Inside the historic Water Tower Clock which is being restored and will be installed at Southern Cross Station. Photo: Joe Armao
A giant 19th-century clock that was a landmark for generations of Melburnians before being discarded for scrap in the 1960s, will be a city landmark once again.
Flinders Street Station has its ''let's meet under the clocks'' spot, but Southern Cross Station will have its own when the restored Water Tower Clock is installed in April.
Clock and railway experts say it will resume its rightful place in public, having watched over Flinders Street Station from 1883 to 1901 and Spencer Street Station from 1910 to 1967.
An image from the Australian Illustrated News in 1882 of the Water Tower Clock at Flinders Street Station.
The 11-metre structure will stand left of the station's main entrance at the corner of Spencer and Collins streets.
Vivian Kenney, president of the Australian Antiquarian Horological Society, said the move was exciting. ''It's been a dream of mine for 40 years to see it go back there. It would be like them running some of the original trains. To show people the history of this place.''
Mr Kenney is overseeing the restoration. At a Somerton warehouse, parts of the 5.3-metre-high, wooden-clad iron frame are being cleaned, and replaced if rotten or rusted, then repainted. The perspex dials, originally made of milk glass, are being cleaned and repaired.
The hands, made of copper, are original, as is the motion work - the gearboxes behind each dial that run the hands. The electric wiring and lights are being upgraded.
A new, five-metre metal support tower will be clad in advertising, and a storyboard on its history.
Matthew Churchward, a senior curator at Museum Victoria, said since 1999 the clock had sat on a stand outdoors at Scienceworks, but at Southern Cross ''it's more prominent, it will see a lot more passing traffic''.
Mr Churchward said originally the clock loomed 18 metres over Flinders Street Station at the end of Elizabeth Street, on a structure that resembled a water tank tower. One theory is that this started the expression ''meet under the clocks''.
It was the master clock, off which the state's entire rail operations, including signalling, ran. Every hour it emitted a telegraph signal to suburban stations, synchronising all the clocks.
In the era before watches were common, the public relied on the Water Tower Clock to keep appointments.
In 1901, the Water Tower Clock was moved to Princes Bridge Station (now Federation Square) for the building of the present Flinders Street Station. The latter had its own built-in clock tower, so from 1910 the clock was relocated again, to the entrance to Spencer Street Station.
In 1967 it was again turfed out when Spencer Street Station was rebuilt. Mr Churchward said it was considered ''in the way'' and ''difficult to maintain''.
The Institute of Applied Science (now part of Museum Victoria) snapped up the clock's internal mechanism, but rejected the rest, which was taken to a scrap yard.
An enthusiast rescued it, and later it spent years at a small museum, followed by a vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula.
It was later refurbished and an electronic mechanism installed, and the owners sold it to the state government. (A 1997 article had the asking price at $200,000.)