Anne Wolfe, of Chevy Chase, asked if any readers could help her understand why she kept hearing a steam-engine whistle at her home in the pre-dawn hours ("Mystery Train Whistle," Dr. Gridlock, May 3).

She said it was definitely not a modern-day whistle, and she did not live near train tracks. She wondered if it could be the mournful sound of a "ghost train" plying the old rail line from Bethesda to Georgetown, now converted to the Capital Crescent trail.

A number of readers stepped forward to offer their thoughts:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I thought I was the only crazy one! This does not happen every night, but always late in the night. I agree that it does not sound like a modern-day whistle.

I live in Chevy Chase, D.C. -- Utah Avenue to be exact. Tell Ms. Wolfe she has company.

Cynthia Oliver


Vexing Sounds in the Wee Hours

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I'm so glad Anne Wolfe wrote about the train whistle. I thought I was nuts!

I live in Potomac, and to my knowledge, the nearest train track is in Kensington -- 15 minutes from my home. For the 15 years I've lived here, I've heard a train whistle early in the morning, about 4 a.m. I, too, wonder about it.

Nancy Bowen


Mournful Sound Could Be a Dove

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Based on the time of day and her description of the sound, I believe the lady is hearing a bird, a mourning dove that can sound very similar to a plaintive train whistle, especially when you are half asleep.

Levi Goldfarb

Temple Hills

Dry Cleaners, Not Engine

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

On Connecticut Avenue at Chevy Chase Lake Drive (near the place where the Capital Crescent Trail crosses Connecticut Avenue) is a dry cleaners. The cleaners use steam in their presses, and I often see steam exhaust spewing from the building.

It could be escaping steam that sounds like a train whistle.

Wayne Pudleiner


Recordings of a Rail Fan

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

As a rail fan (one who enjoys trains), I believe some rail fan with a recording of train whistles is playing the tape loud just to get even for making the Baltimore and Ohio rail line a bicycle trail.

There are hundreds of train tapes available, many with steam and diesel whistles. I have over 125 tapes myself and enjoy every minute.

John Kouyeas


Clamor From CSX Tracks

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The CSX tracks run through Silver Spring, Forest Glen, Kensington and Rockville. There are grade crossings in Forest Glen and at Randolph Road. Even though Ms. Wolfe lives a few miles away, the background noise in the early morning is low, and if the weather is clear, a train's air horn can be heard for a long distance.

Rudy Volin


Possibly the B&O Tracks

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I, too, occasionally hear a faint, mournful train whistle in the still of the night. But I am convinced it is coming from the B&O main line passing through Silver Spring and Wheaton.

I realize that sound would be coming from an air horn on a contemporary diesel engine, rather than a steam whistle, but as faint as it is, with other background noise present, it could pass for a steam whistle.

Sorry, I'd like to think that the spirit of the old Georgetown rail spur lingers (although it was diesel-operated from about 1950 on).

Rolf Sinclair

Chevy Chase

Perplexed by Pitch in Va.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I live in a different neighborhood. My house backs directly up to the old Washington and Old Dominion rail line that is now a bike trail in Virginia. My daughter and I have heard a very distant train whistle on several occasions, most often late at night.

I am not one to believe in ghost trains, but I, too, am puzzled as to where this train whistle is coming from. Please let Ms. Wolfe know she is not the only one who hears things go "bump" in the night.

Sharon Kulesz

Falls Church

Whistle to Willoughby

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

As every devoted fan of Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone" knows, the ghost train is bound for an idyllic, turn-of-the century town called Willoughby, a place where kids fish in the local creek, life is simple and families gather on Sunday to hear the band concert in the public square.

Willoughby is described by the train conductor as "a place where a man could live out his life in full measure."

If any of your readers can provide further information about this train, or where it can be boarded, please let me know.

James Cannon


Dr. Gridlock will be in line ahead of you. Where is Willoughby?

I'm not sure any of the answers offered today solve the mystery train whistle riddle, but I sure enjoyed reading them. Have a safe Memorial Day.

Dr. Gridlock's assistant, Jessica Medinger, contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and Wednesday or Thursday in the Weekly or Extra sections. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, P.O. Box 3467, Fairfax, Va. 22308-3467, or e-mail him at The Doctor's fax number is 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.