[N&W] Re: Standard Clocks

nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu May 6 22:22:41 EDT 2004

Railroads used to get their time from the US Bureau of Standards, I believe,
which would transmit the time at noon each day over the telegraph. Each
railroad would cut its message telegraph system into the US lines just
before noon to receive the correct time. Most railroad offices including
dispatcher's offices, stations, towers, etc. would get their time this way
and set their own standard clocks - these were the big jobbies that
collectors covet today.  These clocks were inspected and maintained by the
company, and employees whose duties required them to know standard time
carried standard approved watches which had to be inspected and set
periodically by railroad-approved jewelers.  These employees had to carry a
card to show when their watch was last inspected. Each employee carrying a
standard watch was required to compare it with a standard clock each tour of
duty; if he didn't have access to a standard clock he had to compare it with
that of an employee who did have such access.

Time used to be important, when lines were operated by train orders often
using times for waits, etc.

But nowadays a calendar will do.


I don't know how it was done after the telegraph line was taken down, but
the former VGN territory still had telegraph in 1960.  Promptly at 11:57 AM
everyday, the Naval Observatory would begin sending.  If you were on the
telegraph line sending or receiving TOUGH because you were preempted by
the Naval Observatory. The signal was:  dash-(Pause)-dash-(pause)-dash-
(pause)-dash-(pause)-dash-(pause) . . . . . .  This went on for three minutes.
Then there was one long pregnant pause followed by one long dash.  The long
dash was the signal that it was 12:00 NOON - everyone syncronize watches,
uh clocks that is.

Harry Bundy

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