For 37 years the Gastown Steam Clock stood at the corner of Abbott and Water Streets. The clock has been a beloved Vancouver feature and a much sought-after tourist site.  After 37 years of curb-side repairs it was time for a major refurbishment of the old ticker.

In October 2014 crews moved in – and under the watchful eye of the clock’s creator, Ray Saunders – the clock was removed from its corner and loaded onto a specially outfitted flatbed truck.  The restoration plans included: replacing glass panes, updating the mechanism that moves the metal balls, re-doing the “steam manifold system”, and replacing the disintegrating insulation.  The insulation has been the cause of the clock losing time; the insulation was crumbling and falling into the clock mechanism.  The City of Vancouver had a little bit of fun while the original was under repairs; visitors to the site had to make do with a cardboard replica.

Over the winter months, the city crew at the Vancouver works yard have been working – in collaboration with Ray Saunders – to upgrade the beloved clock.  The clock’s repairs were expected to come close to the original $58,000 it cost to build the machine in 1977.  The clock is constructed out of copper, brass and glass and was designed to look like a piece from the late 1890s.  Did you know that the steam comes from a little room that is hidden under the street at Cambie and Water?

The retrofit was expected to be completed by Christmas.  It took a little longer and in late January, the updated Gastown Steam Clock was returned to its rightful location at Water and Abbott.    The maintenance work was successful and the historic steam clock is now back to keep accurate time.  The large whistle, which was actually removed from a CPR steam tug, counts off the full hours.  The four smaller whistlers call out every quarter hour. The number of chimes matches the number of quarter hours that have passed.