You must be mad!’ That’s the response Andy Filewood usually encountered when he told people he wanted to fit a steam whistle to a Land Rover.
An engineer by trade, Andy revelled in the challenge and knew that it must be possible. He bought his 1990 Defender 90, the perfect tow vehicle for his unique mobile whistle display and ideal for his mad project. Andy’s collection of whistles – from ships and trains, traction engines and factories all over the world – is the only mobile display of its kind in the UK.
One whistle is a bit different: a three-chime whistle originally fitted to Engine 41, a steam locomotive which ran on the Butte, Anaconda and Pacific Railroad in Montana, USA. That’s the one fitted on his Defender with the help of some pipe, a valve, an old air horn compressor and a fire extinguisher.
Mounting the whistle on to the Defender was easier said than done. Andy originally wanted to use air, not steam, to power the whistle. The first attempt didn’t supply enough air, so Andy unearthed a 230v air compressor and a static inverter to run it from the vehicle’s 12-volt electrics.
The whistle was mounted on the roof, just off centre to avoid the strengthening member. Inside the cab, it was connected to the whistle valve, allowing easy access to the valve lever from the front seat. The inverter was bolted to the bulkhead and the compressor mounted to the wheelarch. Once connected to power, the whistle could be heard for miles, but not for long. The air supply was soon used up, with the compressor unable to keep up with demand.
Andy soon had his solution – an old fire extinguisher. Using the extinguisher and a welding gas bottle fitted behind the bulkhead, he could store much more air, without the need for the compressor to be constantly running, allowing the whistle to blow perfectly every time.
So if you think you heard a steam train coming, think again. It’s probably just a Defender!
This owner review appeared in the April 2011 issue of LRO. Current and Back issues are available to download on digital devices here. Please note, we only hold stocks of the the last three back issues.