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A sleep deprived John Vassh, 7712 Dunkelow Road, said he has lived near the Union Pacific Railroad train tracks since he was nine-years-old and hasn’t had any issue living near them until two- and a half-years ago.
Vassh, 53, lives with his wife and children near the tracks. He told the Village of Caledonia Board Monday night that he needed their help in dealing with Union Pacific Railroad parking its locomotive engine near his house, and leaving it run for 24-hours.
Vassh explained that the cars have always been parked near his house, but now that the railroad leaves the locomotive engines running day and night, he and his family aren’t sleeping more than three to four hours a night and they are getting headaches anytime the wind is coming out of the west from the smoke.
“I have oil stains and soot on the side of my house,” Vassh said. “And until recently, I didn’t realize that my neighbors had the same concerns…. something has to be done.”
Vassh told the board that he’s called Rep. Paul Ryan’s office, Rep. Tom Weatherston’s office (who is also on the Village Board), contacted the media and Jeff Plale, the state railroad commissioner, but hasn’t gotten the issue resolved.
Weatherston told Vassh that he would personally call Plale’s office to see if he could help resolve the issue.
Wesley Baty, 7605 4 Mile Road, told the board that he moved to Caledonia near the tracks because he had grown up living near the railroad tracks in Racine and he really didn’t have a problem with them until now. The trains run back and forth by his house, but they never sat overnight with the engines still running, he said.
“We have a big yard, but the diesel smell is strong when the engines sit nearby,” Baty told the board. “My wife commutes 100 miles. She doesn’t wear the ear plugs like I do, but she sleeps on the couch with pillows over her head so she can sleep.”
Baty told the board that for a whole month, the engine sat on the tracks near his house. The railroad gasses up the engine and leaves it there — still running — while the rest of the train goes back to Illinois.
“That’s not right. All I’m asking is for them to go back to doing what they were doing before,” Baty said.
Mark Janiuk, the village administrator, said he spoke to Caledonia Police Chief Toby Schey about the issue. Schey told Janiuk that his department has responded to numerous complaints about the train engines sitting on the tracks running, but Janiuk didn’t have a specific number of complaints that has responded to.
Still, Janiuk said there was very little that the village could do other than call the railroad, just like Vassh and Batey have done.
“I don’t know if they need to keep the locomotive running to keep the brakes on… there might be a reason for leaving them running, this gentleman’s complaint isn’t that they are leaving them running, it’s having them park near his house,” Janiuk said. “They could park it near an isolated spot where it wouldn’t bother people.”