According to The Guardian, “The ten strangest musical instruments” includes wave and wind organs, instruments made of ice and stalactites, a stretch of road near Lancaster California that plays the William Tell Overture, and the Gastown Steam Clock.
Vancouver’s contribution to the list of wonders and oddities is remarkable for “notes created by steam forced through whistles,” and for the steam itself, supplied by “underground pipes that heat downtown buildings.”
Built in 1977 by horologist Roy Saunders, the steam clock “is an oft-cited and popular attraction. There are always people waiting at the Water Street and Cambie location to hear the hourly Westminster chimes or to see the almost-five-metre-high cast bronze clock ‘blow off steam’ every 15 minutes.” (The Greater Vancouver Book)
And gather they do. Day in, day out, images are captured and superlatives are expressed: “iconic;” “magical.”
And it’s all bullshit: the steam engine is powered by a belt, connected to a hidden electric motor.
Fake, full of hot air, and geared to visitors -an icon in fact.