A New York engineer who created a memorable and noisy holiday tradition is being honored for his work for helping to preserve a piece of city history. It's all about a love of maritime machines and making noise.
Conrad Milster loved to collect whistles while he worked. Showcasing his steam whistles from ships, he say, "this spent about 60 years crossing the Hudson River," he told us pointing to a large whistle in his garage. His garage and shed are filled with collectables 20-some whistles, various pressure gauges, and other nautical items. Milster has been enamored with the steam whistles and ships since he was young.
"You can see the love of design that the builders of this old machinery had," Milster said.
His whistles inspired an unusual tradition in Brooklyn where he lived and worked for 60 years as Pratt Institute's chief engineer. He wanted to sound some of his steam whistles and decided one would mind the noise if he did it on New Year's Eve.
“I thought, I would really like to hear what this sounds like. When can we sound it without getting in trouble? New Year’s Eve!” It went on for five decades but the annual party ended in 2014.
Now Mistler is celebrating his love of maritime objects in a new way. At Staten Island Arts in St. George, where Milster is one 10 New Yorkers being honored as a Waterfront Hero and pieces from his collection are on display.
“A whistle is basically an organ pipe on steam.” The longer the whistle, the deeper the note.
Since moving to Staten Island, Mistler says he'd need a portable boiler to bring the annual tradition to Staten Island. But in fact with some encouragement, he found an easier way. Blowing the air from his vacuum on the reverse setting could do the trick.
The exhibit, ‘Waterfront Heroes’ is up through the end of the year. It’s not yet known if Conrad will blow his whistles anytime soon.