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If Madison Residents Think Trains Are Loud….

June 18, 2009

……how about Kathleen Hulser in Connecticut?

I thought this picture and story very interesting.


As a curator of exhibitions for the New-York Historical Society, Kathleen Hulser is passionate about the past. She craved an antique home, but with her salary, she knew she would have to compromise.

That compromise is a freight train that blasts by just a few feet from her four-bedroom 1839 summer house on the Housatonic River in Cornwall Bridge, Conn. It appears at 7:30 a.m. almost every day. “The house shakes,” Ms. Hulser said. “It rattles the pots and pans.” She bought the house last August for $255,000, reduced from $375,000, said her broker, Priscilla Miller of Bain Real Estate, after it had been on the market for 10 months. “Without the train next door,” Ms. Miller said, the house would have cost double. “It made it much more affordable by putting up with that,” she said.

To make the outlay even smaller, Ms. Hulser shared the cost with her brother, Michael. The train wasn’t the only factor depressing the price of the house. Next door is a former Superfund site where an old factory dumped chemicals. Ms. Hulser does not mind the toxic past because the site has been cleaned and certified by the government as fully decontaminated.

To Ms. Hulser, the formerly toxic site and the currently noisy train are no worse than the air and noise pollution in Harlem, where she lives during the week. Indeed, she finds the train appealing. “The conductor always waves,” she said. “It almost counts as a charming defect.” The train is not roaring through hourly; it runs on average once a day, at most twice.

But not everyone is charmed. Ms. Hulser said that when her 12-year-old daughter, Kira Baird, had a sleepover, she “tried to spin it as a quaint feature of the site.” When the train thundered by that Saturday morning, though, Ms. Hulser awoke to a chorus of pre-teens shrieking in terror.

Safety can be an issue. Ms. Hulser must remind her daughter’s guests not to leave bicycles on the tracks, which, just 20 feet from her house, are so little used that they blend into the scenery.

For Ms. Hulser, the historic building trumps all. “I grew up on houses like this,” she said. “It’s the equivalent of comfort food in architecture.”

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