Enthusiasts Meet to Hear Whistles on Live Steam

Whistle enthusiasts gathered at St. Clair’s Palmer Park on a blustery fall day in October, 2009 to participate in the first live steam whistle event held on the St. Clair River in over 20 years. The St. Clair Downtown Development Authority sponsored this celebration of more than three dozen historic steam whistles including those from the Strs. North American, South American, and Columbia. For many whistles, it was the first time they had been sounded on live steam since their days in service. Whistles on the Water offered collectors and enthusiasts alike a rare opportunity to experience these magnificent whistles as they were truly meant to be heard.

Steam for the day’s event was provided by a 75-horsepower Port Huron portable steam engine once owned by industrialist Henry Ford. The 1921 coal-fired portable was manufactured by the Port Huron Engine & Thresher Co., a leading manufacturer of steam-powered farm equipment at the beginning of the 20th century. The 22-foot long engine, painstakingly restored and reconditioned by Bob Bennatts of Burtchville Township, Michigan has been certified for operation at a fully rated 180 psi. Its high pressure steam was fed to a large manifold where whistles were mounted ten to twelve at a time. Smaller whistles mounted on a second manifold along the river were also available for spectators to sound.

Lexington’s Gareth McNabb served as emcee for the event and invited each collector to introduce their whistle with a brief history before it was sounded. A highlight of the day was the exchange of salutes with several passing freighters, including the Lee A. Tregurtha, Paul R. Tregurtha, and Charles M. Beeghly (see video below). Organizers Dan Lockwood and Chris Tabor hope to make Whistles on the Water an annual affair. Visit the St. Clair on the River website for information on future events.

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Bob Bennatts' coal-fired 1921 Port Huron portable provides the high pressure steam for Whistles on the Water
Collectors brought steam whistles and sirens of all sizes to St. Clair, Michigan for the event.
Dozens of whistles were on display throughout the day, including those from historic vessels like the Bob-Lo boat Columbia,
the passenger steamers North American and South American, and Cleveland Tankers' Mercury and Comet
Charles M. Beeghly passing St. Clair Smaller whistles were mounted
on a manifold along the river
Enthusiasts unfurl an Interlake flag
as the Lee A. Tregurtha passes
2009 Whistles on the Water exchanges a salute with the Charles M. Beeghly
using the whistle from the Great Lakes passenger steamer South American.
Video from the 2010 Whistles on the Water event in St. Clair, Michigan.
You have to be there to feel the power in those steam whistles!
Join us in St. Clair, Michigan on Saturday, September 29, 2012,
for Whistles on the Water IV.

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