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The Foghorn (TOOT)

Duluth's historic diaphone foghorn, unused for more than a year, was dismantled between September 2006 and July 2007 and its components put in storage by TOOT (reTurn Our Old Tone), the non-profit owner of the horn. Reader forum comments from the Duluth News Tribune are continued below from an earlier page. We'll add more on Duluth's historic horn as time allows. Contact Us to send your thoughts for publication here.



TOOT, page 1
This page: More commentary from the Duluth News Tribune's moderated Forum
TOOT, page 3


Eric Ringsred once again takes no responsiblity for the failure of his idea. He and his father bullied those who lived on the Central Hillside who could not sleep as a result of the foghorn. Their unwillingness to hear and work with us is part of the reason for the demise. Their unwillingness to work with city officials is another reason. I have never been called so many names as when I spoke out about how this horn disrupted my life. The elder Ringsred advised my husband to put wet cottonballs in his ears in order to sleep. Liking the foghorn became a litmus test for being a real Duluthian. I'm glad it is gone--even tho it was great at noon and would have been wonderful for special occasions. If Ringsred had been willing to use it for those reasons, it still might be blowing. Sally Larson, East Hillside residence and real Duluthian because I love this city.

Posted by: Sally Larson 9/27/2006 8:44 AM


I was born and raised in Duluth, but have lived elsewhere for the past 15 years. I've always had my eye on returning someday, but this clinches it. No way. What is it with the state of Minnesota and it's stubborn resistance to supporting anything worthwhile? Maybe you won't need the foghorn, because you'll have the distant sound of my laughter echoing across the lake when you lose the Vikings because you're too slow to build a stadium.

Posted by: Saratoga Forever 9/27/2006 8:53 AM


Every single time we hear the "peanut" whistle, my wife and I look at each other with a "what the..." expression. She grew up in Duluth, I grew up in the cities and we both love the memory of hearing the foghorn. We live by UMD and would occasionally wake up hearing the foghorn, if the wind was blowing in the right direction. And it could be sunny at our house and heavy fog in the harbor and we would hear that lovely, goosebump generating foghorn. We miss it, our kids miss it, tourists miss it. As much as I like the church bells at noon and six, the foghorn downtown at 9 am, noon and six would have been classic and classy.

Posted by: Steve 9/27/2006 8:56 AM


How sad. Such a wonderful part of Duluth and its history.

Posted by: 9/27/2006 9:11 AM


The foghorn is a unique part of Duluth history. It is sad to think of it totally disappearing from our great city. The $15,000 needed to repower it is not much money and would be well worth the cost to save a special feature of the Duluth harbor area.

Posted by: Jean 9/27/2006 9:12 AM


It is a shame to loose such a unique characteristic to our city that distinquishes it from others. I hope to hear it again someday.

Posted by: shawn 9/27/2006 9:26 AM


All you idiots can talk about is "tradition". Where is the money for upkeep, operatations and liability going to come from? When the money is diverted from rebuilding streets for some stupid fog horn, then you would complain about the streets. If you really wanted the fog horn you would step up, raise the money and develop a plan for operating it. This city has too many fundamental problems and needs to go back to getting the basics of a city intrastructure right before it needs to waste time/money on something like this.

Posted by: Duh! 9/27/2006 9:28 AM


It is horrible that Duluth and the Coast Guard are not working harder to preserve history.

Posted by: 9/27/2006 9:30 AM


Wake up Duluth ! Mr. Toot (a.k.a. the foghorn) is a Duluth icon something tourist and local identify with our beautiful city. Roads will always need repair, the city will never have enough money to satisfy the wants of such a diverse city and negative attitudes will always be with us but the opportunity to audibly brand Duluth as the Jewel of the Great Lakes comes once in a life time - $15,000 for new power is peanuts compared to the lost of prestige and identity.

Posted by: Dennis Hamsher 9/27/2006 9:58 AM


What a tradtion in duluth that will be missed such a same the city don't get off thier high horse and keep the tradition alive.

Posted by: 9/27/2006 10:02 AM


You can run 3-phase equipment from a single-phase source. Refer to:

Another answer is to purchase a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD). It takes single-phase power, converts it to DC, then electronically converts it to 3-phase. As a general rule you can figure on spending about $100 per horsepower of the driven motor. Older VFD's had to be somewhat over-sized due to inefficiencies, but the newer ones are pretty efficient.

I would think that you could find a local electrician(s) to volunteer their time to install the equipment if the materials were provided to them. This important part of Duluth's aural history should not be lost.

Posted by: Bob Halverson 9/27/2006 10:02 AM


I grew up with the fog horn. I never needed a weather report, I could hear it, and I loved it.

I am so sorry the Dr. Ringsred gave up and sorrier still that the City and the Coast Guard couldn't see their way to support it, the cost was peanuts compared to the other city costs and liabilities.

The sound was as much a part of Duluth as Enger Tower, the Arial Bridge, Lake Superior, Etc,Etc.

So sad!

Posted by: Molly Evans 9/27/2006 10:06 AM


Such a shame that the city and Coast Guard don't get together and keep the rich tradition of Duluth and it's history of the city intacked, what a bunch of BULL!!

Posted by: Sean Farrell 9/27/2006 10:09 AM


What a sad day for Duluth. It was definitely a Duluth icon. I grew up in Duluth in the 80s and 90s and remember hearing it in my bedroom all the way up near Woodland and Arrowhead. I no longer live in Duluth, but every time I visited it was nice to hear that familiar sound.

Posted by: 9/27/2006 10:24 AM


Every port city should have one, it's like apple pie without ice cream.

Posted by: scott 9/27/2006 10:31 AM


During the campaign to bring the diaphone foghorn back to Duluth a distinguished Navy admiral said that there should be at least one of them preserved for maritime history. Letters of support came in from throughout the country including a letter from an ore boat captain who said that even with modern navigational equipment the foghorn was still useful in some situations.

Over the years the TOOT organization received many letters from tourists who were surprised and delighted to discover that Duluth had a "real" foghorn. Indeed, there are only three other diaphones in the world still in continuous operation.

On the local level, TOOT had some very vocal critics but I believe they were a minority. I think most Duluthians, particularly those who grew up with the foghorn, value Duluth's maritime heritage and will be very disappointed to have the diaphone's sonorous signal permanently replaced by the Coast Guard's wimpy "peanut whistle."

I don't understand the liability issue. Under the old system, if the diaphone failed the Coast Guard whistle automatically switched on, so where's the liability if the three phase wiring is repaired and that system is restored? This needs to be more fully explained by the DNT.

And realistically, what are the risks (with GPS devices in common use) of being sued over a foghorn failure? I challenge Dick Larson to ask any insurance company. Liability? What a joke, and what an insult to the public's intelligence.

When TOOT restored the foghorn it was national news and CBS featured it on its nightly news broadcast. I have a feeling the demise of the foghorn will be national news too. Then the nation can see that Duluth spent millions of dollars on one of the most ill-conceived and laughable tourist attractions in America (GLA)and rejected one of the finest historical treasures on the Great Lakes for want of fifteen thousand dollars (see the GLA tourism tax subsidy) and fear of a highly improbable lawsuit.

Posted by: Eric Dings 9/27/2006 10:37 AM


How sad that we too in Duluth have given in to society's thinking that anything over 50 years has no value.

Posted by: 9/27/2006 10:47 AM


So sad to lose an iconic Duluth sound. I was born in Duluth and lived there for 30 years, with the sounds of the foghorn coming across the water on foggy days and nights. It was always a comforting sound to me. Perhaps we were made of stronger stuff then: no wimpiness about our "sleep being disturbed". It seems obvious that the Coast Guard has wanted to be rid of the fog horn for decades. Perhaps, next there will be complaints that the lighted bridge disturbs people's sleep...or...

Posted by: michelle 9/27/2006 10:52 AM


We moved to Duluth in 1958 and lived in an apartment in downtown area. We really loved the foghorn. to us is was a soothing sound. We always knew if we needed to get up a little earlier because of the fog on the drive to work. We have always thought of it as a great attraction for Duluth. Our friends would come to visit and enjoyed the mournful sound and loved the sea port atmosphere. We have missed the foghorn all these past years. What a lose for Duluth's tourist industry and the people that live here. After all these years of living in Duluth we feel this is our home town and always enjoyed the uniqueness of Lake Superior. We miss the foghorn. We have been supporters of "TOOT" and very sad to have the horn leave our city. Evelyn and James Frazier

Posted by: 9/27/2006 11:10 AM


Very sad, I just can't believe a few whiners in town can end something that been around for so many years. I have lived in Duluth since birth and right up from the lake and with windows open every night never kept me awake ever.Too bad the city and the coast guard can't get together to maintain it.

Posted by: So sad... 9/27/2006 11:17 AM


This is a decision that should have been made by the people of Duluth and in turn paid for if Duluth wants to keep it. A part of Duluth is canal park, the ships, the horn etc. -

Posted by: Tiffany Pavcovich 9/27/2006 11:20 AM


It is annoying as heck if you live near the water. On foggy days, that thing blows non-stop, making sleep impossible. Just because it doesn't keep some awake, doesn't mean it doesn't irritate the heck out others....about time.

Posted by: Chris 9/27/2006 11:32 AM


I give it 20 years till the yuppies start complaining that the bridges horn is too loud and they remove it. How long till they make the train yard on Garfield a "quiet zone"? Being born in this city, in the hillside, these are the sounds that I love. THIS IS A PORT TOWN!!! Aren't we trying to sell it as that to the tourists? It really is a shame this city doesn't do more to preserve such things. They don't need to keep everything, but the fog horn should be a no brainer. But they have aquariums to build, hotels to subsidise, and parking ramps to build for the hotels, hospitals, and developers they give our money to. And retiree health care issues to ignore. Go Duluth!!

Posted by: Jeremiah 9/27/2006 11:42 AM


The fog horn was a learning tool for us as small children. We asked our parents about its function, giving them the chance to educate us about our Port, Great Lakes transportation, and the world in which we lived.

Posted by: Sidonia Slabodnik Schumann 9/27/2006 11:47 AM


The Foghorn (TOOT), continued: And more commentary ... »

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