The past in miniature.

This morning, Scott, Mariano, and I went to the New England Model Engineering Society‘s annual exhibition at the Charles River Museum of Industry in Waltham, once the capitol of American watch manufacturing. We started the morning off with breakfast at Wilson’s Diner, then headed over to the original site of the Boston Manufacturing Company, where the exhibition was taking place.
The CRMI itself is a great little museum, with everything from old printing presses to player pianos to timeclocks to paper-bag-making machines to steam engines. One of the nicest things about the museum is that they have a lot of hands-on demos, and most of the engines are either running or touchable/movable, so you can see how they work. Their current renovation project is to reconnect all the tools in their machine shop to the overhead belt drives that originally ran them. We wandered through the collections, past old fire trucks and generators, Model Ts and model steam trains, milling about with the other exhibitors and visitors. Upstairs, there was an extensive exhibit on the Waltham Watch Company, including a working clock and countless tools, engines, and devices for manufacturing everything from tiny screws to watch faces.
After an hour, we finally entered the exhibition hall, high and full of late morning light and smelling of a mix of fuel, machine oil, and steam. An engine was noisily driving a propeller nearby, and on the tables all around were an assortment of machines, everything from Stirling engines to scale models of large steam engines with flyball governors, whirring and turning at different speeds. The low-temperature Stirling engines were particularly transfixing, flat discs rising and falling like the rhythmic motion of jellyfish. On the opposite side of the room, one exhibitor, illuminated by traffic lights controlled by a foot pedal, was noodling around with some blues riffs on an electric guitar he had built out of a toilet seat. In another corner, someone had some up with an intriguing design for a clock. At one of the tables, Scott stumbled across photos of the steam engines from the low pumphouse at the Metropolitan Water Works, and when we looked up from the photos we found ourselves face to face with Al Goldberg, MIT ’59, who took us on our recent tour of the high pumphouse. An unsurprising encounter, considering the event, but it brought a smile all the same.
We completed our day at the Watch City Brewing Company, which was tasty, but which for some reason happened to be suffering from atrocious service during what turned out to be our two-hour lunch. In the end, we were happy to get on the road back home.
All in all, it was definitely worth not-sleeping-in for, tired as I have been. As usual, there are photos and movies up.

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4 thoughts on “The past in miniature.

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