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Locomotive "Whistle"?

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Locomotive "Whistle"?
Posted by writesong on Wednesday, February 08, 2017 11:28 AM

Some time back, when I was at a railroad fan web site (was it this one?), a moderator informed me that the air horn on a diesel electric locomotive is referred to as a "whistle", and NOT as a "horn", because that is in keeping with a tradition of the railroad.

But, I have yet to read ANY posted comment, either in this forum or in any other, identifying an air horn on a locomotive as a "whistle".

Does anyone know anything about this?

Since being told that, I now refer to a locomotive air horn as a locomotive whistle, but I think I'm the only person doing that.

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Posted by Deggesty on Wednesday, February 08, 2017 4:07 PM

writesong

Some time back, when I was at a railroad fan web site (was it this one?), a moderator informed me that the air horn on a diesel electric locomotive is referred to as a "whistle", and NOT as a "horn", because that is in keeping with a tradition of the railroad.

But, I have yet to read ANY posted comment, either in this forum or in any other, identifying an air horn on a locomotive as a "whistle".

Does anyone know anything about this?

Since being told that, I now refer to a locomotive air horn as a locomotive whistle, but I think I'm the only person doing that.

 

I wonder if that moderator is a die-hard steam fan who simply will not acknowledge that some terminology has changed with the advent of diesel locomotives? I do not recall ever seeing or hearing a diesel horn called a "whistle" by anyone truly familiar with railroading.

Ed, Larry, Carl, Balt, Zug, Jeff, anyone?

The only whistle I ever knew of on a diesel locomotive was the whistle in the cab that trainmen used to communicate to the engineer in the days before the use of radios in railroading.

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Posted by Deggesty on Wednesday, February 08, 2017 4:11 PM

Oh, yes, writesong, welcome to the forums! I see you are not afraid to ask questions, and we are always to answer, helping others to understand this wonderful way of transportation.

Johnny

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Posted by tree68 on Wednesday, February 08, 2017 4:32 PM

Horn is pretty much the accepted term, but whistle still pops up in various contexts - like the "whistle board," the sign on the ROW that indicates it's time to start sounding the horn/whistle for a crossing.  Those signs still use a "W," not an "H."

Back in the day, we used to refer to the fire alarm in my old hometown as the "fire whistle," even though it was actually an air-raid style siren...

Don't worry about the purists.  Sometimes they get a little carried away.  Live and learn...

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Posted by Norm48327 on Wednesday, February 08, 2017 4:58 PM

I still miss the days of the steam whistle. Horns suck by comparison.There were engineers who could almost play a tune on them, and many could be recognized by what was their "signature" when using them. In the middle of the night an experienced engineer could make them sound as lonesome as could be. They were a joy to hear and I laid awake many nights wishing to hear them. Steam whistles rule when played porperly.

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Posted by Firelock76 on Wednesday, February 08, 2017 5:23 PM

As a die-hard steam freak I will NEVER refer to the noisemakers on top of a diesel locomotive as a whistle.  It's not a whistle, it's a HORN.

Some of them sound pretty impressive, I'll admit, especially cuttin' through the air on a quiet night, but they're still horns.

But if someone wants to call 'em whistles, that's cool, I'm not doctrinaire.

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Wednesday, February 08, 2017 5:25 PM

The only steam whistle ever heard on a diesel was the steam whistle installed on a SOU RR passenger e unit. When on front of SOU's Crescent not used often but when used was sweet. Believe it was only on one unit but cannot confirm ?

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Posted by Firelock76 on Wednesday, February 08, 2017 6:48 PM

Oh, pardon my manners!  Welcome to the Forum writesong!

That's one of the best "callsigns" on here!  Post a biography of yourself so we can know you better!

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Posted by Mookie on Wednesday, February 08, 2017 6:57 PM

You can call a whistle or a bell...."train coming".  

She who has no signature! cinscocom-tmw

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Posted by writesong on Wednesday, February 08, 2017 7:32 PM

I've tried posting my biography, but it doesn't show up.

Maybe I'm doing something wrong?

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Posted by zugmann on Wednesday, February 08, 2017 7:50 PM

Deggesty
Ed, Larry, Carl, Balt, Zug, Jeff, anyone?

Whistle or horn - completely interchangable.  I think the rulebook calls them horn signals, but don't quote me on that.  I'd check, but it's in my locker.   On newer engines, the lever/button has a picture of a little trumpet next to it.

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Posted by tree68 on Wednesday, February 08, 2017 8:39 PM

blue streak 1

The only steam whistle ever heard on a diesel was the steam whistle installed on a SOU RR passenger e unit. When on front of SOU's Crescent not used often but when used was sweet. Believe it was only on one unit but cannot confirm ?

Can't speak to SOU, but I believe NH and possibly some other railroads used Hancock Air Chimes, which sound distinctly like a steam whistle (and they are, in fact, whistles).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5Z_2L17tVs

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Posted by Semper Vaporo on Wednesday, February 08, 2017 10:27 PM

I have two friends that are "Engineers" (another misnomer) and they both have referred to "Whistling a crossing" or "Whistle signals for the man on the ground..."

 

Semper Vaporo

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Posted by ATSFGuy on Thursday, February 09, 2017 12:59 AM

On a YouTube video, I was watching Metrolink action from 1994 and kept hearing whistles on the Cabcars.

Did Metrolink have whistles in the early years?

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Posted by tree68 on Thursday, February 09, 2017 6:40 AM

ATSFGuy
Did Metrolink have whistles in the early years?

Might have been Hancocks.

We had one we used in certain areas but it got retired when the FRA said it wasn't loud enough...

LarryWhistling
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Posted by BOB WITHORN on Thursday, February 09, 2017 6:56 AM

[quote user="zugmann"]

 

 
Deggesty
Ed, Larry, Carl, Balt, Zug, Jeff, anyone?

 

Whistle or horn - completely interchangable.  I think the rulebook calls them horn signals, but don't quote me on that.  I'd check, but it's in my locker.   On newer engines, the lever/button has a picture of a little trumpet next to it.

 

Zug,  

A button with a picture?  Kind of takes the fun out of the mental image for me.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, February 09, 2017 7:14 AM

EJ&E had Hancock air whistles on some of its centercabs, the sound was a bit anemic compared to a horn.

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Posted by RME on Thursday, February 09, 2017 10:15 AM

writesong
Some time back, when I was at a railroad fan web site (was it this one?), a moderator informed me that the air horn on a diesel electric locomotive is referred to as a "whistle", and NOT as a "horn", because that is in keeping with a tradition of the railroad.

In my opinion, you need to find the reference, and the railroad involved.  It would be THEIR tradition alone that would apply, and certainly not constitute a general rule for you to follow about when to use 'horn' or 'whistle'.

Part of the fun, of course, is that current references still use the word 'whistle' when referring to signaling: I believe both FRA and the current GCOR do this.  But that doesn't mean that the physical device used to do the signaling has to be referred to as a 'whistle' when it rather obviously isn't.  That's where the semantic confusion has come in.

If it is a device with a vibrating diaphragm producing the sound, it's probably a horn even if the classic 'trumpet' bell or megaphone isn't present (car horns, and some cab-car horns, curl the bell but it's still needed)  If it uses aerodynamic flow instability across a gap or orifice to produce the sound, it's a whistle.  (It might be noted that steam locomotive whistles generally use mostly air to produce their sound, which is why blowing them on compressed air isn't that different in most cases from blowing them on steam.)

The Hancock air whistle is a special case, because while it appears to have a bell (similar to what's on a 'horn' PA speaker) that is just a bowl reflector.  The 4700 for example has a languid plate just like a Hancock steam whistle; the bowl concentrates the sound 'forward' rather than omnidirectionally radially as the whistle would if mounted as usual for a steam-locomotive.  (At least theoretically this reduced the size and air consumption needed, but the sound was still pretty anemic compared to contemporary Canadian-derived diaphragm horns...)

I would like to hear the full story about steam whistles on Southern E units.  If I remember correctly, 6903 had a special setup where the whistle was blown off the steam-generator output for fantrip activity in the mid-'70s ... it didn't work too well, as the piping was too small and long to keep the steam properly dry at the plate, and the sound quality was 'not what was expected'.   Does anyone have quick access to the Trains Magazine article about the 'restored' Southern Crescent after Amtrak, in which I dimly remember mention of a steam whistle in 'regular' service?

 

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Posted by oldline1 on Thursday, February 09, 2017 11:54 AM

I own a Nathan P5 "whistle". I have the maintenace sheets and some other data from Nathan that refer to this huge and loud creature as a "whistle". I accept that term even though to me it's a "horn". Either way it sounds great and echos well when I blow it to scare the cows in the surrounding fields here at the farm.

Many terms are improperly used with some being hold-overs from days gone by. I know several folks who still call it a "perculator" no matter how it makes and provides coffee in the morning. I'm sure everyone has heard someone call an engine (car, truck, airplane, boat) a "motor". Look at the lengthy discussions concerning "turnouts" vs "switches". 

Roger Huber

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Posted by RME on Thursday, February 09, 2017 12:10 PM

oldline1
I own a Nathan P5 "whistle". I have the maintenance sheets and some other data from Nathan that refer to this huge and loud creature as a "whistle".

Interesting, because the official Nathan site now doesn't refer to the AirChimes as anything but 'horns'.

You might provide the date of the material you have, and perhaps document numbers or even scans, as it would be interesting to identify when their policies changed.

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Posted by carnej1 on Thursday, February 09, 2017 12:46 PM

  A while back on one of the forums I mentioned reading that railroaders on some roads refer to diesel electric locomotives as "motors"; how dare they?!

 Every railfan knows that a "motor" is an electric locomotive that gets its power from overhead catenary or third rail..the nerve of some people..

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Posted by selector on Thursday, February 09, 2017 1:09 PM

I have always used the term 'horn' for the flared tubes with vibrating diaphragms that make what I like to call a 'blaaattt!"  That would be on all diesels and on at least one 4-8-4 back in the day...the S1-b Niagara.

The sound-emitting devices atop boilers, regardless of how sonorous/not they sounded, and which emitted steam in doing so, were all whistles.  Also on the Niagaras. Cool

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Posted by Mookie on Thursday, February 09, 2017 1:19 PM

carnej1

  A while back on one of the forums I mentioned reading that railroaders on some roads refer to diesel electric locomotives as "motors"; how dare they?!

 Every railfan knows that a "motor" is an electric locomotive that gets its power from overhead catenary or third rail..the nerve of some people..

 

Here in the middle of nowhere, we don't have any catenary.  The term used by 2 generations of railroad engineers and various acquaintences of theirs called the locomotives "motors".  B of LF&E was the place I heard "locomotives" or occupation: "Locomotive Engineer", but... well, you know the rest.

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Posted by tree68 on Thursday, February 09, 2017 1:38 PM

selector
That would be on all diesels and on at least one 4-8-4 back in the day...the S1-b Niagara.

I'm pretty sure SP used "Blaaaat" horns on the GS locomotives, and possibly some cab forwards.

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Posted by tree68 on Thursday, February 09, 2017 1:41 PM

carnej1
Every railfan knows that a "motor" is an electric locomotive that gets its power from overhead catenary or third rail..the nerve of some people..

I've used the term once or thrice.  

Then there's MU'ing locomotives and "lashups."

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Posted by switch7frg on Thursday, February 09, 2017 2:25 PM

SmileDoes anyone remember the little air whistle  on the caboose that was used when backing back to the main yard after the switching duty was done in another distant switch yard. The little whistle was on a hose that was connected to the brake air line and tied on to the step railing. There was no wye to turn around and head back.  The switchmans eyes got a little big when the train got close to a busy street , as the whistle had a weak toot toot. Just thinking of days gone by. 

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Posted by Deggesty on Thursday, February 09, 2017 3:04 PM

switch7frg

SmileDoes anyone remember the little air whistle  on the caboose that was used when backing back to the main yard after the switching duty was done in another distant switch yard. The little whistle was on a hose that was connected to the brake air line and tied on to the step railing. There was no wye to turn around and head back.  The switchmans eyes got a little big when the train got close to a busy street , as the whistle had a weak toot toot. Just thinking of days gone by. 

                                                   Cannonball

 

You will find these on the monkey tails on the rear of passenger trains, to be used when backing as when coming into Denver or New Orleans. Those on the SUperliners are loong monkey tails.

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Posted by Paul of Covington on Thursday, February 09, 2017 3:04 PM

   Did early diesels have a different-sounding horn?   I vaguely remember reading back in the 1950's that because people did not like the sound of the horns, they would be replaced with horns that sounded more like steam whistles.   I do remember that they sounded a lot like loud farts back then.  Does anyone else remember this?

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Posted by Deggesty on Thursday, February 09, 2017 3:10 PM

Paul, the horror that I remember was the peanut whistles on Georgia RR diesels when I lived in Decatur. After having heard the mellow whistles of J's while living in Bristol, it was nerve-wrcking.was 

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, February 09, 2017 3:10 PM

switch7frg
SmileDoes anyone remember the little air whistle  on the caboose that was used when backing back to the main yard after the switching duty was done in another distant switch yard. The little whistle was on a hose that was connected to the brake air line and tied on to the step railing. There was no wye to turn around and head back.  The switchmans eyes got a little big when the train got close to a busy street , as the whistle had a weak toot toot. Just thinking of days gone by. 

                                                   Cannonball

On my carrier and I suspect many others, the caboose 'whistle' was a dual function air valve permanetly attached to the caboose railings on each end of the caboose - 1. make the whistling sound for road crossings and other signalling purposes.  2. as a air brake valve to apply the brakes on a shoving movement. 

Those two functions were also performed by a 'back up hose' which was frequently attached to the rear car of passenger trains.  On my carrier the 'Observation Cars' as a part of their equipment on the 'observation end' of the car had built in 'back up hose' controls to both sound the whistle and make brake applications as necessary during back up moves.  B&O backed most of their trains into the station at Washington DC.

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