Friday, January 30, 2009

train whistles

Train whistles are a way in which the operator of a train (the "engineer", in train whistle parlance) is able to pronounce his or her superiority over all other beings.

At a typical train vs. road intersection, you'll notice a series of gates which drop should a train consider getting within several miles of said intersection. There are typically a few flashing lights and noises to accompany the gates, which are meant to warn cars that there is, in fact, a train in the general vicinity.

So you'll note we have a physical warning, a visual warning, and an audible warning, all self-contained within the hallowed intersection. Engineers, or conductors, or whoever it is who has a hand on that whistle, do not trust said mechanisms.

At or around sixteen miles from the intersection, the whistle specialist begins to blow the whistle, in a series of random bursts. This continues until about a mile from the intersection, where the whistle specialist then blows the whistle constantly until a safe (16 km) distance has passed, asserting to the sleeping community around him or her that he/she has the right to wake them up whenever he/she passes, and has a right to do that EVERY MORNING AT 3:00 AM.

Train whistles are also useful for studying the Doppler effect. In bed. At three in the morning.

1 comment:

megan said...

We have a whistle that wakes us up at midnight, then 3 am, then 5 am, etc. etc. This type of whistle is called a baby. Take that, Mr. Doppler!