One hundred twenty five years ago today, November 18, 1883, the United States finally decided to adopt a single source for telling time – Railroad Time. Wired has a fantastic article about it, with some great bits of history mixed in to the overall development of a coordinated time schedule.
Railroad timetables used about a hundred different standards. A single railroad that traveled east to west would use multiple noons: The Union Pacific, for example, had six different settings in what are today the Central and Mountain zones. The Union Station that served multiple railroads in a big city might have five or six different clocks, one for each railroad in the station, each running on is own time.
It took a full 35 years for the United States government to catch up with the industry and declare an official Standard Time for the country. In the interim the country simply followed the lead of the dominant industry of the time, the railroads.
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