The On-Line Magazine of Rideable Model Railroading
  NUMBER 115


© September 13, 2008   

©Discover Live Steam. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed without written permission.

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The “Educated” Whistle Post

Written by Richard "Dick" Glueck

Over the past five years or so, I’ve been fortunate to work on a friend’s railroad, here in eastern Maine. I help with track maintenance, replace ties, shovel ballast, and in exchange, get to run the locomotives and a bunch of knowledge from experiential learning. I wanted to make my own mark on the layout, and try to add something of value, with a bit of distinction. With a little effort and the help of the shop teacher at the high school where I work, I came up with this.

My Dad was a Long Island Rail Road man, and the Long Island was a step-child of the Pennsy. The Long Island retained its Pennsy style keystone whistle posts from the close of steam up until around 1966, when they were replaced with less-colorful, reflective signs. Fortunately, I was able to secure one (below), and with it as a model, I fashioned a scaled down version in wood, to use as a model. If you do not have an actual keystone whistle post from which to work, this and other Pennsy style sign diagrams are available from a great (free) resource online in PDF format at "Rob’s Pennsylvania Railroad Page" ( ). In honesty, my models are not 1.5" scale, but they are a usable size, easy to handle and easy to see.

Getting the whistle posts cast was my next move. Our high school teaches smelting and casting in aluminum. I provided scrap aluminum in the form of discarded lawn mower engine blocks. Damaged, cracked, or burned out, engines are easy to obtain and provide plenty of metal. Any engine parts of value get recycled into the small engine repair program, so it helps two aspects of the school program, takes nothing from the budget, teaches kids a series of skills, and provides a useful product for the railroad!

The wooden model is set in casting sand, along with two or three vent passages. The blank is removed, and the molten aluminum is poured into the form. It doesn’t take long for the newly formed whistle post to harden and cool down for handling. The venting passages are now filled with hardened metal, which is removed with a hacksaw and recycled. A file and grinder removes the flash and rough edges.

I use black and white acrylic paints to cover the aluminum, and then drill and tap holes from the back, attaching the keystone to scrap conduit pipe. I put and anchor bolt through he bottom of the mounting post, then set it in Sakrete, 24" away from the outside edge of the track.

I’d like to suggest large scale modelers check in with the local high school to see if they offer the opportunity to teach kids metallurgy skills. Not only do the kids get to do something positive that is noticeable, they give something back to the community. Inviting the class to set the posts and perhaps come out for an operations day makes the kids feel appreciated and sows the seeds of citizenship. You might even get new interest in the hobby from both girls and boys who never knew it existed.

Once they are set, it only takes a single train to go by and test the whistle posts to see if they work!



Written by Richard “Dick” Glueck
Live Steam "Wannabe"

Editors Note:  Information contained in this article is for reference only. 
We at and our authors are not responsible for any loss that might occur from the practical application of ideas presented here.



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