Jim Giles: Pioneer Time Machine builder
by François O. Beaulieu

In recent years, several gifted craftsmen have built impressive full-size reproductions of the Time Machine prop that appeared in the classic George Pal movie. At their disposal was of course a video copy of the movie, several movie stills and copies of the MGM blueprints. Some were even lucky enough to consult the recently available detailed plans created by Chris Perotta.

But, many years ago, before the Internet, before video recorders were common and before the MGM blueprints were accessible, Jim Giles had a dream. He had seen the Pal movie as a teen in the sixties and the image of the Time Machine stuck with him through adulthood and… he wanted one ! Not a little model, but a large one he could sit in to act out his boyhood fantasies !

It was during the summer of 1979 that he began to make his dream come true. But he had one serious problem: He remembered the Machine from the movie he had seen several years back, but he had hardly ever seen it again on TV since. At first, he decided to create his own design based on the few details provided in H.G. Wells’s novel. Unfortunately, none of the designs he came up with completely satisfied him. However, just when he was about to get discouraged, he came across an article in Starlog magazine concerning the restoration of the original prop owned by Bob Burns. Overnight, he realized he had just gotten his hands on something he could use as a guideline for a model based on the Pal design. Consequently, he abandoned his project to build his own version and went back to his original plan. He would build the Time Machine from the movie he so loved.

Jim was lucky enough to have a friend who taught welding at a local college. He showed him the Starlog article and his friend offered to make the frame for him, free of charge. Ironically, his friend’s name was George…

Then, Jim added various bits and pieces – some that he had custom-made and others that he just had – such as a heavy living room chair. The chair was eventually replaced by a hand-carved one. Once all the parts were put together, the result was a fair likeness of the Machine. However, Jim soon came to realize that he had made several serious errors in his calculations. His Machine would need substantial alterations and an immense amount of work to become true to the original.

Jim started to sketch out all the modifications he would have to make to his model. A year passed and, in the summer of 1980, another article appeared in Starlog, this time about master miniaturist and prop builder Harvey Mayo. The article described Harvey’s passion for George Pal’s movie adaptation of The Time Machine and featured a picture of one of Harvey’s scale models. Jim immediately sought Harvey out for help on his project. He enclosed the pictures reproduced herein and told Harvey of his ambitions:

He would redesign many of the parts so as to be more faithful to the Pal original. He would add all the Victorian motifs to the large dish. He would add a motor to spin the dish, working lights to the control console and all would be operated from the lever and a few extra buttons on the console.

Once the Machine was finished, he would transform his garage to look like the Time Traveller’s workshop. Maybe, he would even invite guests over and do a little theatrical presentation…

But the problem is, after Jim’s initial letter to Harvey, he was never heard from again. All we have to remember him by are these two slightly faded pictures…

Does anyone know of the fate of Jim Giles and his Time Machine ?


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The Time Machine Project 1998 Don Coleman
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