Hello friends, this is my first presentation in this subforum (it will not be the last) and for that reason I ask you a little understanding and benevolence before the possible mistakes that I may make. I have been enjoying our common watchmaking hobby for many years and it seems that at a certain moment of it, you have seen everything and nothing surprises you. Nothing could be further from the truth; the recent acquisition of an old Ingersoll caused my attention to be set in a horological world totally new to me: that of the North American watch industry. Within this broad ecosystem, so to speak, the marvelous world of railway clocks was revealed to me. After almost a month of incessant search for information, visiting forums, discovering a new technical language (lepine, open face, Steam lever ...) I started to be "ready" to start the construction of a small but representative collection of 12 copies of American railway watches. This is going to be my watchmaking purpose for the remainder of the year and possibly the next (since the work of gathering information, discriminating and making a list, looking for the selected pieces and not forgetting a significant financial outlay) is going to be a job and considerable effort, but at the same time exciting.
How to try to define in a few words what a railway watch is?
To my newbie, it can be defined by two concepts:
Watch tool: Since it was used by station managers and train drivers and had to comply with strict rules of construction, precision and maintenance.
Jewel watch: For its delicate and magnificent elaboration and for its no less constructive beauty, set of a chosen decoration and care of its components. Something like what today is called (high watchmaking) and I was surprised not to see any of this type in the specific subforum.
Now I am going to try to put the railway clocks in a historical context. I know that maybe it is a hackneyed topic and that the vast majority of you will know, but if it can help newbies like me, I will feel satisfied.
Hope you like
Development of the railroad in the USA
After the end of the war of independence, a large part of the public and private efforts went towards colonization and territorial expansion towards the West. This expansion brought the birth of new cities, states, annexations of territories that had to be communicated and although basically the transport was carried out by horse-drawn carriages and steamships by channels, soon the railroad became the absolute protagonist of it ( thus in 1850 it had already built 45,000km of roads). Another important point was the Civil War. At the end of this, the railway not only expanded exponentially, but was a true symbol of the unification of the country. Between 1860 and 1890, more than 280,000km of railways had already been built.
Anyone who wants to deepen the development and the railroad is USA, you should not miss this exciting web
RailsWest.com Interpreting Tracks, Trains and People in the American West
As is evident, for this institution to function properly it was absolutely necessary to establish a strict time control over it. The task was not easy, given the great complexity involved in establishing schedules with so many different areas with different hours to connect. Strict schedules and rules were established for its correct operation, as we can see in this example
And at the same time the hourly uses were defined and divided
The times were controlled by master clocks calibrated by the state naval observatory and communicated to the different stations by the use of the telegraph
RailsWest.com Standard Time essential for Train Movement
The operators in turn had to always have an exact control of the time in their clocks, synchronizing them with the master clock or the instruction received by the telegraph.
Even so many rail accidents could not be avoided, such as Kipton's famous, perhaps the most relevant one, for the creation of a standardization commission, which formalized the main characteristics that a pocket watch had to fulfill to be used as a railway work tool .
In this table, we see an example of different accidents caused by the delay in this case, railway work watches.
August 9, 1853 Camden & Amboy Old Bridge, New Jersey 4 killed Engineer's watch 2.5 minutes slow August 12, 1853 Providence & Worcester Valley Falls, Rhode Island 14 killed Conductor's watch 2 minutes slow August 1878 Panhandle Mingo Junction, Ohio 18 killed Conductor's watch 20 minutes slow November 1882 Illinois & St. Louis Belleville, Illinois 2 killed watch 54 minutes slow November 1893 Hocking Valley Bradner, Ohio 4 killed Engineer's watch 17 minutes slow
And if you want to read more about the Kipton accident
RailsWest.com Railroad Watches
The watchmaking standards created by the commission driven by Webb C Ball were as follows:
only American-made watches may be used (depending on availability of spare parts)
only open-faced dials, with the stem at 12 o'clock
minimum of 17 functional jewels in the movement
16 or 18-size only
maximum variation of 30 seconds (approximately 4 seconds daily) per weekly check
watch adjusted to at least five positions: Face up and face down (the positions a watch might commonly take when laid on a flat surface); then crown up, crown pointing left, and crown pointing right (the positions a watch might commonly take in a pocket). Occasionally a sixth position, crown pointing down, would be included.
adjusted for severe temperature variance and isochronism (variance in spring tension)
indication of time with bold legible Arabic numerals, outer minute division, second dial, heavy hands,
lever used to set the time (no risk of inadvertently setting the watch to an erroneous time, when winding the watch with the stem)
Breguet balance spring
micrometer adjustment regulator
double roller escapement
steel escape wheel
anti-magnetic protection (after the advent of diesel-electric locomotives)
RailsWest.com Approved Railroad Watches
Obviously these degrees of "standardization were progressively introduced and replaced those approved in 1853. Note that these advances were advancing hand in hand with the complexity of the railway line, ie, you can not understand the creation of a new American watch industry solid without the establishment of the railway.
A good summary about this phenomenon, we can find it here
RailsWest.com American Watch Manufactures
Put in context, I think the first definition I gave earlier about what is a railway watch for me is well manifested (the clock tool) so now is the time to present with humility, the first of the list that I have made and it's an Illinois Bunn special 18s
The first thing that struck me about this watch is its size (18s), its weight, its robustness, its firmness; it really is a real watch tool
If we go to the Pocket watch database (indispensable tool that you have to know how to use for the large volume of information you have) we see that by its serial number is a copy built Circa 1897 and complies with the regulations above. Of this model No. 6, specifically that was in production between 1895 and 1923 a total of 76,978 units were built in a total of 256 "Runs" or production runs and its "grade is the Bunn Special"
You have to be very clear what are the concepts Run and Grade before buying a watch of this type, as they are essential to make a correct identification of it and do not give us a hare. If you want to see his complete primer, here:
In this image we see the magnificent porcelain dial (with some hairs) on three levels. I find the texture of the enamel painting on porcelain exquisite, with its gothic Arabic numerals, its diamond-shaped horiar marks, the tens of seconds in red and its signature in Gothic old English font ... in short, a real Delight that I never tire of looking.
If we go to the "bible" of the Illinois watches, which I have not yet been able to consult, Meggers & Ehrhardt's Illinois Watch Co. Encyclopedia and Price Guide, American Pocket Watches Volume 2, Heart of America Press, 1985) but that Mr. Edward L. Parson summarizes and illustrates for the Internet Horology Club 185 we see that the dial is about the first variant "Bold Gothic arabic numeral dial with Serif top-four"
The hands, blue on fire (in this case) correspond to the "light spade" type as we can see in a catalog of parts from the Illinois factory.
say and warn again that it is necessary to know how to handle fairly well among all the sources of information, since from what little I have seen, copies are sold very incoherent to say it in some way (frankens)
Let's see now inside, that is, its caliber and to see if someone who loves watchmaking is not able to admit that these mechanisms belong to the so-called "haute horlogerie"
I have tried to make more images in different angles but I have not been able to highlight all the beauty of its delicate and exquisite decoration
We can appreciate slightly (my bed is not for more) the damask pattern, engraved on the plate, enhanced in gold. His large rubies (in this case natural) set in gold chatons, completely decorative. The different spellings painted with enamel, as well as the decoration of the steering wheel bridge, the blue spiral ... summarizing, a true work of art.
But not everything remains in the decoration, if we read its characteristics, we will appreciate that the technical advances it has, as in security pinion, its "double Roller", the anchor with sapphire vanes, its adjustment to 6 positions plus isochronism , Its micrometric regulator, variant of the first patent made by George P. Redd for Illinois itself, make it a real tool, manufactured to be as accurate and accurate as possible. I can not even imagine what it would cost to make a caliber like this, with this level of decoration, the noble materials that it uses and all the craftsmanship that it entails.
If we go back to the Horological club 185 for its correct classification, we see that it is the Third Pattern variant - Gold-Inlaid Circle - Black-Filled Engraving
Here is an image of the inside of the box that is nickel, with a silver bath, which you have already seen that is threaded and that although I have my serious doubts about its originality is not far in time and I especially like the engraving of its rear
It is a Philadelphia case and as we have seen in the photo of the caliber, has no trace of having housed another clock inside
And of course, his subsequent engraving is so representative. At first I was quite struck by an engraving of a locomotive, in a railway clock; that is to say too redundant ... thing that happens with many Soviet watches that are frankens but then I have seen that this type of engraving is not unusual and even appreciated by collectors. Seen natural and together, I love it; its relief in photography seems much more worn than it really is.
To finish this first presentation and not be too long, for those interested in reading about the Illinois watch factory, I leave this link and an interesting documentary film about it.
Illinois Watch Company: History, Serial Numbers, Production Dates
I know that I have left many things in the pipeline (definitions, concepts, etc) that surely most of you already know, but that will appear in the following presentations and can serve as a guide to novices like me, to introduce us in this fantastic horological world which is that of the American railway watches.
the next presentation, a Waltham vanguard 18s 23 J
Thank you so much for your attention.