New England Chapter No. 8 NAWCC


Sturbridge Host Hotel, Sturbridge Massachusetts

Meeting Highlights by Dave Deutermann

Chapter Eight's November meeting was held on the 18th at the Sturbridge Host Hotel in Sturbridge, MA. Some 78 Mart tables opened as the first event of the morning, followed by two well-attended workshops. The first of these was another in the "Dick Trepp and Larry Smith Roadshow" series as a follow-up on their previous presentation to Chapter 8. This one covered repair and maintenance of the 400-day rotary pendulum "anniversary" clock. Dick and Larry strongly recommend this clock as a beginning repairman's ideal. Among the advantages of starting with this clock are they're readily availability at very reasonable prices, simplicity of construction, the availability of parts from most suppliers and the excellent Horolovar "400-Day Clock Repair Guide". Overhauling the clock involves all the basics and can be done without special tools although the book is a must (bought or borrowed) to do the suspension spring work properly. The presentation included disassembly, the cleaning of parts and the elaborate brass case usually found on these models, reassembly including a new suspension spring, and a unique method for putting the clock in beat. A further benefit to be had from this movement is the ability to study the mechanics of the deadbeat escapement in slow motion, as it features an eccentric that moves the pallets with respect to the escape wheel, permitting observation of the resulting action on both drops and locks. Dick and Larry supplemented this show with their own videotape while also demonstrating their unique array of home-grown fixtures and gadgets to help the work along. A ton of hard work went into this presentation and we eagerly await the next.

Following this presentation, John Losch took Chapter members through a step-by-step study in the restoration of an 1839 Aaron Willard Jr. tower clock, which he and Willard Museum Curator David Gow recently completed. How does one clean a tower clock? Our trusty ultrasonic cleaner and ammonia solution just won't do. Think big. Start with the wheelwork, arbors, pinions etc. being put through a Greymills auto parts cleaner and follow this with an aqua regia acid etch bath. Finally do a grit blast with glass bead media to provide a uniform surface texture. Fortunately, the thin-wall iron castings comprising the clock frame still retained most of their original ornate paint and gold leaf finish and only required a protective coating of linseed oil. Again fortunately, the local Congregational Church in Grafton had an 1840 Willard tower clock which was used to determine and duplicate the color of the motion work. Pivot repairs were accomplished on an enormous lathe with a five foot swing. There were a number of missing and broken bolts to replace, which featured antique and obsolete thread counts. Again, good fortune intervened with the finding of an antique screwplate having just these threads, and the bolts were replaced. New pins followed for the pinwheel escapement and the 'scape wheel teeth were surface-ground. Not exactly a Sunday afternoon basement workshop overhaul! After reassembly and test, the clock was immediately put on exhibit at the Heritage Plantation exhibit "It's About Time" in Sandwich, Mass. It has since been returned to the Willard Museum in Grafton.

Our luncheon speaker was Ian Bartky, author of the December '99 Bulletin article " The First North American Time Ball". Ian described the many and various schemes attempted to arrive at a "standard" time in America. The railroads were key in this effort, following several horrific train collisions that mandated, first and foremost, accurate timepieces, followed by centrally-directed and coordinated train movements. The railroads, however, were an entity unto themselves, employing one time standard everywhere regardless of local longitude across the continent. There was no "local" time as far as the railroads were concerned. They employed one master clock and all local watches received their synchronizing signal by telegraph. Astronomers sold the correct time to both municipalities and the railroads. Western Union became the major player in distributing time synchronizing signals across the nation. At the local level, municipalities distributed the local noon synchronizing signal by means of the municipal fire alarm telegraph. The four time zones were eventually established in 1869, but were slow to be adopted. Ian's presentation described how really difficult it was to arrive at, establish, sell and distribute something so fundamental as a standard time system in the United States, an effort involving scientists, businessmen and politicians over a period of many years. The lecture was fascinating.

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Sturbridge Host Hotel, Sturbridge Massachusetts

The hotel is located opposite Old Sturbridge Village on Route 20

From Massachusetts, take the Mass Pike (1-90) west to exit 9 to Rte 20 west through the lights to the Host Hotel on the right.
From Connecticut and New York, take 1-84 east to Rte 20 west in Sturbridge, through the lights to the Host Hotel on the right.
From Rhode Island, take Rte 146 north to Rte 20 west in Sturbridge, through the lights to the Host Hotel on the right.

Those desiring overnight lodging should contact the hotel directly at 1-800-582-3232 or 508-347-7393.

Registrations before November 13, 2000 are $19.
Registrations received after November 13, 2000 and "walk-ins" will be $25.
As always, registration includes your luncheon and is required for participation in any of the meeting activities.

7:30 AM Registration name tags available for those members who preregistered.
Registration table open for "walk-ins".
8:00 AM Mart area open for setup by table holders.
8:30 AM Mart opens.
9:30 AM Workshop: What?? Using the 400-day clock to learn basic clock repairs.
Dick Trepp and Larry Smith.
10:45 AM Workshop: The restoration of the Aaron Willard tower clock.
John Losch
noon Lunch
After-Lunch Speaker.
Selling Time and Timekeepers in 19th century America.
Ian Bartky
3:00 PM Mart closes, security ends.

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