Gastown Steam Clock returns to its original home since 1977 (PHOTOS)

Dec 19 2017, 1:39 pm

The iconic four-faced Gastown Steam Clock has been reinstalled at the corner of Cambie and Water streets after a 105-day absence from the area.

Installation began at approximately 9 a.m. this morning when a small team from the City of Vancouver’s Engineering Department arrived with a truck carrying the clock structure. A heavy lift was used to position the clock on top of the steam vent before crews began to work on setting the timekeeping and steam whistling ventilation functions of the device.

Approximately $50,000 was spent on the maintenance project, which took about a month longer than anticipated. The City had originally intended to have the clock returned to its position in time for Christmas.

In early-October, the Steam Clock was relocated to the municipality’s Manitoba Yards to undergo some much-needed cleaning and maintenance on the worn-out ball loading device.

In its place, a confusion-inducing cardboard replica became the central attraction, but some local artists quickly decided to use the vacancy as an opportunity for a new public art piece.

“Make It Rain,” which is also dependent on steam for its design, was installed in early-December 2008 as a temporary placeholder. The 27-foot tall mirrored surface tube was made possible after the designers reached their crowdfunding goal of $19,500 in the weeks following the Steam Clock’s disappearance.

During the crowdfunding campaign, the artists said their intention was to find a new permanent home for “Make It Rain” once the Steam Clock returns to the spot it has called home since 1977. It is unclear whether a new site has been found for the fixture.

The Steam Clock is largely steam powered by downtown Vancouver’s Central Heat Distribution system. It drives a small steam engine inside the fixture to lift a chain that in turn also lifts ball weights that provide the conventional pendulum mechanism.

However, some parts of the Steam Clock’s functions are not steam powered: three electric motors are responsible for powering the tune playing machine, a small fan motor that ventilates hot air through the roof vent, and a second fan that draws warm air down for air circulation within the fixture.

The Steam Clock also consists of five steam whistles, including a main whistle from the CPR steam tug Naramata. The whistle chime plays the Westminster Quarters tune.

Photos of Gastown Steam Clock installation today

gastown steam clock january 2014 4
Image: Vancity Buzz

gastown steam clock january 2014 2
Image: Vancity Buzz

gastown steam clock january 2014 1
Image: Vancity Buzz

Cardboard Gastown Steam Clock Impostor

gastown steam clock cardboard
Image: Vancity Buzz

“Make It Rain” placeholder for Gastown Steam Clock

make it rain gastown steam clock
Image: Emil Akberli via Flickr

Feature Image: Vancity Buzz

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