Question about the N&W freight "hooter" whistle

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Tue Sep 23 09:07:34 EDT 2008

The first time I heard the restored1218's whistle was at the NS's Broadway St. crossing in Lexington, KY in 1987. It rattled my bones! When I was growing up in Bluefield back in the 50's, the hooters didn't seem as loud.

Al Evans
Salt Lake City, UT

Date: Mon, 22 Sep 2008 13:12:59 -0400
To: nw-mailing-list at
Subject: Question about the N&W freight "hooter" whistle
From: nw-mailing-list at

I have a question regarding the N&W's hooter whistle as featured on the N&W 1218 as well as the Y classes and other freight power. While I am a big fan of steam, I don't fully understand the mechanics of whistles. When I was younger, I remember being terrified of 1218's whistle as I was riding in the car with my parents. We were pacing the 1218 around Arcadia, South Carolina on it's ferry move north in April 1987 on it's way to Roanoke for it's debut excursion trips. While my memory is vague, I do remember that my dad had the windows in his AMC Spirit rolled down and when the 1218 blew it's whistle for a grade crossing, I jumped from the front seat into the rear floorboard.

In the years since the end of the NS steam program and since 1218 last ran, I have come to appreciate and miss the A, but memories of that whistle still rattle me to the core. My impression was that 1218's whistle was louder than the 611's, but maybe I'm wrong. For those with steam experience, what controls the volume of the whistle? I thought that the size of the locomotive possibly had something to do or maybe the boiler pressure. However, I was just watching a video of C&O 614 on an excursion from Hoboken, NJ to Port Jervis, NY back in the late 90's carrying a N&W hooter and the whistle sounded the same as on the 1218, although to be fair it's hard to judge fairly on a YouTube video. Also, while I have not seen this locomotive in person, footage I've seen of the UP 3985 suggest that it's whistle is not as loud as the 1218's and sounds similar but not identical to the 611's.

I have also watched clips of the Strasburg's ex N&W M 4-8-0 475 and I must say I like the hooter whistle it carries better, which I believe is the 8-inch version. I am curious what are the main differences were between the 8-inch and 12-inch hooter whistles?

Steven Ashley
Spartanburg, SC

See how Windows Mobile brings your life together—at home, work, or on the go.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the NW-Mailing-List mailing list