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Dingy Trainside Apartment

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Jake: How often does the train go by?
Elwood: So often that you won't even notice it.

What's the foremost sign that you're living in a really cheap urban apartment? Every time the train passes, the whole building shakes. Look out your window, and the 2:05 goes by. It can make sleeping pretty difficult. But hey, at least it has a view!

In the US, right up to the present day, apartments right next to active railroad tracks are usually the poor (and sometimes shady) part of town. People with money don't want to or need to live close enough to hear the trains passing by and rattling the building. This is also quite literally where the expression "Wrong Side of the Tracks" comes from, which referred to the direction prevailing winds drifted the smoke from steam locomotives, where rents were even LOWER.

This is slowly on its way to becoming a Discredited Trope as real-estate values go up at close proximity to a station in urban settings, so assuming that the apartment itself is not too run-down, living near public transport is actually very desirable. Tokyo, being a massive space-starved city with a vast rail network, has taken this to its logical conclusion: Several over-street routes have small shops built into the arches of the supports.

Subtrope of Horrible Housing.


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    Films — Animation 
  • The Triplets of Belleville provides the trope image: a railway viaduct was built right up against Madame Souza's rural home at some point during a Time Skip, and the family dog Bruno rushes to the window every hour to bark at the passing trains. Later on, when she moves into the Triplets' apartment in Belleville, USA, it's next to an elevated track and Bruno barks at the trains every few minutes.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 12 Angry Men: This is discussed as a plot point in the testimony of a witness, who supposedly heard and saw a murder through a passing elevated train going by between her window and the accused's.
  • In The Blues Brothers, Elwood takes Jake to his tiny room in a broken-down flophouse. Aside from the fact that there's no room to move, the Chicago L passes by every time the window is shown.
  • Death Note (2017): First scene in Light's house starts with an intercity train passing by and everything in his house shaking.
  • The Grand Duke Hotel that Nathaniel and Edward check into in Enchanted is right next to the BMT Jamaica Line in Brooklyn.
  • For a Few Dollars More. Mortimer visits an old man who lives in a house next to the railroad. Apparently the railroad agent gave him a choice of selling his land, or he'd buy up the land of the guy next door and then all the trains going back and forth all night long would drive him crazy. He certainly appears to have gone crazy, and when Mortimer is leaving the vibrations from a train are knocking the entire house down around his ears.
  • A noisy train can be heard going by the apartment that Callie and her kids get evicted from at the start of Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
  • The film version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban turns the Leaky Cauldron, of all places, into one of these, with the upper inn portion being adjacent to an elevated rail line.
  • In My Cousin Vinny, Vinny and his girlfriend Lisa spend their first couple nights in the Deep South in a hotel room next to a train that keeps waking them up before dawn. A subplot concerns their trying to find lodgings that permit a full night's sleep.
  • Se7en: Detective Mills and his wife live in an apartment foisted on them by a dodgy real estate agent who kept hustling them through on inspection so they wouldn't notice the trains passing by like clockwork throughout the night and day. Somerset can't help finding this Actually Pretty Funny. And the noise of the trains gives John Doe cover to murder Mills's wife.
    Somerset: A soothing, relaxing, vibrating home.
  • In the Suspense radio play Sorry, Wrong Number and its film adaptation, a murder is planned for right when a train passes by the victim's apartment.
  • Vampire in Brooklyn: Rita and Nikki shared an apartment right near the elevated subway tracks. But neither of them are bothered by it because it's Brooklyn and the city never sleeps.
  • Wanted: Wesley Gibson and his girlfriend live in a crappy apartment right next to the Chicago 'L'. It's deliberately used to underline the crappiness of Wesley's existence.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Dolores' restaurant is right by the Red Car service station, which routinely shakes the plates in the diner. Dolores herself is so used to it, she instinctively reaches for the nearest pile of plates right before the shaking starts.
  • Yesterday: Jack records his first batch of Beatles songs in a studio by train tracks owned by acquaintance Gavin.

  • Sherlock Holmes: A plot point in one story, where it's used to explain how a dead body found on the tracks came to be found miles away despite multiple stops where people should have seen the murder. He was murdered in the apartment, and the body thrown on the train as it was passing by.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 30 Rock: In "Rosemary's Baby", Liz discovers that her role model Rosemary lives in a rat-infested apartment in "Little Chechnya", and when she looks at the window, a train goes by.
  • Family Matters: At some point after Eddie moves out of the house, he lives in such an apartment.
  • I Love Lucy: In "First Stop", the Ricardos and Mertzes end up renting an uncomfortable cabin right next to the railroad tracks for the night since they're all too tired to drive any further and look for better accommodations. The train is incredibly loud and shakes the cabin and the poorly made beds inside it ensuring that they can't get any rest despite their exhaustion.
  • Just Shoot Me!: When Dennis is relocated to the "downtown office", the office is windowless, but is frequently shaken by the nearby subway.
  • Speechless: In the pilot episode, it's shown that the DiMeos always choose "the worst house in the best school district". A flashback to a previous home has Maya complain that it's next to the freeway. Jimmy points out that it's only near the freeway, it's next to the railroad, and at that point, a huge train comes roaring past.
  • My Name is Earl: In "Randy┬┤s List Item", one of the witness protection identities for Joy and Darnell is a poor New York family living in an apartment right next to an elevated train. And with the vent from a steam cleaner going through their floor.
  • Criminal Minds: One unsub is a serial killer who train hops from town to town, and attacks houses that are close to the train tracks he's hitching. He gets tracked by the FBI and on their hunt for him, he gets hit by a train.
  • Sense8: Will Gorski lives in an apartment that overlooks the Chicago train lines. When Riley visits and sees the location she asks how he can sleep with the trains going past so close to his window. Will claims you "get used to it".

  • In the Heights: Vanessa lives in one of these, as mentioned in the song "It Won't Be Long Now". She's gotten used to it, but she still wants out of the neighborhood:
    The elevated train by my window
    Doesn't faze me anymore
    The rattling screams don't disrupt my dreams
    It's a lullaby, in its way
    The elevated train drives everyone insane
    But I don't mind, oh no

    [...] And one day, I'm hopping that elevated train and I'm riding away!
  • Wonderful Town: The basement apartment that Ruth and Eileen share is constantly shaken by explosions from the construction of the subway directly underneath them. The musical is based on author Ruth McKenney's autobiographic short stories about moving to New York City and living in a basement apartment directly adjoining the Christopher Street subway station.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: In "The Choices", a flashback montage of Richard and Nicole's relationship reveals that when they were starting out, they lived in one of these.
  • Classic Disney Shorts: In "Two Weeks Vacation", Goofy stays in a run-down motel room so close to the tracks the train almost seems to come straight at him.
  • The Loud House: In "Relative Chaos", Ronnie Anne tries to get away from her doting family and their super-crowded apartment. She finally settles peacefully on the sofa after one relative's snoring wakes her... only to have an elevated train go rumbling by loudly.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Waverly Hills, 9-0-2-1-D'oh," Homer looks for the cheapest apartment possible in Waverly Hills so the kids can attend school there. He looks at one of these, but even that's out of his price range and asks if there's anything crappier available.