Saturday, November 18, 2006

First Time Zones

And we can thank railroad companies for that, telling us just how much power they had at their heyday. At noon today in 1883, the American and Canadian Railroads began using 4 separate time zones to differentiate between scads of local times.

Local time was based on "High Noon" in just about each town, and I can't even imagine the nightmare it was to travel from Boston to New York to Philadelphia and constantly resetting your watch. Worse than jetlag! But as railroads shrunk the time it took to get from town to town, this way of keeping time was a logistical nightmare. Railroad timetables in major cities listed dozens of different arrival and departure times. All for the same train and each linked to a different local time zone.

So the companies divided the continent into four time zones, zones that are very close to what is still used today. Most Americans and Canadians quickly embraced their new time zones, since railroads linked them with the rest of the world. However, the federal government was different. It wasn’t until 1918 that Congress officially adopted the railroad time zones and put them under the supervision of the Interstate Commerce Commission.


Jenn said...

I wonder what happened to Mexico? If you took a train from Texas, say, would you know what time it arrived? They are on the same time zone conventions NOW, right? ??

Anonymous said...

They're in the same time zone, right, but because even north to south high noon tends to differ (don't ask me how, maybe at one time I knew it, but it was many science classes ago), the time would still be off. Not as much as say Boston to Ohio, but it'd be off. Timing was off from New York to Philadelphia.