The lost, world record breaking Singer factory WT?

This large and complex WT movement from 1926 is shown on its rather crude, timber test bench. No doubt it would be erected on a prepared, concrete plinth placed centrally in its intended installation site.

This is believed to be the WT movement from the now-demolished Clydebank [Glasgow] Singer factory. Though there were plans to display the WT movement in a modest setting locally it was [apparently] lost or mislaid. Considering that this WT movement set a new world record for public clock dial size this lack of respect for Britain's industrial heritage leaves one saddened and bemused.

Why not display it in the Science museum in London if Scotland had no real interest in its own industrial history? It's not as if Singer was an obscure manufacturer of anonymous widgets. It was world famous for its sewing machines! Though less well known for its "difficult" employment relationships with its workers.

The sad tale of the Singer clock

The WT's timekeeping would not have been affected by its temporary, timber support while under test. The Waiting Train function would easily correct any variation of timekeeping. While the Hipp-based switch for the drive contacts would ensure a stable pendulum arc. [Swing] The Hipp V-block in this case has several "Vs" to allow a degree of variation and a further element of security against a miss as the toggle drops into one of the grooves to force the drive contacts, firmly together.

Note the huge scale of the driving wormwheel, [top left] dominating bevel gear cluster and massive lead-off couplings to drive the giant clock hands. Gents' skills at casting complex forms is also well seen in the flat, cast bed on which the entire movement is based.

The bevel gear cluster has four wheels so confirms it was intended for a high tower with a dial on each face. There would be absolutely no point in adding superfluous bevel wheels for non-existent dials. The scale of the movement suggests an extraordinarily large clock installation.

The image alongside is of a similar but even more complex WT movement.

Here is an illustration from Gent's WT promotional material. The detail is much better seen than in the original photograph above. With the relatively tiny, WT relay solenoid, on the extreme left, controlling the timekeeping. [A small, diagonal bar supports its pivots.]

The apparent complexity at middle-left obscures the movement's actual simplicity. A counter-weighted, electrical contact bar provides a reliable drive contact for the large electromagnets visible just beneath the large bevel wheels. To the left is the sturdy ratchet wheel with its heavy bearings. Which turns the heavy pendulum's linear swing into a powerful rotating force via a massive drive pawl.[hook]

The pendulum is driven by means of a crutch from the electromagnets' armature. Though the actual implementation is obscure or not seen. Small but clever details can be more easily be seen: Like the pendulum support bearings being constantly driven by a ratchet wheel to avoid flat spots on the outer race over time. This practice was carried over from the earlier, 1911 Liver Clock movements in Liverpool. The pendulum support,  journal bearings themselves did away with the fragile flat, suspension springs. Which has been common to most pendulum clocks for well over half a millennium.

The forward bevel wheel has a typical Gents' time setting dial attached. Though here it must be of quite extraordinary size. Handy for re-setting the clock hands accurately to British Summer and Winter time. The sheer power of such a movement to drive enormous and heavy clock hands in all weather conditions on a very high, exposed tower can only be imagined. Constructing a weight driven clock movement to accomplish such a task [to precision master clock, seconds per month, timekeeping standards] completely reliably and automatically would have been quite literally impossible. The WT has no use of architecturally-limiting weight shoots, massive drive weights, nor a team of exhausted winders to raise them at frequent intervals.

I have added captions to the third image for easy recognition of the vital components in this close-up. Left click for further enlargement to see the fine detail.

The Hipp toggle and V-block form the [minimum] pendulum arc regulating switch and are very typical of most WTs. Only the contacts themselves are more complex to carry the heavy DC electrical, pendulum drive loads reliably over a very long period of operation. A long lever and adjustable, coiled tension spring seem to be associated with the contacts. No doubt some means of extending the drive impulse were employed to maximize the electro-mechanical power available in difficult weather conditions. Ice and high winds would unbalance the clock hands demanding more torque and/or braking power.

Fortunately, the genius of the Hipp switch, combined with Gent's brilliant engineering, provided a near-miraculous, 30x increase in torque, instantly and on demand. In quiet conditions the pendulum might ask for a push only once every minute or even longer. While in winter storm conditions the clever Hipp switch can automatically demand a drive impulse on every other pendulum swing.

It should be remembered that this single WT movement would be responsible for the incredibly accurate timekeeping of  four sets of clock hands on four different tower faces with tens of thousands of daily onlookers. Each exposed dial will suffer its own unique weather conditions from one hurricane force moment to the next and all high above the open sea. All of which is regulated, to a few seconds per month, by a remote master clock. Connected only by a thin length of wire carrying a short, low voltage, DC impulse at half minute intervals.

It would be nice to think that this huge WT is sitting quietly somewhere awaiting eventual discovery. Though it seems much less likely with every passing year. It was a unique and brilliant solution to a demand for accurate timekeeping on ever larger clock dials to add to industrial magnate's prestige. 1926 was barely two decades after the first simple, WTs were being manufactured. Yet this WT movement shows remarkable sophistication and a firm and confident grasp of the engineering required to do a job well beyond the limits of all previous experience. This movement alone speaks volumes about the skills and genius of the Gent's designers and the company's manufacturing abilities.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

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