Seth Thomas 16A

doug sinclair

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Aug 27, 2000
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I received a telephone call yesterday that I thought I would never, ever get. To summarize:

In the early '90s, I got a call from staff at our 100-year-old City Hall that the ST 16A needed work. They got my name through my association with the city's first tower clock, a Howard, which a group of us located, restored, and installed in an historic cupola of the same vintage (1905), back in 1990. (see NAWCC Bulletin # 292, October 1994, the James Short tower clock.)

Two of did a major rebuild on the City Hall 16 A at that time, but I haven't been involved with that clock now for about 15 years. THAT is a whole other story!

The call yesterday was to bring me up to date on the happenings over the last 15 years, and to solicit my help in returning the clock to health in time for its 100th anniversary in November of this year.

It seems, in an endeavor to find someone in whom City staff were confident in, they have brought in a succession of "clock repair" people who appeared so overwhelmed by the size of the clock, and the apparent steps that were going to be necessary to bring it to health, that nothing has been done. The consequence being they have all been dismissed. But still the search went on. Later today, I will perhaps be able to find out how my name surfaced again. Two of us have a scheduled visit to assess the damage and to write a proposal.

It seems that the powers that be in locations where these old tower clocks exist have never heard of the old adage that "a stitch in time saves nine", and they just let them lumber along until there is a cataclysm! They really need to have regular check-ups by someone who can recognize what needs to be done, well in advance of major trouble. Will keep you posted.
 

doug sinclair

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Aug 27, 2000
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Went and had a look at the ST 16 A on Friday. It was running, but a quick, cursory examination tells me that much needs to be done. First and foremost, the clock has a double three-legged gravity escapement which has suffered from manipulation by someone who is totally ignorant of how this escapement operates. Case in point- at one time, someone lifted the two pallet arms to let the six-toothed escape wheel, free-wheel! They panicked when they saw this, and then just released to two pallet arms into the spinning teeth of the escape wheel, to stop it!

The two-bladed fly-governor on the escape wheel shaft has a friction clutch built into the hub, on these clocks. Since the drop of the escape wheel on these clocks is 60 degrees when an escape wheel tooth advances, measures must be taken to control this extreme drop. The purpose of the governor is to exert that control. The clutch mechanism is kaput! The two-bladed governor can be spun on the escape wheel shaft.

As one would expect on a clock that celebrates its 100th birthday in November, signs of wear are evident everywhere. As I explained to the City Hall maintenance supervisor who called me about servicing the clock, the only way to return the clock to factory specs would be to replace it! Well, that in not possible. So in order to return the clock to health, one must prioritize what needs to be done. Start with the worst, first. I don't want him to come away with the impression that, if I attend to the woes of the escape wheel teeth and the fly-governor, the clock will have been returned to a state of health! A total repair must be approached in phases, as City Hall will NOT tolerate the clock being down for an extended period!

I have included three pictures of the clock which were taken when we had the first go-round with the clock, back in '92. Left to right- the double three-legged gravity escapement showing the 2 three-legged escape wheels. The fly-governor on the escape wheel shaft with is totally worn out. And a perspective view of the clock.
 

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doug sinclair

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Today's the day we return the 16A to service. Tomorrow is its 100th birthday. The pulleys on the time side had very primative roller bearings which, over the years had worn the outer race larger, the rollers had worn down, and the axles for the pulleys were badly worn. The pulleys have been re-fitted with modern caged roller bearings, and new shafts have been made. We toyed with the notion of revising the clutch mechanism in the fly on the escape wheel arbor, but went, instead, to a modification to the original clutch mechanism which will be more readily adjustable in the future. The six escape weel teeth have been repaired or replaced.

We've been holding off on this process for a week or so because the temperatures, with wind chill, have been in the - 25 to - 33 C range. Too cold to be working in an un-heated masonry clock tower. Today, the forecast says the high will be - 3 C, or about + 25 F. Pictures later today.

Part of the process today will be to review what next to tackle. A challenge on a 100-year old clock because you don't need to look very far to find wear. The City is planning to add a video to its website regarding the history of the clock. This video will include footage of the actual repair processes. I'll post a URL when the video is available.
 

doug sinclair

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After a bit more than two hours work hanging rebuilt pulleys, stringing cable, re-fitting the escape wheel and doing some adjusting and lubricating, we set the clock going a 12:09 PM MST. However, I don't have a picture to show. It was so b....y cold in the clock room that my camera wouldn't focus properly! :0: When the weather warms up a bit I'll go back for a follow-up check up. I recommended HYPOID gear oil for lubricating the pulleys. It was so cold in the clock room that the hypoid was as thick as chassis lube!
 

Robert Ling

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Wow! Thanks for posting your project and progress.
When it warms up put up some pic's, please.
 

doug sinclair

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Today it was warm enough in the clock room to take some pictures. I did some minor adjustment to the clutch on the fan on the escape wheel, and regulated it for about a 1 minute per day gain. Two maintenance people who are responsible for the clock were there, so I used the opportunity to tell them about the clock and some of its features.
 

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Robert Ling

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Thanks for the pictures.
It's a beauty. The paint looks to be in very good shape, Is it original ?
 

doug sinclair

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Regrettably, the paint is not original. It had a LOT of work in 1982 at which time it was re-painted. I wasn't involved at that time. Yesterday, one of the staff noted a spot where someone had scribed their name and the date (1939 as I recall) on the cast iron frame. It had been painted over, but it was still readable.
 

Robert Ling

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In my Seth Thomas clocks catalog book by Ly it shows several models with quite a bit of striping down the legs, etc.
I would think a good striper could have a field day on one of these clocks. :D
 

doug sinclair

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Aug 27, 2000
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Update:

Our ST 16 A has been operating nicely now since we set it going on the evening prior to its 100th birthday (Nov. 26, 1910). A quick check within one week after that day found the clock 4 minutes fast! A phone call to those who have access to it indicated that it had been re-set within the week, as well. Since I planned a follow-up visit to check on the state of adjustment on the hub of the escape wheel fly, I decided to adjust the regulator as well. That was done in mid-December. Since then I have continued to check the rate on a "drive-by", at least once per week. At no time did I see it more than 2 minutes fast, and it was reported to me that it had NOT been re-set since I adjusted the regulator.

Our 1910 era sandstone City Hall is right across the street for the Olympic Plaza which has become a hub for many celebratory acivities of our citizenry. It dates back to the 1988 Winter Olympics. It has become traditional to celebrate a "First Night" event at that plaza, to see in the New Year. Naturally, such a time would predicate that the clock be right on time. So I did that on Thursday, and I found that the clock had gained 2 1/2 minutes in about 6 weeks, without having been re-set. While I was there, I had an audience of the entire staff of the maintenance department of our both City Hall and the newer municipal building. I was wondering when City Council and the Mayor were going to appear, but they are all on Christmas break. All is well!

Happy New Year to you all!
 

Robert Ling

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Happy New Year to you too Doug.
And a job well done on the 16A.
It must be very gratifying to drive by and see the clock doing well.
 

doug sinclair

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The City of Calgary recently had a videographer up in the 100 year old cupola of our original City Hall, to do a video on the Seth Thomas 16A which is the subject of this thread.

http://www.calgarycitynews.com/2011/02/old-city-hall-clock-tour.html

The interpreter in the video is not me, but the head of the maintenance department for City Hall. He has worked in that department for about 20 years. He's good at his job, and he loves the clock.

In the video, you will see the governor fan on the escape wheel arbor. This is a double three legged gravity escapement. The interpreter calls it "an eight-day escapement" in the video. (Blush :myhappy:) This governor was one focus of our recent servicing of the clock. The hub of the fan was worn out, and not doing its job. He also mentions the pulleys on the weights on one side which was the other focus of our servicing.

I have one regret! The fellow did the best he could with the camera in his face, but they really should have had someone who knows the clock do the job. Enjoy (I hope!)
 

doug sinclair

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Back in November 2010, when we were called to examine the 16A because it was stopping, the maintenance people at City Hall suggested it might be the clutch on the fly shaft which was loose, or a pulley that was wonky. We attended to the pulley and the clutch, and left it running. It ran all through our winter with temperatures bordering on -30 F. Today, I get a call! It stopped twice yesterday (Thursday). Most recently at 8:20 am. Now, hearing from them today, is the last thing I wanted. My musical group had a luncheon to play for, and we are trying to finish preparing our railroad pocket watch exhibit for a model train show on Saturday and Sunday. But they pleaded! They were getting calls to the City emergency line, the aldermen, the mayor's office, and the City Hall switchbourd!

Well! I went! Without going into a lengthy disertation about troubleshooting, after a few pokes and prods, I noticed the the final bevel gear that drives the vertical shaft the drives the planetary mechanism was tight, tight, tight! I loosened the machine screw that holds the bevel gear to the ascending shaft, and as soon as it was loose, the four minute hands ascended, counter-clockwise, from 8:20 to 8:00. Advanced the hands to 8:20 again, let go the ascending shaft-same result.

This clock is fitted with counterbalances on the minute hands, and counter balances on the extension shafts in the clock room which were pointing 180 degrees away from the tip of the minute hand. Obviously, the external and internal counterbalances were waaaaaay overcompensating for the weight of the minute hand, causing the clock to struggle to advance the hands on the way down, past the 12:00. Hence the fact that the hands backed up from 8:20 to 8:00 when I loosened the nut. One might expect the opposite to be true.

I had no access to the external counterweights, but I did have access to the internal ones. So I loosened them on the extension shafts and moved them 180 degrees around, to point in the same direction as the minute hand, and moved the counterbalances all the way out. This was to counter-compensate for the over-compensating extrnal counter weights. Result? The hands now park nicely wherever you place them Set the hands to 1:00 PM, and advanced the clock from 8:20 (where it quit), to 1:00 o'clock, tightened the machine screw on the bevel gear. Fait accompli!

This clock had developed a habit of stopping at odd times. They had always managed to re-start it. I TOLD them- when it QUITS, leave it alone and CALL ME! Finally, with it stopped, the diagnosis was simple-as was the repair. But who would be looking for a problem such as the one I describe?

I hope you understand all this. Anyway, the poor maintenance guy was in awe! He was expecting MAJOR trouble! He won't see the bill! :D
 
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