Tram work going slow as old clock stuck fast

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RESISTANCE to change at the grand old age of 111 is perhaps understandable.

But the city's tram opponents have found support from an unlikely ally – a historic, cast-iron clock.

The clock and cast iron support, which has sat at the top of Leith Walk, at the roundabout with London Road, since 1959, was meant to make way for the city's new 498 million tram line last month.

However, while contractors safely removed the clock face, the column just would not budge.

Conservationists then warned that it was too brittle to be just pulled out of the ground.

Tram workers have now taken a mould of the supporting column in case of any problems when it is finally removed next month.

Dating from 1896, the clock was previously located in the West End, outside what is now Fraser's department store.

But it was moved to the top of Leith Walk, at the junction of London Road, in the early 1960s, and has given thousands a time check on their way into the city centre ever since.

The clock, built by Shotts Iron Company and local clockmaker James Ritchie's, will be refurbished and put back in the same area when the tram line is complete, though council chiefs have still to decide on its exact location.

The roundabout is to be replaced by a traffic-light controlled T-junction.

Dorothy Marsh, senior conservation officer at the council's museums service, said: "The clock is in storage and will be refurbished before it goes back onto the street.

"It is an exceedingly fine example of cast iron work.

"When a developer comes along and says to us that they want to move something like this we always take the opportunity to have the item refurbished.

"When the Kirkgate Shopping Centre was redeveloped a few years ago, the Queen Victoria statue was moved a few yards but refurbished as part of the deal.

"I don't it will be returned too far away from its original location as there is no point in anything of historic value being out of view."

The clock was removed from the West End after police concerns that it was a traffic hazard.

After a spell in storage, it was made the centrepiece of the roundabout at London Road.

Moving the clock is one of a number of changes needed for the city's new tram line.

The famous Sherlock Holmes statue on Picardy Place will be another of the city's precious artifacts to be moved, this time to make way for a new tram and bus interchange.

Leith Walk's bronze pigeons will also have to make way for the tram line.

A spokesman for TIE said: "We're pleased to be assisting then the preservation and refurbishment of this well known piece of Edinburgh's heritage. It will allow it to continue to play a role in the Capital's transport network for many years to come."

The entire programme of tram roadworks will take more than three years to complete.

The project involves digging up the roads twice – first to move water mains and gas pipes from the path of the trams, then to lay the tram lines, install stops and erect overhead wires.