Musical Mechanical Wonders

I’m a sucker for mechanical things. Things that move, jiggle, whir, spin, and clatter. They don’t have to do anything or be useful although practicality does add a certain  level of elegance to an otherwise purely entertaining device.

A long time ago (in the early ‘60s) during a family vacation to Yellowstone Park, we passed through Virginia City, Montana. There, I discovered the world of mechanical musical instruments. A whole building full of coin-operated devices: wind-up music boxes, pump organs, player pianos, nickelodeons, player banjos and violins. And my favourite: the player trumpet. Awfully out of tune, breathy and wheezy, and so wonderfully loud. I plugged a lot of coins into that beast.

We just made another visit to the Nethercutt Collection, in Sylmar, California (at the northern edge of greater Los Angeles). It’s known mainly for its restored vintage cars, but the collection has so much more. It’s also known for its mechanical musical instrument collection, lovingly restored, kept in perfect operating condition, and played every day.

From tiny music boxes right up to the featured mighty Wurlitzer theater pipe organ, the tour is accompanied every step of the way by whirring spinning musical machines.

I was taken back in time. I was serenaded. I was in heaven



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