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  1. #1
    Registered user. kinsler33's Avatar
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    Default Tower clock in Lancaster Ohio city hall

    It just occurred to me that I should ask for advice here. I think I'm up against some very odd politics here in our little town, and I wonder if anyone here has had a similar experience. Now, I repair clocks, and I also write for the daily newspaper: the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette. Usually my column is (loosely) classified as humor, describing daily life here in a small Ohio town. But last week I wrote about my adventures with our inoperative city hall clock. It's a poorly-electrified but once-magnificent E. Howard with a bell strike. Hasn't worked in maybe ten years. Two years ago I managed to talk my way up to the tower for an inspection (no pictures, unfortunately) and discovered the problem with the four shafts that turn the hands. Here is the column:

    What’s wrong with Lancaster’s City Hall clock?

    1973 spaces Mark Kinsler July 3, 2017


    “It’s been two years,” said Natalie. “You really ought to write about the City Hall clock.”

    She’s right.

    Its four sets of hands are driven by a single electric motor which also lifts a 60-pound hammer to strike the great bronze bell. And while the bell still rings, after a fashion, the clock’s hands do not turn.

    The reason the clock doesn’t work is that the four shafts connecting the central gear box to the hands are held together by couplers: short pieces of pipe that clamp onto the shafts. But the clamping bolts have loosened, which probably happened when an ice storm jammed the hands. So while the motor and the gear box still run, the hands haven’t turned in years.

    I learned all this two years ago on a visit to the clock tower, where I reached up to each shaft and spun the hands of each of the clock faces by hand. It must have looked interesting from below.

    Repairs would likely require someone to climb a stepladder to tighten or replace the bolts on each of the bad couplings and then reset each pair of hands. The clock should then show the correct time, at least until the next ice storm. Ice storms are troublesome for tower clocks.

    The bell also needs attention, for the wire linkage that drops its hammer is loose. This allows the hammer to lie against the bell after each stroke instead of bouncing back a bit to allow the bell to vibrate. It may be that the linkage was loosened on purpose to relieve some of the strain on the clock mechanism, or it may have loosened on its own. It’s eminently repairable in either case, and should sound much better afterwards.

    In the absence of any big surprises, I’d guess that the repairs would take a day or two, and for two years I have repeatedly offered to do them. I am a proud clock repairman and a citizen of Lancaster for 17 years, so there’d be no charge.

    I regret to report that while my offer was acknowledged by city officials there has been no further response, and our big clock still does not work.

    Mark Kinsler is a science teacher (and clock repairer) from Cleveland Heights who lives in an old house in Lancaster with Natalie and the four cats. He can be reached at kinsler33@gmail.com, and all work is guaranteed for as long as he can still lift a screwdriver.


    Bear in mind that this was written for people who don't know how clocks work. I'm pretty sure that the couplers are the major problem, but I didn't have a ladder to reach and inspect them. The bell is just gigantic.

    I'd greatly appreciate anyone's and everyone's opinion about this particular quest. Others have looked at the clock and have made similar offers, but we never hear back from the city.

    Mark Kinsler
    512 East Mulberry Street; Lancaster, Ohio USA 740-503-1973; kinsler33@gmail.com
    http://www.lancastereaglegazette.com/search/kinsler/

  2. #2
    Registered User musicguy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tower clock in Lancaster Ohio city hall

    I’d guess that the repairs would take a day or two, and for two years I have repeatedly offered to do them. I am a proud clock repairman and a citizen of Lancaster for 17 years, so there’d be no charge.

    It's always the newspaper men that cause trouble(at least in the old movies).

    I hope that your article will get these people motivated. Since you are offering to work for, "no charge",
    I don't see any reason why they wont let you fix the clock.

    I'm sure I could do a google search of your town and see this
    clock tower, but if you could post a photograph that would be great.




    Rob

  3. #3
    Forums Administrator harold bain's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tower clock in Lancaster Ohio city hall (By: musicguy)

    You may be up against union problems with providing free labor, as this may be seen as a job that could be done by a unionized worker.
    harold bain, Member ch 33
    "If it won't "tick",
    let me "tock" to it"

  4. #4
    Registered user. gleber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tower clock in Lancaster Ohio city hall (By: harold bain)

    Quote Originally Posted by harold bain View Post
    You may be up against union problems with providing free labor, as this may be seen as a job that could be done by a unionized worker.
    Either that or liability issues if you get hurt, hurt someone else or something gets physically damaged. Are you bonded or insured? It seems like you have to find someone who can tell you what the issue is or who can actually address it and find out the reason. If the bell is ringing now it can't be a nuisance issue, and I can't imagine anyone not wanting the clock to work, so there must be another reason for no action.

    Tom

  5. #5

    Default Re: Tower clock in Lancaster Ohio city hall (By: harold bain)

    It may be a matter of liability also. Taking away the waver of fee's for services rendered, they may require a Certificate of Insurance. I have to provide one anytime I'm contracted by a City or Town, or another Heating Company. I've never serviced a Tower Clock, so I can't speak specifically to that.

    But I think you should have played more to peoples sensibilities in the article. How in these difficult days of budget constraints and funding issues, there is an opportunity for the community to once again enjoy the Tower Clock that the town forefathers so proudly erected. This opportunity comes at no cost to the Budget or the Community. Maybe a little history on when the clock was erected, who spearheaded the effort, etc.
    The man who knows how to make it work will always have a job, The man who knows why it makes it work will always be his boss. Website

  6. #6
    Registered User gvasale's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tower clock in Lancaster Ohio city hall (By: BLKBEARD)

    Things like this always strike me as a bit odd.

    Talking about liability.

    There's a town a half hour away with a tower clock. I asked about being able to see it because it wasn't running. I never got a straight answer to "why not..." But, they have a swimming pool in the basement which as I understood was in use.

    Go figure.

  7. #7
    Registered User musicguy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tower clock in Lancaster Ohio city hall (By: gvasale)

    Our town meetings are replayed on our local cable channel and
    from the yelling and dysfunction they espouse, I know my town would take years
    to figure this out. lol




    Rob

  8. #8
    Registered User FDelGreco's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tower clock in Lancaster Ohio city hall (By: musicguy)

    Mark:

    I would show up with a friend, a toolbox, and a stepladder and say, "We're here to service the clock." It has gotten me in to towers before with that approach. Doesn't give them time to think. They let me walk right through the metal detector, toolbox and all, without doing any checking.

    Frank

  9. #9
    Registered User scootermcrad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tower clock in Lancaster Ohio city hall (By: musicguy)

    Out of curiosity, can you just ask them if it's a matter of legalities or liabilities?

    I'm currently starting a restoration in my little town. Similar story. I moved into town and saw the Courthouse clock wasn't working, and after two years of poking around I finally found someone that could get me in touch with the right people to get me up there. The county owns the building and technically own the clock as well. They made me sign waivers to go up there that used words like "death and dismemberment" and alluding to it not being their problem if I fall 7 stories from the Belfry to my death. Otherwise they were not interested. I signed and went up.

    I am volunteering all my time to the community to not only help with the restoration, but service it after the fact for as long as they'll have me. Again, for free. The county liked this, BUT! They were still sort of hesitant and had great concerns of historical preservation, liability, and various other things. All of which I understood and agreed to/with. But it took time because of the politics and I still don't have the clock out of their yet. Government owned "things" just take time to work through. I'm guessing it's the legalities and liabilities that are slowing down your process. If you feel comfortable, maybe just re-express your interest to give back to the community and what you can do to be part of it.

    Don't give up! I stopped our 1876 A.S. Hotchkiss from being replaced by a full modern electric clock because they simply didn't understand the significance of these clocks.

    If you do get to make this happen, please make sure you keep us posted!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by FDelGreco View Post
    Mark:

    I would show up with a friend, a toolbox, and a stepladder and say, "We're here to service the clock." It has gotten me in to towers before with that approach. Doesn't give them time to think. They let me walk right through the metal detector, toolbox and all, without doing any checking.

    Frank
    Now THAT is just awesome!! HAHA!

  10. #10
    Registered user. kinsler33's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tower clock in Lancaster Ohio city hall (By: scootermcrad)

    Here's a picture of Lancaster's city hall--at least a link to it.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikiped...er%2C_Ohio.JPG

    Mark Kinsler
    512 East Mulberry Street; Lancaster, Ohio USA 740-503-1973; kinsler33@gmail.com
    http://www.lancastereaglegazette.com/search/kinsler/

  11. #11

    Default Re: Tower clock in Lancaster Ohio city hall

    What’s wrong with Lancaster’s City Hall clock?
    The bell also needs attention, for the wire linkage that drops its hammer is loose. This allows the hammer to lie against the bell after each stroke instead of bouncing back a bit to allow the bell to vibrate. It may be that the linkage was loosened on purpose to relieve some of the strain on the clock mechanism, or it may have loosened on its own. It’s eminently repairable in either case, and should sound much better afterwards.

    Ask someone who pays the bills if they have priced--even a used one--bell recently. It'll scare you. If the hammer is allowed to rest on the sound bow of the bell, it WILL eventually crack or break the bell. There should be a spring pad under the hammer shaft that will allow the hammer to hit the sound bow, yet pull back from the bell between strokes. Fairly easy to set up and maintaln.

    The "We're here to service the clock." has worked for me many times. It seems to leave them standing in the middle of the floor wondering. Helps to have a page full of repair gobbledygook in hand with past service dates checked off, and the current date pointed out to whomever seems to get rid of any doubts. What can I say? It works for me. Donn

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Tower clock in Lancaster Ohio city hall (By: kinsler33)

    From the Howard Tower Clock Book 1, p.129:
    October 4, 1897 (date shipped from factory) Lancaster Ohio City Hall
    No. 2 Hour and Half Hour striker. Gravity escapement. Compensated Pendulum. Gas illumination Regulator. 4 sectional illuminated dials 8' diameter. Black hands and figures. Serial No. 1946
    From the Howard Clock Order Book 13 p. 37:
    July 23, 1897 (date of order) New York Office for City of Lancaster, Ohio ship to E. Howard Watch & Clock Co. c/o Charles C. Reibe Jeweler Lancaster O. Put up including 4500 lb bell (Menelley Co. Troy, NY) Price $2370.

    This was a magnificent clock! I just examined a similar one Ser. No. 1949 in beautiful original condition in the Memorial Chapel at Northfield Mount Hermon school in Massachusetts.

    Did the electrical conversion look like it might have been done by Howard? Vintage motor? ca 1920's or 30's? The motivation for these early conversions usually invoked reluctance to climb and wind.
    Paul Middents
    Silverdale, WA

  13. #13
    Registered user. kinsler33's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tower clock in Lancaster Ohio city hall (By: pmiddents)

    Did the electrical conversion look like it might have been done by Howard? Vintage motor? ca 1920's or 30's? The motivation for these early conversions usually invoked reluctance to climb and wind.
    Someone said that it might have been electrified in 1958, but I don't know. What I do know is that E. Howard would have been unhappy with the present setup, for the motor is powered through a sort of timer switch, the purpose of which is to shut off the clock motor for 40 seconds every hour to keep the correct time. My guess is that the original motor was once replaced with one that ran at a speed that was slightly too high.

    As for the order from the Howard book, wow and thank you. There is indeed a huge bell, and the gas illumination regulator is still on the movement: a gas valve that's kicked on by some cam or other. Lancaster had gas wells then, and so when they built the clock tower they had gas torches on pipes that extended out from the faces (I don't think that it was illuminated from the inside.) The torches were run on a pilot flame during the day and, presumably around sunset, the regulator would open the valve. It must have been fascinating to watch from the ground.

    For fans of finance and economics and/or small towns and their industries, there's a current book about Lancaster called Glass House, by Brian Alexander. It's attracted a lot of attention in the national press, though I'm sorry to say that my fellow Lancastrians are displeased with it.

    Mark Kinsler
    512 East Mulberry Street; Lancaster, Ohio USA 740-503-1973; kinsler33@gmail.com
    http://www.lancastereaglegazette.com/search/kinsler/

  14. #14
    Director Tim Orr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tower clock in Lancaster Ohio city hall (By: kinsler33)

    Good evening, Mark!

    I tend to agree with Frank and Donn: Just show up and go to work. We have to remember that the easiest thing for any public official to do is ignore our questions. The second easiest thing to do is to say "No." There is no shortage of such people, but a great shortage of people who can and will say "Yes."

    Of course, should you or any of your associates be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.

    A group of us recently worked on a Hahl Pneumatic system in a courthouse, and the only thing the county wanted was a guarantee that if we injured ourselves, we would not file any claims against the county. And, of course, that we would work for free. They sent "minders" to stay with us every minute, but the interesting thing was that the "minders" (from the building and maintenance group) were so enthralled by the process that they are now taking care of the clock and trying to rejuvenate the secondary clocks in the building. Getting old clocks working seems to be addictive. And, it's a hell of a lot more interesting than seeing to it that the floors are cleaned.

    Best regards!

    Tim Orr

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Tower clock in Lancaster Ohio city hall (By: kinsler33)

    Mark,
    The electrical conversion sounds pretty bad. I would love to see photos of the clock and closeups of the gas illumination regulator.
    Paul

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