The annual Christmas Steam Whistle Concert at the New York Wire Co. in York will likely continue in 2010 -- just with air instead of steam.

Concert supporters recently played the whistle by using a large air compressor instead of a portable steam boiler, said Mark Platts, president of the Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area.

Museums and other places around the country use air instead of steam to "toot" the old steam whistles, whistlemaster Don Ryan said. He knew air would work in York, too, but he didn't know how the music would sound.

Ryan played "God Bless America" and tested the scale for 30 to 45 minutes on the morning of Sept. 8. They'll need a larger air compressor for the carols early Christmas morning, Ryan said, but he's pleased with what he heard.

"It's just like: Wow, I don't even have to rewrite the music," he said. "It is looking very good for this Christmas."

The name of the concert will be tweaked as well to replace the word "steam" with "factory." That's one thing that concert-goers will miss -- seeing the steam come off of the roof, Ryan said.

The whistle concert has been in jeopardy through the years. The boiler at the New York Wire Co. broke in 2005, and the company decided it was too expensive to fix it.

Since then, concert supporters have paid to bring a portable boiler in from New Jersey for the annual tradition. However, that was expensive as well.

The concert last year cost about $15,000, and Platts' organization, which has coordinated logistics and funding for the concert, said it could no longer afford to sponsor it.

Daniel G. Meckley III, who serves on the heritage region board, offered to form an independent committee to keep the whistle concert going. He's a steam whistle enthusiast.

The air compressor is estimated to cost $400 to $600, and concert supporters hope to receive some donated services, Platts said. Money is still left in a fund for the concert, which includes donations made after last year's event.

Besides keeping the concert going, Meckley said, he wants to work on enhancing the whistle exhibit at the Agricultural & Industrial Museum in York. The museum is part of the York County Heritage Trust.

Ryan said he credits New York Wire Co. with helping to keep the concert going.

The company had to take its air compressor down for repairs recently, so it rented one large enough that Ryan could test the whistle earlier this month.

The company also takes the whistle down, which becomes loose from the vibration, and puts it back together.

Ryan said he couldn't play the concert if he didn't have the whistle.

Using the air compressor will provide a good simulation for the steam-powered whistle.

"It's going to sound very close to it, and I'm very pleased with it," Ryan said.

Also of interest

· New York Wire's musical factory steam whistle - by the numbers.