Some of my regular readers may remember that I am not a Peabody native. I grew up near Chicago and in northern Iowa. We always had bleak, bitterly cold winters. The rest of the year was moderate and boring with few extremes or violent weather.
Back then what I knew about Kansas weather, if I thought about it at all, came from “The Wizard of Oz.” Yup, you guessed it, the dreaded tornados. Of course, now I know tornados happen just about everywhere while those bleak stark winters rarely leave the north. And I know “The Wizard of Oz” is not a good representation of either tornados or Kansas.
During our first years in Peabody, we lived on Olive Street. The house is no longer there — it burned about 15 years ago. At that time, what is now the Union Pacific Railroad was the Rock Island. Trains came through town on those tracks with great regularity.
Our first summer here was when I finally learned that an approaching tornado sounds just like an approaching train. At least that is what everyone said. I never did hear a tornado, but I did hear lots and lots of approaching trains and I didn’t know the difference — especially at night!
Our first Peabody summer also was the year the city had an abnormal amount of trouble with the tornado siren malfunctioning. It seems that when it rained the wiring got wet somewhere inside and something shorted out making the siren wail out a warning of … guess what? An approaching tornado! And there I sat on Olive Street listening to an approaching train and (if it was raining) a siren screaming at me to take cover. It was a rainy summer and I hardly slept at all.
I was terrified from April to October and I was glad to finally see the approach of a bleak cold winter. Bleak and cold I understood.
However, in August I will have lived in Peabody for 40 years. My attitude has changed considerably.
Eventually the city got the tornado siren repaired or got a new one. I got used to hearing the trains travel between Olive and Plum streets and we learned to head over to Mike and Janie Hodges’ house for safety during threatening weather.
I no longer even have much of a healthy respect for tornados although I have, on occasion, been known to head for the basement of the house in which we now live. Of course, it was helpful to move away from Olive Street and the Rock Island tracks. Here on Walnut those approaching trains rarely penetrate my consciousness.
Well, until recently they didn’t often penetrate my consciousness. The ones I hear now are rarely on the former Rock Island tracks. The ones I hear now are from the blasted, stinko, earsplitting, raucous, honk-it-out-your-hat, Burlington-Northern-Santa-Fe boisterous engineers who just will NOT quit once they are within earshot of Peabody. Those boys are beyond safety-conscious. They are just plain obnoxious.
Has anyone else noticed that? How can I be listening for a tornado if some yo-yo choo-choo jerk is laying on the horn from Walton to Florence? Is that supposed to be for my musical enjoyment? Yours? Theirs? What??
I understand safety. I understand caution and warning. I want that for everyone in the community and I certainly don’t mean to be flippant about this issue. Several years ago one of the better people I ever knew in my life died in a car-train collision at the Maple Street crossing for some reason that none of us will ever know. And I know we have all kinds of crossings at the south end of Peabody and some are probably considered rural. But I also know that most of them now have cross arms and flashing lights to alert approaching traffic that a train is coming.
So, BNSF, give us a break. You are way over the top with your warnings. And there are more and more of you rolling through here every day, each of you riding that horn all the way through. We understand that travel by rail is a good thing. No one argues that. In fact, this community supports it. But we are not traveling — only you are traveling. We are here, daily, nightly, 24/7, 365, listening to you pass through our community. Believe me; we all know when you have been here.
In my most humble opinion you have, in just a couple of years, gone from being simply irritating to being a major noise pollutant, creating an economic development problem, and contributing to a downturn in the local real estate market.
The Kansas State Historical Society and the National Trust for Historic Preservation proclaimed Peabody’s entire downtown as an historic district because of the community’s early ties to the Santa Fe Railroad and its relationship to Turkey Red Wheat and westward migration, the settling of the western frontier.
I find it ironic that the same Santa Fe Railroad is creating a local issue that threatens Peabody’s very livelihood. Please back off and quit being the big noise for every promotion and event we host. You are playing havoc with our community and your current behavior is not one we appreciate. Please figure out a compromise!
— Susan Marshall