Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Belle of Louisville whistle

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

    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.

    #2
    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 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/steam-whistles 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.


    Originally posted by Alan Bates View Post
    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.

    Comment


      #3
      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.

      Comment


        #4
        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.
        Last edited by Alan Bates; 07-21-2007, 10:46 AM.

        Comment


          #5
          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.

          Comment


            #6
            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?

            Comment


              #7
              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.

              Comment


                #8
                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.

                Comment


                  #9
                  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.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    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.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      As you have posted many times Richard, you have a website for the technical aspects of whistles. Please let those of us who aren't into that aspect share our subjective opinions on this board. This most certainly is the place for that, given the whistle is just one part of steamboating, not the end, as you see it. As I previously mentioned, my wonderful memories of the DQ when I was a child, when the only way we knew she was here was by hearing her signal the Crescent Railroad Bridge by whistling, and then we'd beat it down to the levee to watch her land, color my preferences for her whistle. I get goosebumps whenever I hear it, but not because of its technical aspects. While we do get into some technical aspects on .org, this board is for so much more regarding steamboating, not just the academic technicalities.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        But Judy, some of us buy a whistle and then build a steamboat so we can use it! Come to think of it, wasn't the steamboat built to haul the calliope around??
                        I know, I'm inccorragea--incourag--inncourg---oh bother!, a trouble-maker!
                        Steamcerely,
                        David "love them whistles" Dewey

                        Comment


                          #13
                          I agree that the Belle of Louisville has a unique and distinctive whistle. In fact, if you're near enough when it blows, you can actually FEEL it resonate through your bones. I've heard that whistle off and on since I was a little kid and nothing, NOTHING says "steamboat" more than that whistle, in my opinion. It ain't pretty painted aluminum and would look much better if it was brass but the sound is what really matters and that thing is a wonder among wonders.

                          I videotaped the whistle blow at the Steamboat History Conference in 1996.
                          There were, I think, 22 whistles blown. Steamboat whistles. Railroad whistles. Traction engine and interurban whistles. They were in all shapes, sizes and configurations and the event was notable. But then, the Belle backed away from the wharf and blew her big three chamber instrument, easily outclassing all the others in one huge, loud and long salute. Maybe it was because she has more pressure and volume but whatever the reason, the Belle won any contest you could conjure up as to what a real steamboat should sound like. Just my opinion, of course. That whistle is a keeper!

                          As for melodic quality, the DQ's Lukenheimer is probably the best around. I have an Illinois Central 3 chime that I think has a great "steamboat" sound and I've mounted it on several locomotives over the years for that occasional "fix" only a steam whistle can offer.

                          I think the AQ suffers from either a poor whistle or more likely, an underpowered whistle or maybe even reluctant whistle blowers. It just ain't loud enough! You can barely hear it on the stern of the boat. Somebody needs to get the message out to the AQ management to crank up the steam supply and let that melodic voice ring out across the river, through the towns and across the valleys! And that air horn on there? Why, they outta throw it in the river!
                          -Jim Herron

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Jim, I agree wholeheartedly with you, Judy and others about the BELLE's whistle. And the DQ whistle can almost bring tears to my eyes. There's a lot of sentimental attachment to that beautiful sound.

                            You may have something about "reluctant" whistle blowers. Even on the DQ in recent years there has been a reluctance to blow the whistle -- I know several years back, there was a pilot (who will remain un-named) who complained that he could not get any sleep for the whistle blowing so much. I think there may have been passenger complaints as well. I'm guessing this is why the whistle is not used as liberally as it once was.

                            As far as the air horn goes, this is my understanding of the situation: they were put on the boats because they have an automatic feature that allow them to be set to blow fog signals. The whistle blows the right signal at the right intervals. I'm assuming this could not be hooked up to the whistle.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Emotions play a large part in what we like and dislike. A couple of years ago I attended a memorial for C. W. Stoll. It was excellently done by Norrington, music by Ray, complete with cookies by Miss Judy. It was held upstairs in the Howard Museum. It was a cold, misty, dreary semi-rainy day. At the end, as if by cue from Keith, the BELLE treading water off Jeffboat, blew that beautiful, melodic, yet mournful whistle in a last tribute to C. W.! I was able to get a picture of her through a pane of glass in the Howard museum's tower...framed by the cranes of Jeffboat and shrouded in mist. I treasure it!

                              Comment

                              ADVERTISEMENT
                              Working...
                              X