Train Horn FAQs

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1) What train horn?


Train horns are audible warning devices found on most diesel and electric locomotives, which includes passenger trains and other kinds of railway vehicles.


2) Who invented a train horn?


Air Chime Limited was the pioneer in introducing the train horns by the work of Robert Swanson in 1949. Prior to the early 1950s, locomotives were equipped with air horns that sounded but a single note. Swanson, using ancient Chinese music theory, sought to develop an air horn which would mimic the sound of a classic steam whistle and managed to produce a six-note model which was known as the famous H6. Later Swanson refined his H6 model in H5, which gave the sound of a five-note chord.


3) When did the train horn come in mass production?


In 1953 – 1954, with the guidance of Swanson, Air Chime focused on mass production of air horns for trains which were low maintenance and more reliable, which became famous as the P-series & K-series models.


4) What are the uses of a train horn?


The main purpose of using a train horn is to alert people and animals to the presence of a train, mainly when it is approaching a crossing. These horn devices are mostly used for acknowledging signals given by railway employees.


5) How does a train horn function?


Train horns are mostly mounted either on top of the cab roof or in front of the cab near the bell. On locomotives with high short hoods the air horn can be located away from the operating cab. Whereas on newer locomotives the horn is mounted at top of the engine compartment due to noise complaints from the train crew.


6) Where is the train horn located in a train?


Train horns are mostly mounted either on top of the cab roof or in front of the cab near the bell. On locomotives with high short hoods the air horn can be located away from the operating cab. Whereas on newer locomotives the horn is mounted at top of the engine compartment due to noise complaints from the train crew.


7) Is the train horn used in vehicles other than locomotives?


Train horns at one time were actually made for trains. Later the train horn kits were used in fire trucks, ambulances and other large vehicles that needed to warn others of their presence on the road, the reason being simple that they produced loud sounds to immediately clear their way off on the roads. Perhaps this is the reason that earlier they were also used in emergency vehicles like ambulances and fire trucks. Most of the fire trucks in the United States still use the air horns with shutter tone.  Today, train horns are used as an automotive accessory for people to use in Off Road situations.


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