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York Factory Whistle’s sound: How about like a ‘whale song without the water?’

The York Factory Whistle’s move to Metso this year is a milestone in the long lifetime of this quirky York County, Pa., concert. This photo captures a moment in 2011 in which a compressed air line is being installed to funnel the power source for the variable-valve whistle at its longtime home, New York Wire. For most of its life, the whistle was powered by steam. A practice at the whistle’s new venue at Metso’s 240 Arch Street, York, plant is set for noon today in preparation for the early Christmas Day concert. Also of interest: Check out these past stories and photos of the York Factory Whistle.

The York Factory Whistle Concert practice last Saturday drew a slew of comments on the York Daily Record’s Facebook page. (See below).

One line of commenting suggested the whistle’s new venue at Metso will mean that this rite of midnight at Christmas will be heard in places around York not previously reached.

“I heard it in West York,” Michele Messersmith commented, “don’t think I ever heard it before!”

Another FB comment will stick for “a while.”

The factory whistle’s sound has been described in various ways – as eerie and as a handsaw flexing. It’s sound has even been received as ghostlike.

But this Facebook comment is the best description yet:

Ron Haskell responded to a FB commenter who expressed love for the sound.

“LOvE?,” he commented. “I mean, I’m glad for it and like the tradition but at its essence it is whale song without the water.”

That’s about right. A whale song without the water.

And this comment by Diane Hunsberger is about right, too:

“Thank you for having this tradition. My late mother loved the steam whistle, and it brings back memories of us listening to it.”



How would you describe the whistle’s sound? Please comment below. Also, see additional FB posts about the whistle.

Also of interest:
Check out Stephen H. Smith’s post: New York Wire Cloth in York original home of the Christmas Eve Factory Whistle Concert.

A sampling of other factory whistle posts:

York County enthusiasts could find historical event, site to visit every day.
World War II-era air raid siren discovered atop Yorktowne Hotel.
Unusual valve gave steam whistle prominence in World War II.
The world’s loudest music without amplification from a non-musical instrument
The world’s loudest music without amplification from a non-musical instrument – encore