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Students Help With Trinity Episcopal Church Clock Restoration

Patrick Tomaszewski, of Swoyersville, reattaches the Trinity Episcopal Church clock%E2%80%99s hands onto a new shaft.The chimes have returned at Trinity Episcopal Church in Williamsport where, in December, Jim Zerfing, the church clock’s longtime caretaker, and students from Pennsylvania College of Technology climbed 100 feet up the clock tower’s narrow stairs to replace parts that had fallen into disrepair.

The students are enrolled in majors in the automated manufacturing and machining department. Under the direction of Zerfing and Keith H. English, instructor of machine tool technology/automated manufacturing, the students remade the gear shafts that hold the minute hand on each of the clock’s four dials, made a duplicate bevel gear and helped to install a new motor.

The original shafts the tips of which protrude from the dials and are exposed to the elements were on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week from the clock’s construction in 1875 until a short time ago.

“What is made today that will last that long?” Zerfing asked.

The clock paid for along with the rest of the church’s construction by historic Williamsport figure Peter Herdic was built by the Howard Clock Co. With parts no longer available and the clock company long gone, the shafts had to be manufactured.

In the college’s Machining Technologies Center, the students recreated the shafts from stainless steel which was not available when the original mild-steel parts were made and sealed them to help protect them from the weather. Given the new materials, the students expect the new parts to last at least as long as the originals.

“Stainless steel doesn’t rust, so that should help a lot for (increasing) the lifetime of the parts,” said Kyle S. Trippeda, an automated manufacturing technology student from Easton who worked on the project with Matthew C. Eldridge, of Westfield, a machine tool technology student, and Glen R. Thomas, a manufacturing engineering technology student from Mercer. Thomas also machined the clock works to accept the new shaft seals.

“It’s cool because if I ever come back to Williamsport, I can say I worked on it,” Trippeda said.

The church remains a symbol of the city’s history, and the congregation has worked to keep the church’s architectural integrity. Maintaining the clock is another step in that process.

Manufacturing engineering technology student Timothy D. McMorrow, of Doylestown, works with the clock%E2%80%99s caretaker, Jim Zerfing, to synchronize the four clock dials.“Every time we’ve gone to the church, everyone tells us how much they miss the bells,” said Patrick Tomaszewski, a manufacturing engineering technology student from Swoyersville. “They’ve been hearing them since they were kids.”

While the clock was given by Herdic, the 8,500-pound nine-bell chime was donated by Judge John Maynard. When installed, the clock company told the church that its timepiece would be the first tower clock in the United States to sound the Westminster chimes.

Tomaszewski was among students who worked to duplicate the clock’s bevel gear. The original bevel gear which is still functioning as accurately as it was the day it was installed in 1875 and is used to set the time on the clock will remain two stories up in the 218-foot tower, while the new part will be installed at ground level to make setting the clock more accessible. The clock originally wound by hand was electrified in the 1940s.

The gear proved a challenge for the students, who had to account for multiple angles and clockwork accuracy.

“When he (English) showed it to me, I didn’t know how I was going to do it,” said Tomaszewski, who spent a good portion of his eight-week fixture design and fabrication class working at the lathe to recreate the part accurately. “It’s painstaking.”

Machine tool technology student Bryant M. Deller, of Red Lion, helped with replacing the clock’s original electric drive motor, which had burned out.

“An exact replacement was no longer available,” English said. “Working from drawings from Mr. Zerfing, Bryant fabricated new mounts and installed the new motor into the clock works.”

Penn College students worked with Zerfing to complete another project for the church’s clock replacing its original wooden hands, which had become warped, with steel ones about a decade ago.

To learn more about the automated manufacturing and machining majors and other academic programs offered by the School of Industrial and Engineering Technologies at Penn College, visitonline or call 570-327-4520.

For general information about the college, visit on the Web, e-mail or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

Photos by Larry D. Kauffman, digital publishing specialist

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