Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017
- Dec 21, 2015
Railroad watches made in the US
The development of the railroad network generated demand for pocket watches for ordinary people, along with arising demand for pocket watches for troops in the war.
The transcontinental railroad network expanded all over North America, including the south and west, picking up pace from the 1880s. A compact, clear, and accurate railroad pocket watch without a cover became essential for safe railroad operation. The demand increased further.
When up trains and down trains were led onto turnouts and rails were cleared to allow the passage of express trains, safety depended on punctuality and the exact synchronization of the watches carried by the engineers on the trains and railroad workers in the field.
A 4-minute error of a watch carried by an engineer on a train caused the “Great Kipton Train Wreck” [see below] a collision between two trains in Kipton, Ohio in 1891. The engineers on both trains and nine train crew were killed. https://museum.seiko.co.jp/en/knowledge/relation/relation_09/index.html
As a result of the accident, the railway company hired Webb C. Ball, a well-known Cleveland jeweler to investigate watch use on its lines. When his investigation showed that railroad employees weren’t operating any time and watch standard, he created a new set of standards for railroad pocket watches which included being accurate to within 30 seconds per week, having 15 jewels, and having a white face and black Arabic numerals with each minute shown, although some watches had silver faces until the 1920s. The watches also had to be temperature compensated because variations in seasonal temperatures could cause a watch to speed up or slow down.
He also required that railroad engineers have their watches inspected regularly, upon which they were issued a certificate that guaranteed the watches’ reliability. If an engineer’s watch was faulty, he had to pay for the repair himself, and while it was being repaired, he borrowed a loaner watch from the jeweler. Having an accurate watch was a requirement for his job. It was vitally important for everyone’s watch to show the correct time since most railroad lines had only one track for trains traveling in both directions. The Kipton disaster proved that even if an engineer’s watch was off just a few minutes, the result could be deadly. Ball’s promptness and accuracy was the origin of today’s well-known phrase, "on the ball." http://www.bowerswatchandclockrepair.com/originofrailroadwatch.htm
The Great Kipton Train Wreck
By Nancy Pope, Historian and Curator
On April 18, 1891, near Kipton station, 40 miles west of Cleveland, Ohio, the fast mail train #14 collided with the Toledo Express. The fast mail was running at full speed, and the Toledo express was almost at a spot where it would traditionally pull over on a siding to let the fast mail pass. The massive collision killed nine men, six of them postal clerks working on the fast mail train.
A line of freight cars and the station itself may have impaired the vision of the engineer of the fast mail train. He apparently applied his breaks as soon as he saw the Toledo express on the road, but it was too little, too late. According to one newspaper report, “The engine of the Toledo express was knocked squarely across the track, and that of the fast mail reared in the air, resting on the top of the other. The fast mail consisted of three mail cars and two parlor cars, and the Toledo express of five coaches and two baggage cars. The first and second mail cars were telescoped and smashed to kindling wood, and the third crashed into the first two and rolled over on the station platform, breaking the windows of the building.”