Keeping Railroad Time

GrandcentralClockI recently spent a week and change in three different time zones, which is probably not strange for real people but is very strange for someone who never travels. Ever. Anyway, time zones are weird, right? Even weirder, they were created and implemented by the railroad barons in the 19th-century. Those robber barons! Always making things easier for themselves.

But they really did have a big confab. Most trains ran on whatever times their offices were located in but since that meant that hub stations had trains arriving at the same time but with different clocks, things were getting too confusing. Especially when trains used the same tracks. So in 1883 five time zones were created, with the borders often located in train depots in major cities. Except Detroit. Detroit kept local time until 1900, then tried central time, then finally settled on eastern time in 1916. They were still ahead of the U.S. government, which didn’t officially adopt standard time until 1918—while simultaneously instituting daylight savings time to help the WWI war effort.

Oh, and the intercontinental zone? That became the Atlantic time zone

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