Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Year's Eve at Pratt Institute

A great way to toot in the New Year is at Brooklyn's Pratt Institute, where they have preserved a 19th century steam power engine room.

Pratt Institute steam dynamos

The engine room's Chief Engineer, Conrad Milster, has amassed a collection of wonderful steam whistles. Note that "whistle" here is kind of a misnomer: these are the annunciators found on tugboats and factories designed to be audible for miles! Anyway, Milsner has hooked his collection up to a manifold, and at the stroke of midnight he activates the steam valves, loosing a chest-juddering cacophony of steam that jets hundreds of feet into the air. It's really the most fun I've had short of blowing things up.

Also hooked up to the steam pipe was this calliope. These instruments provide the familiar carnival music associated with carousels. The trademark creepy out-of-tune sound arises from the pitch changing as the steam condenses in the organ pipes.

Steam Calliope at Pratt Institute

Here's an NY Daily News article with pictures of Conrad Milster and his setup in the daytime. Sadly it seems like this was the last year for the event.

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