Earlier Mention of WUTCO Clocks


Here's my understanding how the WUTCO clocks worked, at least the one we had at radio stations in the Southwest in 1966-68.

Our WU clock was big enough to contain an old-fashioned 1.5-volt dry cell, the cylindrical kind about 3 inches in diameter by 10-12 inches high, with knurled brass nuts on the threaded terminals.

Every so often you'd hear whirr-whirr as the battery wound the spring motor or whatever; in the two years I was there I don't remember the battery ever being replaced, which makes sense since both its duty cycle and load were quite small, a nice bit of early-20th C. design, IMHO.

What made it a WU clock was the telegraph pair leading, presumably, to the local WU CO. The clock would always lose a few seconds per hour, no more than five or ten, and exactly on the hour, every hour, a voltage pulse (unknown voltage) would come down that pair and activate a solenoid, which would literally pull the second hand to the vertical position, with a metallic 'thunk,' to start each hour right on the money.

This was a mixed blessing for broadcasters, since the clock was accurate just when you needed it to be accurate, just before the hour, when every network affiliate rejoined its net after the hourly break, which lasted generally from :59:00 to :00:00.

The upshot was that every station I ever saw with a WU clock also had an AC-powered (synchronous motor) Telechron clock on the wall next to it. The Telechron with its sweep-second hand was used to meet the network; the WU clock was useful only after a power outage, the possibility of which made it worth the few bucks a month charged by WU.

Or at least that's how I remember it.

Harry Joseph NYC

Outside of a dog a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. --Groucho

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I had several WUTCO clocks many years ago before they all got liberated. :( Instead of the two very large 'telephone battery' type things in each clock (1.5 volts time 2 wired in parallel) I had a single 'battery eliminator' wired in series (then parallel) to each clock. And it was _not_ true that they 'always lost a few seconds every hour'. By very careful calculation, I had mine adjusted to the point of a variance of twenty or thirty seconds per _month_ usually. That required using a leveling device for both the backboard they were on (as well as the platform they stood on) and a _very careful_ tweaking of the pendulum set screw. To explain the importance of careful adjustment, a variance of merely one second per minute gives an aggragate variance of one minute per hour, or 24 minutes per day ... totally unacceptable. The pendulum has to be exactly the right length and totally free-floating except for the 'fingers' where they resist the escapement. I do not know the math all that well these days (diseased brains can really fu-- with your abilities at times) but the idea is the swing the pendulum makes is an 'arc' (in the larger scheme of things) a 'circle' and the circumfer- ence, or distance 'around the entire circle' (or circumference) is very important.

How long it would take in theory for the radius of the circle (let's refer to it as the 'pendelum stick' to make one trip around depends of course on the length of the radius (or pendelum stick). Ditto for fractions of a trip around the circle (the arc). From one side of the arc to the other you want the pendulum to take exactly one-quarter second to free-fall from its starting point to the center, and three- quarters second for the finger to in effect 'climb back up' the arc to the other side, or one-quarter second for the finger to get out of the way of the escapement and three-quarters second for it to 'resist and push the escapment back into place'.

So after you have made absolutely certain with a t-square and level that everything is level (as best your eyes can see) and you have made a gross adjustment on the pendulum stick, then you continue your adjustments by _listening to the beat. You want to hear it go 'tick .... tock ... tick ... tock, _not_ tick-tock, tick-tock ...... tick-tock, tick-tock ... you want to hear an even (again, as best as your ears can deal with it) cadence. If the cadence is irregular, then check the leveling again, both vertical and horizonal. Now you are at the point the clock _appears_ to the naked eye to be level and it _appears_ to the naked ear to have the proper cadence. But naked eyes and ears are just that; only partially reliable human instruments. In actual practice, the tick is not a second away from the tock, but only .95 of a second away. And the wall is not exactly level, it is maybe a hundredth of an inch 'out of level'. What do you do next?

Well, you are not going to rebuild your house, so we are going to make compensation via the set screw on the pendulum. Recall, we earlier gave the pendulum a gross adjustment (which is all some of them ever had, depending on the installer's interest in the matter) so now we are going to as needed give the pendulum the required fine tuning. Using an independent time source, we adjust the hands on the clock manually (_never_ turn them backward, just forward) so that the minute hand sets exactly on the minute of the hour and start the pendulum swinging. Watch the clock for about five minutes, and see, in five minutes with your naked eye if the minute hand is exactly where it should now be. If not, tweak the set screw just a tiny bit. (One complete turn of the set screw usually made a variance in time keeping of two minutes per day.) If after five minutes you can see a noticable difference consider another gross adjustment. If you don't see any difference, then good ... come back in 10-15 minutes and look again.

Then do you see any difference? Remember, even if your eyes do not see any variance from the clock to the other time source, or your ears do not hear any irregular cadence, there are still wee tiny variances present. But we did not see any (by this point it is unlikely you will hear any), so we go away, and come back in one hour. Now see any problems? Check again in three hours, then in twelve hours, and finally after a full day, tweaking the set screw (which is the length of the pendulum, which in turn affects how 'fast' or 'slow' the stick [or radius] of the circumference will be traversed [or some fractional part thereof] which is the arc. Since gravity is constant, the only variables will be the geometry involved. Check the clock again in a week or two against the independent time source. My clocks were at the point even breathing on the set screw would put them out of whack, I got to where I never had to touch the set screw eventually.

Even WUTCO was not that picky, so they allowed for a single gross adjustment once per hour in the form of the incoming wire from the central office which would periodically put a 'load' on the line and retard the pendulum for the second or so needed if the clock was too 'fast' or push the hand up a little if the clock was too 'slow'. There were a few other minor variables to consider also, such as humidity in the air, pollutants in the air which would stick to the fingers or the escapement, and regards pollutants, these necessitated a single

**tiny** drop of 'clock oil' (A-1 worked fine, or something from a jeweler) typically once a year. Just a wee squirt of oil on the works inside; let that wee squirt do its own thing, working its way through all the gears by itself, which it will do in the next several hours. Do not drench the gears in oil, a tiny drop or two tiny drops is all it needs.

Of my three working clocks (at one point I had a couple dozen of various makes and models, but I gave them all to friends except for the three I held out for my own use), I gave them a very ocassional 'gross adjustment' maybe once a month or so. As long as the WUTCO clocks were within two minutes (either side of the '12') in accuracy and they nearly always were (WUTCO expected that much of the installers in the field), just a little tap on the source of the load would jerk the minute hand forward or backward as needed to place it squarely on the '12' without the clock losing a single beat, and it would just go on as if nothing had happened. My 'load' was in the form of a nine-volt DC battery taped to the underside of my desk, with a doorbell wired to one side of the line in series then run off to the various clocks. I had an old Apple ][ computer and eventually 'automated' the process by having a modem dial into (what later became 'tick.navobs.mil' but in those days it was) 900-410-TIME or

202-762-1401 and when the pulse came through the modem, the Apple computer heard it, and a program I had sent a pulse through the computer's parallel port to the clocks.

In 1963, when WUTCO discontinued their 'clock service' the old Western Union headquarters building, 410 South LaSalle Street had dozens of clocks in that building alone; every office had one, the public message office on the first floor had one, etc. The day after the clock service was discontinued, _every damn clock_ in the WUTCO headquarters building was gone! All had been replaced with cheezy looking wall clocks. I thought to myself, some executive(s) at WUTCO were smart, and I decided I would be smart also. So I went around to the places I frequented in those days, and tried to 'be helpful and replace that old WUTCO clock with a new, modern style wall clock'. Some people listened to/accepted my thinly-veiled BS; other folks would not. Those who accepted my 'generous offer' to get them a new modern clock (and don't worry about the old WUTCO clock; I will remove it and dispose of it) did get a new clock; I took down the old clocks and took them away.

At Chicago Symphony, the building manager of Orchestra Hall gave me two clocks, both in mint condition, although they were fifty years old. From Chicago Public Library I got a clock from the employee's lunchroom, and also one from the cafeteria in the old Board of Edu- cation Building on North LaSalle Street. I was about to raid the Chicago Temple Building (which had six clocks in various areas of the building) -- and did get one -- but when I went back the next day to get one or two more, the building manager had changed his mind on the deal. I had gotten the one out of the lobby area the day before with the manager's blessings; when I went back, I had to find a ladder to get one out of the organ pipe chambers area; I was setting about my work when I 'bumped into' the building manager. He said (as best as I can recall to quote him) "I have to call the deal off; last night the Board of Trustees had their monthly meeting; one of them asked me about the 'clock in the lobby' and I told them; they gave me hell and said don't do that anymore." So now it appears others were getting smart as well as just me and the WUTCO executives. Besides in their second-floor offices, Temple Building also had a very elegant grandfather style clock (with Western Union works in it) in the third floor library. Now that I think about it, I am sorry I did not get that one first, while the manager was not on to me, but I recall thinking at the time I would never have the nerve to ask him to part with that one in its elegance. The clock I _did_ get however had a typewritten note inside the case saying 'put in service (some date) in 1923' and like all my WUTCO clocks from that era, they were all keeping almost perfect time seventy years later, despite a few moves in location and rehangs, and resets later.

I wish I could find a WUTCO clock now! I understand I would not get one for the 'price' I paid in 1963 (nothing, except a wall clock trade). Someone stole the three I had held onto in 1999. After my brain aneuyrsm I could not find them around anywhere. :( PAT]

Reply to
Harry Joseph
Loading thread data ...

Cabling-Design.com Forums website is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.