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For a good sleep – don’t camp here!

By Chuck Woodbury
editor, RVtravel.com

You want a peaceful night’s rest? Then don’t camp by railroad tracks.

If you’ve been RVing for long, you know that’s no joke. Many RV parks are located right along the rails – it’s cheap land. I once thought years ago that every KOA was by a railroad track. That’s not true, but many are – and not just KOAs.

My worst RV “train” experience was in Pismo Beach, Calif. The RV park was tidy – lawns cut and manicured, well-maintained buildings, and far enough off the road so little traffic noise. Perfecto! I backed into a site right up against a 10-foot hedge. I could not see what was behind it, but no problem: I didn’t care. I just needed a piece of flat earth to call home for 18 hours to do some writing and get some sleep.

Twenty minutes after I arrived, the earth shook. And shook. And shook. Yes, there were train tracks right behind that hedge! And I mean directly behind – perhaps ten feet or so! That put me about 18 feet from the trains. Luckily, there was no street crossing nearby, so at least there were no loud horns.

Despite the trains, I decided to stay. Other nearby campgrounds were full or nearly full and I was too lazy to unhook and move.

DO YOU KNOW when you are half-asleep how sounds can startle you, and how your imagination can play tricks? Well, when the trains rolled by that night – about every half hour – I would panic. I would think, “That train is going to derail right into my RV and I will be dead!” I would hear a train approach in the far distance, and then it would be closer, and then it would be RIGHT UPON ME, roaring – shaking the earth and my puny motorhome. I waited for the impact – the terrible instant when I would be crushed like an ant. Death! If I were a little boy I would have put my blanket over my head, but alas, I learned at about age 35 that blankets are no help keeping away monsters, or in this case, derailed trains.

So that was the game my mind played with me as I lay half awake, half asleep. The night was long. It was terrible. But, as you have likely concluded, I survived.

The fact is, train traffic is a well-kept secret of the RV park industry. In RV directory listings for campgrounds you’ll learn about the good stuff – “pool, game room, shaded campsites, WiFi, clean bathrooms, ice cream socials, fishing lake, etc.” What you will not read is this: “Enjoy loud, disruptive sounds and feel the earth shake as diesel locomotives roll by your campsite day and night.”

So here’s some advice: Before you commit to staying at a particular RV park, check it out on Google Earth: you should be able to see any railroad tracks from the satellite photo. Or, call the park and inquire if there are tracks close by (busy highways, too). If so, ask if there are sections of the park away from the sound and rumble (there usually are). If so, make your reservation. Otherwise, find another park. If you wear a hearing aid, then maybe this is no big deal – just turn it off and consider the rumbling a gentle massage.

##RVT840 ##RVDT1436

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Catherine
1 year ago

Another terrifying and noisy situation…camping near military testing and training grounds. I was woken up at night by repeated tremendously loud BOOMS that lit up the sky and shook the ground. Until I found out what it was, I was terrified.

Gordy
1 year ago

Are the ads covering part of the article deliberate or accidental?

Admin
RV Staff (@rvstaff)
1 year ago
Reply to  Gordy

That’s deliberate, Gordy. 😆 No, I’ve just gone in and fixed it. Some of the rerun articles don’t line up correctly with the newest formatting. Sorry about that, but thanks for letting us know. 🙂 —Diane at RVtravel.com

DW/ND
1 year ago

Not to left out! There is a great Corp. or Engr’s campground in Dickinson, ND with large sand beaches, picnic grounds, private parking spaces and a lot more – great place – right next to the BNSF mainline for coal trrains and a crossing to get into the campground! All day, all nite – LONG, FAST trains!

Donald N Wright
1 year ago

The COE campgrounds at Belton Texas are wonderful, and quiet eighteen hours a day. At midnight, Fort Hood artillery practice begins.

Sharon W.
1 year ago

No trains here. How about next to a cow pasture? A cow’s moo is louder than you would think. Add about 100 cows to that moo and you’ve got some noise. And the gnats and the smell…….On the plus side, the cows were very friendly. My grandchildren loved them so that’s all that matters 🙂

Sink Jaxon
1 year ago

OK I have one for ya…Amarillo KOA Journey. Sandwiched between an East/West mainline with crossings (horns blowing), and Amarillo International Airport, that includes Bell Helicopter manufacturing plant. Fortunately, the planes and helicopters are quieting down about 9 p.m., BUT! that’s when the train traffic really starts to pick up, about every 30 minutes or so. UGH! And add to THAT misery, I-40 is less than a mile away :((

Deborah Mason
1 year ago

First time we stayed in Thermopolis we wound up in an RV park where some sites back up to a chain link fence with RR tracks on the other side. We got a site against the fence, but were glad to get it as they were full & we only got that site because a couple of campers ahead of us threw a hissy fit that they were not in adjacent sites since they’d made their reservation together. Owner gave then their money back & sent them down the road. Then we got a free concert in the pool!

Thomas
1 year ago

If trains bother you,i got something better(or worse).
F16’s and Harrier jets when parked across from Marine Corps air station in yuma az. They practice all day and into the night sometimes so low you think you could touch them. We signed up for a month and left really early. Moved to a park far away but still in Yuma. Then ,we exchanged planes for trains. I’ll take the trains

Tommy Molnar
1 year ago

I noticed I made a comment about this situation “2 years ago”.

We’re now in an RV park in Houston for medical reasons. We’ve been in this park for over three months and will be here much longer. There is train noise all the time. The tracks are about a block away. At night you can actually ‘feel’ the trains going by. Sometimes they blow the horns (two longs, a short, and a long, which is the signal for coming up to a crossing) but not always.

Then there is the traffic. My goodness – the traffic! Heavy trucks thumping by, drag racing, and drivers seemingly testing out their new custom high performance exhaust systems (just a little humor there . . .) all day and night. At first it was a problem, but now we can pretty much ignore it – really.

Most of the time we’ve been here so far, it has been SO hot, and SO humid, the windows are always closed and the a/c on 24/7. Don’t hear much of anything except the a/c.

You CAN get used to anything. You really can.

Don
1 year ago

There is a delightful RV Park right on the beach at Sandpoint ID, on beautiful Lake Pend Oreille. We happily backed our big 5th wheel into a spot that backed up to a huge berm, about 15′ tall. You guessed it – the RR tracks were at the top of that berm. And that track must be one of the busiest in the country! Like you, we spent the night afraid that the derailed freight train would crush us like bugs. And would land ON TOP of our trailer as we slept. I’m guessing that there was a train about every 20 minutes, all night long. Needless to say, we didn’t extend our stay! Caveat Emptor…
I really like the idea of checking Google Maps for tracks before booking a stay. 🙂

Don Lee
1 year ago

I understand your angst and chuckle. As a career railroader being parked that close to a railroad track lulls me to sleep. However, park me too close to a highway and the endless drone of trucks will keep me awake all night. 🙂

wanderer
1 year ago
Reply to  Don Lee

Don, maybe you can explain this. I don’t mind ordinary train noise unless it’s super close. But, I’ve camped in two towns where the night trains come through quite often, and the horn noise is just insanely loud, long, and insistent–not a few blasts on the signal to say ‘train coming’, but really leaning on the horn at max volume for quite a while as if to say ‘okay, everybody in a five mile radius, wake up, wake up’. I’ve heard in one town it was because someone was killed at a crossing many years ago. But, is that really cause for having whole towns kept awake every night even though all the crossings have gates? Is it a law, or is it a choice each train operator makes?

David Dougherty
1 year ago
Reply to  wanderer

The FRA Train Horn Rule (49 CFR 222) requires the engineer. to sound the horn under various circumstances including when. a train is approaching and passing through a public highway-. rail grade crossing.

Where several grade level road crossings happen close to one another, that makes a lot of noise.

Nanci Dixon
1 year ago

We stopped at a KOA where the train noise was so bad they handed out earplugs when we checked in. Still using those earplugs!

Randy B
1 year ago

Well Chuck. I met you only once, at the 4h fairground in Goschin, Indiana. How I found out about your news letter. If you recall, there were train tracks next to the fair ground.The folks that did not register or registered late for the Montana ralley were parked next to the hedges. This is the only camp ground I was ever in next to rail road track. Now, black top racing spots a whole nother story…

MK
3 years ago

We just assume every campground is by a railroad track, or gravel pit or blacktop crushing site or a busy highway. Then when we are lucky and it is a rare quiet campground we are very happy campers.

Fred
3 years ago

One thing every web site that reviews rv parks should have is a box to check if there are train tracks nearby. This should be right with the other amenities & features listed that you can check in your review. There should also be a sub box where you can enter how many trains pass in a 24 hour period .

Bill & Kitty BATEMAN
3 years ago

Along I84 in the Columbia River Gorge AND right on the river there are FREE overnight no-hookup RV camping areas. These many sites are kind of sandwiched between the heavily traveled freeway / railroad tracks and the river. Most spots are paved and shaded, some are gravel. Surprisingly not much freeway noise but we counted 9 trains of at least 100 cars each, some withe pusher and puller sets of engines, during one of our many 14 hour stopovers. We travel that route a few times each year and find ourselves in that area quite often at dinner time. We are in our late 60s but don’t mind the train noise at all… definitely beats the 1am bongo drummers in a remote Forest Service campground in northern Idaho!

Jim Ellis
3 years ago

We camped in a very nice county park in Grand Island Ne. last year. About 3:00 a.m. we awoke to a train making a delivery to the power station. It came back about 3:45. Wow, were we suprised. I would guess it was about 70 feet away.

Mike Arnold
3 years ago

For us camping near a railroad track would be about like being at home. We live about a half-mile from a very busy East-West rail line. We have neighbors who live a couple hundred yards from the track. They can feel the vibrations when the trains go, but they say most of the time they don’t notice.

Lauren
3 years ago

I grew up as a daughter and granddaughter of a railroader. We lived for awhile beside the rail track and later 3/4 mile away. We could feel the ground shake while the over a mile long train rumbled by. We were lulled to sleep, by the rumble of the trains Yes I do miss that. But sadly there are more truck than trains in the area I live in. I understand it is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Cal Bridgers
3 years ago

I was motorcycle camping with my Kompac Kamper pop-up and stopped to spend the night in Louisville, KY. Instead of going to the nearby military campground I opted to stay at the Metro KOA in the town. It being a Sunday night after a long day on the road I took a spot “away from the big campers” (as the clerk said).

I noticed some railroad tracks but didn’t think anything of ’em until 0400 Monday. That’s when the banging of the cars as they were being shuttled and shifted around to form a train started.
Had myself an early, early breakfast and left before the sun came up.