Lights, Music, Action: Albany’s 1909 carousel mechanism restoration

carousel mechanism

The volunteer wood-carvers and painters at the Albany Historic Carousel and Museum have been getting visitors for years–since the carving studio first opened its doors in 2002, visitors from every continent have toured the downtown studio to get an up-close view of the creative process in action.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, a team of builders and engineers have been hard at work restoring a historic carousel mechanism, which is now fully functional and ready for visitors of its own.

Housed on private property in a warehouse belonging to a carousel volunteer, the mechanism is available for tours at 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoons. To arrange a spot on an upcoming mechanism tour, call the Carousel Project at 541-791-3340.

The mechanism dates back to 1909 and was donated by the Dentzel family, a family with a history of carousel-building that goes back to 1850s Germany. When Dentzel descendents learned of Albany's all-volunteer, non-profit carousel, they donated the historic mechanism to the carousel project.

An octogenarian woodworker from the tiny farming town of Shedd just south of Albany, created wooden teeth for the gears that turn on top of the carousel. Less noisy than metal-on-metal, the wooden gears allow the carousel's traditional music to be heard clearly. At 50 feet in diameter and 25 feet tall, the re-assembled carousel mechanism gives visitors an idea of the impressive experience they can expect when the carousel is complete.

close-up gears and panels on carousel

The mechanism is not only restored, but updated; computerized electric controls donated by North Coast Electric allow the operator to start, stop, and back up the carousel with the push of a button. A platform will allow wheel-chair users to roll onto the carousel mechanism for a ride.

Four animals are currently residing on the mechanism: Fredrick the Rabbit, Igknighter the Dragon, Tuesday the cat and Sassie Mae the horse. Even though the carousel's full menagerie isn't yet present, when visitors see the carousel the reaction for both kids and adults is the same: to climb   aboard and imagine what's in store when the project is complete.

riders on historic carousel

2 Comments on “Lights, Music, Action: Albany’s 1909 carousel mechanism restoration

  1. The animals are fantastic, look well made, painted beautifully and are undoubtedly user friendly. How many are finished so far. What kind of wood are the animals made of. They look super difficult to design, must conduct a small amount of stress analysis, build a bulk form, carve, sand smooth and coat with ten or more layers of urethane.
    Great job so far: only wish that I could contribute. Your efforts are going to make a lot of kids squeal with delight!

    Thank you Jennifer,
    Respectfully
    Glenn Bazell
    Torrance, CA

  2. Glenn, you are right–the animals are incredibly well made and very intricately designed.

    There will be 52 animals total. Local families and individuals have sponsored each and every one, and so far about half of them are complete. Only four are mounted on the carousel structure at this point. The others are either on display at the carousel or at supportive local businesses around town (we have a beautiful horse named Lightning right here in our office).
    Here’s a recent newspaper article about the current progress on the carousel project: http://democratherald.com/news/local/carousel-receives-million-donation/article_555ee734-27c8-11e4-8c7d-0019bb2963f4.html

    The animals are carved out of bass wood. The carvers use only hand tools for carving, and they are also painted by hand. After they are complete, they are coated with several coats of automotive clear-coat at a local auto-body shop.

    If you want more detailed info about the carving process, go to http://albanycarousel.com/WP/about-us/contact-us/ and contact the folks at the carousel–they would be happy to tell you all about what they do!

    I do hope you get up here to visit sometime. That is the best way to learn about the process and the carving studio is completely open to the public. I’m sure the carvers would love to talk about it with a fellow carver!

    Cheers!
    Jennifer Rouse
    marketing specialist, Albany Visitors Association

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