Station Masters Office

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The Station Masters Office at the Railroad Depot hummed with activity. The responsibility for managing tons of hurtling metal depended on the precise management of time and accurately relayed information.

From the book Nostalgia:

"The trains had to operate on correct schedules to avoid wrecks and other mishaps.So the first thing a conductor did after the train stopped for loading or unloading the passengers and baggage, was to walk over to the depot and check his time with the clock in the office, then he would check with the engineer to make sure their time pieces were synchronized. The station clocks were constantly checked throughout the day all along the railroad line especially those in the dispatcher stations where the operating orders were issued. Each depot was a station for Western Union Telegraph Co. and all orders and messages were sent over their wire. The train dispatchers were constantly sending and receiving information regarding the trains operating in their division. Each station agent knew how late or early a train should arrive and where it was located in his division. Each order was signed off by giving the correct time of day.”

Up to the late-nineteenth century, time was totally arbitrary and relative only to local conditions. Each town would have a clockmaker or town clock, which would mark high noon (when the sun reached its zenith), so travel even a few miles east or west would demand resetting timepieces to local or “sun” time.

On November 18, 1883, US Railroad companies began using the newly introduced system of standardized time. This system divided the world into 24 time zones each 15 longitudinal degrees apart and thus one hour apart. Most of the United States adhered to the standardized time by 1895, but it was not until the Standard Time Act of 1918 that it was officially mandated. Both Waldo Streby and Burton Porter tell stories of Canal Fulton old-timers refusing to follow standard time (or “train time"), choosing instead to continue to set their clocks by “sun time”.