Thunderbolt siren

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Federal Thunderbolt siren

The Thunderbolt siren is a warning siren that was once manufactured in the United States by Federal Signal Corporation. The Thunderbolt siren consists of three major components: the blower, rotator and siren chopper. The blower, which is made up of a motor-driven Roots-type supercharger, supplies the large volume of air for the siren head. It is housed inside a large rectangular box typically found at the base of the siren head. The blower is connected to an air standpipe which pumps 250 cubic feet per minute of air at 6-7 psi up to the siren head. The rotator is a motor-driven gear unit which rotates the directional horn/projector to direct the sound in all directions. The chopper is located in the cylindrical housing that the horn/projector attaches to at the top of the siren. The siren chopper motor in the Thunderbolt siren is actually the same siren motor used in the Federal's Model 2 siren. The siren chopper in the Thunderbolt operates in the same manner as any conventional siren. As the chopper rotor spins air pulses are generated by the rapid opening and closing of the chopper openings. This generates the sound the siren makes. The primary difference in the Thunderbolt siren is that the air supplied by the blower is pumped through the siren resulting in a greatly increased sound volume and distinct sound generated by the Thunderbolt siren.

The Thunderbolt siren is operated by a control panel called an RCM Panel. This panel consists of the three relays that switch the three components of the siren on and off. The RCM panel also has a time delay relay and circuit. This time delay section keeps the blower and rotator operating in the attack signal while the siren chopper motor is switched on and off which produces the up-and-down pitch of the attack signal. With the blower and rotator operating as the siren motor is switched on and off the Thunderbolt maintains a high level of sound output. An additional important feature of the RCM panel is a transformer in the siren/chopper electrical circuit. This transformer has seven different voltage taps from 120 volts up to 240 volts. This allows the top pitch of the siren to be changed as desired when the siren is installed. A siren with the chopper connected to the 120volt transformer tap will sound at a lower top pitch than a siren connected at the 240volt transformer tap.

History[edit]

Watch a Federal Signal Thunderbolt 1003 in alert mode

The Federal Thunderbolt was the siren of choice by many Civil Defense authorities and emergency management agencies from the early 1950s through the late 1970s. The main marketing point of the Thunderbolt by Federal Signal was the fact that the siren, since it uses a blower to move air through the siren rotor, maintains a high sound output at all siren pitches when the siren is in operation. Normally aspirated sirens lose sound output because of the reduced air flow through their rotors as the siren runs down during the coast down during the wail or attack signal. Since the Thunderbolt was introduced in 1952 during the beginning of Cold War tensions as primarily an attack warning siren the high volume during all phases of the attack signal was stressed in advertising the siren by Federal. The attack signal was a series of wailing tones to alert of immediate danger. One of the most distinguishing features of the Thunderbolt siren's sound is the dramatic volume in the down-pitch phase of the signal. It's usually this part of the signal that carries the farthest and is the most "attention-getting."[1]

With the discontinuation of federal matching funds for civil defense equipment in the late 1970s-early 1980s the sales of the Thunderbolt siren declined. The Thunderbolt was a very expensive siren to purchase new. The January 1, 1979 Federal Signal Price List lists the price of a new 1000 Thunderbolt siren from $6684.25 up to $7716.75 depending on the model. In addition to that the necessary control panels to operate the siren were $837.00 for the main motor control panel and $236.00 for the additional control panel needed to operate the 1003 model of Thunderbolt.

Federal's development of new types of sirens also led to the end of the Thunderbolt. In Late 1988, Federal Signal introduced a new single-tone siren called the 2001 Series. This siren can utilize a DC (battery) backup power feature, enabling the siren to be operated during a power failure, operates on only 2 motors, and requires far less maintenance. As the Thunderbolt only operates on AC power, the introduction of the 2001 Series spelled the end of the Thunderbolt siren, and Federal Signal phased out the Thunderbolt series, as well as many other of its sirens, by 1990.

Models[edit]

The Thunderbolt was first produced by Federal Enterprises (now Federal Signal Corporation) in 1952 and its use continued through the Cold War.

There were 3 models manufactured, most of them producing approximately 125dB sound pressure level at 100 feet (30 m):

  • Model 1000, a single-tone siren capable of two signals (alert and attack). (126dB at 100 feet)
  • Model 1000T, a dual-tone version of the 1000.
  • Model 1003, a dual-tone version with the added capability of producing a High-Low signal with solenoid valves.
  • Model 2000, A Single tone thunderbolt 1000 with a gasoline powered Roots Blower

The "System 7000" line [1] was a generator back up version of the Thunderbolt. These were available as 3 separate models:

  • Model 7012, a single tone siren capable of two signals (alert and attack).
  • Model 7022, is the same as Model 7012, but is dual tone.
  • Model 7026, which uses a dual-tone Thunderbolt siren to produce six siren signals: wail, pulsed steady, steady, alternating steady, alternating wail, and pulsed wail.

The "Jailbar" Thunderbolts were some of the earliest Thunderbolts made, with a series of three sets of steel bars welded in the inside of the horn to keep obstructions from entering and causing problems. These types of Thunderbolts are rare to find because Federal Enterprises produced this style of horn for only a short period of time in the Thunderbolt's production run. The horn design was most likely to have changed sometime between 1952 to 1954 from the "Jailbar" look, to a hardware cloth screen, held in by brackets bolted to the horn instead. The most common type of Jailbar thunderbolt is the single tone 1000A, but they made few dual toned Jailbar 1000ATs. Also some Cities like Phoenix, AZ had "Jailbar" 2000s; which had a gas engine that powered the blower, rather than a 10 or 7 1/2 horsepower electric motor. All "Jailbar" Thunderbolts were fitted with the A1 series 6MC blower. The "Jailbar" Thunderbolts were not specifically ordered models.

In popular culture[edit]

  • In 1959, Chicago Fire Commissioner Robert J. Quinn ordered his fire chief to sound the city's civil defense alert sirens (all Thunderbolts at the time) at the moment the White Sox won the pennant, prompting many unaware citizens to be alarmed of an air raid or nuclear attack.
  • The siren was featured in many Civil Defense films including one from the early 1950s titled Let's Face It (a close up of a single tone 1000 painted black and yellow sounding the alert signal with an added in sound effect[2]).

Gallery[edit]

Cities using the Thunderbolt Siren[edit]

lGreenfield, IN l1 standing, Not Active and in the process of being replaced. l1003 l-

City,State Comments Siren model(s)
Honolulu, HI Many standing, all operational 1000T
Denver All have been removed as of Wednesday, July 24, 2013. 1000,1000T,1003
Scottsbluff, NE All In the process of being replaced. 3 still remain, operational 1003
Lake Odessa, MI 1 standing, Operational 1003
Glassport, PA Thunderbolts have been replaced 1000T
Bayard, NE 1 standing, operational 1003
Willard, OH 2 standing, Operational 1003
Brush, CO At least one standing, operational. 1003
Constantine, MI 1 standing, Operational 1003
Cincinnati, OH Many Standing, All Operational. 1000,1000T,1003
Hamilton, OH 7 Standing, All operational 1000T
Minneapolis, MN Thunderbolts have been replaced. 1000,1000T
Woodstock, OH 1 standing, Operational. 1003
Allegan, MI 1 standing, operational 1003
Sheboygan, WI 1 or more standing, operational 1000T
Marshfield, WI Inactive, No Horn. 1003
Imperial, NE 1 standing, operational. 1003
Delphos, OH 2 standing, all operational. 1003
Shamrock, TX Still operational but broken rotator and never repainted and does not have a blower. 1003
Neola, IA 1 operational. 1000T
Axtel, NE 1 standing, operational. 1003
Harrodsburg, KY 1 standing, operational, Hi-Lo used for tornado warnings. 1003
Mechanicsburg, OH 1 standing, operational. 1003
West Jefferson, OH 1 standing, operational 1003
Jonesville, MI 1 standing, operational 1003
Standish, MI 1 standing, operational 1003
Falls City, NE 1 standing, operational. 1003
Columbus, NE 1 standing, operational. 1003
Hastings, MI 1 standing, operational. Hi Lo used for Tornado warnings. 1003
Clarence Center, NY Thunderbolt removed and replaced with A Newer Siren Model. 1003
Alton, NY 1 standing, operational and always sounds Hi Lo For Tests and Severe Weather Warnings. 1003
Worthington, MN 2 Standing, Both operational. Hi Lo Used for Tornado Warnings. 1003
Hastings, NE Several Standing, Most Likely Operational. 1000,1000T,1003
Valentine, NE 1 standing, operational 1000T
Westmont, NE 1 standing, operational 1000T
St. Peter, WI 1 standing, operational 1000T
Bellchester, MN 1 standing, operational 1003
White Bear Lake, MN 2 standing, Both operational. 1003
Bloomington, MN 1 standing, operational 1003
Mendon, MI 1 standing, operational but is sick. 1000T
Beebe, AR 1 standing, operational. 1003
Moore, OK Several standing, all operational 1000T
Dallas, TX Thunderbolts have been replaced. 1000,1000T
Spearman, TX 1 standing, operational, Hi Lo used for tornado warnings. Siren 1st recorded in 1990. 1003
Hudson, MI 1 standing, operational 1003
Otsego, MI 1 standing, operational. 1003
Moores Hill, IN 1 standing, operational 1003
Lebanon, OH 1 standing, Inactive and next to a FS 2001. 1003
Napoleon, OH 2 standing, all operational 1000T
Wapakoneta, OH 5 standing, all operational, Hi Lo used for tornado warnings. 1003
Creighton, NE 1 standing, operational 1003
Central City, NE 1 standing, operational and atop a Sentry 3V8. 1003
St. Paul, NE 1 standing, operational. 1003
Orange City, IA 1 standing, operational 1003
Walnut, IA 1 standing, operational 1000T
Rosemont, MN Several standing, all operational 1000T
Worthington, MN 2 standing, operational 1003
Defiance, OH Thunderbolts have been replaced with FS 508s 1000T
Belding, MI 1 standing, operational. 1003
Albion, MI 1 standing, operational. 1003
Indianapolis, IN Thunderbolts have been dismantled. 1000T
Elkhart, IN 5 standing, All operational. 1000, 1000T
Melvindale, MI 1, in the process of being replaced. 1003
Redford, MI Thunderbolts have been replaced. 1000, 1000T
Harper Woods, MI Thunderbolts have been replaced by FS-2001-130 sirens. 1000T
Wisconsin Dells, WI Replaced with an ASC T-121 siren. 1003
La Crosse, WI In the process of being replaced. 1000,1000T
Tinley Park, IL 8 standing, all operational 1000T,1003
Lebanon, IL 1 standing, operational 1003
Matteson, IL Thunderbolts have been replaced by FS-2001-130s. 1000T
River Forest, IL Thunderbolts have been dismantled. 1000T
Canton, MI Thunderbolts have been replaced with ASC-T-128 sirens. 1003
Carrollton, MI 2 standing, all operational but in the process of being replaced. 1003
Pawnee City, NE 1 standing, operational. 1003
Manchester, NY 1 standing, operational. 1000T
Marmet, WV 1 standing, inactive. 1003
Christianburg, OH 1 standing, operational 1003
Centerville, OH Thunderbolts have been dismantled. 1000T
Harveysburg, OH 2 standing, all operational 1000T,1003
Marlette, MI 1 standing, operational. 1003
Arthur, NE 1 standing, operational and right next to a Sterling M-5. 1000T
Venedocia, OH 1 standing, operational 1000T
Lapeer, MI 1 operational. 1003
Detroit 9 standing, all operational. 1000, 1000T
Decatur, IN 1 standing, operational 1000T
New Castle, IN 1 standing, operational 1000T
Caledonia, NY 1 standing, operational 1003
Bremen, IN 1 standing, operational 1000T
Eaton, OH Thunderbolts have been replaced. 1003
Batavia, OH 1 standing, operational 1000T
Auburn, IN 4 standing, all operational 1003
Lansing, KS 1, replaced. 1003
Topeka, KS Thunderbolts have been dismantled 1000, 1000T
Wichita, KS Several standing, all operational 1000,1000T
Lenexa, KS 1 standing, operational 1000T
Sterling, CO 1 operational 1003
Grand Island, NE Several Standing, All operational 1000,1000T,1003
Syracuse, NE 1 standing, operational but next to a FS-2001. 1003
Julesburg, CO 1 standing, operational 1003
Omaha, NE All have been replaced. 1000,1000T
Belluvue, NE Replaced with FS 2001 sirens. 1003
Rosewood, OH 1 operational 1003
Bardstown, KY 1 standing, operational but next to a Whelen 4004. 1003
Muncie, IN Several standing, all operational. 1000,1000T
Plymouth, MI Thunderbolts have been replaced 1000,1000T
Temperace, MI 1 still operational 1003
Somerset, KY 1 standing, operational 1003
Paducah, KY 8 standing, all operational 1000T
Brunswick MO 1 standing, operational 1003
Ninety Six, SC 1 operational. 1003
Newberry, SC One Standing, Operational. 1003
New Hope, MN 1 standing, operational 1003
St Paul, MN Thunderbolts have been replaced 1000
St. Cloud, MN Several standing, all operational 1000,1000T
Fremont, NE 2 operational 1003
Wood River, NE Thunderbolt replaced with an ASC T-128. 1003
Kennesaw, NE 1 standing, Operational, Next to a Banshee. 1003
Shenandoah, IA 1 operational 1003
Kirkwood, MO 1 standing, operational 1000T
Gary, IN 2 standing, all operational 1000T
Holtsville, NY 1 standing, operational 1003
Copiague,NY 2 used for fire calls. 1003
Riverview, MI 1 standing, operational 1000
Grand Rapids, MI 1 standing, operational 1000T
Grand Blanc, MI 1 operational 1000
Grosse Point Woods, MI 1 standing, operational 1000T
Northville, MI 1 standing, operational 1000
Charlotte, MI 2 standing, both operational, 1 without blower. 1003
Tooele, UT 1 standing, operational 1003
Sandersville, MS 1 standing, operational 1003
Dickinson, ND All have been replaced 1003
Aitkin, MN 1 standing, operational 1003
Fostoria, OH Several standing, all operational 1000,1000T
Newark, OH 1 standing, operational 1000
Fairfield, OH Thunderbolts have been replaced 1000T,1003
Georgetown KY 1 standing, operational, tested for over 8 minutes in April 2012. 1000T
Ft Thomas, KY At least 1 standing, operational 1000T
Lansing Township, MI 3 standing, all operational 1000,1000T,1003
Lansing, MI Several standing, all operational 1000,1000T
Carbondale, IL 1 standing, operational 1000T
Sandwich, IL 1 standing, operational 1000T
Pontiac, IL Several standing, all operational 1000T
South Pekin, IL 2 standing, Used as tornado sirens. 1000T
Chicago Heights, IL 1 standing, In the process of being replaced. 1003
Waukegan, IL A few standing, status unknown. 1000T
Nashville, TN All have been replaced. 1000
West Frankfort, IL 1 standing, operational 1000T
Murraysville, PA At least 1 standing, all operational 1003
Somerset, PA 2 standing, all operational 1003
Palmyra, NY 1 standing, operational 1003
Syracuse, NY 1 left, system dismantled in the late 1990s 1000A
Schenectady, NY 1 standing, decommissioned Jailbar 1000A
Laguardia Airport, NY 2 standing, all operational 1003
Holland, MI 2 standing, all operational 1000T
Kalamazoo, MI 1 standing, operational 1000T
Battle Creek MI 1 standing, operational 1000
Warren, MI 1 standing, operational 1000
Berlin, WI 2 standing, operational 1000,1003
Ames, IA 2 standing, operational 1000T
Des Moines, IA Thunderbolts have been replaced. 1003
Cedar Rapids, IA All have been removed and replaced. 1000
Austin, MN Thunderbolts have been dismantled. 1000T
Red Wing, MN Thunderbolts have been replaced. 1000T
Burlington, KS 1, replaced with an ASC T-128. 1003
Boulder, CO 1, inactive. 1000
Amarillo, TX 2 standing, operational 1000
Little Rock,AR Many standing, All inactive. 1000,1000T,1003
Jonesboro, AR Several standing, all operational 1000,1000T
Morris, IL Thunderbolts have been replaced. 1000
Murphysboro, IL All have been replaced with FS-Modulator sirens. 1003
Dickson, TN 1 standing, operational but privately owned. 1000T
Memphis, TN Several standing, all operational 1000,1000T
Champaign, IL Several standing, all operational 1000T
Bloomington, MN 1 standing, operational 1003
White Bear Lake, MN 2 standing, both operational 1003
Lakeville, MN A few standing, operational 1000T
Peoria, IL Thunderbolts have been replaced. Unknown model.
Frankfort, KY 6 standing, all operational 1000T
Louisville, KY 32 standing, All but one operational. The City of Louisville is considering to Replace all Thunderbolt sirens and other older sirens across the county. All Thunderbolt, XT22 and other models will be replaced one at a time with Federal Signal 2001-130 Sirens. 1000,1000T
Kenilworth, IL 1 standing, Not operational 1000
East Farmingdale, NY 1 standing, operational 1003
New London, WI 1 standing, operational 1000t

See also[edit]

Civil Defense Siren

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://michigan3.ipower.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/fedsigadaug1952.jpg
  2. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wA8z94MXo9M

External links[edit]