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Calliope Design

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U-shaped manifold on the Steamer Belle of LouisvilleThere are two general layouts for calliope whistles. The first, more traditional approach is to mount the whistles on a U-shaped manifold, or two separate manifolds side by side. The second layout involves oneStraight manifold on the Steamer Delta Queen straight manifold which leave all the whistles arranged in a single, neat row. Boats that employed the first layout include the Cotton Blossom, Sidney, Island Queen, Admiral, Belle of Louisville, Natchez, Julia Belle Swain, and American Queen. Boats that employed the second layout include the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen. The particular arrangement of the whistles on the manifold also varies. Some calliopes, especially those of the first type, arrange the whistles from lowest to highest, or tallest to shortest. Those calliopes on straight manifolds can also be arranged to form a symmetrical shape, with the lowest notes (tallest whistles) either in the middle or at the ends.

Placement of keyboard adjacent to whistles on Steamer Avalon, now Belle of LouisvilleKeyboards also take on a variety of designs. Their locations include placement next to the whistles, on the same deck but farther away, or on a separate deck, typicallyGingerbread and console on the Steamer Delta Queen outside one deck below the manifold. Originally, the calliope's linkage consisted of wire rods running from each brass key to its corresponding whistle, necessitating the placement of the keyboard directly adjacent to the whistles. Today, those rods have been replaced by electromagnetic switches, allowing the calliopist to play the instrument at a safe distance. While some consoles are very basic and lack any ornamentation, others are adorned with an extravagant casing and artistic decorations. Other embellishments include the elaborate paint job of the gingerbread surrounding the whistles on some calliopes, and colored lights that, when used at night, turn the steam into a multi-colored display.

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