Homestead Train Whistle Ringtone

Here’s a long-awaited and oft requested tone–the sound of a Homestead Train Whistle.

Recorded at the Homestead Pennsylvania Railroad Station, built circa 1890 (or 1906–depending upon which source is referred to), on Amity Street, the building now houses the offices for the Allegheny County District Attorney. It sits between two sets of railroad tracks, and there are benches, for the office workers and/or occasional train spotters. Though I waited no longer than half an hour before the railroad crossing bells would ring out, I had no way to determine from which direction the next train would come. It took me two hours to get a good recording. I had a lot of solitary fun figuring out the final approach that allowed me to capture audio track above. In the end, I think I make a pretty good Foley artist.

This ringtone is dedicated to Susan Englert, a Pittsburgh-based architect and visual artist, and Dr. Gerry Santoro, an Assistant Professor of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State University. They both requested the sound of a train whistle as a ringtone during earlier phases of the project. I quote their illustrative requests below, because at the heart of this project is a sense of curiosity about the sounds that are meaningful to people of this region. What does Pittsburgh (or another region) sound like? Which of these sounds should be turned into ringtones and shared with the public free of charge?

If you’re interested in learning more about the history and industrial heritage of Homestead, PA, visit the Rivers of Steel Web site or check out Ron Baraff’s Archival Tone Series.

Excerpted email from Susan Englert, July 2009

TRAINS! trains trains trains trains TRAINS ==> Piiiiiiiittsburgh!!

I ride my bike home through the Strip every day and usually catch the early evening run.

What makes an otherwise generic tone Pittsburgh-specific is the reverb off the surrounding hillside. Right there, on Smallman St. at around 28th, it’s especially loud, clear, and echo-y. Gives me goose bumps every time. For me, trains are THE sound defining Pittsburgh. (OK, that and spitting…) In every neighborhood, you hear ‘em.

I’m sure someone’s suggested this, but just in case… Gotta have a train in the collection.

Excerpt from an email from Gerry Santoro, October 2010

I would love to have a train whistle as my ring tone. (I have Purple Haze right now – but the whistle would bring back so many memories.)

I grew up along Freeport Road on the Eastern end of Blawnox. My house (a brick duplex) was about 1000 feet from the Allegheny river, and we could see it from our front porch. Blawnox is on a bend in the river, and I would hear the train whistles from both sides as they approached road crossings. The echo of the whistle would carry down the river. On real quiet nights you could also hear a ‘clickety-clack’ as the trains ran over the old tracks. As a teen I would sometimes hang out along the river, within 20 feet of the trains. The doppler effect as the trains would pass by was VERY noticeable.

I really miss that sound. Now I live in the mountains with a state forest (Rothrock) in my back yard. The sound of the owls, cows, crickets and occasional coyotes are wonderful, but I miss the trains…

As you can see, the first request came in almost three years ago–better late than never?!

Dear Susan and Gerry, sincere thanks for your beautiful and nostalgic ringtone request!

This ringtone recording session was made possible by a generous grant from The Fine Foundation.

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Filed under Locally Toned (all posts), Ringtones

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