Ode to Katoomba steam clock

It’s an unusual event where the audience sings Waltzing Matilda, but that’s the tune the clock plays so that was the theme of the singalong at Scenic World last Friday.

The occasion was the unveiling of Australia’s only steam-driven clock.

It was commissioned by former managing director of the attraction, Philip Hammon, a clock fanatic, and built by Canadian Raymond Saunders.

The clock is driven by a miniature engine powered by steam produced in the Scenic World workshop and piped underground for 70 metres. Every 10 minutes, the engine winds the clock by pulling tiny coal skips up a railway incline. The weight of the skips drives the clockwork mechanism.

The design is based on the original railway built to haul coal up from the rainforest floor to the clifftop at the Katoomba site.

Twelve brass whistles on the top play sections of Waltzing Matilda on the quarter-hour and the whole shebang on the hour. 

Mr Hammon, who has 47 clocks in his personal collection, said he was inspired after seeing a steam-powered clock in the historic Gastown precinct of Vancouver some years ago.

“We already had steam at Scenic World for our natural gas-fired boilers [and] that will now supply the clock with the required steam for operation.”

Mr Saunders, of Landmark Clocks International, said it was the seventh steam clock he had built and it took him almost five years.

“It was one of my most challenging jobs but I loved it. I trust this clock will stand the test of time,” he said.

The steam clock is in a new public observation area opposite the attraction’s entry.

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