Famous Courthouse Clock

Discussion in 'Tower, Monumental & Street Clocks' started by DanJeffries, Jul 16, 2009.

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  1. DanJeffries

    DanJeffries The Tower clock man

    Dec 1, 2008
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    Hey ya'll,

    Just thought I would share some pics of the tower clock that I'm now the caretaker of.....It is a ST #16G (according to ST installation records) and the serial# 361 installed in 1885. It was a fairly early movement for Seth Thomas. It does not have the worm gear adjustment/key for adjusting the time. It requires disengaging the pallets and running it forward. The clock was of course electrified in the 40's or 50's when the electric motor salesman came through with his "horror" stories of weights crashing down through ceilings.....legitimate, but I would have rather saw a new cable salesman. When the county restored the courthouse in 2003 one of the top priorities was to have the clock put back as close to original as possible. Luckily a lot of the parts were saved and not taken by scavengers. The clock does strike with an electric motor, however. The amount of weight it would take to make the strike run is astronomical. The weights are still siting in the tower and all they need is a cable and pulley, but that will will probably take several years of convincing. The time train is ran off of the second gear, and has an endless chain system that rewinds every 10 minutes or so, again same safety factors as electric motor, but keeping it truly mechanical.
    In the last several years I have helped with big maintenance issues, stoppages etc, but as of last month I'm now the caretaker of the Newton County, GA courthouse clock. This clock is famous, some may recognize it, and you may have to dig back in your memory. It was a star on the "Dukes of Hazzard, and "In the Heat of the Night" TV series.
    Again, the clock was restored in 2003 and has ran good for the most part, having a few difficulties on the way, but It stopped last month and so they called me in....
    Anyhow, the clock needed a lot of maintenance that the local county maintenance staff didn't realize they had been missing. They have done a great job, but they will admit, they don't know much about the clock. After several days of oiling and greasing the center gear and really working oil into the motion works, it is running smoothly again. I relined all the dials to show the correct time and it now strikes when the hands say it's the top of the hour...not 3 till, 2 after, almost right.......Got to love when each face tells a different time, I guess you could just take an average.....:)
    Now my biggest issue it dealing with our 95+ temperatures while in the tower!
    Anyhow, hope ya'll enjoy.
    Dan
     

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  2. gvasale

    gvasale Registered User
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    Mar 30, 2005
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    I'd like to see a photo of the escapement in that one. I've found only one early ST, and it was a Hotchkiss, meaning a type of pinwheel escapement. I'm finishing up with one from 1894 that does have that miserable worm setup.
     
  3. le arsi

    le arsi Registered User

    Jul 7, 2008
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    I visited your profile and learned that youre not a clockmaker and yet you manage to become the caretaker of that famous tower clock brand. Congratulations! I admire you for that! Good luck.:)
     
  4. DanJeffries

    DanJeffries The Tower clock man

    Dec 1, 2008
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    I will have to see if I can get pics of the escapement, but it is a Graham Deadbeat Escapement, not a pinwheel. I know what you are talking about as far as the Pinwheel on the early models, I have only seen one. You can go to my Youtube page Towerclock1843 and see videos of all my tower clocks in my collection and the Seth Thomas is on there as well. A even earlier Seth Thomas model is at Emory University/Oxford College in Oxford Ga which is also in Newton County. It also had a graham deadbeat escapement. Its serial number is 260 something, I'll have to post pics of it too. Sad to say,it is completely ran by electric motors and in bad need of a complete refurbishing. The escapewheel ad verge are acutually mounted on a plaque in the lobby, honoring the long time caretaker of the clock. Atleast they are not going to be taken off by some snooping student... I'm trying to get them to let me convert it back to mechnical, like the counties clock, but budget, budget, budget. Plus it runs "good" to them so why fix it if it's not broke..atleast that is what they think.

    So do you not like the worm gear time adjustment? I had a # 16 quarter strike I sold and it was from 1895 and it had the worm gear, thought it was interesting....... but I never had it running a dial of any real size. Do they get out of adjustment easy under a load?
    Dan


    The
     
  5. DanJeffries

    DanJeffries The Tower clock man

    Dec 1, 2008
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    Well, I guess I don't call my self a clock maker, and compared to what you do (what I have read from your post) I'm a hobbyist, with a passion! I do run a small clock repair business on the side.....mantle, grandfather, etc. I also have worked on several of our local county tower clocks, replacing bushings, trouble shooting, lining up dials, etc. but this is my first tower clock, that I'm completely responsible for the upkeep, maintenance, regulation,etc. I collect clocks of all sorts....I have 6 tower clock movments presently, and have always repaired all of them myself.
    A little personal history.... I was raised in a machine shop family so cutting gears, making pinions, etc comes pretty easy to me. I guess you can say I tend to be mechanically inclined. So if I need something I can just go to our shop an make it. I'm an accounting manager at another machine shop to pay our bills, my fun job is working on clocks!:D
    My ultimate dream is to build an original tower clock. It will take a very long time, but I hope to accomplish that someday. My problem is the designing, but it will come in time.
    If it is old, mechanical, and it has gears, let me see how it works!
    Good luck to you with getting your machine shop set up and running.
    Thanks
    Dan



     
  6. eskmill

    eskmill Registered User
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    Aug 24, 2000
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    #6 eskmill, Jul 17, 2009
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2009
    Dan. I admire your dedication to the old ST clock. With minimal care, they will keep time forever.

    Your example is missing the second pinion and fly arbor assembly. How is striking arranged?

    I and another chapter member have cared for a later (1889 sn 524) ST #16 at the Church of the Angeles in Pasadena California for the past 20 or so years.

    It was discovered, overhauled and re-engineered in 1986 to wind both trains electrically using the same scheme that ST used to electrify.

    The strike train uses about 80 lbs of weights, and rewinds about every 36 hours. The bell is a one-ton McKneeley. Time train needs only 25 lbs and runs about four days. Both time and strike weights have about a 42 inch fall.
     
  7. gvasale

    gvasale Registered User
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    Mar 30, 2005
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    While the ST is effective, it can be very awkward to use as you know. If you can't turn it from one side, you can use the other. But thats when it can become downright uncomfortable. Then you decide whether you really want to wait a little longer until it is in a more favorable position. S-l-o-w if you need more than a few minutes of adjustment.
     
  8. DanJeffries

    DanJeffries The Tower clock man

    Dec 1, 2008
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    Hi Eckmill,

    Hey I like the sound of that winding arrangement on your ST, I would really like to do something like that so our clock is striking mechanically again.
    The strike train is ran by an electric motor that we hid in the back of the movement. The second wheel on the strike train has been removed from it's arbor and a drive gear attached in it's place. You can see the old mercury switch mounted to the left of the movement as well. The system works great, I just wished it was mechanical with the fly swirling around and all. The fly and second wheel along with the clicks from the main barrels and the original winding crank are all mounted on the wall in the small clock housing. The clock strikes to fast for my liking with the electric motor.
    Do you have pictures of the Seth Thomas that you are caretaker of? I would love to see the weight/winding rack that you have set up. We have all the original weights and pulleys etc, just can't get the county to let me hang it all back and have the heavy weight running the clock. Can't say I blame them, but there never was a freak accident or anything, I guess they are just scared of the large weights. I would love to have it set up completely original, but if I could build a weight rack like the one you are talking about, I might could get them to bite on that one.

    Thanks for the response, and either way, I love the clock even if I never get the strike train truly mechanical again.
    Thanks
    Dan

     
  9. DanJeffries

    DanJeffries The Tower clock man

    Dec 1, 2008
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    You are right gvasale....I remember how aggrevating it was to change the time when the worm gear was facing towards the floor at at 45 degree angle. I would just say "well I'll change it in 30 minutes".....well of course you know what happened then, I would forget..... then when I would think about it, the worm gear would be in another awkward postion.
    I guess I do like my old fashion removing the pallet method better. Do you know what year they started implementing the worm gear adjustment, just curious?
    I think the oldest one I have seen with a worm gear is 1894? All the ST before that or atleast the ones I have worked on or seen have the straight arbor with no means for adjustment.
    Anyhow interesting thought.

    thanks
    Dan

     
  10. eskmill

    eskmill Registered User
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    Dan and all. The snapshots below are of the preserved ST 16 movement at the Church of the Angels in Pasadena California. 'Sorry for the flash shadows. The two photos reveal the setup used to provide automatic winding.

    Another thread, https://mb.nawcc.org/showthread.php?t=43007&highlight=church shows snapshots taken when the rewind system was installed and the movement preserved in 1986.

    It's a good runner.
     

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  11. gvasale

    gvasale Registered User
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    Mar 30, 2005
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    Dan: Some of the ST electric wind clocks still used the fan when striking. I have some photos of the front of such clocks that I can put up later. While there are a few STs in Massachusetts, I haven't seen them all. A few timepieces, with electric wind, some electrified TPs. A few wind up T&S, and at least one TSC, but reportedly there are more. Just a lot of work to get into see them (begging for permission-that sort of thing.)
     
  12. DanJeffries

    DanJeffries The Tower clock man

    Dec 1, 2008
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    More Publicity

    Interesting story.....
    Well the county has called me and the clock has to stop again this time by me, not on it's own. There is a production company and the clock is going to be part of a film again. I think it is a horror film with Vampires, etc.:eek:
    I have to stop the clock this afternoon and set it at 9:37 and tomorrow I have to set it for 8:42. Not sure what the time significances are but that is what the production company ask for......and what they are paying to use the square, I think we can manage a day or two without the clock running.

    I hate that is has to be stopped, I'm sure I will get a lot of phone calls, but surely to goodness they will see all the film equipment.

    Anyhow, just thought I would throw that out there.
    Dan






    Just thought I would share some pics of the tower clock that I'm now the caretaker of.....It is a ST #16G (according to ST installation records) and the serial# 361 installed in 1885. It was a fairly early movement for Seth Thomas. It does not have the worm gear adjustment/key for adjusting the time. It requires disengaging the pallets and running it forward. The clock was of course electrified in the 40's or 50's when the electric motor salesman came through with his "horror" stories of weights crashing down through ceilings.....legitimate, but I would have rather saw a new cable salesman. When the county restored the courthouse in 2003 one of the top priorities was to have the clock put back as close to original as possible. Luckily a lot of the parts were saved and not taken by scavengers. The clock does strike with an electric motor, however. The amount of weight it would take to make the strike run is astronomical. The weights are still siting in the tower and all they need is a cable and pulley, but that will will probably take several years of convincing. The time train is ran off of the second gear, and has an endless chain system that rewinds every 10 minutes or so, again same safety factors as electric motor, but keeping it truly mechanical.
    In the last several years I have helped with big maintenance issues, stoppages etc, but as of last month I'm now the caretaker of the Newton County, GA courthouse clock. This clock is famous, some may recognize it, and you may have to dig back in your memory. It was a star on the "Dukes of Hazzard, and "In the Heat of the Night" TV series.
    Again, the clock was restored in 2003 and has ran good for the most part, having a few difficulties on the way, but It stopped last month and so they called me in....
    Anyhow, the clock needed a lot of maintenance that the local county maintenance staff didn't realize they had been missing. They have done a great job, but they will admit, they don't know much about the clock. After several days of oiling and greasing the center gear and really working oil into the motion works, it is running smoothly again. I relined all the dials to show the correct time and it now strikes when the hands say it's the top of the hour...not 3 till, 2 after, almost right.......Got to love when each face tells a different time, I guess you could just take an average.....:)
    Now my biggest issue it dealing with our 95+ temperatures while in the tower!
    Anyhow, hope ya'll enjoy.
    Dan[/QUOTE]
     
  13. harold bain

    harold bain Registered User
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    Make sure you charge them "union rates" or more for your time, Dan. How difficult is it to advance the clock?
     
  14. DanJeffries

    DanJeffries The Tower clock man

    Dec 1, 2008
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    It's not too hard it is just time consuming. I have to disengage the pallets and let her free wheel between two fingers pinching the escape wheel until it gets to the correct time. Not to bad, just against my clock religion for it to be stopped for no apparent reason! :)
    But hey, they are paying a premium for it's use, Covington/Newton Co. courthouse has realized it is wanted for movies, TV series etc. so you have to pay to flaunt it...
    I already went and set it forward and the calls have already started.....looks like it is going to be a long weekend. As soon as they tell me I can start it back tomorrow evening, I better run up there pretty quickly. Can't have all the Churches waiting on the clock to strike "Church In" on Sunday morning and it never strike now can we??:p
    Dan

     

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