Summary

Victorian Railways No 1 clock, also known as the 'Main Line Starter Clock', from Spencer Street Station, circa 1871.

Made by Thomas Gaunt & Co, Bourke Street, Melbourne.

The clock was controlled by a telegraph signal from Melbourne Observatory, ensuring that the clock provided accurate time, both for the operation of the railways and for the public. Government Astronomer Robert Ellery connected this clock and several other public clocks by telegraph line to the Melbourne Observatory's main clock in 1871.

The Batman's Hill Station was established in1859, and the station and railway line to Geelong acquired by the Victorian Government's Railway Department in 1860. Information provided by the Victorian Railways at the time of acquisition in 1964 suggested the clock was installed in 1859, but it seems more likely that the clock dates from the introduction of Observatory time in1871.

Accurate time signals were transmitted to country and suburban train stations at 10 o’clock every morning. Train drivers and guards were required to check their watches at the closest station after 10 o’clock, and pass this accurate time onto smaller country stations lacking telegraph connection. In this way the entire railways network operated to a single time, ensuring safe operation of the system. Regional communities in Victoria in turn relied on ‘railways time’ to set their own clocks and watches.

Spencer Street Station was demolished and rebuilt from 1960, with the introduction of the standard gauge interstate lines. The clock was removed and stored in the railways clock shop until transferred to the museum in 1964.

Physical Description

Large wall clock, cedar drop dial case, cast-iron bezel hinged at top. Weight driven; dead-beat escapement. Pendulum bob contains an electromagnet to enable electrical control from a distance. Electrical terminals on top of clock case. The clock was modified with the addition of a discrete electrical movement in 2016, to enable the clock to operate without winding.

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