Robert Swanson founded Airchime Ltd out of his British Columbia home making custom steam whistles.
There are countless horns on the market that claim to be train horns, but none can match the history, size, and volume of a Nathan AirChime Train Horn. For decades, railroad companies have trusted these horns to keep their conductors and haul safe, and now, you can install them on your ride!
Nathan AirChime Train Horns have been ruling the rails for longer than most of us have been alive. Back in 1953, Canadian manufacturer Airchime Ltd. refined its Nathan Truck Horn to be used on locomotives, resulting in the very first P-style Train Horns, also known as “The President’s Whistle.” These horns quickly took the rails by storm thanks to their incredible volume, low manufacturing cost, and minimal maintenance requirements. Over the years, the P-Horn has undergone various changes, with the three-chime P3 and the five-chime P5 being the most commonly seen today.
Shortly after the P-Horn’s introduction, the K-series horns made their debut in 1954. The K-Horn originally had a higher pitch than the P-horns and came in three-chime and five-chime versions known as the K3H and the K5H, respectively. Robert Swanson, the designer of both horns, believed the K-Horn to be the superior horn, with the P-Horn serving as a more cost-effective alternative. The “H” in both horn names originally stood for “High Pitch,” but now it stands for “High Bracket,” with the K5L having an “L” designator to indicate a “Low Bracket” style.
In the 1970s, Amtrak decided to bring the classic K-Horn to American rails. While they loved the overall sound, they wanted American train horns to have a lower pitch, so they altered the K5H's original D# minor 6th chord to a much brighter and cheerier B Major 6th. Around the same time, AirChime designed a new low-profile bracket to mount the horns on. With the new tuning and lower bracket, the K5LA was born, with the “L” standing for “Low Bracket” and the “A” designating American tuning. By the 1980s, the K5LA was the most popular horn used around the world and remains so to this day.