Armchair photo tours: Blowing off steam with the Gastown Steam Clock in Vancouver, British Columbia

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Photos by Cheryl Landes

In 1977, horologist Raymond Saunders and metalwork specialist Doug Smith built a steam clock at 300 Water Street. It’s near the intersection of Cambie Street in the historic Gastown community, from where Vancouver, British Columbia started and grew about a century earlier.

Gastown merchants hired Saunders to build the clock as a monument and to prevent the homeless from sleeping on a steam grate at the site to stay warm, according to an article about the clock in Atlas Obscura.

The clock blows a little steam at 15, 30, and 45 minutes past the hour. On the hour, the whistles at the top blow one at a time, letting off more steam.

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Despite its name, the clock isn’t completely steam-powered. Descending weights power the clockworks, and a small steam engine at the base of the clock acts as a winder. A rubber belt connects the steam engine to an electric engine hidden from view.

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