I Hear The Train A Comin’

(Story and photos by Brittany Olafson, online journalism major)


As Johnny Cash would say, you can always hear the train coming. Well, at least in Moorhead you can.

It’s hard to speak for everyone, but if they’re anything like me, they probably are fed up with how many trains are constantly occupying the tracks in the middle of downtown Fargo and Moorhead.

Over the course of a couple of days, I drove around Moorhead, hoping to catch a few trains to see just how many would pass through. Well folks, I was in luck. On Wednesday, March 21, I kept a record of the number of trains in Moorhead between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Because I had to go to class, I may have missed a few between 3:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., so I apologize. I was also curious about this issue and wanted to see if others were as annoyed as I am about this locomotive nuisance. As it turns out, I was right.

Figure 1: Train passes through at 12:30 p.m. between Center Avenue and Main Avenue across the street from Wells Fargo in Moorhead

Exhibit A: The light never turns green.

Ashley Simpson-Branstrom is a server at J.C. Chumley’s, located at 1608 Main Ave. in Moorhead. She says waiting at an intersection is what gets on her nerves.

“It gets annoying because the 14th St. and 1st Ave. stoplight stays red until
the train’s gone through,” she says.

Figure 2: Train passes through at 1:17 p.m. at the Fifth Avenue North bridge over Second Street in Fargo

Dale Berg, Chief Financial Officer at Copy Kat Printing in Moorhead, has the same problem.

“The trains don’t bother me. The only time they bother me is waiting for the lights,” Berg says.

I couldn’t agree with you more, Dale. Waiting at the stoplights can be an extreme hassle, especially if all you want to do is make a left turn.

Figure 3: Train passes through at 1:45 p.m. at Fourth Street South and Center Avenue in Moorhead
Figure 4: Train passes through at 1:46 p.m. at Fifth Street South and Center Avenue in Moorhead

Exhibit B: The train whistles and the rattling of buildings. Enough said.

Ernie Olson is the owner of Copy Kat Printing, located at 1624 Main Ave.
S. in Moorhead. He says he could do without the loud whistles.

“I hate the horns, especially when they’re going South; they just blow it all across the tracks,” he says.

For as much as we hate our ears ringing after hearing those obnoxious horns, Olson says it is mandatory for them to blow them at every intersection as a safety precaution. We can still dream though, can’t we?

Figure 5: Train passes through at 5:40 p.m. on the tracks going east and west between Main Avenue and First Avenue Moorhead

Olson and Berg say there is a whistle-free zone. However, this doesn’t benefit them because it ends at 14th St. S.

Alma Cater is the owner of Country Greenery, located at 17 Fifth St. S. in Moorhead.

She says the whistles and rattling of the building doesn’t affect them as much as it affects other businesses.

“The whistles were a problem, but now that it’s a whistle-free zone it’s no longer a problem,” Cater says.

“I don’t know what it is about this building but it doesn’t shake,” she says.

Figure 6: Train passes through at 5:51 p.m. on the tracks going east and west between Main Avenue and First Avenue Moorhead

“I’ve been in the MF building [located behind Country Greenery], and that shakes,” she says.

Simpson-Branstrom says she can relate to the train vibrations when she’s at work.

“We can feel it shaking at the waitress stations,” she says.

Exhibit C: Find the loophole.

Figure 7: Train passes through at 6:11 p.m. on the tracks going east and west between Main Avenue and First Avenue Moorhead

Although some of us are beginning to give up hope, there are some ways to get around all this ruckus.

The underpass at Second Street North between Main Avenue and N.P. Avenue in Fargo offers some leeway.

Instead of taking Broadway to Main Avenue, I suggest taking this underpass route if you are heading to Moorhead.

You will drive right beneath the tracks.

Figure 8: An engineer waves as the train passes through at 6:59 p.m. on the tracks going east and west between Main Avenue and First Avenue Moorhead

If you are further east in Moorhead and need to go west, try taking the underpass at 21st St. S. between First Avenue South and Highway 10.

You will go underneath the tracks here as well, and won’t be late for that job interview. Ahh, relief!

Figure 9: Train passes through at 7:09 p.m. on the tracks going east and west between Main Avenue and First Avenue Moorhead

Or, if you don’t feel it’s necessary to take these routes, just stay in your car and wait while watching that light never turn green.

Here are a few things you may try if you are caught in that situation:

1. Count the number of boxcars.

(I hear it’s more fun than counting sheep.)

2. Pick out a cloud in the sky and follow it.

Figure 10: Train passes through at 7:19 p.m. on the tracks going east and west between Main Avenue and First Avenue Moorhead

(At nighttime, pick a flashing star and count how many times it blinks.)

3. Do the sudoku puzzle.

(This only works if you have a newspaper in your car.)

4. Crank the volume to your music and practice your sitting-down dance routine.

(If anyone in the vehicles next to you notices, just pretend you were getting attacked by a large mob of bees.)

Figure 11: Train passes through at 7:31 p.m. on the tracks going east and west between Main Avenue and First Avenue Moorhead

5. Try to find a button in your car that starts with each letter of the alphabet.

(That one’s my favorite).

In conclusion, If you have somewhere to be and would like to be on time, I advise you to allow yourself at least 10 minutes more to get there, and 20 if you want to be extremely cautious.

You could be waiting at those railroad crossing arms for a while.

Oh, and if you’re east of 14th St. in Moorhead, be sure to have a pair of ear plugs handy.

(Edited by Kayla Van Eps, MSUM multimedia journalism major)





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