Self Winding Clock Company- Western Union

Holescreek

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Found this Western Union/SWCC clock at a local antique mall and decided to take it home.

2v2HhQg7uxAjwmD.jpg

The works are extremely dirty and might need some work. The self winding motor still works but I'm not sure if the coils for the time adjust are functioning. I've been doing a lot of reading online and this one might have been made about 1909. It looks surprisingly modern outside.

2v2HhQgtUxAjwmD.jpg
 
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Toughtool

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I had one of those one time. I think the synchronizing magnets were a separate circuit that was driven from a signal from the telegraph line to sync all the telegraph offices on the network to the same time. I don't know how that worked but I bet someone on this forum does.
I was still able to buy the #6 "A" battery, back then. I looked on the web and found someone that sells labels and has instruction on how to make your own replica. RadiolaGuy.com : Create a replica A cell battery
Isn't the web wonderful? Joe

RadiolaGuy.com : Vintage Radio & Vintage radio batteries
 

Tim Orr

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Good afternoon!

I am beginning to sound – to myself at least – like a broken record, but the foremost expert I know on these is Ken Reindel of kensclockclinic.com

If he doesn't know about it, it's probably not worth knowing.

When I worked in broadcasting, we had these in all the studios. Ours were the sweep-second type, with lots of largely ineffective soundproofing inside. (Announcers often said, "You can always make the clock wind itself by opening the mike.") By the late 1960s, Western Union was working with the phone company. They sent a 90v AC ringer pulse down a phone line at the top of the hour to a relay housed in our phone wiring cabinet. This relay provided a contact closure to all of our clocks. The contact closure caused the synchronizing solenoids to pull and the red light above the numeral "6" to light up momentarily.

All our clocks worked on two, 1.5v #6 cells, which were, as I recall, good for about 6 months or so. Western Union sent a guy out to replace the cells and check the operation of the clocks at regular intervals. We didn't have to do anything. In those days, if memory serves, we paid $6 per month per clock to have highly accurate time in the station. This was essential for scheduling, and especially for interacting with the network.

Some stations, I heard, used the synchronizing relay to actuate a 1000-cycle tone at the top of the hour. This was fed into the mixing board, so that you always got a time tone over the top of whatever program was running at the beginning of the hour.

Clocks like the one you have, without the sweep-second hand, were often found in public buildings. At one time, as I recall, the entire NYC subway system was full of SWCC clocks. The famous 4-sided clock in the middle of the information booth in Grand Central was a SWCC product, though my understanding is that it has been reworked, since the SWCC service is no longer available.

Good luck, visit Ken's site, and best regards!

Tim Orr
 

Holescreek

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I spent some time with the Western Union clock today, removed the works and gave everything a good look over. The good news is the motor winding coils and the synchronizing coils are still working. The not so good news is that the front and back plates are extremely worn and will need rebushed.
I've been reading a lot on the history and repair of these clocks and ordered both the battery pack and the synchronizing battery pack this afternoon. Since I've only had it a couple of days I want to see how/if the clock will run as is before I dig any deeper into it. I already have parts on backorder for another clock, who knew this could be addictive?
 

James McDermaid

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I have had and worked on a ton of those Western Union Self Winding Clocks.

The broadcast station I worked for in the late 1950's had them scattered about the studio building.

They were synchronized through a 20 Milliamp loop that went through several TV and Radio stations on the same street. All in the same series circuit. Telegraph technology.

The master clock was down the street in the Western Union Office and it was a thing of beauty. I tried to obtain it when they finally went out of business but all I ended up with was a truck load of the wall clocks.

They would send out the sync pulse which put 20 mA on the loop and as Long as someone had not cut the wires and killed the loop it would sync all the clocks at the top of the hour. The red light would come on as they synced up. As I recall they could sync if the clock was within a minute of so.

W-U would come around about once a year and replace the batteries which required two #6 dry cell's per clock.

The basic clock was a decent time keeper for the most part.

Some of the clocks would wind often for a shorter time and some would wind longer for a greater time spread.

Jim
 
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Holescreek

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The battery and syncronizer from Kens clocks arrived yesterday and I go them installed this afternoon. I want to run the clock for a day or two to see if it'll keep time. I watched it self adjust on the hour twice and see that there must be an adjustment I have to make. Every time it self adjusts, it sets the minute hand back a full minute.
 

mxfrank

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The syncronizer is not needed for the clock to work and keep time. It's actually as accurate as any decent gallery clock stand alone, without the syncronizer. As for age, the F style movement goes back to the 1880's, but was produced for 70 years. This style of clock was typical of the 1940's, and AFAIK, metal cases didn't appear prior to WWI. We've had questions about age and model numbers, but if there's a late SWCC catalog, I've never found it. The F movements were serially numbered, and the numbers go up to 400,000 with some sizable gaps. This could be a clue to date of manufacture. However, the movements were often exchanged as a field repair, so the serial numbers aren't necessarily definitive.
 

Toughtool

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there must be an adjustment I have to make
It would be my guess that you are getting too much motion on the "self adjustment" (syn pulse from the large magnet). There is an adjustment that will effect the amount of motion in your photo. I have circled it in red. I don't know if it will fix it or not. Joe

Clipboard01.jpg
 

Tim Orr

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Good evening!

When you say that when it adjusts, it moves the minute hand back a whole minute, there is, of course, the possibility that the clock has gained that much time in the course of the hour between synchronizations. You do not have one of the clocks with a sweep second hand, so not sure you can easily track any gain or loss in time over the course of the hour.

You might want to leave the synchronizer turned off (or disconnected) for a while and see how the timekeeping is. The synchronizer simply brings the minute hand to 12 once an hour. My recollection is that it can be as much as a couple of minutes plus or minus and still be brought in with the sync. The sync-ing is pretty positive. If you look at the enlarged photo Toughtool posted, you can see a sort of downward-pointing "C"-shaped device on the arm behind the hour wheel. This clamps down on a mating semicircular surface on the wheel behind it, and pretty positively locks the minute hand in position momentarily.

Most of the minute hands are not adjustable, like those in most common clocks, and are pinned to their collars. They seem to have been matched to the movements. With the cover and hands and dial off, you can push the arm down yourself – when you're close to the top of the hour – and see how it works. One question to answer is where the minute hand locks when synchronization occurs. Is the minute hand at 12 or ahead or behind it? If it's right on 12, as it should be, the problem could be regulation.

I would suggest tracking timekeeping over a few days without synchronization, checking against a quartz or radio clock, and get the timekeeping reasonably tight before reconnecting the synchronizer.

Best regards!

Tim
 

Toughtool

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Thanks, Tim. I was under the impression the sync-ing was setting the minute hand one minute early, maybe at 59 minutes instead of 60 (0) minutes. Looking at the enlarged photo again I only see one pin that the arm contacts so I wonder what the arm contacts to bring the minute hand forward if late.
 

Kevin W.

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Nice find and a nice clock. I think the date would be closer to the 1930,s, just from what i have read.
 

Tim Orr

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Good afternoon, all!

Here's a diagram from "Self Winding Clock Co. Service Guide (1946)" that I found in my files. I think the Service Guide may actually have come from this Forum, though I haven't done a search for it.

In any event, you can see how the ends of the letter "C" lever hit the two "ears" on the wheel below.

SWCC_Sync.jpg

The diagram shows someone testing the action of the lever manually. (What great diagrams we once had, eh?) I'll go look for the full service guide later.

Best regards!

Tim
 

James McDermaid

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We had these clocks in our TV control rooms in good view of the On-Air-Director. We were an NBC affiliate so we would run the commercial break to the station ID slide, we would watch for the red light to come on for about one second and punch to network at the top of the hour.

I do not recall ever having the master sync signal being off at all.

The Western Union master clock was mounted to a wall in the WU office about a block away. It was a long case clock in a case with a lot of glass. They let me visit it time to time. I don't know how the master clock was synchronized.

As I recall the sweep second hand would only jump a second or so at the correction. If a clock got too far out of accuracy WU would change out the movement. There was a chain you could hook the outer case to while you were up on a ladder servicing the clock.

We kept the clocks going after WU quit servicing them and they were quite accurate without the sync pulse.

WU was a Telegraph company in the beginning. the 20 mA loop was common in things telegraph which included stock tickers as well as teletype machines.

Jim
 

Tim Orr

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Good evening, Toughtool!

I believe that in the photo you posted (enlarged from that of the OP), the two "ears" are obscured by other parts, and the time is far from close to time for synchronization. If you look at the line drawing, you will see a sort of "hook" (near clearance marked "C"). That hook's function is to keep the clock from synchronizing unless it is near the correct time to do so. The one ear is barely visible to the left of the wheel crossing that's pointing upwards at about 11:30 in the photo. The other ear is obscured by all the stuff in front of it, below and 180º opposite the one we can see.

Note that the mating hook at the back of the C-shaped lever is locked onto the hook to its right (showing the clearance). This prevents unwanted synchronization if the clock is way out of time or otherwise not in correct position. As the wheel goes around, it kicks that hook out of the way (via a pin on the back of the disk we can see – might be the back of that pin we can see at about 9:30) near the top of the hour so that synchronization can occur.

Jim: I never saw the sync signal from WU be off either. A lot was riding on its being correct: You either had "dead air" or you "stepped on" the network, both of which were exceptionally embarrassing. However, the local clocks could fail occasionally, and many have been tinkered with over the years. The minute hands, as I said, were pinned, and if they were exchanged between different clocks, they might not come exactly to the top during sync.

In that respect, the red light was probably better than the second hand.

Best regards!

Tim
 
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Holescreek

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The serial number on this clock tag matches that of the works and is 68601. I found a history thread somewhere that included manufacturing dates of these clocks and they put that serial range much earlier than the 1930's. The clock does look like it's from the 30's though.

I ran the clock for several hours without the synchronizer and it kept perfect time. I plugged the synchronizer battery in and pressed the start button exactly at the top of the hour so it would trigger each following hour. When it triggered, it kicked the minute hand backwards 1 minute. After another hour went by it cycled and set the minute hand back another minute, making it two minutes behind. I disconnected the synchro unit at that point because I didn't want to have it triggering when the minute hand wasn't in the proper range to be reset.

At that point I decided to hang the clock in the house and let it run until it didn't. It kept perfect time for 6 hours, I heard the main spring wind two different times at 12 minutes past the hour when I just happened to be in the same room. I started the test at 1pm and the clock stopped just after 7pm. I removed the cover and started the pendulum again and it ran for less than an hour more.

There is so much slop in the front and back plate pivot holes I can't help but think that the gears are getting bound up. I really like this clock and it fits in perfectly where it's at. I plan on making the repairs as soon as I can locate the proper tools and bushings, which seems to be a problem these days as I can't find all of what I need for either of the clocks I have to work on in stock anywhere.
I have a Deckel SO grinder in the shop and decided to try to make a bushing reamer of my own today. It's going to take some experimenting to get reamers made for standard sizes but I may just have to make my own bushings too.
 

Tim Orr

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Good evening!

I must admit I truly am puzzled by the behavior of your clock's minute hand. Are you saying that if you let it run and be synchronized over and over again, it would back up the minute hand to 59, then 58, then 57, etc.? If so, that is truly strange. Is there any possibility that the minute hand is loose on its collet? Is it exactly one minute back with each synchronization?

I am very confused.

Best regards!

Tim
 

Holescreek

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That's exactly what it was doing, but I only let it get 3 minutes behind before I disconnected the sync device. I thought about speeding up the pendulum so the clock would run faster and gain a minute each hour so I'd at least get some use out of the synchronizer and get to see the light come on for a second.

The good news is that the clock has now been running perfectly on it's own for 34 hours. Keeping my fingers crossed.
 

Toughtool

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Tom, you beat me to it! I was going to comment on that very same thing. I wouldn't think it possible unless the synchronizer was sync-ing on the 59th minute.
 

Holescreek

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The clock was still keeping great time when I left for work tonight so I put the cover back on it. If it keeps running until the weekend I'll plug the synchronizer back in and get some video. The fact that it's run for this long without stopping is suprising given it's mechanical condition.
 

Dave T

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The clock was still keeping great time when I left for work tonight so I put the cover back on it. If it keeps running until the weekend I'll plug the synchronizer back in and get some video. The fact that it's run for this long without stopping is suprising given it's mechanical condition.
Just found this thread. I bought one of these clocks Saturday. It's my first of it's kind. I find this thread very informative and wondering if you have any further updates on yours.
 

mxfrank

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The serial number on this clock tag matches that of the works and is 68601. I found a history thread somewhere that included manufacturing dates of these clocks and they put that serial range much earlier than the 1930's. The clock does look like it's from the 30's though.
Doesn't mean anything. When the movements were exchanged, the case tags were also supposed to be exchanged. This clock was likely deployed in the 30's or 40's, and this style went to end of the WU time business in the early 60's. Here is a snip from the service manual:

1606747379600.png

Ken has put up a Western Union Catalog, first I've seen from that era:

 

Holescreek

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I haven't touched this clock since the daylight savings time set-back. I've currently got the pendulum adjusted to run a little fast between hourly resets until I take the time to re-bush and service it properly.
It's hanging prominantly in my sun-room and because it is so unusual has started many conversations about clocks with the few visitors we've had this year.
 

Dave T

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I'm contemplating soldering the broken wire on this arc suppressor resistor. Anyone have instruction on proper method to solder such a small wire?

Self Winding clock broken coil wire.jpg
 

Toughtool

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You need to check if it has nylon fibers mixed with the wire, like the old dial telephones handsets have. The purpose was to reduce copper wire breakage by using very fine wire and nylon fibers for reinforcement. You can not solder to this kind of wire. Crimping is the only way to connect to it.

If it is only copper you can solder to it. First remove a little insulation wrap. if the wire is corroded, you can try cleaning it with a number 2 pencil eraser, supporting the wire with the pad of your finger under it. Then I would twist the two wires together in the Western Union splice, apply a heavy amount of soldering flux directly onto the wires (rubbing the flux into the wires), and soldering. Heat the wire and add the solder to the wire, not the iron. until the splice is saturated with solder. The flux will clean the copper and allow the solder to flow around it. I recommend a 63/37 tin/lead rosin core solder, as small diameter as you can find.

I know, this will aggravate the environmental anti-lead people. I've been using lead solder for 64 years and it hasn't made me stupid yet. Or maybe it has and I don't know it..
 
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Dave T

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You need to check if it has nylon fibers mixed with the wire, like the old dial telephones handsets have. The purpose was to reduce copper wire breakage by using very fine wire and nylon fibers for reinforcement. You can not solder to this kind of wire. Crimping is the only way to connect to it.

If it is only copper you can solder to it. First remove a little insulation wrap. if the wire is corroded, you can try cleaning it with a number 2 pencil eraser, supporting the wire with the pad of your finger under it. Then I would twist the two wires together in the Western Union splice, apply a heavy amount of soldering flux directly onto the wires (rubbing the flux into the wires), and soldering. Heat the wire and add the solder to the wire, not the iron. until the splice is saturated with solder. The flux will clean the copper and allow the solder to flow around it. I recommend a 63/37 lead/tin resin core solder, as small diameter as you can find.

I know, this will aggravate the environmental anti-lead people. I've been using lead solder for 64 years and it hasn't made me stupid yet. Or maybe it has and I don't know it..
Thank you so much. (Sorry to be so dumb about this, but it's new territory for me.)

I think I understand most of that. (It has a fine cloth insulation material on it.) And, it is solid wire, but appears to be silver color and not copper.
I think maybe I can handle this, if I can get my soldering iron the right temperature!
 
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Toughtool

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The wire could be solid (one strand) or multi-strand (probably 7 strands of finer wire). Either is fine. If it is solid, that is probably the reason for the coils, which relieve strain on solid wire to reduce breakage.
The western union splice is just placing the two wires together in an X fashion, then twisting the upper parts around in opposite directions to form the splice.

Western Union Splice.jpg
 
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Toughtool

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And if it's not copper, what would a proper crimp look like?
The wire would be copper and a fiber like nylon mixed together for support. The crimp would be onto a butt joint where the wire in inserted into each end of a metal butt splice and crimped, deforming the butt splice around the wire under pressure. I avoid a crimp connection because most fail. They must be done correctly and with the correct tool.

If the wire has nylon mixed with the copper, just carefully strip the wire's insulation. Bend the copper strands into a 90 degree position at the end of the insulation, and clip the nylon fibers off with cutters. The nylon will not stay bent and will expose themselves for trimming. I would encase the splice in heat shrink tubing to reduce bending.

Your wire is wrapped probably silk or cotton. The silver color is probably tinted with a solder mixture, mosly tin. Just do the Western Union wrap and solder.
 
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