Seeking Advice for Round Top E Howard Tower Clock

davidjas

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I have been looking for some advice on a E Howard tower clock. My hometown has one located in the courthouse which has not run for several years, I'm not sure how long. The last keeper of the clock passed away in 2017, so at least for that long, and several years prior to that. One of the courthouse workers had a clock guy drive up (about two hours away) and quoted them about $30K to restore the clock and electrify the wind mechanism. I asked to take a look at it and got several photos when I was there yesterday, trying to focus on the different parts. It was quite warm in the attic on a day near 100 degrees. It also took me a while to discover there was a light there that could be turned on. The various photos can be seen here: Current Photos

I am not a clock person, but have a basic understanding of how they work, and have several questions:
1.) Can anyone tell me what model this is? There were formerly links on this page that referenced serial numbers and such, but it appears to not be working anymore. The clock was ordered in late 1912 and I had written down the numbers 30 and 5061, although I'm not sure exactly what those were. Model 30 shouldn't really be available then from what I remember, and the serial number would also too high for the time it was ordered. Or maybe I'm wrong about both of those and you will be able to tell me that.
2.) From the photos, is there anything you see in the main device that looks like it needs servicing other than cleaning or any parts that are missing? There were still partial winds on the drums, and the time train worked without issue when I swung the pendulum. I could hear the escapement ticking, and didn't notice any wear on the gears that I could see. I did notice in the photos that the part of the escapement that catches the gear has something weird on the right side exactly where it catches the gear. Is that normal?
3.) On the drive home (two hours for me as well), I realized that the drums should probably be ran down so that they didn't leave weight pulling against the system. Is that accurate? The main wheel drum is obvious to me, if the pendulum was restarted it should run down in a few days. I assume the other drum is for the chime system, which I know very little about, and would not know offhand how to run off. Any advice on whether they need run out and the best way to do so?
4.) The indicator system seem to be intact at the clock itself, and runs vertically to the top of the tower. It appears to have worn at some point and the part running up wore into at a connecting point. I believe I can fix the joint, and it will run the center portion of the tower at the top. The connecting arms at the four side gears in the middle of the clock faces are missing. These can also be easily replaced, however the north clock face is missing the gears that convert the minutes to hours. This might be lying around somewhere, but if it can't be found is it easy to get a replacement part for that? Is there anything else that isn't obvious about this system that I should be aware of?
5.) The chime system also appears to be intact, but I really don't know anything at all about it. I can see the rail, the snail, and the fan. There is a loose cable hanging down to the clock but the hammer above doesn't appear to be connected to anything. Would a cable be what likely connected the two? Where would it connect to the mechanism?
6.) A county official is interested in changing the winding mechanism to an electric system. Does anyone have experience with that, and is it something that is recommended? The clock is out of the way to get to and would make it much easier for them to operate once a week or so, but I didn't know if that would cause any potential issues?
7.) Any other general advice? I'm sure I'll come up with additional questions as I go along. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.
 

Jim DuBois

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Your photos do tend to document the need for a complete overhaul of the clock. The motion works look particularly in need of a complete teardown and refresh. The movement minimally requires a very sympathetic and complete evaluation/cleaning/overhaul.

An electric rewind system can certainly be fit up, but not until all the refresh/overhaul work is done. And the rewind system can be fit up in a sympathetic fashion that does not damage or destroy the existing mechanism.

While the internet and discussions like what happens here can be helpful, this clock appears to need someone who knows how to properly restore it. It appears to be far more complete and original than many tower clocks. It is worth completing a proper restoration for sake of preserving history. And county or city officials are not always helpful in that process but are usually required/necessary.

The short answer is involving a well-skilled tower clock knowledgeable person is the next proper step. I have seen a number of clocks well restored by us amateurs, but we need adult leadership to guide the project.
 
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klokwiz

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Davidjas, I can understand your fascination with this movement and I am certain there are those that will help answer your questions. My question is you did not indicate if the officials were put off by this repair estimate. Given the time and effort involved I would think a proper job is probably going to run this amount. And it would certainly be necessary for someone to back up the repair with a warranty. Joe
 

davidjas

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I guess I didn't. They are just in an information gathering phase, and when I found out the amount, I guess it seemed quite excessive to me personally. Specifically, since I didn't see anything wrong with the mechanism offhand. In looking at it, I thought a good cleaning and reconnecting a few things should suffice, hardly $30K worth of work. However, the first response indicates that maybe my position was not the correct one.

It's in a very small county- the smallest in the state, less than 2000 people, and without a lot of money to throw at the problem. I just thought if it could be taken care of by someone willing to put in the time that would save the much needed funds for something else. But I also realize that it would be possible to make the problem worse by not doing it correctly, so I thought to post the specific questions I had (with accompanying photos) to see what others with better information might have to say on the matter. At the very least, even if they do decide to hire someone to restore it then hopefully they could get the right person at a fair price instead of being taken advantage of.
 

Jim DuBois

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$30,000 is not an unreasonable amount for SOME tower clock overhauls/repairs/restorations, assuming it was from a person in the business who intends to do the work properly. I know of one large and difficult restoration that cost over $1million. Obviously, we are not speaking of anything all that difficult or nearly that expensive. I have also seen a "restoration" where a decent movement was hacked up, a vacuum sweeper motor was stuck on the fly shaft to drive the strike train backward to strike the hours, and the frame of the time mechanism was hacked out with a Sawzall and an AC synchronous motor was stuck in to run the hands. The rest of the movement was spray-painted in place, the clock was declared restored, and the bill was only $10K. The city fathers were happy until someone revealed to them what had been done. None of them had ever been in the tower, before or after. So, information from people who are knowledgable in the trade, and honest too, are in my thinking, necessary.

Your story is not unusual, those of us who dabble in these things usually get a similar story a few times a year. We do understand and appreciate the situations many institutions find themselves in these days.

There is nothing complex about overhauling and restoring these mechanisms. If the fellow up the road can keep his 1936 vintage tractor running properly there is a good chance he could do a lot to improve this clock. Often a few local parties can be assembled to do the work necessary, if, and only if, someone with knowledge of tower clocks can oversee and direct the effort.

Some things to think about;
1 Liability insurance to cover parties doing the work. Who pays?
2 drug tests required of "independent contractors" to work on public facilities? Who pays?
3 lift equipment or steeplejacks to take the hands off the dials so the motion works can be removed, restored, and re-installed.
4 Dial repair necessary? Also, lift or steeplejack work most often.
5 Access and condition of walkways, stairs, and steeples/belfries, etc
6 Desired completed state, i.e. sounds like they want electric rewind installed. Is there power in the area of the movement, does it meet local standards, is a licensed electrician required to get it up to code? Who will supply the rewind mechanisms?
7 condition of the steeple/belfry, does it meet current standards for the building in which it resides? Are floors rotten? Beams chewed up by termites?
8 condition of clock areas requiring work, is there pigion poop knee-deep? And yes, histoplasmosis can be a real problem when working on tower clocks. It can kill you.
9 Then we can get to the movement. It will require disassembly, how does one do that what with weights hanging off the drums etc.? How does one safely let down the weights?
10 Can the movement when disassembled be taken to a shop elsewhere or does the work have to be done on site? Yes, than can be required by some controlling bodies
11 after the movement is taken apart and then following cleaning the real work begins. That specifically is ascertaining what work is needed, how does it get repaired, who does the work, how quick is it needed.
12 Then there is the question of repairing surfaces originally painted, how to best protect all surfaces, what colors of paint are needed on and on. And to this point, I once spent several hours with a small group of folks arguing/discussing shades of black for a product. Yes, shades of black. Documenting and recreating original colors is usually advisable, but that can be fraught with opportunity too.
13 A small machine shop or access to a machinist with a lathe and mill will most likely be needed.

As you see, this is only a partial list of things to consider/deal with. It is a path several of us have been down more than once. Personally speaking, I have donated time on several of these efforts, so my thoughts are based on experience, not conjecture. And I have also been paid for such work, so while not a professional, I must be a bit more than a new apprentice in tower clocks? Several folks who respond on this site are professionals and highly experienced and highly reputable too. So, you may get more response than just me.
 
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