On'

Code [ ----- ] - On the run

  • Acknowledgement of guards signal

Code [ ---------- ]

  • Approaching level crossing or tunnel area
  • Recall staff protecting train in rear
  • Material train ready to leave
  • Running through a station
  • Approaching a stop signal at 'on'
  • Detained at stop signal
  • Crossing stop signal at 'on' after waiting the stipulated time.

Code [ -- o -- o ]

  • Alarm chain pulled
  • Insufficient vacuum in engine
  • Guard applies vacuum brakes.

Code [ -- -- ]

  • Raise Pantograph (electric loco only)

Code [ -- o -- ]

  • Lower Pantograph (electric loco only)

Code [ o o o o o o o o o ] (Frequently)

  • Apprehension of danger
  • Danger signal to driver of an approaching train whose path is obstructed
  • Moving in wrong direction on a double line.
  • Also used by EMU motormen to warn passengers on a crowded platform of the approach of a fast train which will not stop at that station

United Kingdom

UK diesel and electric locomotives are usually fitted with two-tone horns, sounded sequentially to distinguish them from the horns used on road vehicles, the tones being described as either 'high' or 'low'. In the past, both tones were routinely used. However, because of noise complaints, new rules were introduced in 2007:

  1. The introduction of a night time quiet period, between 23:00 and 07:00 when trains will no longer routinely sound their horns at whistle boards (they will always sound their horns when people are seen on the track). The night time quiet period was changed by Network Rail in 2016 to 00:00 to 06:00.
  2. That where the technology is available, drivers should only use the low tone from the two tone horn at whistle boards.
  3. For all new or replacement train horns on trains capable of travelling up to 100 mph (160 km/h) a much lower minimum sound pressure level has been established – and a maximum sound level has been introduced (min 101 dB and max 106 dB).

British train Horns have two tones, high or low, and in some cases, a loud or soft setting. If the horn lacks a loud-or-soft soft setting then train drivers are to use the setting provided.

Sequence Loud or soft When horn is used
H/L Loud General warning to individuals on or about railway tracks
H Loud Emergency warning to individuals who are on the track or workers who fail to acknowledge a train's presence (sounded repeatedly)
L Loud Used at whistle boards (Between 0700 and 2300)
L Soft Warning signal when operating in depots or on sidings
H Loud Used for special or local signal
H Loud Wrong-direction movements, against normal railway traffic flow (sounded at frequent intervals)

As many individuals do with their personal vehicles, railroads order locomotives with different options in order to suit their operating practices. Air horns are no exception, and railroad mechanical forces mount these on locomotives where they are deemed most effective at projecting sound, and for ease of maintenance.

  • Nathan K3LA horn mounted on MBTA Commuter Rail control car when in Push Pull Mode

  • Nathan K5LA mounted atop a San Diego Coaster Cab Car

  • Nathan K5HL-R2 horn mounted in the middle section of the roof on a BNSF locomotive

  • Typical horn mounting location on European locomotives

  • Low horn mounting location on a European locomotive. The horn is visible above the right side buffer.

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The following are samples of select air horns as used in North American railroad service:

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North America

AirChime, Ltd.

AirChime, Ltd. traces their beginnings through the work of Robert Swanson in 1949. Prior to the early 1950s, locomotives were equipped with air horns that sounded a singular note.

Swanson sought to develop an air horn which would mimic the sound of a classic steam whistle. Using ancient Chinese musical theory, Swanson produced the six-note model 'H6'. This was impractical for railroad use, due to its relatively large size. Railroad equipment operates over routes restricted by loading gauge, a difference of only a few inches may prohibit that equipment from operating on the line in question.

Swanson would later refine his 'H6' into the model 'H5'. As the numeric designation indicates, the horn sounds a five-note chord.

In 1950, AirChime introduced the 'M' series, a further improvement on the earlier horns through elimination of unnecessary moving parts. Among the earliest customers of the AirChime 'M' was the Southern Railway, which sought replacement horns for their motive power. The company announced this program through the placement of a full-page advertisement in the May 25, 1951 edition of the Washington Times-Herald.

Refurbished Nathan-AirChime model P5A

Under Swanson's guidance, AirChime would focus on ease of mass production, low maintenance, and reliability in their air horn design, with the development of the 'P' (1953), and 'K' (1954) series

AirChime model K3L, shown here in an Auburn University-inspired livery

AirChime has been sold to their American licensee, Nathan Manufacturing, Inc., a division of Micro Precision Group, Inc, in Windham, Connecticut.

Buell Air Horns

An air horn manufactured by the American Strombos Co., used on early locomotives as well as trucks

Founded in 1912 as The American Strombos Co. of Philadelphia, PA, Buell sold modified marine horns for rail use. They were often installed on small locomotives, electric interurban equipment. and railcars (for example the Doodlebugs).

Buell has recently made available a line of air horns specific for railroad equipment.

Gustin Bacon Mfg. Co.

The Gustin Bacon Mfg. Co. of Kansas City, MO offered airhorns for use on railroad equipment prior to the Second World War.

Leslie Controls, Inc.

Leslie Controls, Inc. (originally the Leslie Company of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, later Parsippany, finally relocating to Tampa, Florida in 1985) began horn production by obtaining the rights to manufacture the Kockums Mekaniska Verkstad product line of "Tyfon" brand airhorns, marketing these for railroad use beginning in the 1930s. Their model A200 series would later grace the rooftops of countless locomotives, such as the legendary Pennsylvania Railroad GG1, as well as thousands of EMD E and F-units. Leslie eventually introduced their own line of multi-note airhorns, known as the "Chime-Tone" series, in direct competition with AirChime.

Poor sales of the Chime-Tones (due to the horns requiring an ample volume of air) led the Leslie Company to introduce a new line of air horns utilizing interchangeable components while using less air to produce greater sound volume than the earlier "Tyfon" series. Developed by Kockums, this horn utilized a back-pressure power chamber design in order to enhance diaphragm oscillation. Known as the "SuperTyfon" series, these horns would eventually supplant the "Tyfon" in railroad service.

Leslie SuperTyfon model S-5T, regarded by many aficionados as the 'king of horns'

"SuperTyfon" horns were offered in single, dual, triple, quad, and five note configurations.

Leslie Controls continues to manufacture "SuperTyfon" air horns for the railroad industry.

Prime Manufacturing, Inc.

Prime model PM-990 locomotive air horn

Prime Manufacturing, Inc. had produced locomotive appliances for many years prior to their entry into the air horn market in 1972. Their line of "Pneumatic Horns" was basically a derivative of the Leslie SuperTyfon design (having taken advantage of a patent expiration at the time), though their horns employed heavier castings than equivalents from Leslie, and sounding a somewhat richer timbre as a result.

Sales were brisk (railroads such as Union Pacific and the Burlington Northern were notable customers) but ultimately disappointing. Finding themselves increasingly unable to compete in a niche market dominated by Leslie Controls and AirChime, Prime ceased air horn production c. 1999.

Westinghouse Air Brake Co.

Westinghouse model E2-B1 locomotive air horn consisting of three 'singles' bolted onto a common plate

Westinghouse Air Brake Company (known throughout the 19th and 20th Century as WABCO) was the first to offer air horns specifically for use with railroad equipment, as early as the 1910s. Their model E2 was recognized by many for the deep, commanding tone it produced.

In response to the Leslie multi-note "Chime-Tone" series, Westinghouse offered a bracket to which three of their single-note "honkers" could be bolted onto, achieving the same result as what the Chime-Tones did for Leslie.

Overshadowed later on by Leslie and AirChime, WABCO eventually ceased production of most horns for the North American market.

At present, the company is known as Wabtec, Inc., and continues to offer their line of 'Pneumatic horns' for the export market.

Australia

Railways in Australia often utilize the same type of air horns as their North American counterparts.[citation needed]

  1. "Noise Abatement Society". Retrieved2007-03-28.
  2. "Rockland Quiet Zone". Retrieved2008-11-19.
  3. "2 crooks out smarted by water after attempting to steal train horn in Tulare". 15 September 2017. Retrieved2017-12-21.
  4. "Federal Railroad Administration". Archived from the original on 2008-10-26. Retrieved2008-11-19.
  5. 70 FR 21844, https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2005/04/27/05-8285/use-of-locomotive-horns-at-highway-rail-grade-crossings
  6. 71 FR 47614, https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2006/08/17/06-6912/use-of-locomotive-horns-at-highway-rail-grade-crossings
  7. "Updated Analysis of Train Whistle Bans - January 2000 | FRA".
  8. See Hayes v. Union Pacific R. Co., 141 P.3d 1073, 143 Idaho 204 (2006). https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=17886920228406310755&hl=en&as_sdt=2,5
  9. "Locomotive Horn Signals". Union Pacific Railroad. Archived from the original on September 4, 2017.
  10. Government of Canada, Transport Canada (2009-07-07). "Locomotives Design Requirements (Part II)". TC.GC.ca. Retrieved2019-04-20.
  11. "GO Transit 600-666 - CPTDB Wiki". cptdb.ca. Retrieved2019-04-20.
  12. Transport Canada (May 2018). Canadian Rail Operating Rules. Retrieved April 20, 2019, from https://www.railcan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/CROR-English-May-18-2018-Pdf.pdf
  13. Canada, Transport (2019-03-15). "Apply to Stop Train Whistling at a Public Grade crossing". TC.GC.ca. Retrieved2019-04-20.
  14. "Signalsystem in Deutschland". Retrieved2007-02-05. (German)
  15. "Signs, Whistle Codes, Flag and Hand Signals", from IRFCA FAQ
  16. British Standards Institution (2013) BS EN 15153-2:2013: Railway applications — External visible and audible warning devices for trains. ISBN 978 0 580 68161 5
  17. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-09. Retrieved2010-07-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. "Archived copy"(PDF). Archived from the original(PDF) on 2019-02-22. Retrieved2019-02-22.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. Rail Safety and Standards Board (6 February 2018). "Preparation and movement of trains - Issue 13"(PDF). RSSB.co.uk. Rail Safety and Standards Board. p. 82.
  20. Rail Safety and Standards Board (6 February 2018). "Preparation and movement of trains - Issue 13"(PDF). RSSB.co.uk. Rail Safety and Standards Board. p. 82.
  21. "Locomotivehorns.info". Retrieved2008-11-03.
  22. "Micro Precision Group, Inc". Retrieved2010-01-06.
  23. "Buell Air Horns". Archived from the original on 2008-08-28. Retrieved2009-06-10.
  24. "Five Chime Consultants: Leslie S-25". Retrieved2008-11-20.
  25. "Five Chime Consultants: Leslie S-2B". Retrieved2008-11-20.
  26. "Five Chime Consultants: Leslie S-3L". Retrieved2008-11-20.
  27. "Five Chime Consultants: Leslie SL-4T". Retrieved2008-11-19.
  28. "Five Chime Consultants: Leslie S-5T". Retrieved2008-11-20.
  29. "Leslie Controls, Inc". Retrieved2008-11-19.
  30. "Wabtec, Inc". Archived from the original on 2010-05-05. Retrieved2010-01-06.
Wikimedia Commons has media related toLocomotive horns.

Train horn Article Talk Language Watch Edit A train horn is an air horn that serves as an audible warning device on diesel and electric powered trains The horn s primary purpose is to alert persons and animals to an oncoming train especially when approaching a level crossing They are often extremely loud allowing them to be heard from a great distance The horn is also used for acknowledging signals given by railroad employees such as during switching operations For steam locomotives the equivalent device is a train whistle Leslie S 5T train horn being fitted to a restored ex Seaboard System EMD GP30 diesel locomotive at the 2006 Oak Ridge Horn Honk and Collectors Meet Train horns are made of multiple horn units called chimes which produce different notes sounded together they make a chord The Nathan model M5 pictured is a 5 chime horn Leslie S3L locomotive horn once the most common horn in use on North American railroads Contents 1 History and background 2 Operation 2 1 United States 2 1 1 Common horn signals 2 2 Canada 2 2 1 Horn warning signals 2 2 2 Noise from train horns 2 3 Germany 2 4 France 2 5 India 2 6 United Kingdom 3 Placement on locomotives 4 Audio samples 5 Manufacturers 5 1 North America 5 1 1 AirChime Ltd 5 1 2 Buell Air Horns 5 1 3 Gustin Bacon Mfg Co 5 1 4 Leslie Controls Inc 5 1 5 Prime Manufacturing Inc 5 1 6 Westinghouse Air Brake Co 5 2 Australia 6 See also 7 References 8 External linksHistory and background EditSince trains move on fixed rails they are uniquely susceptible to collision This susceptibility is exacerbated by the enormous weight and inertia of a train which makes it difficult to quickly stop when encountering an obstacle Also trains generally do not stop at level crossings instead relying upon pedestrians and vehicles to clear the tracks when they pass Therefore from their beginnings locomotives have been equipped with loud horns or bells to warn vehicles or pedestrians that they are coming Steam locomotives had steam whistles operated from steam produced by their boilers As diesel locomotives began to replace steam on most railroads during the mid 20th century it was realized that the new locomotives were unable to utilize the steam whistles then in use Early internal combustion locomotives were initially fitted with small truck horns or exhaust powered whistles but these were found to be unsuitable and hence the air horn design was scaled up and modified for railroad use Early train horns often were tonally similar to the air horns still heard on road going trucks today It was found that this caused some confusion among people who were accustomed to steam locomotives and the sound of their whistles when approaching a grade crossing when some people heard an air horn they expected to see a truck not a locomotive and accidents happened So locomotive air horns were created that had a much higher more musical note tonally much more like a steam whistle This is why most train horns have a unique sound different from that of road going trucks although many switch engines which didn t see road service service on the main lines retained the deeper truck like horns Strict regulations specific to each country specify how loud horns must be and how far in advance of grade crossings and other locations locomotive engineers are required to sound their horns to give adequate time to clear the tracks Standard signals consisting of different sequences of horn blasts must be given in different circumstances Due to the encroachment of development some suburban dwellers have opposed railroad use of the air horn as a trackside warning device 1 Residents in some communities have attempted to establish quiet zones in which train crews are instructed not to sound their horns except in case of emergency 2 Horn mounting location in a high speed train The horn grille is visible between the train headlights taillights Recent years have seen an increase of horn theft from railroad property 3 Operation Edit Diagram of a typical locomotive air horn power chamber showing operation Train horns are operated by compressed air typically 125 140 psi 8 6 9 6 bar and fed from a locomotive main air reservoir When the engineer opens the horn valve air flows through a supply line into the power chamber at the base of the horn diagram right It passes through a narrow opening between a nozzle and a circular diaphragm in the power chamber then out through the flaring horn bell The flow of air past the diaphragm causes it to vibrate or oscillate against the nozzle producing sound Keep in mind that when an air horn is not operating and has no fluid pressure flowing through it the interior of the power chamber housing is completely air tight as the diaphragm disc creates a full air tight seal against the nozzle surface Referring to the cut away blueprint diagram of a conventional air horn power chamber on the right when a constant stream of pressurized fluid enters through the small inlet at the bottom the pressure in the power chamber increases as it is air tight internally The pressure continues rising in Chamber A until the air pressure overcomes the spring tension of the Diaphragm Once this occurs the Diaphragm is deflected back and in such is no longer sealed against the nozzle From this the interior of the power chamber is now no longer air tight as the Diaphragm has deflected off the nozzle As a result the pressurized fluid now escapes out of the horn bell Because the pressurized Fluid exits through the horn bell at a much faster rate than the fluid enters into the power chamber through the base air inlet the air pressure in the power chamber drops rapidly As such the Diaphragm re seats itself against the nozzle surface This entire process is one cycle of the Diaphragm operating In reality this operation process occurs much faster in accordance to the frequency produced by the horn The constant back and forth oscillation of the Diaphragm creates sound waves which are then amplified by the large flared horn bell The length thickness and diameter of the horn bell contribute to the frequency of the note produced by the horn When vibrated by the diaphragm the column of air in the bell oscillates with standing waves The length of the bell determines the wavelength of the sound waves and thus the fundamental frequency pitch of the note produced by the horn measured in Hertz The longer the horn bell the lower the note North American diesel locomotives manufactured prior to the 1990s utilized an air valve actuated by the engineer through the manipulation of a lever or pull cord Use of this method made possible a practice known as feathering meaning that modulation of the horn s volume was possible through finer regulation of the air valve Many locomotives manufactured during the 1990s made use of push button controls In addition several North American locomotives incorporated a sequencer pedal built into the cab floor beneath the operators position that when depressed sounded the crossing sequence Locomotives of European origin have featured push button control of air horns since the mid 1960s Current production locomotives from GE Transportation Systems and Electro Motive Diesel utilize a lever actuated solenoid valve United States Edit Leslie A200 156 a single chime horn used on locomotives in the early days of dieselization On April 27 2005 the Federal Railroad Administration FRA which enforces rail safety regulations published the final rule on the use of locomotive horns at highway rail grade crossings 4 5 Effective June 24 2005 the rule requires that locomotive horns be sounded at all public grade crossings at least 15 seconds but not more than 20 seconds before entering a crossing 6 This rule applies when the train speed is below 45 mph 70 km h At 45 mph or above trains are still required to sound their horn at the designated location usually denoted with a whistle post The pattern for blowing the horn remains two long one short and one long This is to be repeated or prolonged as necessary until the lead locomotive fully occupies the crossing Locomotive engineers retain the authority to vary this pattern as necessary for crossings in close proximity and are allowed to sound the horn in emergency situations no matter where the location A ban on sounding locomotive horns in Florida was ordered removed by the FRA after it was shown that the accident rate doubled during the ban 7 The new ruling preempts any state or local laws regarding the use of the train horn at public crossings 8 This also provides public authorities the option to maintain or establish quiet zones provided certain supplemental or alternative safety measures are in place and the crossing accident rate meets government standards citation needed Common horn signals Edit The following are the required horn signals listed in the operating rules of most North American railroads along with their meanings Signals are illustrated by an for short sounds and for longer sounds Note that these signals and their indications are updated to reflect modern practice Those rules marked with an asterisk must be sounded when or where applicable Those signals without an asterisk convey information to employees they must be used when voice communication is not available Rule Sequence Indication 9 14 a Applying air brakes while standing 14 b Proceeding Releasing air brakes This signal is often referred to as whistling off despite it being given by an air horn 14 f Acknowledging a flagman s stop signal14 g Acknowledging any signal not otherwise provided for14 h Backing up14 j Calling for signals14 l 1 Trains or engines approaching public highway grade crossings shall sound the horn at least 15 seconds but no more than 20 seconds before the lead engine enters the crossing Trains or engines travelling at speeds greater than 45 mph shall begin sounding the horn at or about but not more than one quarter mile 1 320 feet in advance of the nearest public crossing Even if the advance warning provided by the horn will be less than 15 seconds in duration This signal is to be prolonged or repeated until the engine or train occupies the crossing or where multiple crossing are involved until the last crossing is occupied 2 Approaching tunnels yards or other points where railroad workers may be at work 3 Passing standing trains 14 m Approaching passenger station14 o Inspect train for a leak in brake pipe system or for brakes sticking14 p Succession of sounds Warning to people or animals14 q 1 When running against the current of traffic 2 Approaching stations curves or other points where view may be obscured and 3 Approaching passenger or freight trains and when passing freight trains Exception Engine horn signals required by rules 14 b and 14 h do not apply after momentary stops in continuous switching movements Canada Edit According to section 11 of Transport Canada s Locomotive Design Requirements all Canadian owned passenger train locomotives must be equipped with a dual tone horn capable of producing a soft sound in normal operating mode and a loud sound in emergency situations 10 To comply with federal requirements passenger railways use the Nathan K5CA LS This horn has two different air chambers allowing the engineer to choose between sounding three chimes in soft mode or all five chimes in loud mode The loud mode is intended for emergency situations such as when a person or vehicle is on the tracks in front of an incoming train The loud emergency mode produces a high pitched and extremely discordant sound to get people s attention 11 To maximize sound output Transport Canada requires that all train horns be mounted facing the direction of travel near the front of the roof no further than 1 5 meters behind the rear of the cab and near the centerline of the locomotive in a location where it will not obstruct exhaust pipes in any direction 10 Train horns must produce a minimum sound level of 96 decibels dB in a 30 meter radius from the locomotive 10 Horn warning signals Edit According to the May 2018 version of the Canadian Rail Operating Rules CROR specific train horn warning signals must be sounded as per rule 14 Like the American railroad authority signals are illustrated using o for short sounds and for longer sounds In the CROR it states that warning signals should be distinct with intensity and duration proportionate to the distance the signal is to be conveyed 12 The following table lists the train horn warning signals required by Transport Canada The signals marked with an asterisk must not be replaced with radio communication Train horn warning signals in Canada 12 Rule Sequence Indication14 a o When standing to indicate that braking system is equalized angle cock may be closed14 b o o To answer a stop signal except for a fixed signal To answer any signal not otherwise provided for14 e o o o o o o To notify crews of fire on the tracks to be repeated as often as required14 f succession of short sounds To warn people to get off the tracks14 L o To warn people at a level crossing that a train is coming An indicator located a quarter mile from the crossing marks the location where the horn must be sounded when the train is travelling faster than 44 mph 70 km h When the train is travelling at 44 mph or less this signal must be sounded for twenty seconds prior to occupying the crossing The signal must be prolonged or repeated until the crossing is fully occupied by the lead unit of a train To be sounded at specific indicators located along the tracks in special instructions To be sounded at frequent intervals when view is restricted by weather curvature or other conditionsSpecial instructions are given when this signal is not required to be sounded in whole or in part14 t When snow removal equipment is being operated ahead of a locomotive the snowplow operator is required to sound rules 14 f and 14 L The engineer operating the locomotive shoving the snow removal equipment is required to sound all other horn warning signals as per rule 14 Noise from train horns Edit Residents living in close proximity to train tracks may be disturbed by the sounding of train horn warning signals However train drivers are obligated to sound their horns at all times which may lead to noise complaints Transport Canada allows municipalities to pass bylaws that prohibit train horn sounding at train stations and level crossings as long as Transport Canada grants approval to that municipality 13 Germany Edit Horn signals are regulated in the Zp category of the Eisenbahn Bau und Betriebsordnung Their most common use today is when approaching a level crossing that lacks barriers and for warning purposes Whistle posts are labeled with the letter P for Pfeifen Common signals are 14 Sequence Meaning Zp 1 Generic attention signalo Zp 2 Tighten handbrakes o o Zp 3 Strongly tighten handbrakes Zp 4 Loosen handbrakes ooo ooo ooo Zp 5 Emergency brake immediately o Zp 11 Come Used to call out for train staff France Edit Train horns are sounded where a whistle post marked with the letter S for siffler is present If the whistle post is labelled J meaning jour the horn is only to be sounded between 0700 and 2000 Horns must also be sounded when passing an oncoming train and shortly before reaching the last car of the train Train horns must also be used upon entering into a tunnel first horn shortly before the tunnel entrance second horn when entering third horn shortly before the tunnel s exit citation needed India Edit The IRFCA FAQ lists the following 15 o denotes a short blast on the horn denotes a comparatively long blast on the horn denotes a longer blast on the horn denotes a very long blast on the horn Code o Before Starting Indication to driver of the assisting engine that driver of leading engine is ready to start Acknowledgement by the driver of the assisting engine Engine ready to leave yard Engine ready to go to loco yard Light loco or shunter about to move Code o On the run Assistance of other engine not required Acknowledgement by driver of the assisting engine Code Normal departure from station on receipt of clear signal This is usually followed by another long blast about 10 20 seconds after the first one after the guard s all right signal is received Beginning of shunting operation if shunted rake has passengers in it Code o o Call for guard s signal Signals not exchanged by guard Signals not exchanged by station staff Code o Guard to release brakes Before starting engine from a midsection station Main Line clear Code o o o Guard to apply brakes Train out of control guard to assist Code o o Sudden loss of brake pressure or vacuum perhaps by alarm chain being pulled Code o o o o Train cannot proceed on account of accident failure or other cause Protect train in rear Code o o Call for guard to come to engine Code o o Token not received Token missed With wrong authority to proceed Passing stop signal at on on proper authority Code Before Starting Vacuum recreated on ghat section remove sprags Passing automatic stop signal at On Code On the run Acknowledgement of guards signal Code Approaching level crossing or tunnel area Recall staff protecting train in rear Material train ready to leave Running through a station Approaching a stop signal at on Detained at stop signal Crossing stop signal at on after waiting the stipulated time Code o o Alarm chain pulled Insufficient vacuum in engine Guard applies vacuum brakes Code Raise Pantograph electric loco only Code o Lower Pantograph electric loco only Code o o o o o o o o o Frequently Apprehension of danger Danger signal to driver of an approaching train whose path is obstructed Moving in wrong direction on a double line Also used by EMU motormen to warn passengers on a crowded platform of the approach of a fast train which will not stop at that stationUnited Kingdom Edit UK diesel and electric locomotives are usually fitted with two tone horns sounded sequentially to distinguish them from the horns used on road vehicles 16 the tones being described as either high or low In the past both tones were routinely used However because of noise complaints new rules were introduced in 2007 17 The introduction of a night time quiet period between 23 00 and 07 00 when trains will no longer routinely sound their horns at whistle boards they will always sound their horns when people are seen on the track The night time quiet period was changed by Network Rail in 2016 to 00 00 to 06 00 18 That where the technology is available drivers should only use the low tone from the two tone horn at whistle boards For all new or replacement train horns on trains capable of travelling up to 100 mph 160 km h a much lower minimum sound pressure level has been established and a maximum sound level has been introduced min 101 dB and max 106 dB British train Horns have two tones high or low and in some cases a loud or soft setting If the horn lacks a loud or soft soft setting then train drivers are to use the setting provided 19 Sequence Loud or soft When horn is used 20 H L Loud General warning to individuals on or about railway tracksH Loud Emergency warning to individuals who are on the track or workers who fail to acknowledge a train s presence sounded repeatedly L Loud Used at whistle boards Between 0700 and 2300 L Soft Warning signal when operating in depots or on sidingsH Loud Used for special or local signalH Loud Wrong direction movements against normal railway traffic flow sounded at frequent intervals Placement on locomotives EditAs many individuals do with their personal vehicles railroads order locomotives with different options in order to suit their operating practices Air horns are no exception and railroad mechanical forces mount these on locomotives where they are deemed most effective at projecting sound and for ease of maintenance Nathan K3LA horn mounted on MBTA Commuter Rail control car when in Push Pull Mode Nathan K5LA mounted atop a San Diego Coaster Cab Car Nathan K5HL R2 horn mounted in the middle section of the roof on a BNSF locomotive Typical horn mounting location on European locomotives Low horn mounting location on a European locomotive The horn is visible above the right side buffer Audio samples EditEuropean train air horn 0 07 source source 329 KB Problems playing this file See media help Japanese train air horn 0 02 source source source 158 KB Problems playing this file See media help The following are samples of select air horns as used in North American railroad service 21 AirChime K5LA 0 21 source source 329 KB Problems playing this file See media help Leslie A200 156 0 08 source source 127 KB Problems playing this file See media help Leslie S 3L 0 12 source source 187 KB Problems playing this file See media help Leslie S 5T 0 18 source source 275 KB Problems playing this file See media help Nathan M5 0 18 source source 277 KB Problems playing this file See media help Nathan P5 0 23 source source 358 KB Problems playing this file See media help Prime PM 920 0 20 source source 312 KB Problems playing this file See media help Prime PM 990 0 20 source source 301 KB Problems playing this file See media help WABCO E2 0 16 source source 243 KB Problems playing this file See media help WABCO E2 B1 0 18 source source 274 KB Problems playing this file See media help Manufacturers EditNorth America Edit AirChime Ltd Edit AirChime Ltd traces their beginnings through the work of Robert Swanson in 1949 Prior to the early 1950s locomotives were equipped with air horns that sounded a singular note Swanson sought to develop an air horn which would mimic the sound of a classic steam whistle Using ancient Chinese musical theory Swanson produced the six note model H6 This was impractical for railroad use due to its relatively large size Railroad equipment operates over routes restricted by loading gauge a difference of only a few inches may prohibit that equipment from operating on the line in question Swanson would later refine his H6 into the model H5 As the numeric designation indicates the horn sounds a five note chord In 1950 AirChime introduced the M series a further improvement on the earlier horns through elimination of unnecessary moving parts Among the earliest customers of the AirChime M was the Southern Railway which sought replacement horns for their motive power The company announced this program through the placement of a full page advertisement in the May 25 1951 edition of the Washington Times Herald Refurbished Nathan AirChime model P5A Under Swanson s guidance AirChime would focus on ease of mass production low maintenance and reliability in their air horn design with the development of the P 1953 and K 1954 series AirChime model K3L shown here in an Auburn University inspired livery AirChime has been sold to their American licensee Nathan Manufacturing Inc a division of Micro Precision Group Inc in Windham Connecticut 22 Buell Air Horns Edit An air horn manufactured by the American Strombos Co used on early locomotives as well as trucks Founded in 1912 as The American Strombos Co of Philadelphia PA Buell sold modified marine horns for rail use They were often installed on small locomotives electric interurban equipment and railcars for example the Doodlebugs Buell has recently made available a line of air horns specific for railroad equipment 23 Gustin Bacon Mfg Co Edit The Gustin Bacon Mfg Co of Kansas City MO offered airhorns for use on railroad equipment prior to the Second World War Leslie Controls Inc Edit Leslie Controls Inc originally the Leslie Company of Lyndhurst New Jersey later Parsippany finally relocating to Tampa Florida in 1985 began horn production by obtaining the rights to manufacture the Kockums Mekaniska Verkstad product line of Tyfon brand airhorns marketing these for railroad use beginning in the 1930s Their model A200 series would later grace the rooftops of countless locomotives such as the legendary Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 as well as thousands of EMD E and F units Leslie eventually introduced their own line of multi note airhorns known as the Chime Tone series in direct competition with AirChime Poor sales of the Chime Tones due to the horns requiring an ample volume of air led the Leslie Company to introduce a new line of air horns utilizing interchangeable components while using less air to produce greater sound volume than the earlier Tyfon series Developed by Kockums this horn utilized a back pressure power chamber design in order to enhance diaphragm oscillation Known as the SuperTyfon series these horns would eventually supplant the Tyfon in railroad service Leslie SuperTyfon model S 5T regarded by many aficionados as the king of horns SuperTyfon horns were offered in single 24 dual 25 triple 26 quad 27 and five note 28 configurations Leslie Controls continues to manufacture SuperTyfon air horns for the railroad industry 29 Prime Manufacturing Inc Edit Prime model PM 990 locomotive air horn Prime Manufacturing Inc had produced locomotive appliances for many years prior to their entry into the air horn market in 1972 Their line of Pneumatic Horns was basically a derivative of the Leslie SuperTyfon design having taken advantage of a patent expiration at the time though their horns employed heavier castings than equivalents from Leslie and sounding a somewhat richer timbre as a result Sales were brisk railroads such as Union Pacific and the Burlington Northern were notable customers but ultimately disappointing Finding themselves increasingly unable to compete in a niche market dominated by Leslie Controls and AirChime Prime ceased air horn production c 1999 Westinghouse Air Brake Co Edit Westinghouse model E2 B1 locomotive air horn consisting of three singles bolted onto a common plate Westinghouse Air Brake Company known throughout the 19th and 20th Century as WABCO was the first to offer air horns specifically for use with railroad equipment as early as the 1910s Their model E2 was recognized by many for the deep commanding tone it produced In response to the Leslie multi note Chime Tone series Westinghouse offered a bracket to which three of their single note honkers could be bolted onto achieving the same result as what the Chime Tones did for Leslie Overshadowed later on by Leslie and AirChime WABCO eventually ceased production of most horns for the North American market At present the company is known as Wabtec Inc and continues to offer their line of Pneumatic horns for the export market 30 Australia Edit Railways in Australia often utilize the same type of air horns as their North American counterparts citation needed See also EditHancock air whistle Whistle postReferences Edit Noise Abatement Society Retrieved 2007 03 28 Rockland Quiet Zone Retrieved 2008 11 19 2 crooks out smarted by water after attempting to steal train horn in Tulare 15 September 2017 Retrieved 2017 12 21 Federal Railroad Administration Archived from the original on 2008 10 26 Retrieved 2008 11 19 70 FR 21844 https www federalregister gov articles 2005 04 27 05 8285 use of locomotive horns at highway rail grade crossings 71 FR 47614 https www federalregister gov articles 2006 08 17 06 6912 use of locomotive horns at highway rail grade crossings Updated Analysis of Train Whistle Bans January 2000 FRA See Hayes v Union Pacific R Co 141 P 3d 1073 143 Idaho 204 2006 https scholar google com scholar case case 17886920228406310755 amp hl en amp as sdt 2 5 Locomotive Horn Signals Union Pacific Railroad Archived from the original on September 4 2017 a b c Government of Canada Transport Canada 2009 07 07 Locomotives Design Requirements Part II TC GC ca Retrieved 2019 04 20 GO Transit 600 666 CPTDB Wiki cptdb ca Retrieved 2019 04 20 a b Transport Canada May 2018 Canadian Rail Operating Rules Retrieved April 20 2019 from https www railcan ca wp content uploads 2018 08 CROR English May 18 2018 Pdf pdf Canada Transport 2019 03 15 Apply to Stop Train Whistling at a Public Grade crossing TC GC ca Retrieved 2019 04 20 Signalsystem in Deutschland Retrieved 2007 02 05 German Signs Whistle Codes Flag and Hand Signals from IRFCA FAQ British Standards Institution 2013 BS EN 15153 2 2013 Railway applications External visible and audible warning devices for trains ISBN 978 0 580 68161 5 Archived copy Archived from the original on 2011 07 09 Retrieved 2010 07 12 a href wiki Template Cite web title Template Cite web cite web a CS1 maint archived copy as title link Archived copy PDF Archived from the original PDF on 2019 02 22 Retrieved 2019 02 22 a href wiki Template Cite web title Template Cite web cite web a CS1 maint archived copy as title link Rail Safety and Standards Board 6 February 2018 Preparation and movement of trains Issue 13 PDF RSSB co uk Rail Safety and Standards Board p 82 Rail Safety and Standards Board 6 February 2018 Preparation and movement of trains Issue 13 PDF RSSB co uk Rail Safety and Standards Board p 82 Locomotivehorns info Retrieved 2008 11 03 Micro Precision Group Inc Retrieved 2010 01 06 Buell Air Horns Archived from the original on 2008 08 28 Retrieved 2009 06 10 Five Chime Consultants Leslie S 25 Retrieved 2008 11 20 Five Chime Consultants Leslie S 2B Retrieved 2008 11 20 Five Chime Consultants Leslie S 3L Retrieved 2008 11 20 Five Chime Consultants Leslie SL 4T Retrieved 2008 11 19 Five Chime Consultants Leslie S 5T Retrieved 2008 11 20 Leslie Controls Inc Retrieved 2008 11 19 Wabtec Inc Archived from the original on 2010 05 05 Retrieved 2010 01 06 External links EditWikimedia Commons has media related to Locomotive horns Five Chime Consultants online spotters guide to diesel locomotive horns in North America LocomotiveHorns info guide to collecting diesel locomotive air horns Retrieved from https en wikipedia org w index php title Train horn amp oldid 1072640181, wikipedia, wiki, book,

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