Countless songwriters have written about it, but the lonesome sound of a train in the night becomes less romantic when it happens outside your bedroom window. Railroad District residents are coming to terms with that since the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad began running trains at night.
There is a possible remedy, but sleepless residents should understand it won't happen quickly and it won't be cheap.
As city officials explained at a recent City Council meeting, the night-time runs reduce the risk of fire from sparks generated by rolling rail cars. Fire danger drops at night along with the air temperature.
Train traffic over the Siskyous was suspended in 2008, but resumed last year. Federal railroad rules require trains to sound their horns at every crossing, and there are nine in Ashland.
It is possible to have some or a portion of the Ashland line designated a "quiet zone" under federal rules, but every crossing must first be equipped with flashing lights and automatic gates. The Oak Street crossing now has that equipment, as do Helman, East Main, Walker and Tolman Creek. The rest would need to be upgraded, at substantial expense.
Meanwhile, night trains will continue until at least late October. But they will resume next summer unless the city pursues a quiet zone.
It's worth noting that the Railroad District got that name for a reason. And while the sound of train horns may disturb slumbering residents, it is also the sound of valuable commerce.