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Solving the JBS Calliope Mystery

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    Solving the JBS Calliope Mystery

    For those interested, we finally have evidence for the origin of the Julia Belle Swain's calliope! A Mr. Wilbur Deppe of Baraboo, WI essentially reproduced Nichol whistles, which were purchased from Chappie Fox of the Circus World Museum by Capt. Denny Trone, builder of the JBS. You can read my blog for more info.


    Wow....I have looked and researched alot and never found this one! I am impressed! Strangely enough, even my contacts thru the Circus World Museum had not related this one!

    My questions on the JULIA BELLE calliope now are, who had the idea of the Magnatrols (we have them on the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE and the DELTA QUEEN and trust me, they are the best out there for calliope playing...also the most expensive)...they are a genius! Also, who built the 3 added 1984 whistles you refer to? Are these the ones with the inlet coming in off center?

    The recording you have on your site is the best I have ever heard of the JULIA BELLE. Only one whistle seems too "airy" and is not blowing correctly (with out seeing it I can only attribute this to a bent threaded rod having the base of the whistle off center to the languid). Other than heard this one so clear and true!

    Capt. Trone did a great job with the layout of the manifold and whistles. Not to mention the electronics and keyboard for the JBS calliope. At one time I had thought the feedline and manifold were too small...but, you have proven me wrong with this recording! I wish I had recorded the one time I played the JBS calliope....for it wasn't this clear at all! this was several years ago and at least one set of valves ago!

    Reproduction Nichol whistles can be suspect and I hope that Mr. Deppe took the time to carefully reproduce the AMERICA wagon instrument faithfully. Some other wags have tried with varying results. Case and point are Mr. J. M. Van Splunter.

    This week will be another eye opener for you, as I am sure David Morecraft and his son Zach are about to show you more steam calliopes in one place than you had imagined! I can't wait to see you this coming weekend to hear all about your Peru, IN. is truly the mecca of steam calliope existance as you will see 1 Nichol, 1 Van Splunter, and at least 1 Morecraft...if not more!



      Back in the long ago, Mrs. Ethel Romelfanger, the calliopist for the Circus World Museum visited Louisville. She was thrilled to get to play the calliopes on the the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE and DELTA QUEEN, which happened to be in port that day. She said that she gave concerts throughout the day on the steam calliope -- and that lady could play!!!


        Recent photos of the JBS calliope

        Here are some photos of the JBS calliope, taken on a recent cruise.
        Attached Files



          Those offset calliope whistles you mentioned sound like they are made exactly the same as the whistles that grace the pilothouse roof of the Magnolia Belle. I don't have access to early photos of the Border Star to see if she came out with those whistles or not, but it seems likely they where built before the 80's. I also remember noting that similar offset whistles appeared on the Julia Belle Swain in the movie "Life on the Mississippi" while the JBS was dressed up like the Alec Scott. I've oftened wondered about the origin of those Magnolia Belle whistles, and someday hope Capt. Joe will allow me to measure them, so I can make a copy. I blew many departure and landing whistles with that set while working on the Bonnie Belle spring and summer of '93.

          I'll be watching this thread with interest in whether proof can be found about who produced those replacement whistles.




            The offset whistles on the MAGNOLIA BELLE were built out of aluminum by Harry Shell of Evansville, IN. He built the whistle for the BORDER STAR (the same whistle today aboard her as the MAGNOLIA BELLE...which as coincedence would have it is headed to New Orleans on the Lower Mississippi as we speak). Did you even notice the amazing resemblance of the DEWING AND SONS whistle and the BORDER STAR whistle? When I first heard the old S&D Whistle blow tapes I noticed is the link

            It is suspected the offset whistles on the JBS calliope are also Harry Shell construction.

            We don't know this to be fact...however, I have not seen any whistle built by Harry Shell that did not have this characteristic (one of the 2 replacement whistles in the signaling whistle set on the JBS today are Harry Shell construction).

            Last edited by inactive user 02; 06-28-2008, 09:26 PM. Reason: Adding a picture