“They gave us earplugs at check-in.” Why are so many RV parks near train tracks?

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Train
Photo Credit Brett Sayles

By Nanci Dixon
I had to chuckle one night as we settled into bed. I heard the melancholy whistle of a train passing by and instantly knew we were at an RV park. I was chuckling because I have the ability to turn my hearing aids off; however, my husband is not so lucky. He can still hear the plaintive call of a train going by all night long.

I have noticed that as we RV across America a disproportional number of RV parks seem to be on top of neighboring train tracks. When I searched online for “campgrounds and train noise” hundreds of pages of comments and reviews came up about train noise! One commenter in an online RV forum said, “It’s just a natural attraction our RV parks have to have railroads.”

One set of train tracks was so close to our RV at one park, that as the trains went by, the entire motorhome shook! I should have known when we pulled in there would be a train nearby … they gave us earplugs at check-in. 

I understand that building an RV park is expensive, and buying a less-than-desirable piece of property will cut costs, but I also understand that a lot of RVers would prefer to be a short distance from the highway if only bedding down for a night. And with highways come cars, trucks and trains. Yup, cheap and proximity seem to go hand-in-hand.

We recently stopped for seven nights on our way from the Midwest to the Southwest. Six, yes SIX, of those nights we could hear trains. Six nights in bed I chuckled as my husband groaned.

Sure, I could use Google Earth and check the park location for tracks and highways. Sure, I could read reviews more thoroughly. But, personally, I think the sound is hauntingly beautiful. It echos of bygone days – of a time we think of as simpler, kinder. It probably wasn’t any simpler or any kinder, but nostalgia kicks in and I like to think so. Besides, I can chuckle, take out my hearing aids and not hear a thing. 

##RVT972

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snayte
3 months ago

I do not mind the trains we frequently camp along the Mississippi in WI. But the horn blowing is out of control. Some of them hit the horn 5 or six times at a crossing and with the way cars are so well insulated these days I am not sure it is doing anyone any good.

Last edited 3 months ago by snayte
Paul S Goldberg
3 months ago

I grew up and raised my family within a mile of former NYCentral Mainline. Plenty of grade crossings further out. It is the sound of home. Attended FMCA Convention in Minot ND 2004 I think. There was a mainline that was adjacent to fairgrounds and there were 5 grade level crossings close by. Sleeping was not the only problem, speakers started to pause their presentations when they heard the first whistle. In our tent camping days I remember setting up less than 100 feet from a siding. When the headlamp illuminated the tent I was already awake when the horn sounded for the grade crossing 200 feet away. After our first RV rental we concluded that every campground was located on a road, a railroad, or a river and likely 2 out of 3.


Jeff Craig
3 months ago

We’ve rarely had such an experience. When we went to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, we stayed at Fort Camping in Langley, BC, and the tracks were about half a kilometer away. Our daughter actually commented how she liked the sound of the trains, and it reminded me of visiting my grandmothers house in Arkansas as a child, and hearing the trains rolling through town in the wee hours.

The Swinomish Northern Lights Casino RV Park near Anacortes, WA, lays adjacent to a rail spur. Campsites are 100 feet away from the tracks that feed the port (a hub for shipments to the San Juans and Vancouver Island) as well as the nearby oil refinery. I’ve been awakened a few times to our 35ft Class A vibrating as the train rolls down the tracks, but they have never blown the horns. In my experience, I’d rather have a few trains than the constant roar of the freeway (I’m looking at you Lake Easton State Park….) 24/7/365.

Jerome friedman
3 months ago

Stayed at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen, IN… noisiest trains we’ve ever been around. Trains run constantly and the tracks are literally a stones throw from the RV park. There is also a railroad crossing nearby so there are train whistles 24/7. We normally accept train noise as part of the RV life… but this was extreme

Julie
4 months ago

A distant train whistle is a soothing thing to me. When we’re too close to tracks that have more frequent trains coming through, turning up the sound machine handles it. Same if we’re close to a busy highway. No need to give up an otherwise great campground if there’s an easy solution to a noise issue.

Vanessa Simmons
4 months ago

My dad worked for the RR my entire youth. We listened for the train whistle every night so he would know when it arrived in town. I’ve stayed at several parks near tracks and it isn’t much different than being near a busy highway. I heard Benson AZ had the most trains going through it of anyplace in the US. Spent a week there at Butterfield RV park and Observatory and barely heard them.

Bill Hall
4 months ago

I grew up in a railroad family and we lived in Newton, KS, the railroad hub of the United States. My first memory of trains was the steam engines that my grandfather engineered and my father shoveled the coal. Before COVID I rode the train 1.5 hours each way from my home to work and back 5 days per week.

Diane Mc
4 months ago

We love the sounds of the trains. Occasionally you get one that’s a bit much. Husband is a vintage car racer so alway carries ear plugs. I don’t use them though.

Ann
4 months ago

Mostly we’re not bothered by the trains, but there was one in the Canadian Rockies that was so close that our coach was vibrating. For five hours as first one, then another, then another train shuttled back and forth.

We left after the first night.

Cheryl
4 months ago

Probably one of the few who loves the sound of trains. Mike is deaf so can’t hear them. Can’t hear any where we are now.

Gary
4 months ago

Trains were there first. Then roads followed along the train tracks, since it was the best route, already scouted out. Along roads, cities sprang up, and so did campgrounds. That’s the answer to “why”.

If you follow the famous Lincoln Highway, you’re near the railroad most of the way, especially in Nebraska and west.

Route 66 is another famous highway that also runs along railroads for most of it’s eight state run. Many of the old US Route highways do.

Ron T
4 months ago

If you’ve ever traveled US highway 2 across the northern tier of states, you know it parallels the Great Northern RR so every campground has train noise. We’ve gone between WI & WA in the RV west once & east twice and add to that one round trip on the Empire Builder itself. The noise never bothers me. While sleeping on the train, I’d only wake up when we stopped on a siding to let a freight go by. I recommend the route – wide open spaces, beautiful scenery and light traffic.

MrDisaster
4 months ago

A friend was traveling and the navigator got them misdirected. In frustration the driver said “just find the railroad tracks, the park won’t be far away”. They found the signs, the tracks and of course the RV park was right there!

LOUISE TULLER
4 months ago

Been many years ago, was traveling south back home to California. Was in Washington, needed a site for the night. We finally found a park in Kalama, Washington. When we checked in, the clerk told us that the boats going up and down the river tended to be noisy, blowing their horns, etc. What she didn’t tell us, was the trains that went through every 15 minutes until ten at night. Then it was every half hour until midnight. After midnight it was every hour. The track was less than a half mile away from the park. Even though I love to hear a train horn at night, that night I slept very little. Sure was glad to get out of there in the morning.

Ron H.
4 months ago

In my younger years, I lived with my grandparents in their home above a Great Northern RR depot in Montana. I have loved trains ever since . . . but not that close any more. When camping today, there’s nothing more enjoyable than listening to a passing train a mile or two away. That’s close enough for me.

Glen Cowgill
4 months ago

Being a retired Air Traffic Controller and growing up on the main line of the B&O railroad, I love the sounds of the trains. I am used to noise and can sleep right through. I live now about a mile from Homestead speedway and even the cars don’t bother me. I have always lived close to airports and I can adapt to just about anything. Happy camping.

EdS
4 months ago

Haven’t been bothered by trains. That noise can be rather soothing. We did spend a night in a hotel once in Memphis. We were flying out the next morning and had to be early to the airport to turn in a rental and fly out at 730 AM so we stayed close. If you want to be awake all night try 747 FEDEX flight one right after another coming in til midnight and then taking off after about 2AM. We watched flight coming in for a while of the balcony sometimes stacked up 10 deep in pattern. Beautiful scene but loud and all night long.

Lauren Baker
4 months ago
Reply to  EdS

I find that the rumble of a train helps me sleep

Ron L.
4 months ago

We’ve stayed at a couple, but not intentionally. If I had known previously, I seriously doubt if I would have made a reservation there unless nothing else was available.

Jim
4 months ago

Love this issue, we have been impacted twice. On our first cross country trip (CA to LA to help Katrina recovery) by the time we got to Nebraska my wife had had it, every stop before then had been near a freeway. When I went to register, some town in the middle of nowhere, I asked about freeway noise and was told the campground was a mile in either direction from the freeways. Not being smart enough to ask it turns out the RR ran adjacent to the one of the highway’s and blasted its horn due to an intersection a mile away it seemed like every 20 minutes all night. Years later we pulled into a Walmart in Barstow CA. Almost immediately a security guy pulled up and said we couldn’t camp there but directed us to a parking lot in a closed mall a short distance away. We got set up in the dark and went to bed. Shortly thereafter the RV started to move a little bit and the sound of a train got very loud. On the other side of the street was the main track into Barstow!

chris
4 months ago

The wheel rumble doesn’t bother me, but the horns do. Those things will wake me from the deadest of sleeps. I’m in a CA park on the Salton Sea in between two grade crossings so no horn.