Joshua Dillen
The Baker City Herald

Time may have seemed to slow down in Baker City lately.

But the city is not in the grip of time dilation, experiencing a rip in the space-time continuum or feeling a glitch in the matrix.

Those who pay attention to the twice hourly peals that come from the clock and bell tower at City Hall, 1655 First St., might have noticed that those chimes have been several minutes late over the past couple of weeks.

Public Works Director Michelle Owen said city staff noticed that the clock atop City Hall had slowed down about 2 weeks ago.

They stopped the clock and restarted it.

“It held time for about a week,” Owen said. “All of a sudden it’s off again.”

On Monday, Sept. 25, the clock was about seven minutes slow. That disparity increased to nine minutes by Friday afternoon.

Owen said the clock is maintained regularly and from what city employees can tell, all of the mechanical parts are in working order.

“We made sure the maintenance was up to par and what it needed to be,” she said.

Weather changes could be responsible for the slowing of the weight-driven, Seth Thomas clock that has adorned City Hall’s copper-clad tower since 1905, two years after the building was constructed.

The clock operates on the same principles that a grandfather clock does — complete with a pendulum and weights attached to cables. As the weight falls, it drives the clock’s gears (at a rate determined by the swing of the pendulum) that make up the mechanism that turns the hands on the face of the clock. City employees wind the clock regularly, but instead of tightening a spring — as in a wristwatch — the cable that is attached to the weights is spooled, which raises the weights.

Owen said temperature changes can cause the cable to expand or contract, which affects the pendulum and in turn the clock’s accuracy.

“It’s probably due to the temperature change and the cold nights. It makes total sense,” Owen said. “It’s one of these things where you have to adjust it a little bit and then wait a day and see how it does. And then you adjust it a little bit more.”

City workers will adjustment the clock this week and hopefully that will resolve the issue, Owen said.

“I think that’s likely the case,” she said.

If not, Owen said the city might have to call in Tabor Clarke, a local jeweler who lead the effort to renovate the City Hall clock in 2005.

“He has a ton of knowledge about it,” she said. “He has worked on our clock. That’s probably our next resource.”

See more in the Oct. 2, 2017, issue of the Baker City Herald.