Horn Tones?

Inversnecky

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I think it was when I was watching a Dad Rail video on YouTube that it was pointed out that when passing a 'whistle board', only the low tone should be given.

This naturally led me to wonder why trains had two tone horns? In which circumstances were two tones used? Was the hight tone ever used alone?

I know some modern trains sound both tones together and can't be separated as in the past.

I presume steam engines just had a single whistle, so the double tone horn is presumably an innovation that came with diesel? What was the rationale?
 
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hexagon789

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I think it was when I was watching a Dad Rail video on YouTube that it was pointed out that when passing a 'whistle board', only the low tone should be given.

This naturally led me to wonder why trains had two tone horns? In which circumstances were two tones used? Was the hight tone ever used alone?

I know some modern trains sound both tones together and can't be separated as in the past.

I presume steam engines just had a single whistle, so the double tone horn is presumably an innovation that came with diesel? What was the rationale?
Two tones to differentiate from cars/road vehicles.

I think the single tone policy was for noise abatement or similar.

I believe unions suggested that drivers shouldn't switch to single tones after the change was made for safety reasons and not all drivers did anyway.

From what I understand two tones is standard policy again.
 

Peter C

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I think it was when I was watching a Dad Rail video on YouTube that it was pointed out that when passing a 'whistle board', only the low tone should be given.

This naturally led me to wonder why trains had two tone horns? In which circumstances were two tones used? Was the hight tone ever used alone?
As @hexagon789 says above, it was to distinguish between road and rail vehicles (that's the only explanation I've heard).

I know some modern trains sound both tones together and can't be separated as in the past.
Very similar to an awful lot of car horns in that case. This YouTube video will explain it (for cars) better than I could:

I presume steam engines just had a single whistle, so the double tone horn is presumably an innovation that came with diesel?
Stanier "hooters", as used on the Black 5s and 8Fs, only had single notes. Chime whistles, as fitted to the LNER A4s for example, had two notes I believe; as did GWR engines, which had a distinctive pair of whistles which could be sounded individually. The 14xx class is well known for having this after its repeated use in "The Titfield Thunderbolt" (1953), but other engines had them too. See this video at 50 seconds in - the two-tone whistle is the "King" at Didcot Railway Centre:

Hope this helps.

-Peter
 

Master Cutler

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There has been too many changes with whistle/horn usage in my opinion.
On 8th November 2019 when Flying Scotsman was on the return trip from Holyhead through Bangor station it was a bit of a low key event as I recalled on railforum below;

Watched Flying Scotsman last night pass through Bangor Station at 17:40 pulling The North Wales Coast Express.
Beautiful sight steaming through on the up-fast line.
Plenty of youngsters and parents there to enjoy the moment, but something concerns me, namely the lack of any whistle either exiting the tunnel or passing through the station.
One youngster said to his dad, "that didn't sound like a train".
Is there any reason Scotsman doesn't use the whistle through stations?
The use of the whistle or horn should, in my opinion, be unrestricted but controlled sensibly for heritage workings.
 

172007

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I have read somewhere the instructions for GWR loco's at Birmingham Snowhill. The 2 tones where used to send instructions to signallers as to where in the shunting move they where and what activity they needed to do or where doing. So two tones where deffinately needed.

Two tones today are required. Wrong direction move is to sound low tone often during the move so p'way know to expect a bang road train. This needs to be separated from a train in distress which is the use of the high tone being blasted multiple times in quick succession.

Ask a person what sound a train makes. They will do a steam whistle sound or, more concerning a neee naaaar. Then ask them if they only hear a naaar at a railway crossing footcrossing would they expect a train. Many would say no it must be a vehicle on a nearby road as trains go Neeee Naaaar and that is why the unions and many many drivers sound both horns at whistle boards.
 

O L Leigh

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It's a single tone at whistle boards but two tones as a warning. So if I'm approaching a crossing with a board it will be the low tone at the board and then, if I see people on or near the crossing, two tones. Two tones are also expected where there are trackworkers out and about and there are other circumstances where you would use either one or other tone or both at the same time, as explained above.

I believe unions suggested that drivers shouldn't switch to single tones after the change was made for safety reasons and not all drivers did anyway.

From what I understand two tones is standard policy again.

This might be considered a point of pedantry, but while individual drivers will continue to do what they feel is appropriate, the policy is unchanged. It is not the union's job to set the rules but rather to represent and advise their members. The rules do permit drivers to sound two tones where they consider it necessary, and quite a few consider it necessary at every single whistle board.
 

hexagon789

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This might be considered a point of pedantry, but while individual drivers will continue to do what they feel is appropriate, the policy is unchanged. It is not the union's job to set the rules but rather to represent and advise their members. The rules do permit drivers to sound two tones where they consider it necessary, and quite a few consider it necessary at every single whistle board.
didn't intend to suggest otherwise, but there was a thread some time ago where someone brought up a similar point of single vs two-tone horn use and there was something about drivers unions opposing the imposition of single horn use and instructing drivers to continue to use both tones at 'W' boards or something very like that.
 

O L Leigh

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there was a thread some time ago where someone brought up a similar point of single vs two-tone horn use and there was something about drivers unions opposing the imposition of single horn use and instructing drivers to continue to use both tones at 'W' boards or something very like that.

Yes they did, but it hasn't altered the rule. Neither union advice nor a driver's personal conviction constitute policy.
 

Irascible

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It's interesting that the US doesn't use individual tones - they do have a distinct toot pattern to use at crossings but I'm not sure you could reliably tell a train apart from a truck from the horn, at least.

Some steam whistles you can make a slightly lower tone with by not pulling the chain so hard, but I assume that was just a function of how it works rather than deliberate.
 

hexagon789

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I'm afraid it is (TW1 46.2).
I should add that my impression was further by many local drivers continuing to use two tones at 'W' boards and that's not just recently, but if that's what the rule book states then obviously that's the rule.
 
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Stanier "hooters", as used on the Black 5s and 8Fs, only had single notes. Chime whistles, as fitted to the LNER A4s for example, had two notes I believe; as did GWR engines, which had a distinctive pair of whistles which could be sounded individually.
I have an old Sectional Appendix, which gives details of the local whistle codes to be used by steam locos to indicate the route they required to the signalman at junctions.

This Appendix was for an LMS area and, IIRC, the codes were all based on combinations of long, short and "crow" whistles - presumably to allow for those single note Stanier whistles.

But what was a "crow" whistle?
(Google wasn't any help with this question)
 

hexagon789

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But what was a "crow" whistle?
(Google wasn't any help with this question)
A search drew up an explanation that the whistle chain was manipulated to sound the whistle to produce a 'Cock-a-doodle-doo'-like sound.

I looked at several sources and 3 agreed with this explanation another one said 'short-pip-long-pip'; the others didn't explain it really.
 

Peter C

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I have an old Sectional Appendix, which gives details of the local whistle codes to be used by steam locos to indicate the route they required to the signalman at junctions.

This Appendix was for an LMS area and, IIRC, the codes were all based on combinations of long, short and "crow" whistles - presumably to allow for those single note Stanier whistles.

But what was a "crow" whistle?
(Google wasn't any help with this question)
I haven't heard of that kind of whistle before - apologies. I must admit I had to do a bit of research into 'hooters' to begin with! :)

-Peter
 

Taunton

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The second, lower-pitched whistle on GWR locos was the "Brake Whistle", intended to be sounded when the driver wished the guard on loose-coupled freights to apply the handbrake. I think the GWR was the only company to fit two whistles. Repeated blasting of the brake whistle was an indication of a train getting out of control.

The LMS lower-tone hoot came from the Caledonian, apparently Fowler liked it, and that in turn came from CME Pickersgill liking such a whistle fitted by a Glasgow shipyard to one of their vessels on the Clyde.

In the USA "Chime whistles" were really just a marketing thing with a nice sound compared to normal ones, the best known is the "Nathan five chime", does what it says, which has progressively in the diesel era become quite widespread, moving away from the flat tone horns the early diesels had. Nathan is the designer/manufacturer. The ones on the A4s were imported from the USA after one was given to the LNER (I think from a Canadian rather than US railway). North America has very formalised whistle codes, everyone doing basic operations training has to know them all, of which the best known is the Long-Long-Short-Long approaching a level crossing, heard all around the country. Sometimes known as "America's alternative National Anthem".
 
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