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  1. #1

    Default Railroad Watch History

    I had a nice fellow email me a question about a pocket watch the other day. Turns out he was a Railroad Telegrapher ORT (Order of RR Telegraphers) for years up in Ontario. With his permission I am going to post a bit of his story. I thought some of you other RR watch buffs might find it interesting.

    He starts out by talking about the watch in question which was a medium grade private label Illinois with a 24 hour dial:

    "This watch intrigued me as the name and style is unique compared to ALL the Railroad watches I had seen. I became a Railroad Telegrapher in the late 1940's and accustomed to the time signal at 11:00 A.M. on the Telegraph wires. The most common (clocks) were the Seth Thomas regulator Wall Clocks in the Major Railway Station Telegraph Offices where we were handling Telegraphic Train Orders. Railway Main Line Train crews - Yard Crews all checked their Railway pocket watches by the Station clock in the Telegraphers office. The time was not regulated until the clock was out more than 10 seconds. A card displayed the number of seconds variance minus or plus at the 11:00 A.M. time signal.

    On average - I would see at least 20 railway watches a day = times= 200 working days a year added up to an untold number during your Railway career.

    This is the Brantford Railway Station "Telegraph office" at the start of a 'midnight shift'."

    "The Seth Thomas clock is not viable nor the "Conductor's room" where trains registered, got train orders, check their watches etc. visible is the early 1900's electric interlocking plant for main line switches on the main line through the Railway yard. There is telegraph ( 6 relays on the ledge below the windows ( 6 telegraph lines) There is a Railway company phone for use of train dispatching. Re the pipe with a telephone mouth piece which the Operator could swivel around PLUS note the foot pedal on the floor under the desk - used when speaking into the phone. The Ole Style micro-phone on the desk was for announcing the arrival-departure of Passenger trains.
    This was a b i z z y job and "too stressful" for a lot of Railway Operators. They avoided this job even though it paid well. It was a 24 hour office - 3 -- 8 hours shifts. You ate on the job. Unlike a telephone, you could send telegraph with one hand and eat/drink with th4e other ! (We were supposed to get 20 minutes of uninterrupted time to eat) - Not a hope !"


    He looks pretty comfortable with his feet propped up on the desk. Sounds like the comfort was just for show. Hope you enjoy his story and history lesson as much as I did.
    -> posts merged by system <-
    Last edited by John Cote; 11-20-2010 at 08:26 AM.
    John Cote
    Past President, Indiana Chapter 18 - Membership Chairman, Chapter 149

  2. #2

    Thumbs up Re: Railroad Watch History (RE: John Cote)

    That's neat John!

    Thanks for posting it,
    Kent
    That guy down in Georgia

  3. #3

    Thumbs up Re: Railroad Watch History (RE: John Cote)

    BRAVO!!!

    And thanks to "GL" for allowing you to share his story...

    Eating and telegraphing, and 'running' trains at the same time.... and now we have 'texting' in cars!!
    Chapter 17 North Carolina
    http://www.nawcc-carolina17.org/default.htm
    Chapter 149 Early American Watch Club .. Home of Russ Snyder Illinois CD database and Henry Burgell Serial number Look-up ... excellent research resources!
    http://www.nawcc-ch149.com/ http://www.nawcc-ch149.com/pw_dbresearch.html
    Chapter 149 Mentor List http://www.nawcc-ch149.com/mentor.html

  4. #4

    Default Re: Railroad Watch History (RE: terry hall)

    Hey John,

    Thanks for posting that documentation on how railroad jobs were performed during the "steam period" when pocket watches were carried by key railroad people. Real-life testimonials from that era will become very scarce very soon.

    And we thought "multi-tasking" was a recent thing in today's busy world.

    Larry

  5. #5

    Default Re: Railroad Watch History (RE: Larry Burwell)

    I love this kind of thing.

    superior story.

    jeff hess

  6. #6
    Registered User Kevin W.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Railroad Watch History (RE: Jeff Hess)

    Thanks for posting this John.The last time i was in Smiths Falls Ontario.I peeked into the station that is not open to the public.On the wall i saw a Seth Thomas clock, not running at the time though.
    Yes it looks like a nice job, but i bet the long hours were not easy on the operators.
    One clock at a time. Kevin West
    http://www.global-horology.com/GHMB/

  7. #7

    Default Re: Railroad Watch History (RE: Kevin W.)

    JohnC,

    Great Story! Thanks for posting it, I enjoyed reading it.

    JL

  8. #8

    Default Re: Railroad Watch History (RE: JohnL)

    Thanks duuuudes. I am going to send GL a link to this thread. I hope he can access it.
    John Cote
    Past President, Indiana Chapter 18 - Membership Chairman, Chapter 149

  9. #9
    Registered User Kevin W.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Railroad Watch History (RE: John Cote)

    Perhaps GL would share some of his experiences with us.
    One clock at a time. Kevin West
    http://www.global-horology.com/GHMB/

  10. #10
    Registered user. DayDreamer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Railroad Watch History (RE: Kevin W.)

    What an interesting post. In the 50's my father would occasionally take me to the Emory Gap, TN depot near Harriman that he worked out of. It looked very similar to the photo in your post. Larry's response got me to thinking about how few old railroad men are still around. I will see my father who is 84 at Christmas. I'll try to get more railroad memories and post them. I have his Ball Hamilton watch and my grandfather's Elgin. I also have old schedule books, date nails, swith keys, etc.

    Tracy

  11. #11
    Registered User richiec's Avatar
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    Default Re: Railroad Watch History (RE: DayDreamer)

    Tracy, maybe you could post pictures of some of the items, it would be really interesting. My babysitter's husband from the 50's, I think their name was Hanley, worked for the railroad. He had the best train setup in his basement you had ever seen, mountains, lakes, depots, switches, and probably a few miles of track running 027 Lionels. We eat this stuff up.

  12. #12
    Registered User Kevin W.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Railroad Watch History (RE: DayDreamer)

    Looking forward Tracy to what you can post here about your grandfather.84 is a ripe age, glad he is still with us.
    One clock at a time. Kevin West
    http://www.global-horology.com/GHMB/

  13. #13

    Default Re: Railroad Watch History (RE: DayDreamer)

    Quote Originally Posted by pyaday View Post
    What an interesting post. In the 50's my father would occasionally take me to the Emory Gap, TN depot near Harriman that he worked out of. It looked very similar to the photo in your post. Larry's response got me to thinking about how few old railroad men are still around. I will see my father who is 84 at Christmas. I'll try to get more railroad memories and post them. I have his Ball Hamilton watch and my grandfather's Elgin. I also have old schedule books, date nails, swith keys, etc.
    Tracy,

    I would love to see anything your dad wants to share.

    One of my deepest regrets has to do with RR watch history that is now gone. We had a watchmaker here in Indy named Tom Cook. He was sent here from Cleveland in the '30s to be the official inspector for Ball Watch Company. He was trained at Ball in Cleveland. I used to sit and talk with him for hours about the old days and his experiences as did a lot of other watch people from around here. I talked with Tom and another friend about making a little video interview with him and he thought it might be nice. But, like a lot of things it got put off until it was too late. Tom held a screwdriver steady until well into his 90's but he finally fell and hit his head and went down hill fast. He is long gone now and I am glad to have known him but sorry not to have his stories in his own voice.
    John Cote
    Past President, Indiana Chapter 18 - Membership Chairman, Chapter 149

  14. #14

    Default Re: Railroad Watch History (RE: John Cote)

    Just to keep the history thread going, here is a picture of a Seth Thomas RR Station clock. This clock hung in the station in Cumberland, KY until about 1919. It is not the typical ST Station clock but I think it is pretty cool.

    John Cote
    Past President, Indiana Chapter 18 - Membership Chairman, Chapter 149

  15. #15
    Registered user. DayDreamer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Railroad Watch History (RE: John Cote)

    I'm glad to hear there is so much interest in railroad history. I'll take pictures of memorabilia that I got from my Dad and post it over the next few days. I have read on this forum several times how important it is to write a little history to keep with family watches. Following is what I've put together on my Dad's watch.

    Ball Official RR Standard Cleveland (Hamilton)

    6 Positions adjusted Ball Watch Company Cleveland Ohio

    999B 21 Jewels (16s ) 1B2291

    Bought by my Dad, Richard Thomas Day in 1946 at Pugh’s Hardware in Monterey TN for $64.50. He paid $5 down and $5 month. Dad made around $10 a day on the Tennessee Central RR. His normal run from Monterey to Emory Gap paid him approx $10. His watch had to be inspected every two weeks and run within a 30 second tolerance. He was issued a certificate to verify the inspection.

    Ball Official RR Standard
    Keystone watch case
    J. Boss 10K gold filled
    9240108

    Tracy
    Last edited by DayDreamer; 11-23-2010 at 09:03 AM.

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