Dear Action Line: It’s great to hear the train whistle each evening from where I live on 32nd Street. Lately it hasn’t been the regular warning blast at the 32nd Street crossing, but more of a plaintive, drawn-out, lonely wail that repeats several times. It makes me think of the lonely sea serpent in Ray Bradbury’s tale, “The Fog Horn.” What’s the story here? – ‘Trained’ to Listen
Dear Trained: First of all, Action Line is a little befuddled. “The Fog Horn” was a piece of written fiction. Written. The fog horn is in your mind! Do you understand this? Unless you’re comparing it to the humpback whales in Star Trek IV (1986), which “The Fog Horn” supposedly inspired. (Oh, you learn so much when you read Action Line.)
But second of all, that’s an interesting question, and Action Line tried to go to the source, which of course is Ray Bradbury, but he died in 2012. The people who run the train seemed like the next-best source.
“I appreciate that description actually,” responded Jeff Johnson, vice president and general manager of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. “It’s the mood I always hope a steam engine whistle evokes in the community, in addition to the obvious safety component they provide at crossings.”
The whistle comes from the Polar Express, which began its annual winter run Nov. 20 and concludes Jan. 3. Because of that annoying and harmful virus that’s been going around, the train goes only as far as 36th Street before turning back to the North Pole at the Durango yard. Interestingly, there’s a steam locomotive at each end of the train, making it simpler to reverse course.
“The unusual whistles being heard are actually a prescribed and unique communication language between the engineers on both locomotives that are used while stopping and performing air tests which give the locomotive on the other end of the train control of the train brakes,” Johnson said.
It’s literally a blast from the past, rarely heard these days. Each engineer has “a slightly unique style and signature to how they blow the whistle, a bit like an accent if you will.”
So enjoy it while you can.
Dear Action Line: I live south of Sixth Street and was told by parking enforcement that I cannot have “For Sale” signs on my car in residential areas, per city ordinance. But I noticed three or four cars with For Sale signs on the north side of the city. Is this ordinance just for the south side? – Just Trying to Sell My Car
Dear Just Trying: Sixth Street? Oh, you mean College Drive. We stopped calling it Sixth Street around the mid-1990s. What this all means is that “Just Trying,” although he/she/they remained completely anonymous, has lived here for a while. Instant cred. But that cred is lost if you think this is the modern way to sell a car.
So, assuming this vehicle was parked on the street (public right of way), here’s the answer. Steve Barkley, code enforcement officer with the city of Durango, directs us to the “hard and cumbersome” code, in this case, Section 24-51. Sure, we’ve all read it, but here’s a recap:
You can’t display the vehicle for sale (oops, Action Line has done that), can’t display advertising or other profit-making activities, and can’t grease, paint or repair a vehicle (oops again) – unless it’s an emergency (whew!).
However, Barkley said, officers generally won’t make a fuss if the “For Sale” sign isn’t blocking the driver’s view when he goes to operate the vehicle, and the vehicle isn’t in a high-traffic area for a long time. Oh, and don’t put balloons on it, or flashing lights, dancing horses, that kind of thing.
Ever so helpful, Barkley offered a tip:
“I hear rumors, some people even attempt to sell their vehicles via the Auto For Sale section in the Herald,” he said. “This may be a recommended way to accomplish the task of getting rid of the junk heap?”
There’s also this thing called Craigslist that’s kinda catching on. That you might try. As a last resort. Of course.
You good Action Line readers probably all have this bookmarked, but you can find the code online at https://library.municode.com/co/durango/codes/code_of_ordinances.
Email questions and suggestions to [email protected] or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. Answer to last week: Brian Hester was head coach of the Durango High School football team in 1988, and Steve Thyfault was head coach in 1997. By the way, when you Google “Sixth Street Durango” the first result is Sixth Street Liquors, one of the few remnants of the ancient moniker.
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