Muscat Daily - - BREAK -

Not far from Van­cou­ver’s wa­ter­front, in the his­toric Gastown neigh­bour­hood, stands one of the city’s ma­jor crowd-drawer, a steam-pow­ered clock. The 16foot-tall clock dis­plays the time on four faces, and ev­ery quar­ter hour it plays the West­min­ster chimes on four whis­tles with steam shoot­ing out of the top just like in a lo­co­mo­tive.

De­spite its an­tique look and ar­chaic tech­nol­ogy, the Gastown Steam Clock is of a much younger gen­er­a­tion. It was built in 1977 by the renowned Cana­dian clock­maker Ray­mond Saun­ders as part of a re­ju­ve­na­tion of the Gastown area.

Back in the 1960s, many North Amer­i­can cities such New York, Toronto and Seat­tle had free­ways run­ning right through town or along their wa­ter­fronts. Van­cou­ver didn’t have any, and the mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment wanted to fix that by con­struct­ing a gi­ant free­way link­ing the Trans-Canada High­way with the Lions Gate Bridge, bull­doz­ing its way through the his­toric and marginalised, neigh­bour­hoods of Strath­cona, Chi­na­town and Gastown. The com­mu­ni­ties that lay in the path of the pro­posed free­way protested and the plans for Van­cou­ver's in­ner-city free­way were shelved. Ef­forts, in­stead, were turned to­wards re­fur­bish­ing the his­toric build­ings that had fallen into dis­re­pair.

By 1977, the re­gen­er­a­tion of Gastown was largely com­plete, but it still didn’t have a fo­cal point, some­thing to draw peo­ple in. So, lo­cal mer­chants and prop­erty own­ers banded to­gether and raised money for Saun­ders to build the an­tique-look­ing clock. The steam theme was cho­sen as a ref­er­ence to the in­dus­trial past of the area, where steam pipes once ran un­der­ground pow­er­ing ma­chin­ery. The Gastown Steam Clock be­came only the sec­ond steam-pow­ered clock ever con­structed.

The world’s first steam clock was built by an English­man named John In­shaw in 1859.

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