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Naval Observatory Time, Western Union

Dick Feldman

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Recently a SWCC clock came to me with a broken suspension spring because it had been shipped without securing the pendulum. I repaired the spring. Before sending it off, I put two pair of batteries in the battery holders. The second hand moved and that was enough for me. I sent it home. The clock was purchased as a gift and then shipped so its origins are not available.

About a week later the clock returned and the owner said that it had run about twenty minutes before stopping. After removing the dial and hands I noticed there were two wires not connected to anything. One wire (blue) is connected to the left side of the light bulb. The other wire seems to be joined to the (-) side of two pairs of C cells (Also blue and on the left of the picture). The batteries are wired in series and then the pairs are joined in parallel.

Can someone help me to know where the loose wires should be connected? Is the clock wired correctly? I can supply additional pictures if needed. Is there a proper wiring diagram available? A trouble shooting guide?

Many thanks,

Dick Feldman


SWCC #1.JPG SWCC #2.JPG Swcc #3.JPG SWCC #4.JPG SWCC #5.JPG SWCC #6.JPG
 

Tinker Dwight

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Can you lift the battery clamps out of the holders and show the
enough of the wiring that I can see the splices? ( both side )
Also both ends of one of the battery holders.
Also, what cam or whatever actuates the switch on the left
side. All I can see of it is the wires to the switch.
I'm thinking it is the master pulse. The one on the right
is the wind, as near as I can tell.
It is not clear where the wires for the coil go. Some pictures
showing that as well.
Tinker Dwight
 
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Dick Feldman

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Tinker,

I will take some detailed pictures and post those this afternoon.

I am suspect of the wiring and will appreciate your help. I think this clock may have come from an auction site and has obviously been altered.

Do you know of any background reading I might do? How about a proper wiring diagram? Is there a trouble shooting guide anywhere? I would like to test each of the components in the system.

Thanks for your interest,

Dick
 

Tinker Dwight

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Hi Dick
I'm not familiar with this clock specifically but I do
know how it should be wired to work. Harold or Les
are the ones that may have schematics for it.
It does look to have been rewired at some point.
It was intended to have two No.6 cells and has since
gotten the Radio Shack battery clamps for the small
cells.
Tinker Dwight
 

Kevin W.

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I have the same clock, i could take a picture of mine. Here is a link to a wiring diagram too for these clocks,
http://electric-clocks.com/SWCC/

Also the button on the top left when you push it activates the winding of the clock.
 

eskmill

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The problem with Feldman's Self Winding Clock may be on account of dead batteries.

The batteries shown in his photos appear to be the smaller "C" size flashlight cells......these smaller cells would not be expected to operate the clock for a longer period than several weeks and less depending on the condition of the clock movement.

A simple check would be to see if the lamp lights brightly by manually operating the contacts at the right side of the movement. This circuit normally uses the battery to cause the indicator bulb to light up if and when a synchronizing signal is received from Western Union wires. The lamp circuit should have no effect on the normal operation of the clock movement. (some owners have altered the wiring to the indicator lamp so as to cause it to indicate that the winding motor is operating)

The "wiring" shown in the photos is not as found in any service instructions. It has been modified and difficult to follow in the pictures. Furthermore, the movement appears to be one of the later versions that does not have the older vibrating ratchet motor but instead has the tiny "toy-type" industrial "pot-metal" motor to wind the mainspring hourly. This version of the movement was intended to be used in radio broadcasting studios. The clock case would have been lined with heavy sound insulating felt material.

Additionally, and obvious in the photo is the absence of the usual "force to wind" contact lever. The "force wind" contact switch was not used with these "quiet-wind" pot-metal motor movements. Instead, a different shaped cam on the back side of the center arbor circumvents the necessity of the "force wind" contact switch on the old style equipped clocks.

The "studio" version clocks are generally very good and reliable. It is unfortunate that Feldman's example has had its wiring replaced without a representative diagram of the modification. I find no fault with the modification except that the well intended modification is without a useful diagram.
 
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eskmill

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Tinker and all. The very fact that the clock face bears the words "Western Union" is "proof-positive" that the clock was field serviced by Western Union using two number six 1-1/2 volt large dry cells.

The metal tag inside the case asserting that the clock is property of the Self Winding Clock company means that the clock was leased to Western Union under a contract wherein the clock, although leased or rented to Western Union was to be field maintained by Western Union and kept supplied with dry cells on a regular basis. (Western Union did perform some maintenance and minor field repairs but per lease agreement, the movements were exchanged for a factory-re-worked movement and the ownership tag with serial number was replaced. This was important, as the owner, the Self Winding Clock Company, paid all state and local property taxes on each and every clock.)

By the late 1980's, the Self Winding Clock company filed a legal brief asserting that Western Union was failing to maintain the clocks and keep the clocks supplied with battery as per the lease agreement.

In the years following in federal court, the Self Winding clock company was purchased by Western Union for an undisclosed amount of money as a part of the settlement. By 1996. the Western Union company was no longer offering or servicing the clocks and abandoned the clocks in place.

Except for a few thousand larger master and sub-master clocks which had always been owned by Western Union and various railroads, all the rental dry cell operated network synchronized clocks were abandoned and left for the establishment to discard them. (obviously some building management companies demanded their removal by Western Union and these were warehoused or disposed of by any available means)

Some clocks stored in a warehouse were said to have been "dumped" in the Atlantic ocean. There are no accessible records pertaining to the Self-Winding Clock company business available, thus there's almost no practical way to determine where a particular rental or leased serial numbered clock was installed.

The few clocks owned outright by banks, insurance companies, and railroads are sometimes identified as to installed location but generally these are not the common style clocks. These usually have or had a "bill-of-sale" document associated with the clock.
 

Dick Feldman

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Hello Les and Tinker,

Thank you for your replies. The clock I have is likely a broadcast style clock. The (new) owner was in the broadcast industry for many years and received the clock as a gift. I believe the clock was purchased from an auction site. The case is well insulated and the clock has the later winding motor as you described. The batteries are C cells (and are new). Two are wired in series and the pairs are connected in parallel on the left side of the movement. This should give a voltage of 3 volts to the clock mains.

I have included some more photos and a brief description of the wiring follows: Because the connectors were squeeze type and because the wiring was so tangled, I untangled the mess and twisted the wires together to indicate where they had been connected. There also were two wires hanging loose when the clock came to me. Even if wired correctly, the clock likely could not function as it should with two wires hanging loose. The red common wire from the two battery packs is connected to a white wire and that white wire is connected to a terminal block on the left side of the movement. Also connected to that terminal block is a red wire that feeds the winding motor and an orange wire that terminates at the switch on the right side of the movement. The other lead on the right hand switch is also an orange wire and it goes to the light bulb. The other lead off of the light bulb is a blue wire that is not connected to anything. (It looks like it used to be connected to a screw on the switch on the left side of the movement.) The other terminal on the left switch is connected to a green wire that is connected to a black wire that feeds the other side of the winding motor. The (2) black wires from the batteries are connected to a blue wire that is not connected to anything. (Second picture) The two leads from the black coil on the right side of the movement are connected to two "pinch" type wire connectors above the coil. I assume these are meant to accept the timing pulse. Below the black coil is a lever that is swung down. It seems like it should be raised and the round end of the lever engaged in a "U" shaped slot in a lever that is on the front of the movement. As it is now, the switch interferes with it being raised. :???:?

Can you supply a representative wiring diagram for this clock? With the problems, it might be best for me to eliminate any modifications to the original wiring and re-wire the clock.

Once wired correctly, can one install a pulse unit of some sort that will signal the clock to set itself?

Again, thank you for your help and participation.

Dick Feldman

Picture #1.JPG Picture #2.JPG Picture #3.JPG Picture #4.JPG Picture #5.JPG
 
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eskmill

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I erred and stated in my reply #7 that the "force to wind" switch was missing. Feldman's photos reveal this switch. It is used to force the motor to wind the mainspring.

Pressing the brass strap piece against the movement negative common circuit bypasses the normal hourly wind contact.

I have taken a portion of one of Feldman's photos and have inked in the motor circuit in large red and black lines as I found them on a like movement.

The smaller red and black lines show the wiring for illumination of the small incandescent bulb if and when the large solenoid forces the minute hand to the 12 O'Clock position from either a minute before or after exactly straight up. (the clock must be manually regulated to within two minutes in order to accept the synchronizing impulse and advance or retard the minute hand)

The large solenoid is usually ten ohms requires only a few volts but is insulated to withstand two hundred or more volts if connected in a series network with many clocks.

The socket holding the small red "sync" lamp is insulated from the clock frame which is connected to the negative battery circuit. Both small black wires feed into the base of the socket. Curiously, the indicator lamp's negative return line assures that the motor circuit is functional.
 

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Dick Feldman

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Kevin, Les, and Tinker

Thank you all for your help.

The information you have provided will be most helpful.

From the information and materials you have supplied, I think I can proceed to:

  1. Test each component
  2. Correct any faults in the systems and
  3. Properly wire the clock

As I proceed, I will post my progress.


Dick
 

Kevin W.

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Hope it goes well for you Dick, my clock is the same, except no sweep second hand, good advice given.
Kens clock clinic gives great service i bought my batteries there.
 

Tinker Dwight

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The blue wires would both be connected to the top of the
left switch. The one going to the battery needs to be
connected to the negative side of the two series battery
cells. See picture ( I should have use blue ).
The lamp is to indicate a synch pulse. The armature of the
synch coil should be in the U slot. You may have to loosen
the coils mount to get it back in place.
There is thumb switch on the left that I assume would
so the first wind.
It does need some prewind.
Tinker Dwight

Self.JPG
 

Tinker Dwight

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Hi Les
Does the motor have a separate switch?
You have the motor permanently wired to the
battery and not through the winding switch?
Tinker Dwight

Self1.jpg
 
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eskmill

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Tinker is correct. The actual connections are difficult to visualize because the actual wire terminations are made to a multi-layer matrix of metal and fiber insulating bushings along the side of the movement. For what it is worth, a view is as below. The lamp socket is more complex than the view "meets the eye."

A note of caution: The movement is a later version of the SWCC F style movement and not representative of the thousands of older F movements.
 

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Tinker Dwight

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Hi Les
How do you pre-wind it?
Do you hit the thumb switch a second time after the first
wind?
I think the lamp is only for the sync. It doesn't look to be
wired for the wind.
Tinker Dwight
 

JDToumanian

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By the late 1980's, the Self Winding Clock company filed a legal brief asserting that Western Union was failing to maintain the clocks and keep the clocks supplied with battery as per the lease agreement.

In the years following in federal court, the Self Winding clock company was purchased by Western Union for an undisclosed amount of money as a part of the settlement. By 1996. the Western Union company was no longer offering or servicing the clocks and abandoned the clocks in place.
I had no idea that the Self Winding Clock Co. was still around this recently, or that in the 1990s I could have seen one still hanging in a Western Union office. Remarkable! That lease agreement must have been long lived, and pretty favorable for the clock company for them to have survived. I've been interested in these clocks but have not tracked prices or made any effort to actually buy one... With so many clocks potentially coming on the market so recently, they must be something of a bargain. Time to start watching!

Jon
 

eskmill

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Hi Les
How do you pre-wind it?
Do you hit the thumb switch a second time after the first
wind?


If the clock needs to be wound because it "ran down" or stopped and the pendulum won't continue to oscillate, then it is likely that the Self Winding clock needs to be given a little "kick-start." Press the force wind contact and hold for a few seconds or long enough for the "floating cam" or "contact piece" to close the wind contacts whereupon, the winding cycle will continue until the "floating cam" allows the wind contact to open.

I have found on a few of the later F movements the "contact piece" that I named "floating cam" has a little different shape which will assume a position so as to close the winding contact if and when the battery is dies. On these, automatic winding will commence when the dry cells are replaced without the need for a "kick-start."

I think the lamp is only for the sync. It doesn't look to be
wired for the wind.

Yes, the lamp illuminates briefly only to signal that the synchronizing signal was received and an attempt to correct the minute hand took place.

Some collectors like to re-wire the lamp to indicate that automatic hourly wind is in progress. The lamp is or was a "sales feature" in my opinion.
 

James McDermaid

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As I have tinkered with those Western Union self winding clocks most of my life . . . . usually the sync coil had a couple of screw terminals to connect it into the loop.

WU used a 20mA loop and every clock in the entire system (city) was connected in this loop. At the top of the hour they pulsed the loop which energised the coil which zero'd the sweep and minute hand and closed a switch in the movement which lit the red light which got its power from the two #6 drycells 3 volts total.

TimeSavers makes a replica #6 battery that holds "D" cells if you want authenticity.

The pendulum was normally secured for moving by two screws with wing nuts that were stored in two retainers inside the case.

When I removed about a dozzen of these clocke from an abandoned TV studio some were keeping perfect time with years old batteries and no sync for years.

I tried to buy the master clock but a WU person beat me to it. The WU office was next door.

The clock would wind automatically every few minutes and you didn't have to prime it. Some version ran longer but never more than minutes.

Jim
 

Dave T

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Sorry to bother you, but here's another question. This armature has one of the black plastic? rollers partially broken off on one end.
I'm wondering where to get or make a replacement.
Self Winding clock armature 1.jpg
 

Kevin W.

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Dave T, i would get in touch with Kens clock clinic.
 
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