Southern Cross Station’s new Water Tower Clock

Last week a new clock was unveiled at Southern Cross Station – not a brand new one, but a 130 year old ‘Water Tower Clock’ that was originally installed at Flinders Street Station.

Restored Water Tower Clock now on display on the main concourse

The clock was built in 1882 for the original Flinders Street Station, where it sat at the end of Elizabeth Street.

SLV image A14246 accession H20751

It was then relocated a number of times – first to Princes Bridge Station in 1902 to allow the construction of the current Flinders Street Station.

PROV image VPRS 12800/P1, item H 1185

And then to Spencer Street Station in 1910.

VPRS 12903/P1, item Box 495/01

There it remained until 1967 when the old Spencer Street Station building was erected, resulting in the mechanism being given to Museum Victoria and the turret sold for scrap, but later rescued by private collectors.

Eventually the clock ended up back in public hands, when in 1999 the then-Minister for Transport purchased the clock intending for it to be placed back at Flinders Street Station, but the project stalled, resulting in it being placed on display at the Scienceworks museum at Spotswood.

Clock and sundial outside the Melbourne Planetarium

In February 2014 it was revealed that the clock would be moving home yet again – this time back to Southern Cross Station.

Work on a new stand for the clock at the Collins Street station entrance commenced in April.

Stand in place at the Collins Street entrance for the 'Water Tower Clock' to be installed atop

With a LED video screen being installed inside the stand.

Red curtain in place over the Water Tower Clock, pending a grand opening with the Transport Minister

On May 14 a stage, seats and lighting were all set up ready for the unveiling of the clock.

Stage, seats and lighting all set up ready for the unveiling of the Water Tower Clock

With Transport Minister Terry Mulder carrying out the official unveiling.

Official unveiling of the restored Water Tower Clock

The screen beneath was displaying a video loop describing the history of the Water Tower Clock.

Displaying a video loop describing the history of the Water Tower Clock

At the bottom of the screen were animated trains, each flying a flag of a corporate sponsor.

Video wall beneath the Water Tower Clock showing an animated loop of Melbourne trains over the years

As to the industry super fund logos – it turns out the ‘IFM Investors’ (formerly ‘Industry Funds Management’) sponsored the restoration of the clock.

Plaque marking the unveiling of the Water Tower Clock on 14 May 2014

The same day a government media release was issued, with a telling quote from the Transport Minister:

“The restoration of the clock has been made possible by a partnership between Southern Cross Station operators and Public Transport Victoria,” Mr Mulder said.

Fast forward to May 19, and look what is displayed on the video wall – full screen advertisements!

Foxtel adverting now featuring on the Water Tower Clock LCD screen

Don’t get between the management of Southern Cross Station and their adverting revenue!


The Department of Transport Planning and Local Infrastructure has since uploaded a video of the official unveiling, which features the video loop describing the history of the Water Tower Clock.

At the same event there were a number of JCDecaux staff in attendance – the same company manages advertising at Southern Cross Station. I should have twigged to this earlier…

June 2014 update

Looks like somebody in charge wasn’t happy about the non-stop advertising beneath the clock – a shortened version of the historical video has now been inserted into the loop of commercial messages.

Video screen beneath the Water Tower clock now includes a short historical video among the loop of advertisements

Fun fact

The clock was 3D scanned by a laser to determine its size, so that the glass case could be created for it.

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17 Responses to “Southern Cross Station’s new Water Tower Clock”

  1. rohan says:

    Wondered why it had such a big glass box to hold it up. What a disappointment. Noone will read the time, the ads will be too distracting. At least the clock is safe.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Given how bright modern LED displays are, by the time your eyes adjust to the advertising screen, the clock itself fades into the surrounding darkness.

  2. David Stosser says:

    Given the location of the clock, out-of-the-way and in a corner, how useful will it actually be? You can see the yellow glow of the clockface from some parts of the Bourke St end, but that’s not close enough to tell the time.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      You’re right about the location of it – someone entering the station might be able to use it, but if you are waiting for a train, it is nowhere near any of the paid areas or waiting rooms.

  3. John Doe says:

    Why is it on that stupid glass box. They could have used a metal frame like the original.

  4. mich says:

    I wonder who is really footing the bill for this ? The “sole purpose test” is a joke.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      I would be concerned if government money via PTV was going towards an advertising banner that the private sector station owner profits from.

  5. Shelley Smith says:

    Anyone know if the clock is still on time? The irony is that time will tell if they have done a decent job of restoring it.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      When I went past the other day it appeared to be accurate – the question is how long it will stay that way!

  6. tristan says:

    Ironically it seems like its still the only clock at southern cross! I guess less people will notice delayed trains that way, but it’s very annoying to be told train departure times with no clear way of finding out how long you have if smartphone isn’t in pocket

  7. rohan says:

    Its a great little animation – shows each type of train through the eras (except the 70s hitachi…), havnt seen a blue Harris for ages.

    But doesn’t explain why its called the water tower clock – what water tower ?

    And of course its JCDecaux, they never miss a trick.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Omitting the history of the ‘Water Tower Clock’ name is a big one – I’m assuming it came from the original stand the clock rested upon, which looked much the same as those which held up water tanks:

      As for the Hitachi trains, they’re probably a bit too young for people to get nostalgic about yet!

      • Brian Watson says:

        Hi Marcus

        The “harris” Carriages are still strong 60 + years later – now being used by Vicrail on the diesel country trains.

  8. […] Built in 1882 for the original Flinders Street Station, in 2014 found a new home – Southern Cross Station, where it was placed atop a new stand then covered in advertising. […]

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