Good Vibrations

News story: LRT tunneling causes vibrations for neighbours above. Hmm. Rather predictable, n’est-pas?

My house shares a lot line with the former Champagne Streetcar Barn, later Champagne (bus) garage. The War Museum used it for vehicle storage and repairs for two decades. When they moved around the tanks, we could feel the unique vibrations throughout our house.

Remember when city sidewalk plows were Bombardier-type vehicles with tracks? They made a particular vibration that you could feel them coming from half a block away. And isn’t one of the characteristic sounds of winter in Ottawa the scraping of grader blades on asphalt streets?

I spent the weekend in Toronto. My hotel was on Yonge Street. I was on the seventh floor, half a block in from Yonge, but we could most definitely feel the vibrations of passing trains that were two or three stories below the street. Our LRT vehicles won’t be as heavy as the Toronto subway cars, but still …

When I stayed at NYU residence in Greenwich Village, the building was above a train line that must have been very deep as it was going under the building and the Hudson River to Jersey. We heard every train; it was like hearing a roller coaster in that you could pick out the sound of different rail car sets of wheels. All this sound or vibration traveled through hundreds of feet of Manhattan Schist, a good firm rock.

All anecdotal, sure. Not proof. But it doesn’t surprise me that the residents on Queen hear the LRT tunnelling through the Limestone bedrock. And while it will “go away” or diminish when the tunnel gets deeper and the cutting moves east, I’m willing to bet it will reappear in 2017 when the trains start running. Especially for the Juliana Building, which is older. The uphill trains, ie westbound, will be the most likely culprits.  I wouldn’t bet that the residents of the Gardens and the new Cathedral Hill won’t also hear or feel something, if only occasionally. As might residents further east along Queen.

The western extension of the LRT will bring it much closer to many non-concrete structures and homes. Will homeowners in Champlain Park feel those trains in the Scott Street cut? At certain seasons, I’ll bet yes. The tracks and wheels thereon will be just a few feet lower than their basement footings and floors and not far away laterally.  And those residents along the former CPR line / Ottawa River Commuter Expressway, between Dominion and Cleary … the “tunnel” along there will barely be under ground (it’s more like a landscaped hood put up and over the tracks) and close to wood frame houses…

Not everyone will feel the vibrations or detect a sound. Some will be oblivious, like many “tuning out” the sound and vibrations of elevators in high rises. A certain number will be sensitive. A smaller number will be bothered and will likely move. Individual pain, inconvenience, and expense, but not earth-shattering, until someone tries to create a sob-story of hardship (driven out of ancestral family home of generations… type of thing).

A few days ago I was sitting with a neighbour. She feels strange vibrations in her house. I confirmed the wife and I feel strange vibrations in ours. Usually around 4am. It could be the tunneling. Or a snow plow scraping the street a block away. Or archetypal vibration memories (surely Jung had a category for these?)  of tanks and streetcars.

Since we are blocks away from the tunneling,  maybe it’s the power of suggestion and it’s all in our minds. But for those who live directly along the line, we’re not in little ole Ottawa anymore. Big(ger) city conveniences bring bigger city nuisances.



2 thoughts on “Good Vibrations

  1. I recall the building of the transit way along Tunny’s Pasture as a child. We loved the whistle warnings and kids all over the “west end,” as the neighbourhood was then called, would run to Scott Street to see the rubber mats lift over the blasting. Such a race to get there in time! Great fun!

    That bedrock extends to parts of Westboro where I live now, but we have also been blessed with pockets of Leda clay – and I imagine both will conduct the train vibrations if the LRT arm cuts through here! Just an opinion based on the number of tremors we can feel. Alas I am still dreaming of a carling avenue route!

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