Wanderings – Caveat emptor or something like that

I grew up mostly along a railroad track. Not on one particularly bad side of the tracks or the other, but I lived near them. My father enjoyed a long career with the railroad which meant for most of my childhood, I was a stones throw away from a right-of-way.

When we lived in Northern Ontario, the mainline between Toronto and Winnipeg was 75 feet from our front door. As a kid, it was awesome to see these large, belching diesel engines rumble past my bedroom window.

When we moved to Eastern Ontario, the tracks were over the hill from my house and I often biked down to the tracks to watch the trains go by. Even after I left home, except for a brief three-month stint, I’ve lived within earshot of a railroad line. It wasn’t a calculated choice. I didn’t move to where VIA trains sped past my front door on purpose or anything like that. Living along the St. Lawrence River/Highway 401 corridor tends to keep you close to a rail line.

I am used to trains, railroad tracks and the like. There is something nostalgic about the smell of creosote on a hot day that takes me back to when I was a kid. Is it any wonder I am a model train guy? I have a ring tone of a train horn, which is the goal horn for the Buffalo Sabres. I use it on my cell phone to identify my friends who are Toronto Maple Leafs fans.

When my wife and I purchased our home many years ago, we based that decision on location and price, and not its proximity to the railroad. On a still evening I can hear the trains go by from a nice distance away – about two kilometres north. Had a house been available at the time closer to the rails that we liked, I would not have been deterred from buying that house. Maybe my wife would have disagreed – okay she probably would have. But those decisions would have been made knowing full well that trains are noisy, dirty, and run at all hours.

For many years, there has been a move in municipalities to silence the train horns in villages, towns, and cities – especially at night. Communities like Brockville have agreements in place to silence the horns at night, so those who live near the trains can sleep in quiet. A simpler solution would have been to not buy houses next to the tracks. Trains have been around for almost 200 years, it’s not news that they are loud. Caveat emptor – buyer beware.

If I wanted to move to the country, and I did not want to smell the “freshness” of an active farm – I would check if the property is downwind from an active farm. If my dream home happened to be next to an industrial site storing dried sludge from a sewage treatment plants – I would wake up and move on.

It’s a waste of energy to move somewhere knowing there is an outside issue that you dislike, and then spend your time trying to change that outside issue. I hate raisins. They are the devil’s “fruit.” Vile, nasty, things. If I go to a bakery, I wouldn’t buy a raisin pie and then complain there are raisins in it. I’d buy the Black Forest Cake instead.

Buying a house next to an immovable and uncompromising obstacle, then expecting that obstacle to change because you want it to seems silly. It’s as silly as buying a house without looking to see what’s located around it.

Even though there is a shortage of affordable housing right now, people still have options available. Homes, like most other things in life, are about compromise. You have to pick the variables you like, and what things you’re willing to ignore or don’t bother you. A little diligence goes a long way.