Beneath Vancouver, Canada there are a set of steam pipes that are connected to the generator plant located at Georgia and Beatty street. These series of steam pipes function to provide heat to the core downtown and these pipes provide the steam that powers whistles for the Gastown Vancouver Steam Clock located 305 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B9
Although it seems as if the clock was built in the Victorian era, because it’s located in Gas town–from where Vancouver eventually grew from, the clock was built in 1977 by Raymond Saunders a horologist and Doug Smith a metal work experts. The clock was built as a monument by Saunders who was hired by the town’s merchants. Apart from acting as a monument it also served another purpose: because it was placed over a steam grate above one of the aforementioned pipes, it kept local homeless from sleeping on the warm spot. This clock is the second steam clock ever to be created. The first was built by an Englishman named John Inshaw who built his as an attraction to lure people to his tavern.
But the clock Inshaw built was inaccurate, so Saunders built his from scratch. Even at that the Gastown Steam Clock still had issues and needed more funding to be self sustaining.
The clock isn’t really powered by steam, the clockwork is powered by descending weights. But the steam engine at the base of the clock acts as a winder by moving some metal balls to the clock’s drive train. The steam engine is connected by a rubber belt to an electric motor hidden from view which is much more reliable than steam power.
Every 15 minutes the clock whistles and steams, and is a very popular tourist attraction as lots of crowds gather to watch it whistle. It is popular with cruise ship passengers as it is very close to Canada Place and provides a convenient attraction while they are onshore for a short time. The Gastown steam clock is a brilliant free attraction to visit while either walking around, attending an event in the area or while trying to get a bite at a local restaurant or after a visit to WEEDS your local cannabis dispensary you can use it to celebrate 4:20!