Hearing the sounds of old Youngstown at today's Steam Whistle Blow


Mike McCleery’s father, the late Robert McCleery, was able to stand in his Lucius Avenue backyard and instantly hear when a steam-powered shearing device was cutting metal several miles away.

“He could tell that all the way from there because he did that,” Mike McCleery said, referring to one of the duties his father performed at U.S. Steel Corp.’s Ohio Works plant off Madison Avenue on the city’s North Side. “He knew the sounds.”

Some of those sounds also took on a familiar refrain for the younger McCleery because he was part of today’s fourth annual Steam Whistle Blow gathering at the B&O Station Banquet Hall, 530 Mahoning Ave., downtown. Hosting the event was the Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association.

For $1 each, attendees blew steam and other whistles during the five-hour fundraiser, which sought to raise money to develop a museum and to go toward the association’s efforts to preserve its locomotives and mill railroad rolling stock, all displayed at the James Marter Yard on Poland Avenue, noted George Seil, an MVRHA co-founder.

For $20, MVRHA members connected to a steam generator whistles that visitors brought.

The steam-whistle sounds, many of which marked shift changes and were ubiquitous features of life in the Mahoning Valley, have been dormant since the area’s major steel mills along the Mahoning River, Poland Avenue and elsewhere shuttered in the late 1970s and early 1980s. On Saturday, however, long-ago sounds from the whistles were revived and filled the air, and sparked many people’s memories.

Read more about the event in Sunday's Vindicator or on Vindy.com.

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