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Re: What whistles were for ...

January 31, 2009 12:58PM avatar
Whistles were applied to locomotives as warning devices, not as p.r. tools to invoke rapture in potential shippers, riders and - least of all - railfans. IIRC, a fair amount of effort was expended to determine which sounds would best penetrate the background noise and get the attention of persons on or near the tracks.

That being said, I'll have to admit that whistles attract me much more than they scare me away. I'm not much of a fan of either extreme - neither the Banshee nor the Steamboat variety. I'll have to cast my vote for the mid-range five- or six-chime whistle, tuned to a minor chord, that probably represents what most of us old curmudgeons remember listening to every night as we fell asleep ...

*****

From Arizona Highways magazine, June 1956:
(I'm sorry, but I don't remember the authoress' name)

Once there were train whistles, train whistles calling
Over the hills through the night as they ran
Echoing, echoing, far in the distance
Exciting the wanderlust heart of a man

Once there were train whistles - haunting, imploring
Now there are train horns, and none left to say
'Come with me, lonely one.' Now there are train horns
Bellowing only, 'Get out of the way!'
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