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Sounds of our era

Old Koreelah

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This arvo my neighbour fired up her big ride-on mower.  It’s big V-twin motor sure sounds better than the standard Victa.

That got me thinking; as internal combustion engines gradually fade from history, will we miss their sound?


What engine noises get your heart racing? I recall old blokes raving about the lovely sounds made by coal-burning, smoke-belching steam locos.

For me it’s the sound of twin cylinder motorcycles from the 60s and 70s and big round aero engines- the ones I first heard as a kid.

I have a racing mate who gets emotional about the scream of a two-stroke; his first bikes were little Yamahas.


Are our favourite sounds imprinted on us at our most impressionable age?

Music almost certainly is; much of the guitar-dominated music of my youth endures as classics.


Will our children wax lyrical to their grandkids about the first Tesla they heard?

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I love the roar of an approaching aircraft and then its departing song, exactly the same as the old steam trains. The exciting bit is the doppler effect.

Nothing nicer than my RV4 at full song doing a fly by at 150kts.

Another great engine noise is the gentle sigh of a steam traction engine at rest, then the increasing beat is it speeds up. An old Ford V8 side valve just gently ticking over was hard to hear and equally sweet.

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My favorite is a 700 HP,  V12 Cummins diesel. So quiet and smooth, yet still a true V12 burble. AFAIC, the V12 engine is the pinnacle of engine design. And of course, who doesn't love the sound of a Merlin at full noise!


The sound of a really huge, big-bore diesel is also very impressive. At the Redross Nickel Mine, where I worked in 1975, the mine powerplant was a 1600 KVA English Electric, turbocharged, V16 diesel.


It ran at 750 RPM full load, from memory. The note of that huge V16 as she produced full power when the winder driver engaged the drum to lift the skips, was pure music to me.

Edited by onetrack
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pmccarthy - Yes, I knew Clive Annear, but I can't recall John James. The brother and I started at Redross in 1974, by building the haul road to the sandpit for the mine sand backfill.

I then got the contract to haul the sand to the plant from the mine in early 1975, and worked there, doing two shifts by myself, for just about the whole of 1975.


Then, in late November 1975, there was a push from upper management in Anaconda to try and save money, as the mine was losing money, hand over fist.

The management reckoned I was getting paid too much (and I was, too!) - so they handed the sand-hauling contract to Brambles!


But Brambles only ran it for about 2 months, then management closed the whole operation down and sold everything off!

It was a good year I had there. I made $100,000 in just under a year, starting with just an old Perkins-powered, tandem ACCO tipper, and a JCB backhoe/FEL - then around July or August I upgraded to a forward control F-785 Mack and a semi-tipper, plus a 930 Cat FEL.

$100,000 annually was a lot of money for a truck and loader in that era! Most blokes with tandem tippers back then, were getting about $12 to $15 an hour, working for the W.A. Main Roads Dept!

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