Thursday, 4:30 PM
Greenbush trains to blow horns for trick-or-treaters
By Peter J. Howe, Globe Staff
Toot-toot for trick-or-treat.
South Shore officials girding for the Oct. 31 return of commuter trains to the Greenbush line today asked federal railroad regulators to direct MBTA engineers to sound their horns as they pass through two-dozen grade crossings from 9 a.m. to midnight, but just on Halloween.
The same five towns -- Braintree, Weymouth, Hingham, Cohasset, and Scituate -- have successfully demanded that the Federal Railroad Administration keep the Greenbush line a horn-free zone, with engineers exempted from the usual requirement to give four blasts on their horn every time they trundle through a street crossing.
But several local police chiefs in recent days expressed alarm that having trains start service the same day that thousands of children are out trick-or-treating, especially after dark, could be a threat to public safety, even with the flashing lights, bells, and gates installed at the grade crossings.
Acting on behalf of all five towns, Scituate town administrator Richard Agnew today sent a letter to the railroad administration asking officials to lift the horn ban just for those 15 hours on Halloween.
"We have concern for our children's safety on the first day of operation,'' Agnew wrote, adding, "I assure you this request will not repeat itself.''
Railroad administration spokesman Warren Flatau said, "We do not see any problem with the request'' for a one-day lifting of the horn ban and expect it will be approved soon.
MBTA officials said they never backed the horn-sounding ban in the first place, saying that having trains blast the customary long-long-short-long warning as they come through grade crossings provides a crucial extra measure of public safety. Federal rules always allow engineers, even at a horn-free crossing, to sound their horn if they see a hazard such as someone walking or driving onto the tracks.