One of the members of OERM is an avid collector of steam whistles and one day he brought some of the whistles from his collection to OREM and showed them to us. I made the comment that one of the whistles seemed too large for use on a steam locomotive. I was told the whistle used to be the  “noon” whistle at the SPRR Taylor yard shop. The whistle’s owner told me the whistle was not in working condition and asked me if I would make a new valve stem and renew the seat for the whistle. I said I would give it a try if we could figure out how to do it. The major uncertainty was about the method we could use to refinish the valve seat. I knew we had the equipment in the OERM shop that we would need and the job did look interesting. I also was sure we did not have any bar stock large enough to make the new valve stem, but I knew where to purchase bar stock of the size required. It was a done deal, or so I thought.

  What I did not know at the time I made the original agreement was that I would become unable to complete the job personally. I have Parkinson’s disease and the symptoms have progressed to the point that I no longer am able to operate machinery in a safe and responsible way. Also, I recently voluntarily stopped driving because I am not sure my reflexes are up to the driving challenges. Brian kindly offered to come to my Lakewood home and drive me to OERM for an occasional work session. There I would instruct him on what has to be done to complete this and future jobs. We decided to try the plan and see how it went. 

We have done this twice and it seems to be working out for us. I arrive back at home in the early evening tired but pleased that I am able to remain a working member of OERM. It is all to easy for a person with a chronic debilitating disease to become homebound. I am very fortunate to have a supportive family and friends like Brian in my life. What more could a person want.

Later, Brian began the work by setting the valve body up in the lathe. Because the seat is located deep inside the cast bronze valve body and hard to reach with a lathe cutting tool, I decided to have Brian chuck the body up in the Axelson’s four jaw independent chuck to maintain a secure grip on the casting and use a boring bar arrangement to extend the cutting tool to the valve face so we could make the cuts. The process worked perfectly.

I previously had purchased a piece of brass stock for the valve stem and, after settling the account, I found myself with a renewed commitment to saving brass cuttings.* After a little bit of preliminary lathe work, Brian setup the brass stock in a dividing head mounted in the Bridgeport milling machine. He machined the three flutes of the stem and we moved to the the  Axelson lathe for the remainder of the work. We reviewed the dimensions of the new valve stem to make sure we understood them, Brian finished the lathe work.

The lever that was used to blow the whistle is attached to the valve body by a bolt that had seen better days so we replaced it with a new one. For the whistle to work properly, it is necessary to lap the new valve stem face to the valve seat in the valve body. To do this properly, we had to make a tool to keep the valve stem straight while  lapping the seat. A piece of scrap aluminum was found that met our needs and the tool was made.

The lapping operation went without a hitch. After rough lapping, the valve seat was finished with 320 grit lapping compound. An air driven hand grinder head and a carbide burr was used to deburr the valve stem. The valve was assembled.

All that remains to  be done is deliver the refurbished valve assembly to the collector.

I wonder if we will get to hear this very large whistle.


*I have been saving copper alloy waste (chips) in a container for a considerable time and it has become to heavy to move easily.  Waste not and thus want not are words to live by.



I am 89 years old and was married for 66 years. My wife passed away in 2016. I am a retired engineer and spent 35 years developing INS gyroscopes. I was a High School mentor in physics, a mountaineer, a model builder, a machinist and I have a degree in Physics. My interests include railroad history and photography, science history, cosmology, interesting people, and old engineering drawings. I place a high value on my friendships. I enjoying my life and I try look forward with a sense of anticipation and curiosity about what my future has in store for me.


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