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John Wheeler: Before Daylight Savings Time, there was Standard Railway Time

By the 1880s, trains had developed the technology to travel from town to town fast enough to make the constant resetting of the clock ridiculous.

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FARGO — Before there was Daylight Savings Time, there was Standard Railway Time. From the time of the invention of the clock, time was set locally. The point at which the sun reached its highest point in the sky was high noon, and the hours and minutes passed on from there. This meant every little town had its own time. By the 1880s, trains had developed the technology to travel from town to town fast enough to make the constant resetting of the clock ridiculous for trains traveling east or west. Not to mention, it made the establishment of railroad time tables impossible.

The solution in 1883 was the establishment of time zones of approximately 15 degrees of longitude. Within each time zone, clocks were meant to be set to the same time, and train stations and prominent government buildings often mounted large clocks for the purpose of helping people keep on time.

Related Topics: WEATHER
John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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