Sessions Westminster A mantel clock Part I – Let’s explore this clock a little further

This is Part I of a multi-part blog wherein I explore the challenges of repairing a Sessions Westminster A tambour style time, strike and chime mantel clock. This part is the introduction.

RS Sessions Westminster chime circa 1931 (12)
Th Vintage Sessions Westminster A mantel clock

In August 2015 I wrote, “This a good project clock that is not for the inexperienced. As I gain more knowledge I will tackle this most interesting clock.” Well the time is now.

Well, it’s been two years and I have looked at this clock often enough and wondered what it would be like to finally get it running. Time to take the plunge.

The Sessions Westminster A mantel clock was made in Forestville Connecticut, USA. The first year of production for this model was 1927. Between 1903 and 1933 Sessions produced 52 models of mechanical clocks, ranging from advertisers, large and small clocks with logos of various businesses, to wall, or “Regulator” clocks, and shelf or mantel clocks, designed for the home.

Some Sessions clocks from this period are prized by collectors. The Westminster A is particularly sought after though collectors prefer it to be serviced and in running condition.

RS Sessions Westminster chime circa 1931 (10)
Raised Roman numerals and faux inlay
The case is in exceptional condition
The case is in exceptional condition

The clock is tricky to repair and most horologists prefer to stay clear of it

This clock is 21 inches long and 10 inches high, has a mahogany finish with faux wood inlay and raised metal gold-coloured numerals on the dial face. It is a quarter-hour 8-day Westminster chime clock operating on two trains, the going train (time) with the strike and chime train combined. It also has small arbour just below the hour cannon to turn off the chimes/strike and is called “Silent Chime”. Sessions was not alone in producing two-train clocks and other makers incorporated this design later in the 1930’s and 1940’s. However, Sessions was probably the best known for this feature. This clock was sold in 1931 (inscription on label, back of access door). The sale price was $29.95 which would have been substantial considering a working man’s salary in those days.

Sessions Westminster chime drum
Sessions Westminster chime drum

The clock is tricky to repair and horologists will generally try to stay away from it. I will be going through a step-by-step process and relying heavily on Robert Croswell’s excellent instructional manual called Taming the Sessions Two Train Movement February 2016 edition.

In August 2015 I wrote, “This a good project clock that is not for the inexperienced. As I gain more knowledge I will tackle this most interesting clock.”

I have done some bushing work and from what I can see there is certainly bushing work to be done. I have removed the movement once before to replace a bad click which as easy fix since the mainsprings can be removed without dis-assembly. The click holds the tension or power of the mainspring and is identified by a clicking sound when the key is turned. But the real challenge will begin as I attempt to understand how the chime mechanism works and if I can re-assemble it successfully.

Follow me as I dis-assemble, clean and repair the movement in Part II.


4 thoughts on “Sessions Westminster A mantel clock Part I – Let’s explore this clock a little further

  1. Hi Ron,

    I did not know that Sessions had a two train Westminster. Generally this kind of clock falls out of the range of clocks that I tend to collect, so I rarely look into them. Because I know very little about this model, I wonder if you can clear up a detail for me.

    Is this a true 4/4 Westminster or is it a 3/4 Westminster?

    The difference is that a 4/4 Westminster chimes all 4 quarters (each quarter having 4 notes) every 15 minutes, culminating with the 16 note “full tune” on the hour. A 3/4 Westminster however, does only the Westminster quarters for 15, 30, and 45, and then only strikes the hours on the hour (no chime on the hour). 3/4 Westminster clocks are nearly always 2-train, and the switch over before the hour works with a lever and a sliding gear. Alternatively, due to the spring length requirements needed to perform both the melody and hour strikes, I would think that it would be very difficult to make a 4/4 on one train.

    I own an older HAC 3/4 Westminster: http://www.angelfire.com/me5/clockman/3-4wm.html

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    1. Sessions Westminster A clocks are true chiming clocks that play the Westminster chime sequences on the quarter hours and strike the hour count on the hour. Robert Croswell wrote a great manual on this clock. In it he says, “Outside the plates is an entirely different story. Looking at the front of the movement one will notice that this is a rack and snail strike train but it has TWO racks and TWO snails. A look at the back of the movement reveals a small cam in the middle of the plate and a large “player drum” or pin drum. The two racks working together with the little cam and the player drum, which can shift outward to play chimes or inward to strike the hour, is what makes it all work. The chime sequence is self‐synchronizing and with so few working parts, once setup correctly this can be a relatively trouble free movement.”

      Ron

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