Steam locomotive whistles - type and location

Discussion in 'Steam Locomotive Diagrams' started by meteor910, Dec 26, 2011.

  1. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    An interesting article is in the current edition of the PRR Technical & Historic Society's fine publication The Keystone: "PRR Steam Locomotive Whistles, where did they go" (not the exact title), in Vol 44, #4, 4Q 2011 issue, p 54.

    I've not read the full article yet (just received it), but it is about the PRR's attempts to improve the sound and effectiveness of their whistles on PRR steam locomotives. They studied, and tested, a number of different types and mounting locations for the whistle.

    One of the examples they were interested in was the unusual location used by the Frisco on the streamlined Firefly 4-6-2 Pacifics - at the point of the streamlined smokestack housing. There is a small pic in the article of the front end of SLSF 1026.

    How about that - the "Standard Railroad of the World" evaluated some work the Frisco did in the Springfield shops!

    The PRR did a lot of these detailed studies. They evaluated all kinds of little finesse details of locomotive design, but then let their locomotives run junkyard dirty most of the time. The PRR was an interesting outfit.

    BTW, the PRR H&T Society is one of the best, and gives a lot of its attention to PRR steam power. The Keystone has a lot of detailed technical stuff in it, and The Keystone Modeler is the best railroad e-zine out there. "TKM" was the first of the free railroad e-zines, and is now up to a total of 78 issues.

    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 26, 2011
  2. Jim James

    Jim James Staff Member Staff Member

    Nice to have even more data on steam era items. Even my steamshovel has a whistle on top.
  3. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Ken, thanks for the heads-up.

    Granted, whistles were not simply for warning vehicles at grade crossings in the pre-radio days; however, it seems to make sense to place the whistle near the front as done on the "Firefly" Pacific.

    However, I'd guess that the typical placement adjacent to the steam dome made more sense in terms of having the whistle closer to its steam source?

    Indeed, I am just guessing. My hopes are that Karl, Don or others will come to the rescue with a good primer.

    Best Regards,
  4. SteveM

    SteveM Member Supporter

    How about the practicality of making the linkage work in bad weather? Don't imagine they had very many automated clankers.
  5. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member

    The steam dome location minimizes heat loss and consequent condensation. Imagine a gurgling whistle. I know the steam was pretty hot, but a long run creates opportunities for things to go wrong. The location probably worked in the Firefly locomotive because the shroud added insulation and protection from the wind.

  6. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Steve and George, thanks for the input. That makes sense.

    The Summer 1995 "All Aboard" magazine from the Frisco Museum included a swell article (p. 15) on fireman J.R. Gibbons working on a Firefly locomotive; it describes having to crawl through the shroud to reattach the bell rope. It sounds like crawling into an oven to retrieve an errant cookie would be about as much fun.

    Best Regards,
  7. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Supporter

    Given the location of the Firefly's whistle, I have to wonder if its steam source came off the superheater header, i.e., a superheated whistle.
  8. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    Dry steam is always a virtue!


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