These brief audio tracks are intended to accompany the related article in The Streamliner Vol. 28 No. 2. All are brief snippets of much longer recordings and are illustrations of the various sounds made by these whistles. The original recordist is credited in each track. Click on each picture to enlarge image.
All of Union Pacific’s 4-8-4, 4-6-6-4, and 4-8-8-4 type locomotives were fitted with whistles manufactured by the Hancock Inspirator Co. (a division of Manning, Maxwell & Moore, Inc.). The “long-bell” (deep-tone or “steamboat”) version of Hancock’s whistle was used by many railroads as well as these 175 Union Pacific locomotives. Above is the whistle mounted on 4-8-4 number 814.
The whistle was originally constructed in the flat-top style (above) with internal “chambers” forming the three notes which comprised the “chime” tone. Whistles of this design were fitted to the 1936-1937 series Challengers and the 1937 and 1939 orders of 4-8-4s. Hancock later changed the bell design to the step-top type in which the chambers are externally visible. All of the 1942-1944 Challengers, the 1944 4-8-4s, and the Big Boys, were fitted with the later design when constructed. By the end of steam relatively few of the flat-top whistles remained in service, having been replaced by step-top units. Built to the same internal dimensions, these whistles would have produced the same tones.
One of the interesting elements of steam whistles is the degree to which the sound produced can vary, even when of the same design and construction. These tracks illustrate Hancock long-bell whistles operating properly and some performing very poorly. Refer to the captions for related data.
-John E. Bush
After listening to a recording please click on the back arrow to return to this page.
Recording #1: Engines 836 and 833 approach Brighton, Colorado, in what may have been the last double-heading of Union Pacific 4-8-4s in passenger service, in March 1957. Howard Fogg recording. Please click here to hear recording.
Recording #2: 844 passing the 11th St. crossing in Omaha, Nebraska, during March of 1983, as it worked up the “Side Hill” which in those days ran from the Omaha Shops up to 20th Street. 20th St. Tower would negotiate transition of these movements across the many tracks to a point from which they could then commence backing down into Union Station or across the Missouri River Bridge into Council Bluffs, Iowa. There were six grade crossings on Side Hill, thus many available whistles for those interested in capturing the sound of whistles in “the canyon” formed by the large industrial buildings of those days. Recorded by John E. Bush. Please click here to hear recording.
Recording #3: Now past the microphones, 844 is heard crossing 14th street on the same day in 1983. The echoes and reverberations of Side Hill are heard in this track. Recorded by John E. Bush. Please click here to hear recording.
Recording #4: Departing Omaha on the way to Cheyenne, Wyoming, 844 passes what was once 20th St. Tower in June of 2013. Recorded by John E. Bush. Please click here to hear recording.
Recording #5: 844 departing Omaha, recorded as it passed beneath 24th St. Bridge in 1983. Recorded by Tom Zorko. Please click here to hear recording.
Recording #6: 844, fitted with one of UPHS member Mike Connor’s personal Hancock whistles (left), works rapidly through North Bend, Nebraska, in August of 2006. Recorded by Rick Zorko. Please click here to rear recording.
Recording #7: 844 passes Summit at Omaha, Nebraska, in June of 2013. Recorded by Tom Zorko. Please click here to hear recording.
Recording #8: An unknown 3800 class 4-6-6-4 blasts a two-short “highball” at Summit, Omaha, Nebraska, late at night in 1956. Recorded by Vinton Wight. Please click here to hear recording.
Recording #9: 3827 acknowledges a signal near Summit, Omaha, Nebraska, during August of 1956. Recorded by Vinton Wight. Please click here to hear the recording.
Recording #10: Producing an unusual tone, Big Boy 4011 departs Brighton, Colorado, at night during March of 1957. Howard Fogg recording. Please click here to hear recording.
Recording #11: 4011 approaches Cheyenne, Wyoming, July 19, 1959. This whistle is clearly in very poor condition. Howard Fogg recording. Please click here to hear recording.
Recording #12: 3985 passes through Hanna, Wyoming, June, 1982. Note this whistle’s higher pitch. John E. Bush recording. Please click here to hear recording.