Many American factory towns used steam whistles to alert laborers at a time when clocks and watches were rare. For over a hundred years, Corning Glass Works has blown a piercing steam whistle eight times a day, signaling the workers to awaken, to come to work, to start and stop lunchtime, and to return home.
"An homage to Corning, NY, and its Factory Whistle. Words and music copyright 2018, Mary Lu and Willie Walker." - Willie Walker
The Corning whistle operates Monday through Saturday and it can be heard throughout the valley:
6:45 a.m. - two blasts
7:00 a.m. - one blast
7:45 a.m. - two blasts
8:00 a.m. - one blast
Noon - one blast
12:45 p.m. - two blasts
1:00 p.m. - one blast
5:00 p.m. - two blasts
Each blast lasts for seven seconds.
Factory whistles became a symbol of the power of American industry, and of the hometown factory. While modern workers no longer need the timely blasts, Corning decided to continue the tradition.
On Tuesday, February 2, 2010, the steam whistle, formerly on the roof of Corning Incorporated's Southside powerhouse, moved to the Northside power plant located on Museum Way. After the whistle moved, the sound became louder on the Northside, and there is no volume control. To achieve a "robust" sounding whistle (versus a weak and sickly sounding one), it has to operate at a non-adjustable volume.
Corning Incorporated replaced an aging and inefficient steam-generating system on the Southside with a high-efficiency hot-water system, resulting in a lack of steam to operate the historic whistle. However, the combined heat and power system on the north side of the river generates high pressure steam; hence the relocation of the whistle.
The new Southside Powerhouse system is better sized to meet the needs of the Southside campus, and will result in a 20-percent reduction in total energy consumption as well as 20 percent fewer emissions.
- Nancy J. Earley, MuseNews, 1 February 2010