Monday, 5 July 2010

Chelsea Thursday - The Steam Clock

As I was walking around in darkest Chelsea last Thursday, I spotted three metal figures in the distance. It was only a little later on that I found the side entrance to the farmers' market open, so I went in as it seemed to be leading roughly in the direction of the figures.

On top of an iron frame I found the figures 25 feet in the air - the main reason I had managed to see them earlier. They live on top of one of the worlds few steam clocks made buy Hunkin and Plant. At the time of building, in 1984, it was one of only 2 in the world - the other was in Vancouver (it still is as it happens). Alas, it's a difficult thing to maintain and in recent years it has fallen into disrepair and no longer works. The pet shop behind it has lovingly bolted their sign onto it though.

From the boiler at the bottom, from a christmas tree factory, to the 19th century US railway engine whistle at the top, satisfyingly complete with a bullet dent, there is a truely eclectic selection of parts. There's a boiler timer from the Midlands electricity board, bits from a lawn mower, a windscreen wiper motor, a firework firing tube, some ships rigging screws and bicycle gears amongst others. The figures on the top were made from copper from hot water cylinders, one of whom apparently used to stick his fingers in his ears when the whistle went off, and the whistle itself has been fitted with a saucepan as it used to spurt boiling water - perhaps not ideal when it was located above such a public place.

According to the small surf I've had in relation to this, there are now a few steam clocks around the world but it would seem that the rest are working. This may be the only broken down steam clock in existence - what a privilege to stumble on such a thing on my travels.


Dave McK said...

How exceptionally cool!

Sandy's witterings said...

Tis David. Glad you've found the new blog.