Horns used by the Santa Fe

Research by Ron Chamberlain, article by Paul Brown

Updated 4-9-09


Early Era Applications (up to about 1960)



  • From photos, all had dual Wabco horns as original equipment.  Type AA (straight bell) or AAC(curved bell) were replaced by dual Leslies.  From photo evidence, the Leslie A125H & M dual horn was the standard Santa Fe replacement horn for the doodlebugs, sometime in the mid 1930’s.  Musically, it sounded G#, and B below middle C.  However, by the 1960’s some of the old worn dual Leslies were replaced outright. The M160’s horn was replaced with a Wabco model E-2 single tone, and Leslie model A 126-247 operating in tandem, sounding F, B below mid. C. The M190’s horn was replaced with a Leslie Supertyfon model S-25 single tone horn, sounding middle C..

Amos & Andy - the One Spot Twins

  • Equipped with Wabco AA2 dual tone as delivered:  Sounds D, and G below mid. C.
  • When delivered to the Santa Fe, a single Leslie Tyfon A200-156 was added to the Wabco AA2.  The Tyfon sounded D sharp below mid C.  It is not known whether the two horns were operated together. Rebuilt 1 and 10 spot appear to have had a Leslie Tyfon A-200-156/ A-125-247 combination sounding D# and B below middle C.

E1 - 3 - 6 classes (2 thru 15)

  • Equipped with Leslie A-200-156/A-125-247 as delivered - Both horns, the Leslie A200-156 and A125-247, faced forward. They were normally sounded together: D#, and B below middle C.
  • Replacement horns for the E3 and E6 classes were the Leslie Supertyfon model S-3L-R (middle C, D#, A) or S-5T-R (middle C, D# ,F# ,A, C#)

E-8m 80class(80L- 87L)

  • Dual Leslie Tyfon A-200-156, with the exception of 80L which received a Tyfon A-200-156/ Supertyfon five chime   combination creating a unique and rare six chime minor chord.
  • Passenger F3/F7 (16 and 37 class)
    • Equipped with twin Leslie A200-156 as delivered:  Left facing forward, right to the rear, and operated in tandem creating a vibrato D# below mid C. sound. 
    • In the early 50’s, some of the passenger Fs were retrofitted with five chime horns; Nathan Airchime M5R24 (C#, E, G, A, C#) in 1950, and the Leslie S5TR (mid. C, D#, F#, A, C#) in 1952.

    The Santa Fe sampled both the Nathan Airchime M5R24, and Leslie S5TR in passenger service during the early 1950’s. Although we have no official Santa Fe motive power directives, photo evidence will show that the Leslie horn won out on cowl body passenger unit retrofits by the mid sixties. In fact, all the PA’s were retrofitted with the S5TR by 1962.  There were few M5 applications when compared to the Leslies.  A notable exception was FM #90.

    The Santa Fe used a different bell (trumpet) arrangement from the Leslie recommended pattern on the majority of its Leslie fives. This is evident on all the PA's, and the majority of EMD passenger motors. The Leslie standard configuration called for the second largest bell and smallest bell or horn to be reversed, which by the way, the majority of the railroads used.

    Note: Three known Santa Fe S5T’s are preserved. One is on the F7 347C at the Calif Rail Museum and another, from the 16C, in a private collection. There is also a beautiful reconstructed  F-7 in Warbonnet colors with a Supertyfon five chime at the Age of Steam Railroad Museum in Dallas, TX.  No known Santa Fe M5R24 type horns survive.

    ALCo Passenger - #50 & PA's

    • #50 was equipped as delivered with Wabco E-2 (large horn) & A-6 (small horn). 
    • PA’s equipped with twin Wabco model E-2’s or Leslie A-200-156’s as delivered.  Right side facing forward and the left to the rear. The E-2’s sounded F below mid C in vibrato. Photo evidence also reveals some units with twin Leslie Tyfon A-200-156.  On occasion, one of the twin horns would fail and was replaced with the other type, creating a discernable discord.  D#, F below mid C.
    • Some PA’s were fitted with a Nathan Airchime M5R24 horn sometime in the 1950’s.  Both known examples were later replaced with the Leslie S5TR.  Known applications were the 57L in 1957, and the 61L in the early 1960’s. 
    • All the PA’s were retrofitted with the Leslie S5TR by 1962.

    FM #90

    • The #90 was delivered with twin Leslie A-200-156, Right side facing forward and the left to the rear. They sounded D# below mid C
    • Photos suggest retrofitted with a Nathan Airchime M5R24 by 1959

    Budd RDC 191/192

    • Appeared to have been delivered with Leslie Tyfon model A-125-2A Chime Tone. Notes were C#, and F above mid C.  Later replaced with single note Leslie model S-25.


    FT (100 class)

    • Equipped with twin Leslie A-200-156 as delivered.  Left facing forward and right to the rear and operated together creating a vibrato D# below mid C.

    Freight F3/F7 (200 classes)

    • Equipped with twin Leslie A-200-156 as delivered.  Right facing forward with the left facing to the rear, operated together to create a vibrato D# below mid C sound effect.

    F9 (281class)

    • As delivered: Supertyfon model S-2M Two bells on a two horn manifold (S-2M) on the right side and one single Supertyfon model S-25 facing rearward on the fireman’s side.  Sounded D#, and A above mid C with the A bell often over blowing to F#.

    GP7 (2650 class)

    • Early deliveries- Leslie A125-247 – short hood (forward)  – and Leslie A200-156 - long hood (rearward).  Others twin Leslie A-200-156 with one on the short hood(forward), and the other on the long hood(rearward).
    • Mid deliveries- Nathan Airchime MS-1; From photos, the MS-1 replaced many A-125-247 atop the short hood facing forward.
    • Late deliveries- Leslie Supertyfon model S-2M/S-25 combination with the S-2M on the short hood(forward) and the S-25 on the long hood(rearward)

    GP9 (700 class)

    • All deliveries. Leslie Supertyfon S-2M/S-25 combination
    • It appears from photographic evidence the first units in the 2650 class were delivered with split Leslie A125, A200’s or twin A200’ s (one short hood front, one long hood rear).  However; the horn type varied over the three year delivery period from 1950-1953.  Many had the classic Nathan Airchime MS-1, while others, toward the production run end, were equipped with the S-2M/S-25 combination. The single S-25 was intended for reverse moves.

    Freight ALCo's

    • From photos, it appears most four and six axle classes were delivered with Wabco model E-2 horns or Leslie A-200-156 horns.  Many were delivered with, or retrofitted with a Nathan Airchime MS-1 horn on the short end hood. 
    • All 800 class RSD-15 alligators were delivered with the Leslie Supertyfon S-3L-R.

    ALCo and Baldwin Switchers

    • Most were factory equipped with the Wabco A2 (long bell) sounding D above mid. C.
    • There might have been a few Wabco A6 applications on the ALCo switchers.

    EMD Switchers

    • Delivered with the Leslie Tyfon model A-125-247, sounding B below mid C.

    FM Switchers

    • Wabco A2, Nathan Airchime MS-1, or Leslie A-200-156. Check photos for positive id.  MS-1 sounds C# above mid C.

    Baldwin 2600's

    • One Wabco model E-2 horn

          Later Era Applications (+/- 1960 and later)

    The EMD Standard Horn for the Santa Fe from 1959 to the late 1970’s was the S-3L-R and variations thereof.  Beginning in the late 1970’s the Airchime model K3A both L and H versions became the standard EMD application and standard Santa Fe replacement horn.


    • A mixed bag to be sure.  Both programs included used single tone and multi chime types from the original locomotive. In attempts to standardize, many of the original horns were later replaced by either the K3LAR2 or S-3L-R types.


    • Most, if not all were equipped with the Leslie S-5T-R or S-3L-R as delivered. Some were converted to the Airchime K3LA later in their service life.
    • Most, if not all were equipped with the Leslie S-5T-R or S-3L-R as delivered.  Some were converted to the Airchime K3HAR2 and positioned mid hood later in their service life.

    SD24/GP20/GP30/GP35/GP38/SD39/SD40/SD45/early GP39-2/SD40-2/SD45-2

    • Most were S-3L-R and variations, with the exception of the GP-30.   Most GP-30s were delivered with the Supertyfon S-2M/ S-25 combination while others with the L chord U base type.  The S-2M and U base type were both located above the engineers window.  The S-25 was typically located above the conductors window and pointed to the rear.

    Late GP39-2/GP40X/GP50/GP60/GP60M&B/SD75M

  • All were Airchime K3A variations.  D#, F#, B above mid C.
  • The standard GE horn of the era was the Leslie model S-3K-R, however, the Santa Fe specified the model S-3L-R for all GEs from the 1600 class U25B to the 600 class Dash8-44CWs, with the exception of a very few of the passenger GEs of ’66-‘67.

    The big GE passenger motors of the sixties were also delivered with the Leslie Supertyfon

    S-3L-R, (although photo evidence reveals a few surprises.)  For example U30CG #400 was delivered with a Leslie Supertyfon S5TR while U28CG #358 received a Nathan Airchime M5R24.

    By the mid-eighties, many Santa Fe rebuilds were retrofitted with the K3HAR2

    In any event, new GEs continued to be delivered with the Leslie Supertyfon RS-3L-R through the mid-nineties, ending with the 600 class in 1994.

    The K5LA and three chime variant, the K3A were co-designed and developed by Deane Ellsworth in 1977. There are no known K5LA Santa Fe applications.  (The K5LA is common on Amtrak.)

    The K3A, according to Deane Ellsworth, was introduced to the Santa Fe in 1978.  While I have never seen any Santa Fe documentation, one can assume the K3A, both H and L types, soon became a system wide standard horn, and a new standard application for EMD.  A good example would be the Cleburne rebuilds (CF7s) whereby nearly all were later retrofitted with the K3LAR2 in the eighties, regardless of the prior horn’s condition.

    Deciphering the K3A and its model variations, which included the K3LA, K3LAR2, K3LAR4, K3HA, K3HAR2: 

    - The L designation means low base manifold, while the H means high base manifold. 

    - R designated bell(s) reversed. 

    - A means American tuned. 

    There may have been exceptions, of course.  The GP39-2’s, the SD40-2’s, and SD45-2’s appeared transitioning from the Leslie standard to the Airchime standard  with many soldiering on with Supertyfons. 

    ATSF seldom used the Nathan Airchime P3, P5, or the M3.

    I encountered a Santa Fe SD-40 in the mid-eighties with a P3.  It looked and sounded awkward on a Santa Fe motor.  Very few applications - rare on Santa Fe.

    There was also some very limited use of the Prime model 990 and 920 three chime.


    Remembering the Santa Fe by Olmsted

    Iron Horses of the Santa Fe Trail by Worley

    Santa Fe All the Way Vol.2 by Marvel

    Santa Fe in Color by Stagner

    Early Diesel Daze by Dr. John B. McCall

    and of course The Warbonnet. 

    Five Chime Consultants Web Site:  http://atsf.railfan.net/airhorns/  

    Trainhorns.net  Web Site:  http://trainhorns.net/ 

    Special thanks to Paul Brown and Evan Werkema

    Technical sources include Leslie, Nathan Airchime, Westinghouse Air Brake (Wabco), GE, and EMD.

    Other reading:

    Trains Magazine – July 1999 – “The 'Leslie 5': Requiem for a fallen friend” -- By Bruce Feld

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