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-   -   Belle of Louisville whistle (http://www.steamboats.org/forum/steamboats-history/1602-belle-louisville-whistle.html)

Alan Bates 07-21-2007 04:50 AM

Belle of Louisville whistle
 
Does anyone know the origin of the Belle's whistle? She came close to losing it. Captain Paul Underwood didn't like it, claiming that it was "too coarse," by which he meant it was pitched too low. I was told to design a new one and we sold a lot of scrap manila line to pay for the project.
Her whistle is made with cast-iron bells and the lower edges are eroded and blunt. I decided to humor Captain Paul and make new bells of brass - the same sizes as the existing ones. That may have changed the timbre, but the pitch would have remained the same. Fortunately the going price for used manila lines was low. I did manage to make one bell but it was never fitted. Cap retired and the project died. I was greatly gratified for the whistle and saddened by his departure.
As far as I know the whistle came out with the boat. It could have been a product of Ree's foundries or it could have come from an earlier boat. Or neither.

Richard Weisenberger 07-21-2007 09:01 AM

I would like to help you with this project. The "coarseness" sounds more like frequency beats occuring between the bells (a matter of fine tuning) rather than the general pitches themselves. By this I mean that each whistle heard separately would sound fine, but two or more of them sounded together produce the "coarse" sound that you mention. The material of which a whistle is built has very little influence on its actual sound, but more on its durability. The actual sound is a product of its design parameters.

The pitch of a whistle is not really determined by the bell length, as is widely believed, but by the Working Length, which includes a cutup to produce a radiating mouth area that is equal to the cross sectional area of the bell itself. For a typical whistle using a full 360 degree mouth this area is achieved when the bell is set at 1/4 its diameter above the bowl. The Working Length is the distance between the bowl to the inner top of the bell. The frequency is dependent on the speed of sound in the medium, which for steam is 1330 feet/second.

Since the height above the bowl is dependent on the operating pressure, the whistle will probably overblow at this setting. The operating pressure of a whistle is also dependent on the width of the slit from which the steam impinges on the upper lip of the bell. The width of this slit is dependent on the scale of the whistle or its Working Length to diameter ratio.

I invite you or anyone else interested in the design of steam whistles to join us at [url]http://groups.yahoo.com/group/steam-whistles[/url] We have interactive spreadsheets available to all of our members that automatically calculate the optimum parameters for frequency, operating pressure and output which are based on the whistle's scale and working length. I would like to see everyone who deals with steam whistles on a regular basis take advantage of the services our group offers. The goal of our group is to bring the steam whistle back as a mainstream sound signal through a knowledge of the physics behind its sound by the members. Try us.


[QUOTE=Alan Bates;6710]Does anyone know the origin of the Belle's whistle? She came close to losing it. Captain Paul Underwood didn't like it, claiming that it was "too coarse," by which he meant it was pitched too low. I was told to design a new one and we sold a lot of scrap manila line to pay for the project.
Her whistle is made with cast-iron bells and the lower edges are eroded and blunt. I decided to humor Captain Paul and make new bells of brass - the same sizes as the existing ones. That may have changed the timbre, but the pitch would have remained the same. Fortunately the going price for used manila lines was low. I did manage to make one bell but it was never fitted. Cap retired and the project died. I was greatly gratified for the whistle and saddened by his departure.
As far as I know the whistle came out with the boat. It could have been a product of Ree's foundries or it could have come from an earlier boat. Or neither.[/QUOTE]

inactive user 01 07-21-2007 10:33 AM

There's absolutely nothing wrong with the Belle's whistle and it should not be fiddled with. I've always agreed with the assumption of some that the whistle like the engines where used on an earlier boat due to their construction. There are few whistles that rival the affection I have for the sound of the Belle's whistle and to mess with it after all these years of service would be a huge mistake. If there's a whistle that needs fixin' it's the General Jackson's (tuning) or the American Queens (I.E. replace with a better whistle). I hope others share my thoughts on leaving well enough alone in regards to the Belle.

Alan Bates 07-21-2007 10:41 AM

Paul Underwood was not a student of music or whistles. He meant the whistle was too low in pitch for his taste. To him "fine" meant high. "Coarse" meant low. He would have said the same thing of any musical instrument or voice.

Alan Bates 07-21-2007 10:44 AM

Amen, Brother! That's the reason I dragged my feet. The Belle has a good, manly whistle. I am reasonably certain it was not gathered from different sources because the construction details are the same for all three bells.

Judy Patsch 07-21-2007 10:55 AM

Just as Roddy disliked the NATCHEZ' whistle, so was the BELLE's his favorite. I think someone misinterpreted Alan's posting about changing the BELLE's whistle - that isn't a current thought. He was talking about when Paul Underwood, years ago, wanted the whistle changed. Nobody now is asking for that, nicht wahr Alan?

Alan Bates 07-21-2007 02:31 PM

Jawohl, Judy. I do not know of a soul who wants to change the Belle's whistle. Captain Paul didn't push the job with his usual energy, so it was not terribly important to him. I only know of a couple of whistles I did not like. One was the shrieker on the W. P. Snyder Jr. The President's whistle had a good sound, but it was weak and pitched higher than I would choose for such a large boat. The Tom Greene had a famous and much respected whistle, but the Chris Greene had a much prettier one that nobody remarked. All of this reflects back to the old woman who kissed cows, I suppose.

Tom Schiffer 07-21-2007 04:24 PM

Judy: I hafta side with Roddy on this. Not that the Natchez' whistle is bad, it is just that the BELLE's Whistle is better...a lot better!...the best that I ever heard. I'll take the DQ's whistle next! I'm sure that a lot of the preference for whistles is learned and strongly influenced by emotions of affection for the boat itself. We have several whistles to chose from on little MISSIE. The sweetest is one that came to us with the boat. It is a Crane "20" (6" x 3") nice and fitting to the size of MISSIE. On the other hand, the "Weed Monkey Whistle" came off a small locomotive, likely a Shay and is a three chime whistle by Buckeye Foundry (3" x nearly 8") designed to "clear the tracks"...methinks mebbe two or more miles ahead! It is rumored that it will lift paint! However, none of the four or five available can be blown with a note sustained for more than about four or five seconds, as the boiler is that soon depleated of pressure. But, a steamboat without a good whistle is about as satisfactory as a fox without a tail! We move the whistles around on MISSIE and sometime sport as many as three...depending on the occasion! Cap'n Walnut.

Judy Patsch 07-21-2007 11:54 PM

The NATCHEZ' whistle ranks behind the DQ and Belle for me too. I guess because the DQ really got me involved in the river, I have more feeling for that one, not regarding the sound comparisons with the Belle's. In fact, at the end of my dad's funeral, we played a tape of the DQ's landing whistle. I suspect that might get repeated at mine someday too.

Richard Weisenberger 07-22-2007 07:46 AM

Rather than turning this into a highly subjective popularity contest of Lunkenheimer vs Kahlenberg vs brand x, we should be concerned with the objective factors that relate cause with effect in whistle design. The future of the steam whistle depends on our education in matters of the physics behind the sound.

I believe one point in which we can all agree is that most of us still prefer the sound of a well designed steam whistle over that of any towboat air horn. It troubles me to see that someone felt it was necessary to add air horns and motor driven piston horns in addition to the steam whistles on several of our favorite steamboats. It only makes me wonder if replacing them all with an electronic siren or something of the like will be next.


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