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Paul Freiling's Wood-Whistle Calliope & Do Nothing Machine
Wooden Whistle Calliope
Paul E. Freiling and the "Calliette"
by Paul Freiling
Digital camera images by Lee Roan

Click to hear "Stars and Stripes Forever" (8kb MIDI file)

call.jpg I was born in April 1921 and raised in Hannibal, Missouri, on the Mississippi River. I grew up hearing the Streckfuss excursion boats playing the calliopes (steam, of course), and also, being somewhat of a circus buff, have always loved the sounds of calliopes.  Several years ago, not being financially able to buy one, I decided that I could build one. I am a retired machinist, with a shop in my back yard, where I can make about anything I take a notion to.  I really didn't know quite what I was doing, but I learned as I went. It's a long story, but it came out very well.

MVC-002S.jpg Paul Freiling, left, with Robbie Rhodes.  When I learned the price of brass tubing I changed my plans and instead built the whistles of maple wood.  The pressure is 1 psi, or about 28 inches water column.  Some organ guys can't believe it, but that's typical for an outdoor air calliope!


MVC-003S.jpg Inside the cabinet is

230 feet of hose, from 5/8" down to 5/32",
  30 feet of copper plumbing pipe,
  48 feet of select Maple (pipes),
  43 each of copper elbows, pipe nipples, jam nuts,
  16 feet of 3/8" copper tubing,
  30 feet of 6-32 threaded rod,
  25 feet of aluminum channel,
  120 feet of 3/16" stainless welding rod (pull-rods from pneumatics to keys),
  2 industrial vacuum motors.
  The whistle base and the tuning plug were made from one piece of wood, milled flat and then sawn into two pieces.  I just made the cross section area the same as the old Tangley whistles, and then adjusted the other dimensions for a nice sound.


MVC-004S.jpgAt the rear of the cabinet is the spool frame which plays calliope A-rolls, and also a Devtronics MIDI receiver so that MIDI disk files of calliope tunes can be played.  The instrument has 43 whistles, beginning at F below middle C, the same as a CA43 Tangley.  The tracker bar is tubed to Wurlitzer unit valves, which operate individual pneumatics, which in turn pull down the keys, which opens a poppet valve to the pipes.


The shaft of the poppet valve goes vertically down the inside of the copper elbow.  A short length of smaller copper tubing is soldered into the elbow to support the valve stem.  The photo shows each valve stem with a compression spring and lock nuts, and a leather nut on top which the keys set upon.


MVC-016S.jpgSeveral years ago I designed and built a printer that fits on the rear of the Calliope.  The recording machine prints a blue line on the blank paper roll when a key is played.  Tiny knurled wheels normally press gently against the inked roller above them;  when a key is pressed a solenoid moves the inked wheel into contact with the paper.


MVC-005S.jpgI built this little frame punch to punch holes in the paper which was marked by the roll recording machine.  The solenoid operates when a foot pedal is depressed, with the current controlled by a motor-driven rotary interrupter.  I added the interrupter because my ankle was getting tired from pushing the pedal for every punch.  But after punching several rolls, I decided that going electronic might be easier.


headon1.jpgI made the MIDI system myself.  I wound 12-volt coils in two banks of 21 notes, and teed them into the tubes from the tracker bar. The solenoids pull a plunger away from an opening to let air into the tube.  That way I can use either system, A-roll or MIDI.


MVC-006S.jpgThe marvelous "Do-Nothing Machine".  Out of view on the back side is a small electric gear motor which slowly drives the plywood turntable, while another electric motor or two turns everything else.  Deep inside the tightly packed collection of assorted shafts and gears is the remains of a Norden bomb sight from World War 2, and the rest just grew and grew!  It was built from 1946 to 1952 by Lawrence F. Walstrom, Los Angeles, California.  With over 750 gears, chains, etc., it accomplishes absolutely nothing!  I wrote this article following several years ago to explain it.

The Do-Nothing Machine

This Machine, which is undoubtedly the most complex assemblage of Bicuspidary discs, was designed either by Government Engineers, or a committee, which is why as you see it, it goes nowhere, and does nothing. It was originally designed as a striking mechanism for a mantle clock, but it seems to have gotten carried away, with delusions of grandeur.

The three electrically powered motive forces, are gravitationally free, non-synchronal, trapezoidal seclusion wound, and in the Delta configuration. This of course prevents total flocture in case of power failure during critical lunar phases. In the event this happens, the operator must search rapidly, and diligently to find the cause of the escaping electrons, so that there is not an excess of stray electrons massing in the immediate area, which would tend to create some inaudible sounds toward the lower brackets.

The spherical metal mass orbiting in the redundantly circular raceway, is advanced rearward, due to the three epicyclic framatoidal cams, which are timed in sequential order.

Due to the inherent possibility during startup, of exceeding the Torsional Modulus of Elasticity, from the Polar Moment of Inertia, prior to final assembly, all shafts, except those which were castellated, were Frenelized in an uncontrolled Hydrostatic atmosphere to the equivalent of maximum kilopascals on the circumareolar scale.

There are 764 gears of all types, connected to each other, either by tooth, chain, shaft or otherwise, all going round and round, for the sole purpose of viewing by people who have nothing else to do, but watch it go round and round.

Paul E. Freiling
Fullerton, California

06 Dec 1998, 04 June 2001, 6 Sept. 2006

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