Railroad Time

I am into trains and I am into watches. I just got a new automatic watch and it made me think about conductor watches and “railroad time.” It was so different in the old days without these marvels of time keeping and the computerized mechanisms. Time was standardized in the mid- 19th century, the heyday of the industrial revolution. History tells us the Great Western Railway in England was the initiator. It became apparent that local times varied and had to be synched with a single standard. Slowly but surely it was adopted worldwide including North America, India, and Europe. Schedules could be more easily followed when everyone had their sights set on London Time, a time established by the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. There would be no more confusion caused by non-uniform local times. Every station stop had to operate by the standard. Accidents and near misses would decline.

It was chaotic at first with locals objecting to adjusting their clocks to London Time. But they got used to it and timetables were consistent. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until 1880 that the government of Great Britain finally enacted legislation to establish mandatory Standard Time and a single time zone throughout the country. So it was not always the way it is now. I love knowing and disseminating these kinds of facts about trains. We are very aware of time zones, especially as daylight saving’s is fast approaching. And train and plane service must transport passengers over thousands of miles in a couple of hours. Clear-headed thinking more than a century and a half ago paved the way for progress.

I can’t imagine an era when people told the time by tracking the sun. And now I have a state-of-the art automatic watch, the best I could find. I rely on its absolute accuracy so I am seldom more than ten seconds off. I arrive on time and on schedule to every appointment. A watch is more than an accessory as many people think, but it doesn’t hurt that it works perfectly and looks good at the same time. I had to make do for so many years with a budget timepiece but those days are over. I can splurge on quality. I wonder if there are watches out there for train buffs that run on railway time. I know we set our watches to our time zone, but are there dials that show railroad images? I think at best you would get settings like 24:00. I have been looking into it and the best I can do is Hans Hilfiker, a Swiss Engineer and Designer and employee of the Federal Swiss Railways as creator of the Swiss Railway watch. It looks like any other dial in basic layout except that it is done in the same design as the traditional federal Swiss railway station clock. I will have to be happy enough with that.