Steam clock

Steam clock

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A steam clock is a clock
Clock
A clock is an instrument used to indicate, keep, and co-ordinate time. The word clock is derived ultimately from the Celtic words clagan and clocca meaning "bell". A silent instrument missing such a mechanism has traditionally been known as a timepiece...

 which is fully or partially powered by a steam engine
Steam engine
A steam engine is a heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid.Steam engines are external combustion engines, where the working fluid is separate from the combustion products. Non-combustion heat sources such as solar power, nuclear power or geothermal energy may be...

. Only a few functioning steam clocks exist, most designed and built by Canadian
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 horologist
Horology
Horology is the art or science of measuring time. Clocks, watches, clockwork, sundials, clepsydras, timers, time recorders and marine chronometers are all examples of instruments used to measure time.People interested in horology are called horologists...

 Raymond Saunders
Raymond Saunders (clockmaker)
Raymond Saunders is a Canadian clockmaker who has designed and built more than 150 customized clocks that mainly serve as tourist-attracting public artworks. In 1977 he was commissioned to build a steam clock for the Gastown district of Vancouver, Canada...

 for display in urban public spaces. Steam clocks built by Saunders are located in Otaru
Otaru, Hokkaido
is a city and port in Shiribeshi, Hokkaido, Japan, northwest of Sapporo. The city faces the Ishikari Bay, and has long served as the main port of the bay. With its many historical buildings, Otaru is a popular tourist destination...

, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

; Indianapolis
Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Indiana, and the county seat of Marion County, Indiana. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population is 839,489. It is by far Indiana's largest city and, as of the 2010 U.S...

, USA; and the Canadian cities of Vancouver
Vancouver
Vancouver is a coastal seaport city on the mainland of British Columbia, Canada. It is the hub of Greater Vancouver, which, with over 2.3 million residents, is the third most populous metropolitan area in the country,...

, Whistler
Whistler, British Columbia
Whistler is a Canadian resort town in the southern Pacific Ranges of the Coast Mountains in the province of British Columbia, Canada, approximately north of Vancouver...

 and Port Coquitlam
Port Coquitlam, British Columbia
Port Coquitlam is a city in British Columbia, Canada. Located 27 km east of Vancouver, it sits at the confluence of the Fraser River and the Pitt River. Coquitlam borders it on the north, the Coquitlam River borders it on the west, and the cities of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows lie across the Pitt...

, all in British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

. Steam clocks by other makers are installed in St Helier, Jersey
Jersey
Jersey, officially the Bailiwick of Jersey is a British Crown Dependency off the coast of Normandy, France. As well as the island of Jersey itself, the bailiwick includes two groups of small islands that are no longer permanently inhabited, the Minquiers and Écréhous, and the Pierres de Lecq and...

 and at the Chelsea Farmers' Market in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

.

Although they are often styled to appear as 19th-century antiques, steam clocks are a more recent phenomenon inspired by the Gastown steam clock built by Saunders in 1977. One exception is the steam clock built in the 19th century by Birmingham
Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

 engineer John Inshaw
John Inshaw
John Inshaw was a mechanic and inventor who lived in Aston, now a district of Birmingham, England. Inshaw designed and built machinery for the railway and shipping industries and constructed a steam carriage. He was consulted by George Stephenson on the design of wheels for steam locomotives...

 to demonstrate the versatility of steam power.

Steam Clock Tavern


In 1859, the engineer and businessman John Inshaw
John Inshaw
John Inshaw was a mechanic and inventor who lived in Aston, now a district of Birmingham, England. Inshaw designed and built machinery for the railway and shipping industries and constructed a steam carriage. He was consulted by George Stephenson on the design of wheels for steam locomotives...

 took over the public house
Public house
A public house, informally known as a pub, is a drinking establishment fundamental to the culture of Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. There are approximately 53,500 public houses in the United Kingdom. This number has been declining every year, so that nearly half of the smaller...

 on the corner of Morville Street and Sherborne Street in Ladywood
Ladywood
Ladywood is an inner-city area in Birmingham, England. It is a council constituency, managed by its own district committee. The constituency includes the smaller Ladywood ward and the wards of Aston, Nechells and Soho. In June 2004, Birmingham City Council conducted a city-wide "Ward Boundary...

, Birmingham, UK. In a bid to make the establishment a talking point in the area, as well as furnishing it with various working models, Inshaw applied his interest in steam power
Steam engine
A steam engine is a heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid.Steam engines are external combustion engines, where the working fluid is separate from the combustion products. Non-combustion heat sources such as solar power, nuclear power or geothermal energy may be...

 to construct a steam-powered clock as a feature. A small boiler made steam; the steam condensed into droplets of water that fell on a plate at regular intervals, and the plate then drove the mechanism. The clock was installed above the door, and the pub became known as the Steam Clock Tavern. The establishment was sufficiently successful that it became a music hall
Music hall
Music Hall is a type of British theatrical entertainment which was popular between 1850 and 1960. The term can refer to:# A particular form of variety entertainment involving a mixture of popular song, comedy and speciality acts...

 in the 1880s.

Gastown steam clock





Raymond Saunders' first steam clock was built in 1977 as a tourist attraction for the renovated Gastown
Gastown
Gastown is a national historic site in Vancouver, British Columbia, at the northeast end of Downtown adjacent to the Downtown Eastside. Its historical boundaries were the waterfront , Columbia Street, Hastings Street, and Cambie Street, which were the borders of the 1870 townsite survey, the proper...

 district of Vancouver. Although the clock is now owned by the City of Vancouver, funding for the project was provided by contributions from local merchants, property owners, and private donors. Incorporating a steam engine and electric motors, the clock displays the time on four faces and announces the quarter hours with a whistle chime that plays the Westminster Quarters.

How it works

  • Engine. The steam engine is a Stuart #4 single expansion double acting 1" piston engine purchased at the Stuart Turner Limited plant at Henley-on-Thames
    Henley-on-Thames
    Henley-on-Thames is a town and civil parish on the River Thames in South Oxfordshire, England, about 10 miles downstream and north-east from Reading, 10 miles upstream and west from Maidenhead...

    , England
    England
    England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

    . (Engines of this size are typically employed by hobbyists for large model boat propulsion.) It is supplied with low pressure steam — engine inlet pressure is 17 psi (117,210.9 Pa) — from a centralized steam heating system
    Central Heat Distribution
    Central Heat Distribution Ltd. is a private district heating company located at 720 Beatty Street in Vancouver, Canada that provides heat to the Downtown Core including the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch, B.C...

     that serves a portion of downtown Vancouver. The engine, rotating at only a few hundred revolutions per minute, drives a reduction gear
    Gear
    A gear is a rotating machine part having cut teeth, or cogs, which mesh with another toothed part in order to transmit torque. Two or more gears working in tandem are called a transmission and can produce a mechanical advantage through a gear ratio and thus may be considered a simple machine....

     train. The gear train drives an ascending chain lift to lift ball weights to a top track from which they load onto a drive chain providing the driving force to the clock while the ball weights descend.

  • Chain lift. The engine-driven gear train drives the lower sprocket
    Sprocket
    A sprocket or sprocket-wheel is a profiled wheel with teeth, cogs, or even sprockets that mesh with a chain, track or other perforated or indented material. The name 'sprocket' applies generally to any wheel upon which are radial projections that engage a chain passing over it...

     of a vertical link-chain (similar to a bicycle
    Bicycle
    A bicycle, also known as a bike, pushbike or cycle, is a human-powered, pedal-driven, single-track vehicle, having two wheels attached to a frame, one behind the other. A person who rides a bicycle is called a cyclist, or bicyclist....

     chain), with a lift of about four feet. Chain-mounted pairs of lifting fingers form forks which accept and lift smooth steel balls (about two inches in diameter). The balls are lifted at a rate of one every 4.5 minutes.

  • Top transfer. A hammer-like mechanism operates to drive the topmost ball from the lifting fork at the top of the lift. The ball is then received by a transfer chute, whence it is routed to a gate at the top of the drive chain. The ball is restrained until a descending clock drive chain fork is properly positioned to receive it.

  • Clock drive chain. A similar continuous chain receives the lifted balls from the transfer chute at the top of the mechanism. At any time, five or six balls are being carried by this chain. It is the unbalanced weight upon this chain that drives a conventional pendulum clock
    Pendulum clock
    A pendulum clock is a clock that uses a pendulum, a swinging weight, as its timekeeping element. The advantage of a pendulum for timekeeping is that it is a resonant device; it swings back and forth in a precise time interval dependent on its length, and resists swinging at other rates...

     mechanism through the upper sprocket.

  • Ball return. At the bottom of the clock drive chain the balls come to rest upon an inclined blade leading to a chute where they roll to the initial lifting point. Two or three of the balls are in this position, with the foremost awaiting the passage of the lifting fingers.
  • Clock movement. The Gastown clock keeps time by a small tower clock movement that was custom-built in Croydon
    Croydon
    Croydon is a town in South London, England, located within the London Borough of Croydon to which it gives its name. It is situated south of Charing Cross...

    , England by Gillette & Johnston Co, from one of their 1875 designs. This type of tower clock movement was used in many small church tower clocks after 1875.

  • Electric motors. The clock uses three electric motors. First, a small gear motor drives the tune playing machine. It rotates a drum with pins that play the Westminster chimes on micro switches which operate the steam whistle solenoid valves. Second, a small fan motor blows out hot air from the roof vent on top of the clock. Third, a small fan motor pulls warm air down to the base to provide air circulation.
  • Chiming mechanism. Five steam whistle
    Steam whistle
    A steam whistle is a device used to produce sound with the aid of live steam, which acts as a vibrating system .- Operation :...

    s are mounted atop the clock case. The large central whistle, off the CPR steam tug Naramata, counts off the full hours. The four auxiliary whistles chime the Westminster Quarters four times an hour.

Indiana State Museum steam clock


The 17–foot–tall Indiana State Museum
Indiana State Museum
The Indiana State Museum is a museum located within White River State Park in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. The museum houses exhibits on the history of Indiana from prehistoric times up to the present day. It has one of the four IMAX theaters in the state of Indiana.-History:The museum was started...

 steam clock in Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Indiana, and the county seat of Marion County, Indiana. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population is 839,489. It is by far Indiana's largest city and, as of the 2010 U.S...

 is located on the sidewalk on the north side of the museum. It has four 24" diameter dials that are back-lit by neon. The clock’s eight brass whistles play a few notes of "Back Home Again in Indiana" every 15 minutes. A more complete rendition is played at the top of every hour.

Chelsea Farmers' Market steam clock


The towering and quirky steam clock located at the Chelsea Farmers' Market was constructed in 1984. Although still standing, the clock is no longer in operation.

Jersey waterfront steamboat clock



The Jersey steam clock is a full-scale replica of the centre section of a paddle steamboat
Paddle steamer
A paddle steamer is a steamship or riverboat, powered by a steam engine, using paddle wheels to propel it through the water. In antiquity, Paddle wheelers followed the development of poles, oars and sails, where the first uses were wheelers driven by animals or humans...

 named the Ariadne. The clock was commissioned by the Jersey Waterfront Board in 1996, and build by Smith of Derby. Although once powered by steam, according to a Jersey government document "the steam workings have been replaced with electrical fittings designed to provide the same functionality including the blowing of 'steam' at the appropriate times of the day."

The clock is sited on the North Quay of the harbour at St Helier, Jersey
Jersey
Jersey, officially the Bailiwick of Jersey is a British Crown Dependency off the coast of Normandy, France. As well as the island of Jersey itself, the bailiwick includes two groups of small islands that are no longer permanently inhabited, the Minquiers and Écréhous, and the Pierres de Lecq and...

, and also incorporates a fountain. It is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the World's largest steam clock.

Berwick steam clock


Located at Berwick, Australia, 38° 1'43.74"S 145°20'53.12"E. Designed and built by Peter Weare at his own expense, it is a half scale prototype for a larger clock proposed for Melbourne Australia.

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