Mad Bull Snort Of Steam Whistle Preferred Top Modern Fish Horns
Published 7 January 1954.Word that the railways are going back to steam whistles is the best news us rail fans have had in a long time. A fish-horn is no substitute for the gorgeous tones of a steam locomotive whistle.
Who has not heard the long plaintive wail of the whistle up the Gatineau, hurrying the sleepy commuters down to their trains? Who can forget the mad bull snorts of the second No. 33 in the night during the war, headed for Toronto? Who has not awakened one summer morning to hear the high, triumphant cry of the Continental Limited, four nights out of Vancouver, blowing for the suburban crossings. She shrieks "On time, On time, On t-i-i-i-i-m-m-m-m-e-e-e-e!"
Most beautiful of all whistles of course was a chime whistle. It as a two-tone affair and each locomotive engineer had his own. By filing here and there, the engineer could develop his own distinctive whistle. So his wife, straining her ears about the time the old man was due, could hear her husband's whistle and know- ust when to put on the kettle. But the chime whistle alas, has gone the way of Casey Jones, hand brakes, and wooden coaches.
I personally like the cocky, confident, arrogant tones of the Southern Pacific's 4400 class. As they soar over the Sierras they send out their shafts of sound to tell you they are going places.
Then there are those super engines, the Selkirks, in the Canadian Rockies as they coupled on, tandem, to begin their long and inexorable crawl over the Rockies. As sure as noon and as dependable as next Christmas, these big 5900's blow their defiance as they tackle the Selkirks themselves, picking their way up over the Connaught Tunnel, and blowing triumphantly when they see Glacier Station.
Or again, take the big 6200's on Canada's railway race track, between Trenton and Cobourg, with a mile-a-minute and better scheduled. Here the International Limited gives the back of her hand figuratively to Brighlon Station as, at eighty plus, she roars on, blowing in rapidly diminishing crescendo.
Not All Fast
All the interesting whistles however are not from the fast engines. Once in Regina, when I was courting Ruth Benson, an engine blew. Her father, the CNR locomotive foreman said, "That's 2181". Often down at Caledonia Springs, I would pause over by porridge, "The Imperial Limited," I would cry and rush out.
There, its long run from Vancouver all but over, the Imperial Limited was really rolling 'em, Montreal hound. No. 1011 would blow for the cheese factory crossing.
That was living!
It could be old 32 on the work train in the long ago, it could be the snappy 214 on the former Grand Trunk, or it could be the groggy roar of Canadian Northern's then new 1323. What happy ghosts the old engines stir up!
I think again of the elegant high wheelers, the seven foot drivers of CPR's 1000, 1001 and 1002 rushing the afternoon varnish down to Montreal and chime whistling their way through Blackburn and Navan and Leonard till they made their first stop at fashionable Caledonia Springs.
I recall the plaintive yet triumphant Grand Trunk's engines hauling its parlor cars rivalling the CPR's observations, its 84 inch drivers trying to cover 116 miles while Shaughnessy's system was racing over 111.
Again the thrilling tune of 1500, 1501, and 1502 down to Montreal in less than two hours: back up to Ottawa. Never mind the schedule just beat the CPR. Forget the time card just lick the Grand Trunk.
Gone, gone, all gone. Gone the slow motion Pontiac with its lugubrious whistles; gone the sharp crackle of the 2100 type going up the Carp; gone "The Soo," gone the Scottish built 800's with their Caledonian overtones - gone gone, all gone
And for all this they wanted to give us a fish horn.