If Times Square is too gaudy, crowded, and frankly insane for you, then there is another New York tradition worth your New Year's Eve—one that is, in fact, ending tonight. For the past fifty years, the Pratt Institute has set out its amazing collection of big old steam whistles out on the lawn of its Brooklyn campus. Tonight's your last chance to steam blast your way into the new year.
With the school closed for the holidays, Pratt's steam whistle New Year's Eve celebration is all-volunteer effort lead by the school's chief engineer, Conrad Milster. Milster been in charge of Pratt's collection for decades, salvaging steam whistles from trains, factories, ships (including the Normandie). He's even made a few of his own, including a calliope, an instrument akin to an organ but powered by steam (see video above.).
Merrymakers are free to go up to the whistles, pull on a rope, and let loose a blast that can be heard far and wide. In the 19th century, New Yorkers would have heard such a blast every time a ships and trains left or arrived.
Chief engineer Conrad Milster blows a steam whistle.
We're generally pretty anti-steampunk here at Gizmodo, but Pratt's steam whistle New Year's Eve celebration is the real deal historically. The Pratt Institute, now a design school, was originally founded to train engineers in 1887. It closed its engineering school in 1993.
Now, it's the end of an another era. Last year, the New York Times reported that Pratt was discontinuing the New Year's Eve tradition out of safety concerns. The school was allowing one last celebration in 2015. Milster considered making last year's celebration the last, but he seems to have been convinced to make one last hurrah.