Saturday, November 5, 2011

Notice of Time Change

As certain as the seasons change, so we "fall behind," resetting our lives, bodies, and dog walks to standard time. While the forward and backward "savings time" issue came later via the politicians, many rail fans eagerly point out that it was the railroads that were largely responsible for the creation of time zones here in the CONUS - Continental United States.

Before 1893, there were an estimated 114 "high noon's," sun over the local courthouse - as The Sol raced across the continent. But "cornfield meets," unplanned simultaneous track occupancy by two opposing trains, and other inconveniences, dictated that a growing country needed to establish order in time keeping for safety and sanity.

Following many plans and conferences, on November 18, 1893, the four continental time zones took effect on the nation's railroads. Today, both the United States and Russia have nine time zones, Canada has six. Can you name all nine US time zones?

Entrepreneurs rushed in to take advantage one of the conditions set forth by the time zone convention, that railroad employees must carry accurate timepieces, and that they be inspected, adjusted and oiled on a regular basis.

" .... be open faced, size 18 or 16, have a minimum of 17 jewels, adjusted to at least 5 positions, keep time accurately to within a gain or loss of only 30 seconds per week, adjusted to temperatures of 34 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, have a double roller, steel escape wheel, lever set, micrometric regulator, winding stem at 12 o'clock, grade on back plate, use plain Arabic numbers printed bold and black on a white dial, and have bold black hands..." --- From "Railroad Time: Railroad Pocket Watches and the CPR," by Harold Clitheroe.

Wouldn't that Canadian Pacific Railways watch with the logo inside it be a tremendous find!

It is interesting to note how lax specifics for railroad watches have become. The CN states the only requirement being for a railroad watch is that it be accurate within 30 seconds per month, have Arabic numbers, tick marks for seconds, and if it has a time/date function, it is just fine if the number three is obliterated by a date indicator!

The Canadian National Railway employee timetable from 1958, provides a list of "approved" watch inspectors, from whom employees were required to get a receipt, proving their timepiece had been inspected and operating accurately

This Waltham pocket watch belonged to my Grandpa Robert. He did not work for the railroad. He was one of several Patrolmen on the West Coast Life Saving Trail. They maintained the trail; maintained supplies in strategically placed shipwreck shelters and inspected the telegraph line that linked the lighthouses on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

Urban legend has it that Mom discovered me under the front porch of our home in Richmond, California, trying to stuff an uncoiled mainspring back into Grandpa Roberts Waltham, with my four-year-old fingers.

Whatever justice inflicted upon me was apparently such that I have blocked out that memory. Nevertheless, all these years later, Grandpa Robert's "Waltham" pocket watch is in its protective dome on my dresser. It must be at least 75 years old. Moreover, it keeps perfect time!

Railroad Stuff: Canadian National Railways 1280, SW1200RS, 1,200 hp, built by General Motors Division in London Ontario, November 1957, serial number A-1176.

Answer to Nine US Time Zones: From east to west they are Atlantic Standard Time (AST), Eastern Standard Time (EST), Central Standard Time (CST), Mountain Standard Time (MST), Pacific Standard Time (PST), Alaskan Standard Time (AKST), Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time (HST), Samoa standard time (UTC-11) and Chamorro Standard Time (UTC+10).

Bet you have never heard about Chamorro Standard Time. (Speaks to the quality of our educational system.) ChST was established by HR 3756, October 10, 2000. The time zone was named in honor of the historical unity of the Mariana Islands and the original inhabitants of the island chain.

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