20 Train Sound Effects for Use in Film & TV | Royalty-Free Sounds
train sound effects trains railroad

Train sound effects have been a part of cinema for nearly a century, tracing back to early hits like Shanghai Express (1932). Steam locomotives became a place where intense action sequences played out and where characters could quietly engage in dialogue.

In this article we'll do our best to parse out the most common categories of train sounds and share real examples from movies, television and games. Some of them are based on location, like train station ambience. The sounds of arriving at a station includes squealing brakes, sliding metal doors, and footsteps as people get off the train. During departure, the train whistle blows, a bell rings, and the conductor yells "all aboard". These sounds are unique to their location.

Train sounds also have an axis for era and genre that have to be taken into consideration. The departure sounds of a train station sound different in the 1940s and 2020's. Modern trains run quietly, with humming, chiming and beeping sounds that evoke a futuristic cityscape. When the train exists in a genre like science fiction or fantasy, the materials and context of the train may impact its sound design.

To help get you started, we've assembled a collection of 20 royalty-free train train sound effects from the Audio Design Desk library. Have a listen to them below and click download to access the sample pack. If you need more sounds, check out our full collection of over 70,000 sfx and music cues. Download Audio Design Desk to freely browse, download, and incorporate sound into your films and videos.

Train Sound Effects

Train Sound Effects

Machines, Sound Design

# Track Name Category Tags Duration
Train Station NightMachines, Sound DesignExt AmbienceLoading...
Train PlatformMachines, Sound DesignExt AmbienceLoading...
Train YardMachines, Sound DesignExt AmbienceLoading...
Train Station DayMachines, Sound DesignExt AmbienceLoading...
Train Interior 1Machines, Sound DesignInt AmbienceLoading...
Train Interior 6Machines, Sound DesignInt AmbienceLoading...
Train Interior 2Machines, Sound DesignInt AmbienceLoading...
Train Interior 5Machines, Sound DesignInt AmbienceLoading...
Train Interior 3Machines, Sound DesignInt AmbienceLoading...
Train Interior 4Machines, Sound DesignInt AmbienceLoading...
Train Whistle 2Machines, Sound DesignWhistleLoading...
Train Whistle 1Machines, Sound DesignWhistleLoading...
Door Closes 1Machines, Sound DesignDoorLoading...
Door Closes 2Machines, Sound DesignDoorLoading...
Train Passes By 4Machines, Sound DesignMovementLoading...
Train DepartsMachines, Sound DesignMovementLoading...
Train Passes By 3Machines, Sound DesignMovementLoading...
Train ArrivesMachines, Sound DesignMovementLoading...
Train Passes By 1Machines, Sound DesignMovementLoading...
Train Passes By 2Machines, Sound DesignMovementLoading...

7 Ways Train Sound Effects Are Used in Visual Storytelling

Let’s have a look at the way train sounds have been used in cinema over the years to support the mood and pace of a scene.

1. Lone Ranger: The sound of freight trains in an action film

This action scene from The Lone Ranger is accompanied by a rich layer of foley. We hear the sound of railroad workers pounding away alongside dramatic horn music. As the scene approaches its climax, the music drops entirely and a sequence of wrenching sounds play while the diesel train comes crashing off the rails. It’s powerful visually, but the audio really helps build up adrenaline and hold the attention of the audience.

This mechanical sounds of the train are humanized by the sound of workers screaming as they dodging the crashing train. Creaky wheels and heavy thuds emphasize the freight train’s weight, underscoring the scene’s importance in the film.

2. Train to Busan: Beeping, Swooshing, and Humming Bullet Train Sounds

The beep and whoosh of closing doors at a train station usually carries pleasant associations. However, it’s interesting to think about how the same sounds can be used in a film like Train to Busan to evoke feelings of anxiety. The gentle closing sounds magnify a sense of looming dread because of what lies inside the passenger train. Moments of silence and white noise are often used to achieve the same effect.

3. Westworld: Steam train whistle, character dialogue, and ambient chugging sounds

It’s not all zombies and train robbers though. A train can represent personal transformation for a character. It’s a quiet space where people seek a moment of refuge from the world. For this reason, important conversations and moments of introspection often take place here.

The show Westworld uses train scenes to mark the beginning and ending of a journey for one of its characters. Inside the railcar, one character tells another “You think you have a handle on what this is going to be…but you have no idea.” A steam train whistle sounds ominously to foreshadow the danger of the Westworld theme park.

Later in the series, the same character is on a steam train wit his lover, traveling in the opposite direction. Subtle sounds of rattling and rumbling make an ambient bed for a new conversation. The dialogue marks a moment where the journey of self-discovery and transformation has reached maturity.

4. Unstoppable: Doppler effects and wooden collision sounds

In this thrilling action scene, veteran railroad engineer Frank races against time to avoid a deadly collision with a rouge locomotive carrying hazardous chemicals. The two trains are due to meet at a railroad crossing and narrowly miss each other.

As the dangerous train passes by, we hear a blaring horn sound effect that warns of imminent danger. Frank narrowly dodges the main cabs of the train, but collides with the final wooden carriage and smashes it to pieces. The intense collision offers some relief and catharsis to the audience, who gets their climactic explosion sound along with the satisfaction of a crisis averted.

5. Inception: The sound of locomotives crashing into metal cars

The iconic train collision scene from Inception is surreal and takes on a symbolic role, representing the main character’s inner turmoil. We’re reminded that the characters are not in control of their dream world.

Here we find a train that’s quite literally gone “off the rails” as it rolls violently through a city street. The bumping, scraping, and smashing sounds mirror the cognitive dissonance in the character’s mind.

6. The Polar Express: Rumbling arrivals and quiet departures 

The Polar Express is an animated holiday movie that captures the wonder and excitement of Christmas. Throughout the film, we hear the steady presence of steam train sounds. In the scene below, the train rumbles aggressively on arrival. Later when the character gets onboard, a passenger door slides open quietly and the train chugs forward as it departs, with small creaks and squeals for ambient effect.

Arrival and departure scenes often feature different foley and volume levels, depending on the scenes that come before and after. Loud train sounds imply a build towards a crescendo, while quiet sounds help the audience focus on subtler themes.

7. The Fugitive: Braking and Exploding Train Sounds

In The Fugitive, we find another variant of the doomed train theme. This time, the train wheels grind against their metal tracks and we hear the squeak of failing brakes. They foreshadow the danger that the protagonist will continue to face as he runs from the law.

As the train draws closer, tension mounts and intensifies the life-and-death urgency of the situation. When it finally crashes, a carriage uncouples and careens off the tracks. The sound of metal scraping across the ground makes the scene even more intense and visceral.

Assembling your own collection of ambient train sounds

If you’re working on a video project and need a place to organize your sound design workflow, Audio Design Desk is the way to go. The DAW comes with over 70,000 sounds, including a broad collection of train sound effects in high-fidelity WAV format. If you didn’t get around to it yet, scroll back up to the top page and have a listen to the royalty-free SFX in our embedded audio player. You can download and use them in any video project.

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