A 120-Year-Old Mechanical Device that Perfectly Mimics the Song of a Bird

On our layout (the Mendocino Coast Railroad and Navigation Co.) we have added sound to the mill and the Point Cabrillo lighthouse as well as to well over 50% of our locomotives. The sound really adds to the “realism” of the layout. We have a number of minramas featuring birds. Our latest “mini” is of ducks which, alas, don’t quack. Now suppose we had one of these tucked away in a diorama:

Bird song machine

Bird song machine

Relying on dozens of moving parts including gears, springs, and a bellows, this small contraption built in 1890 was designed to do one thing: perfectly mimic the random chatter of a song bird.  I expected to hear a simple repeating pattern of tweets, but the sounds produced by the mechanism are actually complex and vary in pitch, tone, and even volume to create a completely realistic song. When I closed my eyes I thought the bird songs were real. It’s believed the machine was built 120 years ago in Paris by Blaise Bontems, a well-known maker of bird automata and was recently refurbished by Michael Start over at The House of Automata.

Listen for yourself ……..

Now isn’t that just way cool? And wouldn’t it be great on our layout?