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MMD > Archives > July 2000 > 2000.07.28 > 01Prev  Next

Musical Tower Clock in Freeport, Maine
By Mike Knudsen

Sorry if this has been mentioned before, but today I discovered a
musical tower clock movement newly installed on public view in the
L. L.  Bean Store in Freeport, ME.  The movement and large dial are
actually on the ground floor behind glass, backed up by mirrors for
even better viewing, but are definitely tower-sized.

On the hour the clock plays a tune on 21 chromatic tubular chimes.
Today it played "In the Good Old Summertime".  The music plays from a
large hollow steel cylinder, about 18 inches or 50 cm diameter and
about as long.  Music is programmed by inserting ordinary round-head
machine screws into the drum, whose surface is ruled in both axes with
"rigid notation."  The drum and its drive chains seem capable of
hammering bells directly, but keep reading.

There seem to be tracks for more than the present 21 notes.  No
provision that I could see for shifting the drum, so it's the same
tune every hour.  The current tune setting used only half the drum's
available time, about two minutes.  I wonder who decides what the next
tune will be, and who does the arranging and screw insertion?  Doug,
are you volunteering?

Don't know when a new arrangement can be safely tested either, since
Bean's is open 24 hours a day, 7 days week, 365 days a year -- there
really are no locks on the doors!

The screws operate a keyframe of switches which are cabled to solenoids
in the vertical chime unit, hung at the other side of the store.  But
they are clearly audible while standing before the clock and watching
the keyframe fingers.  You can't see the chimes from the clock, but one
of the kids of a family who'd been watching ran over to see the chimes,
came back and breathlessly reported "you should see these big knockers
ringing the bells!"  Could this be the next generation of mechanical
music lovers?

The clock seems to be a new creation, in the classic style, by the
Balzar Clock Co. of Freeport, said to be the only people in the USA who
can still restore tower and sidewalk clock movements.  They recently
rebuilt a sidewalk clock here in Bath, ME.

This new clock is superb.  It uses a gravity escapement on a 2-meter
pendulum (children are disappointed in that the efficient escapement
hardly "ticks"), and brass gears in a fancy cast-iron frame.  After
playing the tune, a separate mechanism strikes the hour on selected
chime notes.  I couldn't see whether it was a rack-and-snail job or
the simpler locking-plate system.

Another example of "Maine -- The Way Life Should Be"

Mike Knudsen

(Message sent Sat 29 Jul 2000, 03:45:49 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Clock, Freeport, Maine, Musical, Tower

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