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  1. #1
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    Question notes on a steam whistle

    how are the notes on a steam whistle set-up for say a six-chime whistle or a four chime whistle? Are chords used like a G chord or anything like that? Is each note in a six-chime whistle go up a third creating a chord with six different notes or do they go up one step like in scale? Something I've been wondering about for some time, any thoughts any one has would be apprectiated. Thanks.
    Tim Stricker
    Conductor- BNSF Railways
    Gillette, WY

  2. #2
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    I believe they are set up as a chord, Tim. The pitch is adjusted by turning the whistle body. At any rate .. ya can't make 'em sound like a banjo! :D
    Bill
    Trainboard member #13
    Get Goosed on the Yreka Western

  3. #3
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    Take a look at these sites. You can buy a whistle first then build the train around it:tb-biggrin:
    http://www.steam-whistles.com/
    http://www.crosby-steam.com/csw.htm
    http://www.hornandwhistle.net/

    Vince at TopHobbyTrains.com

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironhorseman View Post
    I believe they are set up as a chord, Tim. The pitch is adjusted by turning the whistle body. At any rate .. ya can't make 'em sound like a banjo! :D
    Yeah, banjo is too twangy for use as a train whistle. But the fiddle is a different story. I can do a "train whistle" on the fiddle, but it is only two notes compared to six notes. When I was helping put the steam dome cover back on the 19 a few weeks ago I was studing her six chime whistle and the drop in each chamber as they went around seemed about equal so, I was curious as whether or not each change in pitch was a third i.e. G to B then B to D and so forth, which would make sense or if they whole steps, i.e. G to A to B. I'll try and sit down with a paino and see what I can get. I thought I heard somewhere whistles being around an A6 chord, but I don't know what kind of whistle though, because the notes in an A6 are A E C# F# if I remember correctly. I'll play around with a piano and see what I can find.
    Tim Stricker
    Conductor- BNSF Railways
    Gillette, WY

  5. #5
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    I don't know anything about music notes. But the steam whistle of 'ol #19 is music to my ears! I guess you impressed the other fireman who was aboard as he told Bill you are a 'pretty good fireman'. But you had a good teacher, didn't you? :D
    Thanks for your help. Things are going to get really busy now to get her ready for the Memorial Day opening. Hope you can make it up often. :thumbs_up:
    Bill
    Trainboard member #13
    Get Goosed on the Yreka Western

  6. #6
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    I have always wondered about the thought process behind any one railroad purchasing whistles. Was there a deliberate decision to stay with one single tone? There seemed to be hooters, howlers, screechers, squeakers, and more... But no standard amongst the companies.

    Boxcab E50
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by BoxcabE50 View Post
    I have always wondered about the thought process behind any one railroad purchasing whistles. Was there a deliberate decision to stay with one single tone? There seemed to be hooters, howlers, screechers, squeakers, and more... But no standard amongst the companies.

    Boxcab E50

    I'm not sure about how railroads chose their whistles, but even certain engines had their own whistles, Casey Jones, for example, made his own whistle for the 638. As for the notes I did find this information:

    "American train whistles usually had anywhere from one to six frequencies which were sounded together. As compared with automobile horns, for example, which form a major third, usually with the notes "F" and "A", the train whistle usually forms a non-major chord which is full of dissonance, allowing it to have a distinct, frightening, and serious sound, rather than a happy one."

    I've never thought the 19 to have a frightening souding whistle, but the dissonance does make sense.

    Bill, the exsursion won't be started until the first week in June this year. To much work I guess, but there is starting to be regular work days and meetings for the vollunteers. About every month right now. And was that other fireman Larry? I can hold my own as a fireman, but didn't think I could impress anybody. Well, I guess I have gotten far in relatively short time. Bill is a good teacher though, I always found his explantions easy to understand. That and I've found its fun to be in the firebox, especially since I can fit through the door with a few inches to spare. :D
    Tim Stricker
    Conductor- BNSF Railways
    Gillette, WY

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by SP Cabforward View Post
    "American train whistles usually had anywhere from one to six frequencies which were sounded together. As compared with automobile horns, for example, which form a major third, usually with the notes "F" and "A", the train whistle usually forms a non-major chord which is full of dissonance, allowing it to have a distinct, frightening, and serious sound, rather than a happy one."
    This does make sense. But some seemed to be more melodic. A pleasant sound, such as the steamboat type. Then, there were the N&W hooters. They sounded to me like someone had just pulled the tail feathers off a goose. :tb-tongue:

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  9. #9
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    Well, I sat down with a piano and messed around with the notes and chords. The piano and steam whistle sound different, but the color of the chords is still the same. So from what I figured the notes on a six chime whistle will go something like this starting with the lowest: (I used the key of C for convience) C-E-G-B-D-A. This creates a dissonent sounding chord, but whether or not I'm headed the right direction. Does anybody else have any ideas?
    Tim Stricker
    Conductor- BNSF Railways
    Gillette, WY

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