Winnipeg city hall is finally on time, after long-awaited repair of rooftop clock

If you think cracking a Back to the Future joke with Mike Pereira would be something he hasn’t heard, you are behind the times.

“We are always looking for DeLoreans here,” Pereira says with a smile, gesturing toward Winnipeg’s Main Street several floors below and referring to the iconic car from the ’80s time-travel film.

Pereira, a general electrician with the City of Winnipeg, is one of the staff who have enthusiastically worked on repairing the massive clock perched atop the Susan A. Thompson Building at city hall.

It’s been out of commission since last year, but is finally once again marking time properly.

The timepiece wasn’t damaged by some mad science experiment involving a sports car and a spool of extension cords — the wind was the culprit.

“It’s very tough on the clock. As you can see today, it’s not as windy. But if you look closely, you can see that the hand still moves a bit,” Pereira told CBC News on the roof of the city hall building. 

Machine shop supervisor Dave Gaudreau, right, and city electrician Mike Pereira are proud the clock at city hall is now marking the correct time more than twice a day. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

The hour and minute hands are made of aluminum and are over a metre long. 

“The wind would catch them, slowly loosening them from the steel shaft connected to the clock’s motor,” said Dave Gaudreau, the city’s machine shop supervisor.

Pereira repairs clocks and watches as a hobby, but leaned on Gaudreau’s machine shop to solve some of the issues with the clock on the roof.

His crew of welders and machinists did the custom work.

“They made the proper parts and bushings for them on the lathe and then … with Mike’s help, they put it all back together,” Gaudreau said. 

It may not be quite as complex as a Rolex watch, but the clock on the Susan A. Thompson takes a licking and keeps on ticking. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

Pereira had to purchase two new motors (at approximately $1,300 per motor), but the old ones pulled out of the clock were reconditioned and will now stand by as spares.

Both men consider working on the clock more a labour of love than a chore.

Gaudreau says it’s a treat for the staff in his shop.

“It’s a totally different job and they get to point it out to their family and kids when they are driving down Main Street. They can point up and say, ‘I was one of the ones who put the hands back together on that clock,’ and tell them about what a neat job it is,” Gaudreau said. 

The clock has had new motors and LED lights installed as part of the upgrades and repairs. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

Pereira says the clock fell into a bit of disrepair over the years, but is getting more attention now that it has been refurbished.

“Everybody … just keeps a good eye on it now, so it’s just part of the family,” Pereira said.

“Every time I’m here [in the building], I check on it. It’s like my best friend here.”