Big Ben. If you know any famous clock, it is probably this one. It has been the site of several movie scenes and tourists around Europe. Well, the clock will soon be shut down. But is it permanent?
According to Times of India, the House of Commons Finance Committee introduced a report for Big Ben’s temporary fix. For the repair, it would only cost approximately 4.9 million pounds. However, the paperwork mentioned that, later down the road, other necessary fixes would cost the organization around 40 million pounds — if they weren’t to modify and adjust the current issues during the “temporary” operation.
While the tower has been in existence for 156 years, it has never been shut down for the length of time proposed, at least not continuously. The report says that it would be down for four months in order to make all of the noted corrections and adjustments. BBC reports that it has been 31 years since Big Ben received its last major maintenance session.
However, since then, some of the issues that have come to the surface are masonry cracks as well as current health and safety regulations. Since it is not up-to-date, the report says that the Big Ben clock tower is at risk of causing “international reputation damage” for Britain’s Parliament, says BBC.
— Joaquín López-Dóriga (@lopezdoriga) October 18, 2015
The news source notes that the clock’s hands, mechanisms, and pendulum need refurbishing. As an example of how each part works with the other, if something were to happen just to the hands — as in, if they stop working all of a sudden — it would take a lot more than four months to make the repair. It would be more like a year. So, they are trying to resolve the situation before it becomes a problem.
As part of the Palace of Westminster, Big Ben has served faithfully since its last repair. However, in order to keep it presentable, they are trying to move forward with the report’s proposal and tower overhaul.
According to Parliament’s website, the clock’s dials are seven meters in diameter and made from cast iron. Of course, there are four dials between each 12-hour number. However, within each dial, there are 312 sections of opal glass. Moreover, the hour and minute hands are 2.8 meters and 4.3 meters in length, respectively.
— Lee Binns (@LeeBinns) October 9, 2015
Interestingly enough, Big Ben’s inner workings are actually more complicated than you might think from face-value. The source explains how the clock’s mechanisms operate.
“The clock mechanism consists of 3 ‘trains’ which are made up of a barrel and series of gears, each barrel…connected to the weight beneath it by a steel wire which is wrapped around a drum.
The whole mechanism is driven by gravity, as the weights drop they provide the power to drive the clock and ring the bells by turning the barrels which are connected to the hands by a series of gears and shafts and the bells by steel wires which raise the bell hammers.”
Within these parts — and so quintessential to accurate operation — three vital pieces of the tower’s clock are named as follows.
- Going Train
- Chime or Quarter Train
- Strike or Hour Train
Without proper maintenance of these gears and sections, all the aforementioned issues would become increasingly more apparent… that is, until the tourist attraction would fail. Not to mention the escape mechanism and the five bells within the operation. One of the bells is the large hour chime, and the other four are quarter bells.
In the following video, maintenance manager Michael McCann explains some of the procedures they underwent during the repairs in 2010.
It is possible that there will be similar repairs made along with the others mentioned in the reports.
What do you think about Big Ben’s future shutdown? Will you visit? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments, below.
[Image Courtesy of Hemera Technologies/Getty Images]