The Resurrection of
Lit Brothers Enchanted Colonial Village
...( Mechanics )

What`s left of the village (that we know of) was pulled out of it`s most recent storage in 2001 and pieced back together wall by wall, cam by cam by Please Touch Museum's exhibits staff and volunteer John Gray to see how much repair would be required.
After that Chris Hillman joined the museum for the specific task of rebuilding, redesigning and remechanizing and  the Village.
..once the broken pieces were assembled it was easy to see that there was Lots to fix.
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The Village was built by german animatronics company Christian Hoffman back in the 1960`s and in some ways held-up surprisingly well ..the heads, hands, roof-panels, !Shoes, etc. etc. etc. were all sculpted then created in latex which isn`t really thought to have that long of a life-span ..But even though the latex hasn`t really turned brown and rotted Has broken to pieces or softened & deformed from the unregulated temperatures during it`s many times in storage .

One of the previous restorations had people patching, repairing and repainting and fixing the mechanics etc. and did a good job but the sculpt-jobs had so much to deal with reassembling the head-pieces etc.that half the figures wound-up with huge goiters made of bondo etc. or just plain twisted heads (the paint job was great though!)
You don`t really realize what the problem was until you open the heads and see how many Fragments somebody had to reassemble.

( typical problems with the heads )

The Bodies by the way were basically made from a cardboard-papier-machette technique (possibly using ?hide-glue) ( with the construction of the historic Laffing Sal of the boardwalk) pressed into plaster moulds.
Some of the hands are actually manequin hands now but we`re assuming they aren`t original.

The First thing to patch cosmetically and mechanically were the figures.
The original mechanics were cam-systems that (in most cases) were mounted below the floor of each building which pulled on cables routed beneath the floors and up the legs of the figures into the bodies ...then while the motor-systems pulled on the cables various body-parts would move..
It held-up surprisingly well (although I heard that some of the cams were recut by Design-Concepts in South Carolina during it`s last restoration) but it was really tough to correctly set-up each year (Lit Bros for example set it up once and left it ..opening the floor for christmas and closing off that section for the rest of the year) ...and the motors were starting to get a little scary with a nice little burning aroma.


Mechanics under the baker-building:
A single motor (lower left) driving the green gear-reducer which rotates the shaft with 6 cams.
Levers then get pushed back-and-forth by the rotating cams and pull the cables that run under the building and up through the legs of the figures.



On the left you can see the original mechanical arrangment inside the "watchmaker-apprentice" with a couple levers pulled by cables coming up from the right leg.
Here there`s levers visible that move the head and left arms ..there`s also smaller lever near the right shoulder that makes the arm move side-to-side.

The mechanics for the figures were taken from below the buildings and internalized entirely into the figures themselves, so all you have to do is drop a figure in place and plug it in.
Although I kept the original cams and levers so each figure should have the same movements.

On the right you can see the same original mechanics with the additional inserted aluminum framework, cams, levers, pulleys and a fresh motor.



Examples of the new mechanics:
This is one of the figures that stands in front of the Toymaker window and moves side-to-side.
The cams and levers of the original mecchanical-systems were kept and rearranged to fit inside the figures. Aluminum frameworks were hand-made and new smaller syncronous motors are added which run quieter

Even though the mechanics look complex were purposely chosen that were standard enough so that replacement parts would be easier to find in the future.

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Resurrecting the Enchanted Colonial Village (Philadelphia, PA, 2008)
Written by: Chris Hillman  ©