Whistle Blow grabbed attention in Youngstown Saturday

By Sean Barron



The morning sound of numerous industrial whistles may have wakened some people, but for others, the high- and low-pitched noises awoke memories.

“These whistles can be heard as far away as Hubbard,” said Curtis Myers, a trustee with the Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association.

Myers was referring to the sounds that filled the air for miles around and were the feature of Saturday’s fourth annual “Whistle Toot” event at the B&O Station Banquet Hall, 530 Mahoning Ave.

Some people paid $20 to blow whistles, all of which were attached to a standard manifold steam machine, and proceeds were to benefit the association’s efforts to establish a steel-mill railroad rolling stock and locomotive museum at the five-acre Jim Marter Yard, 1340 Poland Ave., in Youngstown.

Dozens of people, many with video cameras and wearing earphones, heard a variety of attention- grabbing steam whistles not heard in the area since many of the area’s steel mills closed in the late 1970s. Some were warning sounds from steam locomotives and others denoted shift changes as well as trouble or maintenance at the mills.

The 60-member heritage association, formed in 1985, lists as its main goal obtaining, restoring and displaying railroad equipment that served the Valley, with an emphasis on unique equipment used in and around the steel industry, its mission statement says.

The sounds invoked many memories for Michael D. Vasilchek, an MVRHA member.

“This was an everyday occurrence to hear whistles,” recalled Vasilchek, a 1970 Youngstown State University graduate whose father, Mike, was a foreman at LTV Steel Corp., where he worked 43 years.

The younger Vasilchek brought a photograph of the “Big D” blast furnace the day before it was demolished by a dynamite charge Sept. 8, 1985. Vasilchek also had a picture of his father watching the 3,000-ton furnace’s demise.

The “Big D” was one of several blast furnaces that made up LTV Steel Corp’s Campbell Works, once part of the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. The furnaces provided iron for the world and set production records for the Valley during World War II.

The event also offered a lot of nostalgia for Jamie Davis, daughter of the late James Marter, who was president of the MVRHA.

“[My father’s] dream was to have a huge museum so kids will know things of yesteryear,” such as the history of the mills and their importance to the Valley, she said.

Tears welled up for Davis when she heard the sounds, in part because it invoked childhood memories of having chased steam trains, she said.

“My dad died three years ago in January, but he would be proud,” Davis added.

The association owns about 20 pieces of equipment such as steel-mill vehicles, noted George Seil, advertising and business manager for Poland-based OGR Publishing Inc. and an association member.

In addition, MVRHA leased a vehicle in Fort Wayne, Ind., that was the last steam locomotive run by Pacific and Lake Erie Railroad before it went out of business, Seil explained, adding that several cabooses and locomotives are on the Marter property.

No financial goal was set for Saturday’s fundraiser, Seil said.

Providing the steam heat and a free tap-in was Youngstown Thermal. Eagle Mechanical LLC of Youngstown provided the manifold machine.

For more information on the Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association, go to www.mvrha.org.

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