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It's time to visit the clock museum

Visitors examine an old timepiece on display at

Visitors examine an old timepiece on display at the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, Pa. Photo Credit: National Watch and Clock Museum

It could drive you crazy: hundreds of ticktocking clocks. When scores of them chime simultaneously at noon, the cacophony can be deafening. But it's also one of the best times to visit the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, Pa.

The museum in this town on the Susquehanna River, at the western edge of Lancaster County, opened in 1977 with 100 items. Today, the collection consists of about 13,000 timepieces, with about 1,500 on display.

What you'll see

After a short film about our enduring fascination with time, there's a self-guided tour through a short "time tunnel" of about a dozen clocks, including a 1680 specimen from Bavaria and an electric model from 1936. Next came a chronological tour, beginning with a replica of Stonehenge, which some archaeologists believe was built to measure time by tracking the movements of the sun and moon. It's followed by examples of Chinese and Egyptian water clocks, sundials, hourglasses and other nonmechanical clocks.

The museum's main focus is on 19th century American timepieces, but it also displays earlier English tall case clocks, similar to grandfather clocks, and timepieces from Asia and Europe.

The most fun item may be the 11-foot-high, 8-foot-wide, 3-foot-deep clock that Stephen Engle completed in 1878. Billed as "The Eighth Wonder of the World," it was carted from town to town throughout New England and the mid-Atlantic to entertain folks, who paid 10 cents to see it. The clock features 48 moving figures carved from wood, including Satan, Jesus, the 12 apostles, Death, and Revolutionary War legend Molly Pitcher. Engle jammed life's cycles into his timepiece as well, and carved himself representing "Middle Age." Demonstrations of the clock's movements are given hourly.

The museum gets about 13,000 visitors a year, and most people spend about an hour there. Souvenir time cards invite visitors to clock in and punch out.




National Watch and Clock Museum

514 Poplar St., Columbia, Pa., 717-684-8261,

ADMISSION $8 ($4 ages 5-16)


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