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Museum News Railroad Time

February 2013

Memphis Chapter Officers President – Walter Lang

Vice President – Bruce Smedley Director – Bill Strong Secretary/Treasurer – Thomas Doherty Program Co-Chairman – Michael Jack Program Co-Chairman- Don Weis Yahoo Group Co-ordinater – Terry Redeker Newsletter Editor – Tom Parker

Last Month's Meeting The first meeting for 2013 was held at the Germantown Library. Walter reminded everyone that all our meeting for 2013, except Apr and Nov, will be held the second Thursday each month at the Germantown Library. Tom Doherty reminded those that haven't paid dues are due and he needs them by 15 Feb 13. If you have any questions on your dues please call tom at 754-1674 with your questions. Michael Jack present a program on his travel in Australia, New Zealand and Alaska. Michael is the program chair for this year any ideas for programs like him know. Next months meeting will be 14 Feb.

February Meeting Tom Doherty has DVD's of his train trips out west last summer to show. It's a companion to the articles he wrote for the Buff.

Cover: Hamilton 992B “Railroad Special” pocket watch.

What is it?

3 Museum News New carpet has been installed in the front portion of the museum and has vastly improved the appearance. The carpet was donated to the museum and was installed by Jerry LaChapelle. An additional donation has been promised to carpet the remaining half.

The New Carpet is a big improvement

Birthday parties have become a big part of the museum's business. In response to this demand the room directly behind the gift shop which has been used for storage is being cleaned and will be converted into a party room to provide a more private area for parties.

Plans are moving along for “Phase II” of the museum. The above drawing by Larry Keenan is the plan for the HO model train layout which will be the center piece of “Phase II” Modeled is the Memphis Riverfront from North of Auction Street to Calhoun Street in 1900. The room behind the burgundy curtain is being converted into a part room. It is presently used for storage.

The Museum is within $900 of meeting John McVean's $25,000 Matching Funds Challenge. Have you contributed yet?

Use the above form to become a “Class One Trainmaster”. Mail the from to David Johnston, Treasurer, Memphis Railroad & Trolley Museum, 11325 Ole Bob Drive, Collierville, TN, 38017, or give it to an MRTM board member. You can also contribute on line at There you will find several donation options including the “Kroger Community Rewards” program where your Kroger purchases will generate a donation to the MRTM.

State Representative John DeBerry, Jr. of the 90TH District presents a proclamation from the State citing the MRTM's contributions to the community on Martin Luther King Day.

“Railroad” Time by Tom Parker

In today's environment it is difficult to imagine a world where most people did not have the capability to determine what time it was: where, indeed, there was no consensus on what the correct time was.

Prior to the railroads, all time was local. Noon was when the sun was at its highest point in the sky. No matter if noon was a few minutes earlier or later a hundred miles away, You couldn't get there fast enough for it to make any difference. Thousands of municipalities each worked to their local times, For example, a contempor-

ary Chicago Tribune showed 27 local times in Michgan, 38 in Wisconsin, 27 in Illinois and 23 in Indiana.

On your telephone, computer, tablet or television. The correct time down to the second is at your finger tips. Indeed, our easy access to the correct time has made watches obsolete, a mere piece of jewelry rather than a near necessity. The importance of uniform times to the early railroads and the railroads role in our current time system cannot be over emphasized.

Mississippi & Tennessee Railroad Timetable from 1868 Guide shows Standard Time being that shown on clock in the Supintendent's office.

Railroads began adopting the telegraph in 1851. Prior to the telegraph, railroads depended upon a time interval system. Having no standard time meant that this system resulted in numerous train collisions. The telegraph allowed railroad management to know what trains were on the tracks under their supervision. The adoption of the telegraph for dispatching trains both enabled and more or less forced the railroads to adopt a “standard” time.

"Comparative Time Table" from June 1868 "Travelers Official Railway Guide"

In 1865 the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, began transmitting time signals via telegraph. This enabled the railroads to synchronize their clocks system wide. (Clocks were reset every hour on the hour. In my experience, if you were looking at a railroad “standard” clock on the hour, you could possibly see the second move a half a second or so when the clock was automatically synchronized. The ticket office clock at Central Station had a small red light on it face which would blink on every hour, indicating the clock had been synchronized.) About the same time Western Union and the railroads set up four “Time Zones” across the

United States, Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific to more co-ordinate operations with the local time. On October 11, 1883, at the General Time Convention, Canadian and United States railroads officially standardized and adopted time zones across the continent. Most large companies followed suit and adopted “Railroad Time” as “official” time. Railroad timed served as the recognized standard for thirty five years. It was not until March 19, 1918, that Congress enacted Standard Time.

once or twice a year for a “watch comparison”. The jeweler would clean, inspect and adjust the watch if needed. The inspection was recorded on a watch inspection card which the employee was required to have with him at all times while on duty.

The railroad watch is the final and possibly most important link in the operation of trains using time as a criteria. Again. It is difficult to realize that until the advent of two way radios in trains in the 1950's & 60's, train crews were largely on their own between stations. Dispatcher's orders, relayed to train crews by telegraph operators, timetables and operating rules were all crews had to govern them out on the road and all of them could have a time component. Railroads set standards that railroad watches were required to meet, among them a variation of less than 30 seconds a week and a lever set feature which prevented the time to be accidentally reset. In order to set the time, it was necessary to remove crystal and pull out a small lever concealed under the bezel.

Watch Inspection Card. Re: Battery installed, etc. Railroad began allow quartz wrist watches in 1961.

In order to set a railroad watch, it is necessary to remove the crystal and pull out a small lever concealed under the bezel.

To assure accuracy, employees were required take their watch to a company approved jeweler

A 1904 Railroad Watch Ad


Illinois Central 9956, built by the IC in 1951, at Ponchatoula. LA. Photo by Micheal Jack Meeting Schedule February 14, 2013 March 14, 2013 April 11, 2013 May 9. 2013 June13 2013 July 11, 2013 August 8, 2013 September 12., 2013 October 10, 2013 November 14, 2013 December 12, 2013 (All 2013 meetings will be on the 2nd Thursday of the month and all except the April & November meetings (TBA) will be at the Germantown Library) Germantown Public Library 7-9 pm. 1925 Exeter Road Germantown, TN 38138

Contact the Editor Tom Parker 3012 Wood Thrush Drive Memphis, TN 38134

February 2013 Buff  
February 2013 Buff  

Museum News, Railroad Time