Thursday, July 25, 2013

Standard time - railroad time - local time

From: "Imogen Middleton"

I am working on a new series for PBS and the BBC about big ideas, innovation and the interconnectivity of ideas. Over a series of 6 episodes we will look into different areas such as light, cold, sound and clean water to track the big innovations over time. We’re aiming to dispel the myth of the eureka moment and look into how ideas are really formed and the network of influences and technologies that bring them together.

Currently I’m working on an episode about time and have been struck sideways by the story of standardizing time in the States and the work of William F. Allen amongst others. I've been piecing together a railroad journey from San Francisco to New York, prior to Standard Railway Time, in 1870, using this [May 16, 1870] Union Pacific Time Table. I've got the route and the times, but I'm aware that there also local times right across America, as well as different railroad company times. This has left me a little confused, and I was wondering if someone might be able to help me out.

In the timetable above it states that the train from San Francisco will leave at 8am. Is this 8am local time, or 8am Union Pacific Time (which I believe based its time on Omaha, where its HQ were located)? Each time provided in the time table is Union Pacific time, and not local time - is that right?

Along the route, across all of the states, I know there are variants to the time, which left contemporary passengers really confused. What I would like to clarify is that these times were local time (depending on city/town), and then railroad company time, which would change at various points en route. For example, at Omaha the passenger would change from Union Pacific to Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (which I think based its time on Chicago - where the company was based). Am I right in thinking that? ...

Imogen Middleton, Researcher, Big ideas, London, UK


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Bruce Cooper"

I am quite sure that the times of departure listed in timetable before the adoption of standard time zones was local time. I would also suggest that she see:

Railway & Travel Guides and the Pacific Railroad

COMPARATIVE TIME-TABLE showing the Time at the Principal Cities of the United States, compared with Noon at Washington, D. C.

FAQ regarding time

Keeping Watch: A History of American Time by Michael O'Malley


7/25/2013 10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Chris Graves"
Subject: Time zones in the USA ;-)

Here is a partial answer to your inquiry: The railroad folks noted with interest that as they proceeded West on the rails, the sun came up later, and stayed up longer.

So, they hired a fellow named Andersrag to assist them in keeping time along the rails.

Andersrag went to work, and after a bit developed the Time Bands (now called Zones) currently in use in the USA.

In his honor, these Time Bands were named for him, using, of course his first name of Alex in the title:
Alex Andersrag Time Bands.

You must say it quickly, to get the full brunt of the mystery:
Alexanders Rag Time Bands.


—G J Chris Graves, NewCastle, Cal. ;-)

7/25/2013 2:32 PM  

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