HOME - Front Page
Heritage \ Writings \ Buildings

City Hall's Water Powered Clock - 1916
Located on Washington, northwest corner of 10th Street.
  • Contributed by Jim Petrimoulx, Jan., 2008.
  • The Bay City Tribune Monday, May 29, 1916 (page 3)

    Bells In City Hall Have Marked the Passage of Time
    Since Year 1894.

    Have you ever wondered, as you listened and counted the strokes of the gong in the tower of the cityhall building, whether the mechanism which controlled its beats, and accounted for their accuracy might be complicated and mysterious?

    Complicated it is, but of F. W. Maynard, who has charge of the clock, mysterious it is not.

    Even more interesting than the story of the history of the bells themselves. Their chimes were familiar to the shipping masters who fill Saginaw river with their craft in the early '90's. They have rung out that era of our progress and have continued to ring while the city has undergone the changes and improvements which have brought it into its present condition.

    The bells were donated by various prominent citizens at the time that the city hall was built.

    A master clock in the city comptroller's office, together with two compressed air tanks, one in the basement of the building and another in the tower itself, both of which are electrically controlled are the mainsprings of the system.

    The automatic electric air compressor in the basement of the the city hall keeps 16 pounds of air pressure up all the time. The air is pumped into a 100 gallon tank in the basement which connects with the master clock in the comptroller's office. It also connects with the other 100-gallon take in the tower.

    The master clock itself is a common eight-day winding clock. It controls 10 clocks in the building besides the tower clock and is worked on what is known as a thermostat system. This master clock automatically opens the air valve in its mechanism and the air rushes to each one of the 11 clocks. Every 30 seconds this release of the air valve moves the hands of the clocks one-half minute at the same time. The master clock then discharges all the air from each clock and a system of springs in the tower forces the hands the other half minute. This completes the perpetual in and out process that has been at work since 1894. The master clock again throws on the air and it is ready for the next revolution.

    The altitude of the tower clock from the basement tank, necessitates what is known as a relay, a miniature air motor which is used to force the air to the tower.

    Air also dominates the striking apparatus. The quarter hour bell is worked by the rubber diaphragm which connects with a cable which rings the bell. The air rushes in from the tower tank, and forces the striking hammer upward to a perpendicular position when it slips off the catch and the hammer descends on the bell. The striking apparatus is regulated by a notched wheel. The first notch is a short distance which registers the quarter hour with one stroke.

    For striking two, the space between the stroke of one and the next notch, is twice as long as the first which results a double stroke at the second notch, or the half hour, and the same principle applies for three-quarters stroke and for the hour.

    The large bell is independent of the first. Twelve men would be unable to combine a tug of sufficient strength to strike this bell. The compressed air does this easily. It does not use more than one-half pound of air for each stroke. The circular rubber diaphragm explains this phenomenon, as it facilitates the work

    Related Notes & Pages

    City Hall

    City Hall History & Photos
    People Referenced
    Maynard, F.W.
    Subjects Referenced
    Compressed air tanks
    Master clock
    Miniature air moter
    Rubber diaphragm
    Ship masters
    Striking apparatus
    Water tank
    WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.