Rise and fall of the railroad chronometer...?

Thread: Rise and fall of the railroad chronometer...?

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  1. #1
    Member Shangas's Avatar
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    Rise and fall of the railroad chronometer...?

    I did some searching, but I couldn't find any information on this...

    When did railroad chronometers really come into being? I'm talking about the big, fancy, high-mech pocket-watches that everyone drools over on this board. It was the 1890s, right?

    On the other end of the scale, when did the railroad chronometer meet its end? Did it ever? Or do train-conductors & engineers still require super-accurate timepieces today, which are still subject to random accuracy checks?
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  2. #2
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: Rise and fall of the railroad chronometer...?

    Railroad watches were made by Elgin for the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1860s but the real standards got set around 1893 and they changed over the years. Part of the standards was periodic inspection and service of the watches in addition to the watch design. Most of this info can be found in a text like Shugart.
    After the 1950s the railroad watch declined in use as railroads relied more on electric block signals, two way radio, and electronic dispatch and traffic control than they did on timetables and timekeeping. Today it's all computerized and digitized. An engineer today could probably wear a radio controlled G-Shock and be fine.
    CPR had wristwatch standards as late as 1978 and these were quartz models.
    Last edited by Ray MacDonald; November 19th, 2008 at 02:23.

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  3. #3
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    Re: Rise and fall of the railroad chronometer...?

    For what this is worth, I live in the Philadelphia burbs and before I retired worked at one of the universities in town. I used the commuter rail system and when I became interested in horology I asked a few of the conductors about watch standards. Essentially by the early 2000s there where not any, every conductor had a different story. Some did not wear any timepiece, some shrugged and one told me that theoretically they were supposed to wear an "accurate quartz wristwatch". The last quoted also told me that most of the time the clocks at the stations were often incorrect. What I also found out is that the whole system was controlled from a central location with radio control and electrical switching.

    So it's essentially what Ray already posted.

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  5. #4
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    Re: Rise and fall of the railroad chronometer...?

    I have a friend of mine we call him railroad Jim he retired about 20 year's ago from the union pacific railroad he use to own a R.B. Raymond I ask the same question what happend to the railroad watch he said the railroad would pay for the inspections and repair's then the railroad got good at knowing were the trains were at like every one said electronic switching well the railroad stop paying for the inspections and being working men they got the union to put in there contract they did not need a railroad watch.He would tell good stories like how they would have to go up in the Siera's mountain's to clear snow off the tracks that's some mountain's between California and Nevada they had a train with a some kind of snow plow.

  6. #5
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: Rise and fall of the railroad chronometer...?

    Same thing on the CNR. I used to ride a commuter train and got to know the engineer as he drove the train from a cab car which carried the passengers.
    He had a printed train order which told him where he had to go slow, or where they were working on the track. But there was no timetable - aside from getting into the stations to pick up passengers as close to the proper time as they could manage. Every train was controlled by means of a central computer and signal lights. If the computer had a glitch, all the lights turned red and nobody moved till they got it fixed. I am sure they had redundancies so this wasn't a problem very often.
    Last edited by Ray MacDonald; November 19th, 2008 at 14:41.

    There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson. ~ Victor Hugo

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