Construction of Western Union Clock Battery Packs

The Burlingame Cell

[Updated 10/05/2017]

Note:  I will update this page as soon as I receive some Radio Shack C cell battery holders that are on order.  A friend improved on my design by using these holders. .  The holders make it easy to replace the batteries and you do not have to solder the leads directly to them.


I have three Western Union clocks, and each requires a pair of the old #6  1 1/2 volt dry cells to rewind the clock mechanism.  I have been unable to locate a source for these cells, so I had to homebrew a substitute.  Once I located the component parts, I found this to be easy to do.  Use of these replacement cells  does not require modification to the clock, and they fit into the cell holders in the clocks.

You will need the following materials for each cell:

1.  Six inches of 2" schedule 40 black PVC pipe.

2.  Two 2" PVC "test caps".

3.  One foot of black wire and one foot of red wire.  I used 18 gauge.

4.  Two Alkaline D cell batteries.

5.  Two 4-40 brass screws, 1/2" long, two washers, and two nuts.

6.  Two small solder eyes.

7.  One styrofoam peanut.

batt1.JPG (94201 bytes)

I bought all of these items except the styrofoam peanut at the local Home Depot.  You will likely have to buy a full ten foot length of the PVC pipe at a cost of about $4.00.

The first step is to strip about 3/4" of insulation from the end of the red (positive) wire.  Then cut through the insulation about 2" from the stripped end and slide the insulation toward the end leaving a 3/8" bare section.  Strip 3/4" of insulation from the black (negative) wire.  Then cut through the insulation 7" from the stripped end and slide the insulation toward the stripped end, leaving a 3/8" bare section. batt2.JPG (146479 bytes)
Tin the bare sections of both wires and  solder the end of the red  wire to the positive (+) end of the battery.  When the solder has cooled, solder the bare section of wire to the positive end of the other battery.  Use a soldering gun, and get in and out quickly!  Heating these batteries too much could be dangerous.  You will find that they take the solder readily. Batt3.JPG (189485 bytes)
Solder the end of the black wire to the negative (-) end of one of the batteries.  batt4.JPG (123198 bytes)
Solder the bare section to the other negative end, taking care that you leave enough wire so the batteries can stand in the case end to end.  Trim the wires to equal length and solder the eyes on the ends. batt5.JPG (81589 bytes)
Punch two holes in a test cap.  Be sure that the holes are far enough apart so the solder eyes cannot contact each other.  Bolt the solder eyes through the holes in the caps and secure them with a washer and  nut.  Mark the terminals "POS" and "NEG". batt6.JPG (94576 bytes)
Put a test cap on the bottom of the case and insert the batteries into the top of the case.  Put a styrofoam peanut on top of the batteries to keep the positive screwhead from shorting out on the negative end of the battery, press the top cap into place, and you are done! batt7.JPG (113447 bytes)

The cost of each cell is approximately $1.50 without the batteries.  When the batteries go dead, you can replace them by unsoldering the old cells and soldering new ones in their place.

If you build these cells please drop me a line at n7cfo[at] and let me know how it went.  I receive quite a lot of correspondence about these clocks, most of which I am unable to answer.  I am only a clock owner, not a clock repair person, so if you need information about repairs you should talk to a local clock shop.  There is nothing particularly unusual abut these clocks, other than the winding and synchronization components, so your local clock shop will likely be able to help you out.  I suggest shopping around a bit and locating a shop that has worked on them before - it will likely cost you less if the repairman does not have to do a lot of research and parts hunting.  Good luck!