The Railroad Man and His Watch

It may be news to many that the watch of the railroad man is as necessary in modern railroading as the air-brake. Without accurate time keeping there would probably by more accidents than if there were no air-brakes. The train dispatcher starts a train at a certain time; he halts it at certain stations at certain times; he sidetracks it for a period of varying length; the watch of the conductor on the sidetracked train must agree with the watch of the conductor on the express to which he had to give way; each station master along the road checks the time of every train that stops or flies past.

In order that there may be agreement among all these railroad men there must obviously be not only timepieces, but accurate timepieces. There must also be some means of inspecting the timepieces to see if they are accurate, and if they agree with some standard. The railroad man is therefore compelled to buy not simply an ordinary watch of reasonable value, but a particularly good watch, a timepiece which is known in America as the seventeen-jeweled patent regulator, a watch which is adjusted to hear, cold, and at least three positions. There three positions are pendent up, as carried in the pocket, dial up and dial down. Such an instrument will not vary more than thirty seconds a week. which is a good deal more accurate than many scientific instruments of precision used in laboratories. Even human proneness to error is considered in this matter of choosing a good railroad watch, for a lever-set watch is preferred to the pendant-set watch because there is just the chance that the stem of the pendant-set may not be pushed back after setting, through an oversight.

On one great line about 5,000 watches, worth on an average of $25 apiece (a low estimate) are used. If we take into consideration the number of watches that are used on other roads throughout the country, it is evident that the value must run up into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In order that the watch may be kept up to a regular standard, it must be inspected regularly. There is not only a general time inspector on most railroads, but a staff of local inspectors who are placed along the road at convenient points, and to whom the men may resort when they wish to compare their time with the standard time at that place. Once every two weeks the railroad man submits his watch to such an inspector (usually a jeweler or watchmaker by profession). The inspector gives his expert opinion on the condition of the timepiece. If it needs cleaning, he say so and does it; if it is fast or slow he regulates it, and not until it is running with sufficient accuracy is it allowed to escape from his care. A watch's record is kept as if it were a thief. So far as repairing goes, the railroad man is under no compulsion. He need not hand over his watch to any particular watchmaker, or inspector, for repair, but he can give it to any watchmaker in whom he has confidence. It must, however, by submitted to the inspector before it can be used in actual service.

That no favoritism is shown in the matter of watches is evident in the fact that no less than eight different manufacturers supply railroad watches.

See also " Waltham Watch Company ad ."

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