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This page features - (click on any underlined heading below to take you to that item).

Unusual Timepieces - Tandem wind, Synchronous Programmer, Kent Water Flow, Parliament House clocks, Tork Timer, Flying Pendulum, Gravity clock, Westclox Waralarm, Clock Hotel, Goomeri War Memorial, Old Ipswich Town Hall, Gents Night Watchman, Sessions Mission-style Clock, Masonic Temple.

Biographies - Thomas Given (Ipswich), Flavelle Bros. (Brisbane & Sydney), A G Jackson of Synchronome Electrical (Brisbane), John Heron (Scotland).

Local museums - Railway Workshops (Ipswich), Lands & Survey (CBD), Police Museum (CBD), Redland Museum (Cleveland), Telstra (Clayfield), UQ Physics (St. Lucia), Maritime (Southbank), Tramway (Ferny Grove), Skyring Collection (Petrie).

Unusual and Interesting Timepieces.

Tandem Wind Clocks

A Cyma Sonomatic V8 Swiss made 15 jewels lever movement alarm clock. What intrigued me was the tandem winding system. One winding key winds the alarm and also the movement by turning to the right for the alarm and turning to the left for the time. This means you do not have to wind up the clock after the alarm rings - the alarm only runs for 12-15 seconds and will ring 12 hours later.

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Zenith a quality Swiss watch company established in 1865 used this tandem system with their later clocks. The 8-day desk clock shown is a great example. Interestingly Zenith has developed 600 movement variations and filed 300 patents for its designs.

This unique tandem design was patented In 1886 by the Boston Clock Company of Chelsea Massachusetts. The firm was a large producer of imitation French carriage and mantel clocks utilizing a quality movement with a platform escapement.

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Programmers for Synchronous Clocks. 

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Synchronous Master clocks were able to link with slave/impulse clocks in as many rooms/offices in your building as required. A Programmer could also be added to the Master clock to enable bells, whistles or sirens in the building to automatically sound at pre-arranged times. Schools and workplaces were obvious choices.

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Example 1 – At Brisbane Girls Grammar School in the main foyer is a beautifully made Silky Oak Synchronome of Brisbane installed in 1920. Standing over 2m. it served as the main school clock until 1992 with the programmer used to trigger the bell system. Pins could be inserted into the Programmer time dial for the bells to ring as required. The white envelope stored these pins. On this programmer one can see the pins set off bells every 45 minutes. Morning break was set for 11am to 11.15am. In 1993 the clock was retired and restored to a time function only as a reminder of past days.

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Example 2 - The University of Queensland Physics Museum has a Programmer (made by Synchronome Co. Ltd. of Middlesex England) which operated the bells in the Parnell Building from 1955. Used in conjunction with the Master clock (made by the Electrical Co. of Australasia in Brisbane), the duration of the bell ring was controlled by a mercury timer (seen in the top left corner). The two dial Master was an electrically reset gravity escapement pendulum clock providing half minute current pulses to operate slave dials in lecture rooms and drive this bell programmer.

Kent Water Flow Meter and Recorder.

While in Christchurch NZ, I stumbled across this instrument in a collector’s backyard. These Kent Venturi flow meters supported on a heavy cast iron pedestal were used in Council pumping stations round Australia and NZ in the early 1900’s to measure and record city water flow usage.

The glass cabinet contains the clock (usually a quality English movement), a Kent gallons indicator and a recording drum. A pen maps the daily water flow on to the drums graph paper. The clocks role is to govern the rotation of the drum that could be set for either one or seven days. The clock has a one second dead beat escapement with a 1 meter length pendulum and heavy bob requiring a spring over-swing absorbing device.

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Clocks at Parliament House, Brisbane. Tours available weekdays at 1, 2, 3 & 4pm. No booking required.

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Clocks have always played a major role in Parliament. To keep politicians on schedule, both for arriving and for speeches, was always a dilemma. Having every clock reading the same time was solved by the arrival of the synchronous electric system used from the beginning of the 20thC.

Brisbane’s early Parliament had a master system that controlled over 200 clocks. In the 1970’s the old clocks were replaced and in 2015 a new digital master system from France was installed. Interestingly the backup system for timing speeches is an hourglass!

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On Open Day, I visited this three-storey sandstone building to see any early remaining timepieces. In many rooms small round synchronome wall clocks, not working, were still displayed. Two of the oldest clocks, now hanging at either end of the Legislative Chamber. The clocks labelled – 'Baynes London & Moreton Bay’ reflect Brisbane’s early history, when it was called the Moreton Bay Convict Settlement. A pleasure to visit this 1992 Heritage Listed building.

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1920’s TORK Mechanical Timer with the Clock made by Ansonia.                           

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Concealed in this coffin styled lockable metal case is a single pole 250V electric switch made by the TORK Co. New York and a brass clock movement made by Ansonia. Suitable for any on/off electrical equipment, it was used mostly as a timer by a shop owner to turn the lights on in their store window at night.

The case cover with an owl image suggests this timer was to be used at night. It could be set for the same time daily or at scheduled intervals. The clock uses a crank type brass key and requires 80 turns to fully wind (for 10 days) or if wound weekly only 45 turns. To set the time one has to remove the dial. 

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The TORK brand continues to be sold today.

Flying Pendulum Novelty Clock (Ignatz).

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The first Flying Pendulum clock was patented by Christian Clausen of Minneapolis in 1883. It was manufactured by the New Haven Clock Co. for one year (1884/85) under the name of Jerome & Co. Few were sold - most used by jewellers to attract passing shoppers. In 1935 Dr. Powell a noted clock collector nicknamed this “craziest clock in the world” Ignatz – after the name of the mouse in the American comic strip Krazy Kat which ran from 1913-1944.

From 1959 – 1979, the Horolovar Company revived this clock with the movement made in West Germany and then cased by Horolovar in Bronxville, NY.

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The Horolovar manual winding clock shown, operates with a ‘flying pendulum’ escapement. A small metal ball on the end of a string rotates, wrapping round a brass post, then unwinds and repeats this process on the other brass post. It was not a good time keeper but certainly rates highly as a collectors novelty item.

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Gravity Clock by the Kee-Less Clock Co. of London.

Made by Watson & Webb in the 1920’s, this unusual 30hour timepiece runs on gravity. First displayed at the Crystal Palace British Industry Fair in 1920 they were marketed as a revolution with no keys no springs, silent and fewer parts all for only 20/-. In 1921 the USA obtained patents and these clocks were made under licence by Ansonia New York to 1930.

Winding the clock is achieved by lifting the circular brass cased body up the two vertical side columns – the clocks weight falling acts as the spring. The right-side column has a rack connecting to the great wheel pinion allowing the clock to slowly descend. The mechanism uses a compound pendulum that has a small brass round bob on each end. At 26cm high the black dial, visible escapement and reverse painted Arabic numbers on the glass makes this clock very collectible.

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The Waralarm by Westclox.

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Alarm clocks fulfill a vital role in waking up people so they get to work on time. The production of alarm clocks in America had been halted from 1942 by the War Production Board (WPB) as a wartime economy measure. Alarm clock production had strict conditions. The WPB allowed a purchase if you had a real need, not just a want, wish or whim! The cost was set at $1.65 for spring-wind and $4.95 for electric models. Clocks could not be advertised or have their company name on them. The few companies prepared to produce such clocks were Gilbert, Telechron, Hammond and Westclox. The result was only 1.7million alarm clocks were made in 1942 – down from 12million/year.  

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With materials so restricted and scarce, clocks were limited to no more than 7 pounds of brass for every 1000 clocks (normally 300 pounds of brass to 1000 clocks). The movement plates had to be thin aluminium and cases were generally made of pressed wood fibre. The alarm hammer struck a plate instead of a bell.

Westclox produced three Waralarm styles – the rectangular fibre case, a round metal case (both made from 1943) and the Baby Ben made from 1944. The one featured here is the first type. From La Salle, Illinois this 30hour key wind weighs in at only 300gms. Dimensions – 130mm x 140mm x50mm. Etched on the back is the date 14/4/44. The lack of brass in the movement shows up clearly.

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The Clock Hotel - corner of Paradise Blvd. and Elkhorn Ave. Surfers Paradise. 

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Found here is a rather quaint older hotel with a unique clock. Before it strikes a parade of four Australian figures (kangaroo, emu, swag man and koala) emerge from behind a door on the right above the clock taking just over a minute to glide round as bells play. 

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Then the clock will strike the hour. The bells are music played through a speaker system. To see this clock in action, watch the video above.

The floor in the foyer to the gaming part of this hotel is decorated by a large terracotta imprint of a clock dial.

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War Memorial Clock Towers – remembering ANZAC Day 25/4/2020.

At Goomeri 172km North of Brisbane is this memorial to the 9 locals who died in WW1. The 23m tower was erected in 1940 by the RSL at a cost £700. A plaque was added after WW11 with the names of the 12 locals who lost their lives. The clock with four dials illuminated at night unexpectedly has no numbers. Instead numbers are replaced on each of the four dials by the 12 letters reading ‘LEST WE FORGET”. The ‘L’ is positioned at 10 when most parades start in our capital cities. Read clockwise for 'Lest We' and anticlockwise for 'Forget'. It was put on the Queensland Heritage Register in 1992.

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The Old Ipswich Town Hall and the mystery of its blank Clock Apertures.

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This was a question asked recently by a club member. In 1901, Ipswich had two tower clocks side by side. The oldest was the Town Hall, built between 1861 and 1879. The building designed by Francis Stanley had a 4-dial clock made by Gillett and Johnston of Croydon in England and was installed in 1879. It was also one of the first clocks in Australia to be illuminated by a gas flame (which turned out to be a problem as the heat from the burners occasionally stopped the clocks mechanism). 

Fast forward to 1901 when the GPO next door decided to erect a new building with an even taller tower to house a clock. For the next 11 years both clocks stood side by side rarely telling the same time – much to the annoyance of city workers. This situation ended in 1913 when the Ipswich Council sold their clock for £60.10s to Herga & Co. of Brisbane. It was put into the Sandgate Library clock tower in 1923 - one of the oldest working clocks in Queensland.

A black & white snap from 1902 - the Town Hall and behind it the Post Office, both with working clocks.

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The Town Hall is still standing (it is now an Art Gallery) and in 1992 put on the Queensland Heritage Register. The mystery of the blank apertures has been answered.

A Night Watchman’s Clock made by Gent & Co. of Leicester.                                     

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Recently I came across a Gents Watchman’s clock with a plaque reading Barton White & Co. Brisbane. Located in Edison Lane they were the first to supply electricity to Brisbane in 1888 specifically to the GPO and the Government Printing Office. Such clocks would be located in the main office enabling the manager to track the night watchman. The clock has an 8-day fusee movement with 6 stations that can be plotted on to a chart. I suspect a drawer has been added to the base.

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Established in 1872, Gents was a well-known manufacturer of electrical equipment especially electric clocks used in railway stations and public buildings. A Night Watchman’s clock, or Tell-Tale clock, could record from 3 to 100 stations. Doors, gates or rooms would be checked each night by a watchman to ensure they were locked. During his rounds he would insert a key into a contact box which was wired back to the main clock. Turning the key would activate a marker to leave an ink dot on the revolving paper chart. This paper record would then be used to verify the number of places the watchman had visited or missed on his rounds.

The Arts and Crafts Movement and American Mission Style Architecture.

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As a response to the ‘soul-less’ machine-made production of the Industrial Revolution a new movement emerged in the late 1900’s. Starting in Britain it was known as the Arts and Crafts Movement where simple and stylish work was handcrafted out of metal, glass and wood. Clean lines, sturdy structure and natural materials were the characteristics of this architecture. Evolving from this was the American Mission style which emphasised simple vertical and horizontal lines with flat panels to highlight the grain of the wood – usually oak.

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A perfect example of this style was brought to me recently. It was an 8-day mechanical time only clock needing a service. Made by Sessions the case was also in poor condition. This time piece showed all the qualities of the Arts and Crafts Mission Movement. It had the clean lines of nailed vertical oak slats and brass Arabic numerals and hands on a wooden dial. The open design uses a wooden box to house the movement and so keep dust out. The craftmanship look of simplicity, utility and elegance.

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The Masonic Temple at 311 Ann Street, Brisbane - Heritage Listed in 1992.

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On Brisbane Open Day the Temple was made available for anyone interested in strolling through this spectacular four-storey building. Built between 1928-30, at a cost of £103 000, (plus £10 000 for the silky oak, maple and cedar furniture), this is an imposing structure. The entry facade boasts six fluted Corinthian columns. Once inside, the beauty of this building unfolds. The Urn of Remembrance is spectacular and equally awesome the top floor where you will find the Grand Lodge room that can seat 1100 people.

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The clocks in this Temple are one of the few examples left of an operating system installed in 1930 by Synchronome Pty Ltd. Brisbane. The master clock controlled 11 slaves in various rooms. It was replaced by an electronically controlled master in 1990 which operate the slaves today. The original master clock awaits restoration. The large clock above the entrance to the Grand Hall features an elaborate case carved out of a single silky oak tree trunk.

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Biographies

Biographies

Thomas Given of Ipswich

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I came across this elegant 1.5m drumhead regulator clock hanging on the wall of a local business. It features a deadbeat escapement and a mercury compensated pendulum. The name Thomas Given Ipswich inscribed on the dial dates it back to the late 19th Century. 

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Given's Jewellery shop in Ipswich. Picture from 1880's. 

Mercury compensated pendulums were designed to compensate for temperature variations. This invention dates back to George Graham in 1721. The way it works is basically simple. When temperature rises, the metal pendulum rod gets longer but the mercury in the two glass vials expands upwards so keeping the period of swing constant.

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Thomas, a migrant from Ireland arrived   in Australia in 1855 where he settled in Ipswich establishing a business in Brisbane Street as a jeweller and watchmaker. He passed away in 1890.

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Flavelle Bros. & Co. of Brisbane and Sydney.

The fact that many jewellers had arrived in Brisbane from the 1860’s was directly linked to the local gold discoveries in and around Gympie. They came to test, weigh and buy the gold and make jewellery and watches. One such jeweller was Henry Flavelle who became a worthy rival to great Australian firms such as Hardy Bros. and Wallace Bishop.

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Henry Flavelle (1820 – 1899) a successful jeweller, watchmaker and optician was born in Dublin. Emigrating to Sydney in 1842 he joined George Brush, working as an optician. In 1850 he set up a partnership in George Street as a jeweller with his elder brother John, his London based supplier. They traded as Flavelle Bros & Co. opening a Brisbane branch in Queen Street in 1861 and a Rockhampton branch in 1894. The brothers were joined by John Roberts in 1868 hence a name change to Flavelle Roberts & Co. Another partner, Robert Sankey joined in 1892, resulting in another name change to Flavelle Roberts & Sankey. The Flavelle business survived to 1932.

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Like many jewellers, Flavelle made his own one penny trading tokens – now very collectible. They had a kangaroo and emu on the back of each coin. His presentation silver and jewellery were also very sought after e.g. the ceremonial silver-bladed spade he made in 1873 that turned the first sod for the Brisbane to Ipswich railway. He imported English, French and American clocks, made 18ct gold chronograph watches and was a general supplier of surveying instruments, spectacles, harmoniums, fire/thief proof safes and telescopes. He was also responsible for the Gympie Town Hall clock in 1890.

Here is a fine example of a Flavelle Bros & Co. English fusee movement mahogany cased wall clock – C1861-1868. 

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And here a dial only with the stamp Flavelle Bros & Roberts (his next partner) C1870’s/1880’s.

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A Jackson of Synchronome Electrical – acknowledging a remarkable Brisbane clock company.

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Alfred George Jackson (1863 – 1935) was born in Manchester England and trained as an electrical engineer. He arrived in Sydney in 1886 and moved to Brisbane in 1891. In 1897 he set up a business in George St. importing electrical goods. 

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In 1903 he purchased for £500 the rights to the Synchronome name developed by Frank Hope-Jones of London. In 1904 he set up the Synchronome Electrical Company of Australasia in Ann Street.

This electrical clock system was one of the last developments in mechanical clocks. It was low cost, reliable, and enabled the synchronisation of a network of slave dials. These were connected in series operating on a low voltage pulse from the master clock every 30 seconds

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Jackson was a leader in this new technology and with limited competition, sold 407 master clocks and 2727 slaves between 1903 and 1957. Over half of these were installed in Queensland. Ideal for use in schools, railways, factories, Government offices and public towers, the company proved very popular in Australia and N.Z. They also sold a wide range of related products including switchboards, dynamos, school bells and fire alarms. The advent of quartz clocks in the 1970’s, signalled the end for Synchronome Electric.                

John Heron 1772 – 1837 from Greenock in Scotland.

A club member can trace his genealogy back to this renown silverware, clock and watchmaker of Greenock - a small town 32km from Glasgow on the mouth of the Clyde river. By chance two years ago, a John Heron clock was listed for sale in Sydney. This clock is now reunited back in the hands of family as a treasured heirloom.

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An 8day mahogany cased Grandfather clock c1810 with a recoil escapement, elegant Roman numeral dial with seconds and date sub dials and a bell to strike the hours.

John Heron also made chronometers submitting  examples to the Greenwich Observatory for testing. This letter written in 1801 accompanying one of his clocks stated he was “well-known as a chronometer maker to most of the reputable makers in London”.

John also had Greenock’s Observatory purpose-built for him in 1819. The accuracy of his chronometers could now be checked. Free of the customary feu-duty, he only paid a small rent. The octagonal building had two apartments – the Western part was a library and sitting room. The Eastern part was the observatory room containing the telescopes and a sidereal regulator which had the new detent or detached escapement providing the accuracy needed for astronomic study.

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Museums - and their Website

Museums

The Workshops Rail Museum Ipswich.                               https://theworkshops.qm.qld.gov.au/

Covering 24 hectares this site has been operating as a rail con-struction and maintenance facility since the early 1800’s. The home for blacksmiths, metal workers, painters and carpenters, the Workshops have played a vital role in Queensland Rail. Over 200 steam locos have been built here. In 2002 the Workshops opened as a museum experience with 15 interactive exhibitions, a childs playground featuring Thomas the Tank Engine, model railways, restored locomotives, carriages and other related memorabilia.

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The club visited here in 2017. For many, memories of our steam days were reignited and the kids were also totally entertained. Railways have always relied on the accuracy of time-tables. It was not therefore unexpected to see many examples of early time-pieces. 

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On display there were several synchronome slave clocks, a master clock and a conductor’s pocket watch. A memorable day for all.

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                                                     The Museum of Lands, Mapping & Surveying

 https://www.qld.gov.au/recreation/arts/heritage/museum-of-lands/take-a-virtual-tour

This museum located at 317 Edward St. has an impressive display of exhibits relating to the surveying of Queensland along with the maps created. Even better it has three notable regulators.

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The clock on the left is a Brisbane Synchronome Master clock that was used to provide the standard time service in Queensland from the mid 1930’s to the mid 1970’s. It was located on top of the Queensland Savings Bank in George St.

In the middle a Sidereal clock made by J C Cochran of Brisbane in 1871, used by the Trigonometrical Survey Department of Brisbane as an observatory clock.

The clock on the right (of most interest to me) was made by Victor Kullberg of London - one of England’s premier chronometer makers. It was ordered by Queensland as the new mean time clock for the Standard Time Act (the first in Australia). 

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The clock’s main role was to regulate the lowering of the new time ball installed on top of the Windmill at 1pm daily. It operated from 1895 – 1930. It is a credit to the Museum that these clocks have not been lost enabling a valuable part of Brisbane's history to be preserved.

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The Brisbane Police Museum opposite Roma Street Railway Station, has two Herga & Co. Brisbane drop dial school clocks on display. The larger Cedar clock (right) came from the Petrie Terrace Brisbane Police Depot - the smaller Silky Oak (left) is from the Morven Police station, 665km NW of Brisbane, and gifted to the museum in 1986. This relatively unknown museum is worth the visit to see Police related memorabilia. 

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From the early 1900’s, Herga & Co’s main claim to fame was in a very successful nation-wide industry importing English clock movements and placing them into Australian made timber cases – notably Silky Oak, Cedar and Maple. Their wall clocks were in high demand in Queensland schools and Government Departments.   

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The lower four snaps also from the Brisbane Police museum show a Synchronome Electric clock used to regulate all clocks installed in the Police barracks in Petrie Street from 1939 to 1989 - it is awaiting an overhaul.

The Redlands Museum         https://www.redlandmuseum.org.au/

This Cleveland museum displays an exciting array of yesteryear memorabilia. Of interest is the George Clauson regulator clock used in The Old Observatory in Brisbane from 1897 and a fretwork clock. This museum, with hundreds of items is well worth a visit. 

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The Telstra Museum       http://www.telemuseum.org/

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This museum has on show 150 years of Brisbane telegraphic and telephone history. One can see switchboards, photographs, telephones, teleprinters, morse senders, receivers and Post Office memorabilia. Also there is a small theater with a 20 minute review of the history of this industry. 

Of interest to the club is a collection of horological items. Several Brisbane Synchronous Electric clocks are displayed - a Gents of Leicester, a Magneta Ltd of Leatherhead in Surrey plus time clocks for trunk calls. It is truly an unforgettable hands-on experience with guides happy to explain all. The display can be viewed at 3 Oriel Road Clayfield Brisbane. A donation to view is appreciated - open only on Wednesdays.

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University of Queensland Physics Museum     https://physicsmuseum.uq.edu.au/

The museum in the UQ Physics Parnell building, completed in 1955, houses a collection of interesting scientific memorabilia. Of note is the Pitch Drop Experiment which holds the world record for the longest running laboratory experiment, started by Professor Parnell in 1927. 

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Horological items in this museum mainly deal with the Synchronome Electric system used by this University with some working examples. Several master clocks, a program timer, an atomic clock and other interesting electrical related items can be found. Credit to one of our members Norm Heckenberg who was active in setting up this display. Well worth the visit – open weekdays.

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Brisbane Maritime Museum       https://maritimemuseum.com.au/

The HMAS Diamantina in the Dry Dock and in its engine room below a Smiths Astral amongst  Begg and Grieg engine room controls.

This museum is alongside the South Brisbane heritage listed Dry Dock and the HMAS Diamantina – a River Class Frigate. The Dry Dock closed in 1972 after 90 years of maintaining and repairing over 50 submarines and 100 warships. From 1900 – 1925, the dry dock was also Brisbane’s championship swimming venue where a world record for the 100yards was set in 1903 by R. Cavill.

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The museum, opened in 1971, has many displays including model ships, nautical equipment, lighthouses, exhibitions and artefacts, including some interesting clocks relating to maritime history.

International Time Recorder, London Bundy Clock for up to 150 employees.

Rolf Gerdes 8 Bell Clock

located in the Main Office

Thomas Mercer chronometer in the main museum

Smiths bakelite electric also on the Diamantina

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Brisbane Tramway Museum       http://www.brisbanetramwaymuseum.org/

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Brisbane trams commenced operation in 1895 and were retired in April 1969. Fortunately, a few enthusiasts had the foresight to lease 4 hectares of land from the City Council at Ferny Grove to collect, house and display tram memorabilia. Our club visited the museum in September 2019 and had a thoroughly interesting day. The museum is open only on a Sunday from 12.30 to 4pm.

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Of special interest was the tramway clock system, installed in 1927 by Synchronome Electric Brisbane. There were two systems, costing in total £88 – one at Fortitude Valley, the other at Woolloongabba, each with a master clock linked to several slave clocks at signal stations throughout Brisbane city. Each of these tiny stations had to fitted out with a toilet! The master clock shown came from the Woolloongabba station. The Museum was also in the throes of restoring two Bundy clocks – one an English oak Time Recorder, the other a green metal Cincinnati Time Recorder.

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The Skyring Clock Collection at Pine Rivers Heritage Museum, Petrie, Brisbane.

https://www.oldpetrietown.com/

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The Museum here has over 60 mechanical clocks, 48 of these the work of Roy Skyring. Donated to the Museum by Roy’s widow, Olive in 2007, there are some rare and interesting examples. Roy learned his trade as an aircraft instrument maker and fitter in 12 Squadron of the RAF from 1941–47.

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A physics and chemistry teacher at Bundaberg State High from 1958-1980, his hobby of repairing clocks and watches for friends and making unobtainable parts in his workshop earned him an unmatched reputation. Retiring in the early 1980’s Roy started to build his own clocks and model steam trains. He won several prizes for his skeleton clocks at the Brisbane Exhibition, and also built grandfather clocks – the wooden cases as well as the movements. Our club was involved in moving and setting up the Museum display in 2007.                

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These pictures give some idea of the high quality of his clocks - a rare lighthouse, Congreve, skeleton, grandfather, scissors and one of only three copies in the world of a 1776 Merlin Band clock. A must visit.

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