Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The San Francisco Ferry Building Clock

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Repainting the Clock Face in 1938, photos by San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

Ferry Building Guides were recently treated to a talk by Dorian Clair, a specialist in antique clocks who in 2000 began working on the Ferry Building’s famous timepiece. Today the Ferry Building still boasts its original Special #4 clock made by the Boston clock maker E. Howard in 1898. It is the largest dialed, wind-up, mechanical clock in the world.

Before the ’06 quake, this top-of-the-line clock lost only two seconds a week. Although the clock is now powered by an electric motor installed by Dorian, the old weight and pendulum system is still in place and could be hooked up in a few hours. This system’s one-ton weight, which dropped 48 feet in 8 days when it powered the clock, now rests just above the main entrance. The Standard Clock Company added a slave drive system that ran the clock between 1918 and 1974, when the first electric motor was installed.

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