Steam whistle

Steam whistle

Overview

A steam whistle
Whistle
A whistle or call is a simple aerophone, an instrument which produces sound from a stream of forced air. It may be mouth-operated, or powered by air pressure, steam, or other means...

 is a device used to produce sound
Sound
Sound is a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong to be heard, or the sensation stimulated in organs of hearing by such vibrations.-Propagation of...

 with the aid of live steam
Live steam
Live steam is steam under pressure, obtained by heating water in a boiler. The steam is used to operate stationary or moving equipment.A live steam machine or device is one powered by steam, but the term is usually reserved for those that are replicas, scale models, toys, or otherwise used for...

, which acts as a vibrating system (compare to train horn
Train horn
Train horns are audible warning devices found on most diesel and electric locomotives. Their primary purpose is to alert persons and animals to the presence of a train, especially when approaching a grade crossing. They are also used for acknowledging signals given by railroad employees Train horns...

).

The whistle consists of the following main parts, as seen on the drawing: the whistle bell (1), the steam orifice or aperture (2), and the valve (9).

When the lever (10) is pulled, the valve opens and lets the steam escape through the orifice. The steam will alternately compress and rarefy in the bell, creating the sound.
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Encyclopedia

A steam whistle
Whistle
A whistle or call is a simple aerophone, an instrument which produces sound from a stream of forced air. It may be mouth-operated, or powered by air pressure, steam, or other means...

 is a device used to produce sound
Sound
Sound is a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong to be heard, or the sensation stimulated in organs of hearing by such vibrations.-Propagation of...

 with the aid of live steam
Live steam
Live steam is steam under pressure, obtained by heating water in a boiler. The steam is used to operate stationary or moving equipment.A live steam machine or device is one powered by steam, but the term is usually reserved for those that are replicas, scale models, toys, or otherwise used for...

, which acts as a vibrating system (compare to train horn
Train horn
Train horns are audible warning devices found on most diesel and electric locomotives. Their primary purpose is to alert persons and animals to the presence of a train, especially when approaching a grade crossing. They are also used for acknowledging signals given by railroad employees Train horns...

).

Operation


The whistle consists of the following main parts, as seen on the drawing: the whistle bell (1), the steam orifice or aperture (2), and the valve (9).

When the lever (10) is pulled, the valve opens and lets the steam escape through the orifice. The steam will alternately compress and rarefy in the bell, creating the sound. The pitch
Pitch (music)
Pitch is an auditory perceptual property that allows the ordering of sounds on a frequency-related scale.Pitches are compared as "higher" and "lower" in the sense associated with musical melodies,...

, or tone, is dependent on the length of the bell; and also how far the operator has opened the valve. Some locomotive engineers invented their own style of whistling.

Uses of steam whistles










Steam whistles were often used in factories, and similar places to signal the start or end of a shift, etc. Railway locomotive
Steam locomotive
A steam locomotive is a railway locomotive that produces its power through a steam engine. These locomotives are fueled by burning some combustible material, usually coal, wood or oil, to produce steam in a boiler, which drives the steam engine...

s, traction engine
Traction engine
A traction engine is a self-propelled steam engine used to move heavy loads on roads, plough ground or to provide power at a chosen location. The name derives from the Latin tractus, meaning 'drawn', since the prime function of any traction engine is to draw a load behind it...

s, and steam ships have traditionally been fitted with a whistle for warning and communication purposes. Large diameter steam whistles were used on light houses, likely beginning in the 1850s.

The earliest use of steam whistles was as boiler low-water alarms in the 18th century and early 19th century. During the 1830s, whistles were adopted by railroads and steamship companies.

Railway whistles



Steam warning devices have been used on trains since 1833 when George Stephenson
George Stephenson
George Stephenson was an English civil engineer and mechanical engineer who built the first public railway line in the world to use steam locomotives...

 invented and patented a steam trumpet for use on the Leicester and Swannington Railway
Leicester and Swannington Railway
The Leicester and Swannington Railway was one of England's first railways, being opened on 17 July 1832 to bring coal from collieries in west Leicestershire to Leicester.-Overview:...

.
Period literature makes a distinction between a steam trumpet and a steam whistle.
A copy of the trumpet drawing signed May 1833 shows a device about eighteen inches high with an ever-widening trumpet shape with a six inch diameter at its top or mouth. It is said that George Stephenson invented his trumpet after an accident on the Leicester and Swannington Railway where a train hit either a cart, or a herd of cows, on a level crossing
Level crossing
A level crossing occurs where a railway line is intersected by a road or path onone level, without recourse to a bridge or tunnel. It is a type of at-grade intersection. The term also applies when a light rail line with separate right-of-way or reserved track crosses a road in the same fashion...

 and there were calls for a better way of giving a warning. Although no-one was injured, the accident was deemed serious enough to warrant Stephenson’s personal intervention. One account states that [driver] Weatherburn had `mouthblown his horn' at the crossing in an attempt to prevent the accident, but that no attention had been paid to this audible warning, perhaps because it had not been heard.

Stephenson subsequently called a meeting of directors and accepted the suggestion of the company manager, Ashlin Bagster, that a horn or whistle which could be activated by steam should be constructed and fixed to the locomotives. Stephenson later visited a musical instrument maker on Duke Street in Leicester
Leicester
Leicester is a city and unitary authority in the East Midlands of England, and the county town of Leicestershire. The city lies on the River Soar and at the edge of the National Forest...

, who on Stephenson's instructions constructed a ‘Steam Trumpet’ which was tried out in the presence of the board of Directors ten days later.

Stephenson mounted the trumpet on the top of the boiler's steam dome
Steam dome
A Steam dome is a vessel fitted to the top of the boiler of a steam locomotive. It contains the opening to the main steam pipe and its purpose is to allow this opening to be kept well above the water level in the boiler...

, which delivers dry steam to the cylinders. The company went on to mount the device on its other locomotives

Locomotive steam trumpets were soon replaced by steam whistles. Air whistles were used on some Diesel and electric locomotives, but these mostly employ air horns
Train horn
Train horns are audible warning devices found on most diesel and electric locomotives. Their primary purpose is to alert persons and animals to the presence of a train, especially when approaching a grade crossing. They are also used for acknowledging signals given by railroad employees Train horns...

.

Music


An array of steam whistles arranged to play music is referred to as a calliope
Calliope (music)
A calliope is a musical instrument that produces sound by sending a gas, originally steam or more recently compressed air, through large whistles, originally locomotive whistles....

.

In York, Pennsylvania
York, Pennsylvania
York, known as the White Rose City , is a city located in York County, Pennsylvania, United States which is in the South Central region of the state. The population within the city limits was 43,718 at the 2010 census, which was a 7.0% increase from the 2000 count of 40,862...

, a variable pitch steam whistle at the New York Wire Company has been played annually on Christmas Eve since 1925 (except in 1986 and 2005) in what has come to be known as "York's Annual Steam Whistle Christmas Concert". On windy nights, area residents report hearing the concert as far as 12 to 15 miles away. The whistle, which is in the Guinness Book of World Records, was powered by an air compressor during the 2010 concert due to the costs of maintaining and running the boiler.

Types of whistles

  • Plain whistle – an inverted cup mounted on a stem, as in the illustration above. In Europe, railway steam whistles were typically loud, shrill, single-note plain whistles. In the UK, locomotives were usually fitted with only one or two of these whistles, the latter having different tones and being controlled individually to allow more complex signalling. On railroads in Finland, two single-note whistles were used on every engine; one shrill, one of a lower tone. They were used for different signaling purposes.

  • Chime whistle – two or more resonant bells or chambers that sound simultaneously. In America, railway steam whistles were typically compact chime whistles with more than one whistle contained within, creating a chord. In Australia the New South Wales Government Railways after the 1924 re-classification many steam locomotives either had 5 chimes whistles fitted (this include many locomotives from the pre 1924 re-classification, or were built new with 5 chime whistles. 3-chimes (3 compact whistles within one) were very popular, as well as 5-chimes, and 6-chimes. In some cases chime whistles were used in Europe. Ships such as the Titanic were equipped with chimes consisting of three separate whistles (in the case of the Titanic the whistles measured 9, 12, and 15 inches diameter).

  • Organ whistle – a whistle with mouths cut in the side, usually a long whistle in relation to diameter, hence the name. These whistle were very common on steamships, especially those manufactured in the UK.

  • Gong – two whistles facing in opposite directions on a common axis. These were popular as factory whistles. Some were composed of three whistle chimes.

  • Variable pitch whistle – a whistle containing an internal piston available for changing pitch. This whistle type could be made to sound like a siren or to play a melody. Often called a fire alarm whistle, wildcat whistle, or mocking bird whistle.

  • Toroidal or Levavasseur whistle – a whistle with a torus-shaped (doughnut-shaped) resonant cavity paralleling the annular gas orifice, named after Robert Levavasseur, its inventor. Unlike a conventional whistle, the diameter (and sound level) of a ring-shaped whistle can be increased without altering resonance chamber cross-sectional area (preserving frequency), allowing construction of a very large diameter high frequency whistle. The frequency of a conventional whistle declines as diameter is increased. Other ring-shaped whistles include the Hall-Teichmann whistle, Ultrawhistle, and Dynawhistle.

  • Helmholtz whistle – a whistle with a cross-sectional area exceeding that of the whistle bell opening, often shaped like a bottle or incandescent light bulb. The frequency of this whistle relative to its size is lower than that of a conventional whistle and therefore these whistles have found application in small gauge steam locomotives. Also termed a Bangham whistle.

Resonant frequency


A whistle has a characteristic natural resonant frequency that can be detected by gently blowing human breath across the whistle rim, much as one might blow over the mouth of a bottle. The active sounding frequency (when the whistle is blown on steam) may differ from the natural frequency as discussed below. These comments apply to whistles with a mouth area at least equal to the cross-sectional area of the whistle.
  • Whistle length – The natural resonant frequency decreases as the length of the whistle is increased. Doubling the effective length of a whistle reduces the frequency by one half, assuming that the whistle cross-sectional area is uniform. A whistle is a quarter-wave generator, which means that a sound wave generated by a whistle is about four times the whistle length. If the speed of sound
    Speed of sound
    The speed of sound is the distance travelled during a unit of time by a sound wave propagating through an elastic medium. In dry air at , the speed of sound is . This is , or about one kilometer in three seconds or approximately one mile in five seconds....

     in the steam supplied to a whistle were 15936 inches per second, a pipe with a 15-inch effective length blowing its natural frequency would sound near Middle C
    Middle C
    C or Do is the first note of the fixed-Do solfège scale. Its enharmonic is B.-Middle C:Middle C is designated C4 in scientific pitch notation because of the note's position as the fourth C key on a standard 88-key piano keyboard...

    : 15936/(4 x 15) = 266 Hz. When a whistle is sounding its natural frequency, the effective length referred to here is somewhat longer than the physical length above the mouth if the whistle is of uniform cross-sectional area. That is, the vibrating length of the whistle includes some portion of the mouth. This effect (the “end correction”) is caused by the vibrating steam inside the whistle engaging vibration of some steam outside the enclosed pipe, where there is a transition from plane waves to spherical waves. Formulas are available to estimate the effective length of a whistle, but an accurate formula to predict sounding frequency would have to incorporate whistle length, scale, gas flow rate, mouth height, and mouth wall area (see below).

  • Blowing pressure – Frequency increases with blowing pressure, which determines gas volume flow through the whistle, allowing a locomotive engineer to play a whistle like a musical instrument, using the valve to vary the flow of steam. The term for this was “quilling.” An experiment with a short plain whistle reported in 1883 showed that incrementally increasing steam pressure drove the whistle from E to D-flat, a 68 percent increase in frequency. Pitch deviations from the whistle natural frequency likely follow velocity differences in the steam jet downstream from the aperture, creating phase differences between driving frequency and natural frequency of the whistle. Although at normal blowing pressures the aperture constrains the jet to the speed of sound, once it exits the aperture and expands, velocity decay is a function of absolute pressure. Also, frequency may vary at a fixed blowing pressure with differences in temperature. Compression temperature determines mass flow rate, and discharge temperature determines volume flow and the speed of sound. Such temperatures may vary widely, especially if compressed air is used to blow a whistle. Industrial steam whistles typically were operated in the range of 100 to 300 pounds per square inch gauge pressure (psig) (0.7 - 2.1 megapascals, MPa), although some were constructed for use on pressures as high as 600 psig (4.1 MPa). All of these pressures are within the choked flow
    Choked flow
    Choked flow is a compressible flow effect. The parameter that becomes "choked" or "limited" is the velocity or the mass flow rate.Choked flow is a fluid dynamic condition associated with the Venturi effect...

     regime, where mass flow scales with upstream absolute pressure and inversely with the square root of absolute temperature. This means that for dry saturated steam
    Saturated steam
    In thermodynamics, the state of saturation of a fluid indicates that the fluid is at its boiling point temperature. This term can be applied in several ways:*Saturated liquid: fully in the liquid state but is about to vaporize....

    , a halving of absolute pressure results in almost a halving of flow. This has been confirmed by tests of whistle steam consumption at various pressures. Excessive pressure for a given whistle design will drive the whistle into an overblown mode, where the fundamental frequency will be replaced by a sound close to three times the fundamental. A long narrow whistle such as that of the Liberty ship
    Liberty ship
    Liberty ships were cargo ships built in the United States during World War II. Though British in conception, they were adapted by the U.S. as they were cheap and quick to build, and came to symbolize U.S. wartime industrial output. Based on vessels ordered by Britain to replace ships torpedoed by...

     John W. Brown
    John W. Brown
    John W. Brown was a labor union leader.Born in Canada, he moved to Maine and worked as a joiner at the Bath Iron Works, where he became involved with the labor movement...

     sounds a rich spectrum of overtones, but is not overblown. (In overblowing the "amplitude of the pipe fundamental frequency falls to zero.")

  • Steam quality – The quality of steam (steam dryness) on which whistles are blown is variable and may affect frequency. Steam quality determines the velocity of sound
    Velocity of Sound
    Velocity of Sound is an album by The Apples in Stereo. It was the group's fifth album, released in October 2002. The American release has an orange album cover, while the European version is green and the Japanese version is blue...

    , which declines with decreasing dryness due to the inertia
    Inertia
    Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion or rest, or the tendency of an object to resist any change in its motion. It is proportional to an object's mass. The principle of inertia is one of the fundamental principles of classical physics which are used to...

     of the liquid phase. Also, the specific volume
    Specific volume
    In thermodynamics, the specific volume of a substance is the ratio of the substance's volume to its mass. It is the reciprocal of density:In thermodynamics, the specific volume of a substance is the ratio of the substance's volume to its mass...

     of steam for a given temperature decreases with decreasing dryness.

  • Whistle scale – The more squat the whistle, the greater is the change in pitch with blowing pressure due to a lower Q factor
    Q factor
    In physics and engineering the quality factor or Q factor is a dimensionless parameter that describes how under-damped an oscillator or resonator is, or equivalently, characterizes a resonator's bandwidth relative to its center frequency....

    . The pitch of a very squat whistle may rise several semitones as pressure is raised. Whistle frequency prediction thus requires establishment of a set of frequency/pressure curves unique to whistle scale, and a set of whistles may fail to track a musical chord as blowing pressure changes if each whistle is of a different scale. This is true of many antique whistles divided into a series of compartments of the same diameter but of different lengths. Some whistle designers minimized this problem by building resonant chambers of a similar scale.

  • Mouth vertical length (“cut-up”) – Frequency of a plain whistle declines as the whistle bell is raised away from the steam source. If the cut-up of an organ whistle or single bell chime is raised (without raising the whistle ceiling), the effective chamber length is shortened. Shortening the chamber drives frequency up, but raising the cut-up drives frequency down. The resulting frequency (higher, lower, or unchanged) will be determined by whistle scale and by competition between the two drivers.

  • Mouth arc – The natural frequency of a whistle with a 360-degree mouth (that extends completely around the whistle circumference) is lower than that of a whistle of the same length and same mouth area but with a partially walled mouth, resembling an organ pipe. The walled mouth whistle is said to have a lesser passive effective length. An important variable set by mouth arc is the difference (as a fraction of whistle diameter) between the passive effective length and the whistle physical length. In other words changing from a rectangular mouth to a higher triangular mouth may not alter whistle performance so long as the aforementioned difference between passive effective length and physical length is preserved.
  • Steam aperture width – Frequency may rise as steam aperture width declines and the slope of the frequency/pressure curve may vary with aperture width.

  • Gas composition – The frequency of a whistle blown on steam is typically higher than that of a whistle blown on compressed air
    Compressed air
    Compressed air is air which is kept under a certain pressure, usually greater than that of the atmosphere. In Europe, 10 percent of all electricity used by industry is used to produce compressed air, amounting to 80 terawatt hours consumption per year....

     at the same volume flow rate due to the greater density
    Density
    The mass density or density of a material is defined as its mass per unit volume. The symbol most often used for density is ρ . In some cases , density is also defined as its weight per unit volume; although, this quantity is more properly called specific weight...

     of air. The percentage difference in frequency would be determined by air temperature and steam quality, but can amount to several semitones. One published steam-air comparison test noted a frequency difference of 22 percent and estimated the velocity of sound in the steam to be 1360 feet per second.

Sound pressure level


Whistle sound level varies with several factors:
  • Blowing pressure – Sound level increases as blowing pressure is raised.

  • Whistle scale – Sound level increases as whistle length/width ratio decreases. A halving of effective length may enable the whistle to tolerate a doubling of absolute pressure resulting in a quadrupling of sound level. Variable pitch whistles vary in both frequency and sound level as scale is changed. The sound level of a very squat 587 Hz whistle recorded at the Boot Hill
    Boot Hill
    Boot Hill is the name for any number of cemeteries, chiefly in the American West. During the 19th century it was a common name for the burial grounds of gunfighters, or those who "died with their boots on" ....

     annual whistle blow in 1994 measured 126 C-weighted decibels at 10 meters. A short six-inch diameter plain whistle sounded 113 dbC
    DBC
    DBC may refer to:* DBC Pierre, a contemporary writer* Detroit Boat Club, a historic rowing club* Design by contract, a methodology for designing computer software* Direct Bonded Copper, a power electronic substrate...

     at 100 feet whereas a six-inch diameter “organ-pipe” design (much lower in frequency) tested under the same conditions sounded 110 dBC at 100 feet. Such comparative measurements as these were recorded in an acoustic half-space at best, and gas flow rates are unknown.

  • Whistle diameter – Sound level increases with whistle diameter, as the sound radiating area increases with diameter. Tests of a sample of 13 single-note whistles ranging in size from one-inch diameter to six-inch diameter showed a sound level increase with diameter of 15 dBC, or about six decibels for each doubling of diameter. A 20-inch diameter Ultrawhistle operating at 15 pounds per square inch gauge pressure (103.4 kilopascals) produced 124 dBC at 100 feet. It is unknown how the sound level of a toroidal
    Toroidal
    Toroidal describes something which resembles or relates to a torus or toroid:*Torus*Toroid, a doughnut-shaped object which resembles a torus*Toroidal inductors and transformers, a type of electrical device...

     whistle would compare to that of a high frequency conventional plain whistle of the same diameter. By comparison, a Bell-Chrysler air raid siren generates 138 dBC at 100 feet. The sound level of a Levavasseur toroidal whistle is enhanced by about 10 decibels by a secondary cavity parallel to the resonant cavity, the former creating a vortex
    Vortex
    A vortex is a spinning, often turbulent,flow of fluid. Any spiral motion with closed streamlines is vortex flow. The motion of the fluid swirling rapidly around a center is called a vortex...

     that augments the oscillation
    Oscillation
    Oscillation is the repetitive variation, typically in time, of some measure about a central value or between two or more different states. Familiar examples include a swinging pendulum and AC power. The term vibration is sometimes used more narrowly to mean a mechanical oscillation but sometimes...

    s of the jet
    Jet (fluid)
    A jet is an efflux of fluid that is projected into a surrounding medium, usually from some kind of a nozzle, aperture or orifice. Jets can travel long distances without dissipating...

     driving the whistle.

  • Steam aperture width – If gas flow is restricted by the area of the steam aperture, widening the aperture will increase the sound level for a fixed blowing pressure. Enlarging the steam aperture can compensate for the loss of sound output if pressure is reduced. It has been known since at least the 1830s that whistles can be modified for low pressure operation and still achieve a high sound level. Data on the compensatory relationship between pressure and aperture size are scant, but tests on compressed air indicate that a halving of absolute pressure requires that the aperture size be at least doubled in width to maintain the original sound level, and aperture width in some antique whistle arrays increases with diameter (aperture area thus increasing with whistle cross-sectional area) for whistles of the same scale. Applying the physics of high pressure jets exiting circular apertures, a doubling of velocity and gas concentration at a fixed point in the whistle mouth would require a quadrupling of either aperture area or absolute pressure. (A quartering of absolute pressure would be compensated by a quadrupling of aperture area -- the velocity decay constant increases approximately with the square root of absolute pressure in the normal whistle-blowing pressure range.) In reality, trading pressure loss for greater aperture area may be less efficient as pressure-dependent adjustments occur to virtual origin displacement. Quadrupling the width of an organ pipe aperture at a fixed blowing pressure resulted in somewhat less than a doubling of velocity at the flue exit. Also, in underexpanded jets, altering the aspect ratio may affect the near field and complexities of near field geometry may dominate in small whistles or whistles with low cut-up.

  • Steam aperture profile – Gas flow rate (and thus sound level) is set not only by aperture area, but also by aperture geometry. Friction
    Friction
    Friction is the force resisting the relative motion of solid surfaces, fluid layers, and/or material elements sliding against each other. There are several types of friction:...

     and turbulence
    Turbulence
    In fluid dynamics, turbulence or turbulent flow is a flow regime characterized by chaotic and stochastic property changes. This includes low momentum diffusion, high momentum convection, and rapid variation of pressure and velocity in space and time...

     influence the flow rate, and are accounted for by a discharge coefficient
    Discharge coefficient
    In a nozzle or other constriction, the discharge coefficient is the ratio of the mass flow rate at the discharge end of the nozzle to that of an ideal nozzle which expands an identical working fluid from the same initial conditions to the same exit pressures-References:, J. B. Calvert, 15 June 2003...

    . Field estimates of whistle discharge coefficients range from 0.66 to 0.73 and the latter is also consistent with results of whistle steam consumption tests.

  • Mouth vertical length (“cut-up”) – The mouth length (cut-up) that provides the highest sound level at a fixed blowing pressure varies with whistle scale, and some makers of multi-tone whistles therefore cut a mouth height unique to the scale of each resonant chamber, maximizing sound output of the whistle. Ideal cut-up for whistles of a fixed diameter and aperture width (including single-bell chime compartments) at a fixed blowing pressure appears to vary approximately with the square root of effective length. Antique whistle makers commonly used a compromise mouth area of about 1.4x whistle cross-sectional area. If a whistle is driven to its maximum sound level with the mouth area set equal to the whistle cross-sectional area, it may be possible to increase the sound level by further increasing the mouth area.

  • Frequency and distance Sound pressure
    Sound pressure
    Sound pressure or acoustic pressure is the local pressure deviation from the ambient atmospheric pressure caused by a sound wave. Sound pressure can be measured using a microphone in air and a hydrophone in water...

     level decreases by half (six decibels) with each doubling of distance due to divergence from the source. This relationship is termed inverse proportional, often incorrectly described as the inverse square law; the latter applies to sound intensity, not sound pressure. Sound pressure level also decreases due to atmospheric absorption, which is strongly dependent upon frequency, lower frequencies traveling farthest. For example, a 1000 Hz whistle has an atmospheric attenuation coefficient one half that of a 2000 Hz whistle (calculated for 50 percent relative humidity
    Relative humidity
    Relative humidity is a term used to describe the amount of water vapor in a mixture of air and water vapor. It is defined as the partial pressure of water vapor in the air-water mixture, given as a percentage of the saturated vapor pressure under those conditions...

     at 20 degrees Celsius). This means that in addition to divergent sound dampening, there would be a loss of 0.5 decibel per 100 meters from the 1000 Hz whistle and 1.0 decibel per 100 meters for the 2000 Hz whistle. Additional factors affecting sound propagation include barriers, atmospheric temperature gradients, and "ground effects.”

Terminology


Acoustic length or effective length is the quarter wavelength generated by the whistle. It is calculated as one quarter the ratio of speed of sound to the whistle’s frequency. Acoustic length may differ from the whistle’s physical length, also termed geometric length. depending upon mouth configuration, etc. The end correction is the difference between the acoustic length and the physical length above the mouth. The end correction is a function of diameter whereas the ratio of acoustic length to physical length is a function of scale. These calculations are useful in whistle design to obtain a desired sounding frequency. Working length in early usage meant whistle acoustic length, i.e., the effective length of the working whistle, but recently has been used for physical length including the mouth.

Loudest and largest whistles


Loudness
Loudness
Loudness is the quality of a sound that is primarily a psychological correlate of physical strength . More formally, it is defined as "that attribute of auditory sensation in terms of which sounds can be ordered on a scale extending from quiet to loud."Loudness, a subjective measure, is often...

 is a subjective perception that is influenced by sound pressure level, sound duration, and sound frequency. High sound pressure level potential has been claimed for the whistles of Vladimir Gavreau, who tested whistles as large as 1.5 meter (59-inch) diameter (37 Hz).
A 20-inch diameter ring-shaped whistle (“Ultrawhistle”) patented and produced by Richard Weisenberger sounded 124 decibels at 100 feet. The variable pitch steam whistle at the New York Wire Company in York
York, Pennsylvania
York, known as the White Rose City , is a city located in York County, Pennsylvania, United States which is in the South Central region of the state. The population within the city limits was 43,718 at the 2010 census, which was a 7.0% increase from the 2000 count of 40,862...

, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

, was entered in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2002 as the loudest steam whistle on record at 124.1dBA from a set distance used by Guinness. The York whistle was also measured at 134.1 decibels from a distance of 23-feet.

A fire-warning whistle supplied to a Canadian saw mill by the Eaton, Cole, and Burnham Company in 1882 measured 20 inches in diameter, four feet nine inches from bowl to ornament, and weighed 400 pounds. The spindle supporting the whistle bell measured 3.5 inches diameter and the whistle was supplied by a four inch feed pipe.
Other records of large whistles include an 1893 account of U.S. President Grover Cleveland
Grover Cleveland
Stephen Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. Cleveland is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms and therefore is the only individual to be counted twice in the numbering of the presidents...

 activating the “largest steam whistle in the world,” said to be “five feet” at the Chicago World's Fair
Chicago World's Fair
Chicago World's Fair may refer to:*World's Columbian Exposition of 1893*Century of Progress Exposition of 1933...

.
The sounding chamber of a whistle installed at the 1924 Long-Bell Lumber Company
Long-Bell Lumber Company
In 1887, Robert A. Long and Victor Bell formed the Long-Bell Lumber Company in Columbus, Kansas. The Long-Bell Lumber Company branched out using balanced vertical integration to control all aspects of lumber from the sawmills to the retail lumber yard...

, Longview, Washington
Longview, Washington
Longview is a city in Cowlitz County, Washington, United States. It is the principal city of the "Longview, Washington Metropolitan Statistical Area", which encompasses all of Cowlitz County. Longview's population was 36,648 at the time of the 2010 census and is the largest city in Cowlitz County...

 measured 16 inches diameter x 49 inches in length.
The whistle bells of multi-bell chimes used on ocean liner
Ocean liner
An ocean liner is a ship designed to transport people from one seaport to another along regular long-distance maritime routes according to a schedule. Liners may also carry cargo or mail, and may sometimes be used for other purposes .Cargo vessels running to a schedule are sometimes referred to as...

s such as the RMS Titanic measured 9, 12, and 15 inches diameter.
The whistle bells of the Canadian Pacific steamships Assiniboia and Keewatin
SS Keewatin
The SS Keewatin is a passenger liner that once sailed between Port Arthur / Fort William and Port McNicoll in Ontario, Canada. She carried passengers between these ports for the Canadian Pacific Railway's Great Lakes Steamship Service...

measured 12 inches in diameter and that of the Keewatin measured 60 inches in length.
A multi-bell chime whistle installed at the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company in 1926 was composed of five separate whistle bells measuring 5 x15, 7 x 21, 8x 24, 10 x 30, and 12 x36 inches, all plumbed to a five-inch steam pipe.
The Union Water Meter Company of Worcester Massachusetts produced a gong whistle composed of three bells, 8 x 9-3/4, 12 x 15, and 12 x 25 inches. Twelve-inch diameter steam whistles were commonly used at light house
Light House
The Light House is currently under construction and will be located on the new harbour front district in Aarhus, Denmark. It is expected to be completed by 2012. The Light House will be 142 metres tall making it the tallest building in Denmark....

s in the 19th century.
It has been claimed that the sound level of an Ultrawhistle would be significantly greater than that of a conventional whistle, but comparative tests of large whistles have not been undertaken. Tests of small Ultrawhistles have not shown higher sound levels compared to conventional whistles of the same diameter.