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Time machines prepare for an awakening


Last updated 8/10/2007 at Noon

Off the beaten path and hidden by modern buildings lies a portal into time and space – a time warp, if you will – that beckons to young and old alike. For the young it is an adventure like no other they have experienced; for the old, it will ignite memories and feelings of a simpler time. For those of us in between, it is a rare opportunity to discover not only our roots but our connections to the future.

The portal of time to which you will be given access is for 100 years (1849-1949). It is the story of the American farm and life during that time period. The journey traverses 55 acres of rolling farmland in early California and can be found at the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum at 2040 North Santa Fe Avenue in Vista.

With more than 20,000 actual artifacts utilized to create your virtual reality, your trip back in time will be infused with real-life experiences of the days of yesteryear. You will be encouraged to detach yourself from 2007 and immerse yourself in the life of the times.

One might think that the opportunity to escape the reality of our daily lives and travel back to a revolutionary period in America would cost a king’s ransom, but quite the opposite is true. Motivated only by their desire to share their world with others, the gatekeepers grant free admission to children 5 and under. Except for special events, adults under 65 are charged the meager fee of $3 and seniors $2. Fees are used solely to maintain the high quality of your trip for future travelers.

Yours will be a trip that is unique and your experiences ignited by your memories, interests and passions. A great deal of work and imagination has gone into preparing for your arrival. If you choose to return after your visit, there will be familiarity but new components are constantly being added to this adventure package to enhance your experience and encourage your return.

There are those who might ask if this journey is a museum experience. I hesitate to pre-define your trip and experiences as those of the typical museum visitor. While many of the sets and equipment are static like other museums, many collection artifacts and machinery are maintained in operating condition. And volunteer actors fulfill the historical roles of Americans at home and at work in rural America.

This coming weekend volunteers will converge on the grounds to restore aging artifacts and prepare many of them for a Fall Harvest Fair, one of two such fairs a year (the other in June) in which time-travelers have the rare opportunity to see crops taken from the field through to the kitchen. They will have the opportunity to visit with and experience a variety of tradesmen, including blacksmiths, soap and rope makers, broom makers, woodcarvers and weavers. Time-travelers will taste warm bread and cookies cooked in wood-burning stoves by volunteers. Leisure and recreational activities of the time period will be part of the events. Everyday farm life will be illuminated and there will be multiple opportunities to experience it in person.

One such experience is the Weavers Loom Barn, a nearly 5,000-square-foot facility less than two months old, now open every day of the week. The barn, filled with antique looms and weavers, is continuing to practice a craft introduced in Fallbrook by Donna Potter in 1930. The new barn has about the same number of looms in use now as once existed at the first-ever California Weavers Institute held in the home economics building at Fallbrook High School nearly a century ago. Anyone can join the weavers, whether experienced or beginner, by coming on Thursdays to the barn between the hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those who attend should bring a sack lunch. There is a small annual fee to become a member.

At the Fall Fair, the static displays of harvesters, steam engines, tractors, miscellaneous farm vehicles and equipment will be awakened by skilled docents and rumble back to the life and times of rural America for a relatively brief moment in time. Anyone interested in more information on becoming a time-traveler can call the museum at (760) 941-1791 or visit


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