The antique clock tower at Karnatak Arts College, Dharwad, which has been restored now.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

130-year-old antique clock resumes ticking in Dharwad


The 130-year-old antique clock tower adorning the historical Karnatak Arts College in Dharwad has resumed ticking after a gap of over a decade, thanks to a team of technical officers and experts from the rail carriage workshop of South Western Railway (SWR).

The heritage clock had stopped ticking a decade ago and after attempts by the college administration to get it restored failed, a quartz analogue solar clock replaced it.

The landmark heritage building of the college, popularly known as ‘KCD’, used to be the central office of Southern Mahratta Railway (SMR) before the college started functioning in 1920. During a visit by an SWR heritage team, comprising additional general manager P.K. Mishra and principal financial adviser Roopa Shrinivasan, in June to Karnatak Arts College, the principal, Basappa F. Chaklabbi, and professor Gani brought the issue to their notice.

The team had offered to extend the necessary help, and following a request from the Registrar of Karnatak University for restoring the heritage clock, SWR principal chief mechanical engineer P. Ravi Kumar, chief works manager Niran Jain and their team accepted the challenge.

A team comprising V.V. Vishwanath, D.S. Londe, Mansoor Ali Mulla, and Altaf, and led by deputy chief works manager Anwesh Kumar Aileni, was entrusted with the restoration work. The team found that most of the components of the clock were worn out and a few parts were missing or almost broken. To add to their problems, there was no supply of spare parts and the team had to either manufacture or reclaim the missing/worn out/damaged components. “It took nearly a month for the team to restore the heritage clock as most of the parts had to be manufactured in-house,” said E. Vijaya, chief PRO of SWR.

After completing the reclamation and repair work, the spare parts were assembled on both the clocks at KCD, and after ensuring the gear train and arms were properly working for three or four days, the hour and minute needles were connected to the original clock by disconnecting the quartz analogue solar clock installed by HMT Watches, Bengaluru. “The restoration work not only involved repair and manufacture of worn out and missing components, but also working on a clock tower under challenging conditions. It is heartening to see that the iconic clock tower has been restored to its former glory in the year of the centenary celebrations of the college,” said Ajay Kumar Singh, general manager of SWR.

A historical structure

The heritage building of KCD is a blend of colonial and local architecture and was built under the supervision of chief engineer Colonel James Gavin Lindsay, formerly of the famed corps of engineers of the East India Company.

The construction was completed in 1890 and the central offices of SMR started functioning with G.M. Stewart as agent, Colonel J. Lindsay as chief engineer, C. White Combe as locomotive superintendent, J. Craik as traffic manager, and W.O. Donoghu as auditor. Subsequent to the merging of SMR with Madras Railway and the formation of the new company MSMR with its headquarters at Madras in 1908, the government of Bombay Presidency purchased this building at a cost of ₹3,26,956 from MSMR and established Karnatak College, Dharwad. It was inaugurated by the then Governor of Bombay Sir George Lloyd on July 15, 1920.

The clock tower was imported from London by legendary clock maker P.Orr & Sons, Madras (Chennai), and commissioned in 1890. According to old-timers, its sweet chimes would reverberate up to a distance of 3 km, informing the inhabitants of the time.

In the clock tower, gear boxes and mechanisms are housed in a large room on a raised wooden platform, 20 feet above the first floor. Clocks facing both sides of the building are connected with wire ropes and pulleys from the central mechanism. A beautiful brass bell adorns the clock tower. The hour needle of the clock is 1’9” long, while the minute needle is 2’5” long for proper visibility. The pendulum, 7’10” long, is equipped with a time-adjusting mechanism for temperature compensation.