- Associated Press - Saturday, February 1, 2014

PUEBLO, Colo. (AP) - For more than a century, they’ve been the faces of Pueblo.

Since the Union Depot opened in 1889, the four sides of the clock atop its tower have been a focal point. Builders wanted the 150-foot tower to be visible from anywhere in the city and appropriately for a business that was all about arrival and departure times, the clock faces, each 7 feet in diameter, were built into each side.

Recently, it suffered some bird-induced glass damage and the loss of an arm due to recent winds, sparking concern about its future, but the mechanism continues to tick away. It’s encased in a big wooden compartment inside the tower.

“People love the clock tower,” said Tallie Koncilja, general manager of the depot

Koncilja said the arm will be put back in place as soon as the glass is repaired.

“Hopefully, (it) will be back functioning by the end of the month,” she said.

The flood of 1921 caused several changes to the landmark. First, the tower itself was rebuilt at a lower height because of structural damage. The new height was at least 30 feet lower than the original.

The clock face on the west side was removed because it would no longer be visible over the depot’s rooftop.

The new faces were changed to glass. The originals, shown in pre-1921 photos, were backed by brick. Minus one side, depot time marched on for more than 50 years. The 3-foot bronze hands kept moving thanks primarily to Joe Martellaro, who was the depot’s maintenance engineer for several decades.

Martellaro said the clock was “pretty accurate” and lost only two or three minutes between windings.

Eventually, however, the trains stopped running. The depot went quiet, a historic building with no life inside.

In 1990, thieves did what Mother Nature and Pueblo’s economy couldn’t: they killed the clock and fled with its entire mechanism.

A group of Puebloans led by Tim and Kathi Miller purchased the depot for $250,000, sparking the rejuvenation of the Union Avenue district. Within a few months, they’d found a guardian angel who would restore the building’s historic centerpiece.

S.H. Ambjor of Seattle was in Pueblo in 1990 to see the clock tower. He was a fan of the huge timepieces and asked Tim Miller about it. When Miller told Ambjor the elements of the clock had recently been stolen, the retiree created a new project for himself.

Ambjor found a new mechanism in Texas: a 1/10th horsepower engine with 75-pound pendulum balls, weighing 600 pounds total. For seven months, he worked on it from his home, charging nothing for his time and expertise. In March 1991, Ambjor flew to Pueblo and installed the new mechanism.

“This one will be darned near as accurate as a quartz watch,” Ambjor said then, boasting that maintenance would be “about 15 or 20 drops of oil every five years.”

Once again, Puebloans are able to set their watches courtesy of the depot.

One enhancement to the clock was added in 2003 when a system of chimes was installed in memory of Pueblo businessman Tom Guay. They signal the top and bottom of every hour.


Information from: The Pueblo Chieftain, https://www.chieftain.com

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