Author Topic: RailRoad Pocket Watches  (Read 13606 times)

Craig "Red" Heun

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RailRoad Pocket Watches
« on: January 22, 2011, 09:17:27 PM »
I was goofing around the internet and found some information on RR pocket watches....interesting trivia

RED


Railroad and Railroad Grade watch sales and service and information

The Great American Railroad Pocket Watch--Quality antique and vintage railroad watches
Railroad and Railroad Grade watch sales and service and information

We all love and cherish railroad memorabilia...the good old days...when times were simpler, and a person had time to stop and enjoy a great sunset, time to smell the roses so to speak.  But what is all the interest in the American Railroad Pocket Watch. We see advertisements each day by sellers claiming to be marketing true railroad watches because the dial is Arabic, or that is is an open face about a 16 or 18 size, or that it has an engraving of a locomotive on the case.

So what is that makes a railroad watch so desirable--so collectible--and so very expensive And how does one recognize one? Sorry--no fast easy answer--but the following information may give you some insight into the whole matter.

It began in 1891,  the country was experiencing prosperity of the gay 90's, and the rail system was expanding with great enthusiasm.  April 19th saw a fast mail train known as  No. 4 traveling east on the same track as an accommodation train was going West.  Unfortunately the engineer's watch on the accommodation train had stopped for 4 minutes, and then started up again.  The two trains met their destiny at Kipton, Ohio, where both engineers were killed, along with nine others.

Following the disaster, a commission was appointed to come up with standards for timepieces that would be adopted by all railroads.  The industry now had to demand precision in its timekeeping.  Thus were born some of the finest timepieces ever made in the world!!!
The General Railroad Timepiece Standards were adopted by most railroads in 1893.  They had to meet the following standards:
 
A railroad watch had to be open faced, size 16 or 18, have a minimum of 17 jewels, adjusted to at least five positions, keep time accurately to within 30 seconds a week, adjusted to temps of 34 to 100 degrees F.  have a double roller, steel escape wheel, lever set, regulator,  winding stem at 12 o'clock, and have bold black arabic numerals on a white dial, with black hands.


A system of individual watch inspections was set up, and any watch that gained or lost 30 or more seconds in 7-14 days had to be repaired by an experienced and approved watchmaker. Because this system was adopted and adhered to, American watch manufacturers produced a superior railroad watch, and the traveling public was assured of increased safety.
The railroad watch standards changed throughout the years, and generally the watches became even more accurate. The railroad man was compelled to buy a timepiece more accurate than many scientific instruments of precision used in labs. Because of the railroad standards, the most accurate and rugged regulator systems that the world had ever seen, were developed.

But it was more than unsurpassed accuracy that has made the American Railroad Watch a great collectible and a good investment. The simplistic beauty of the dial, the artisan-ship with which they are designed, the precious jewels and metals used in the production of the high quality movements, all contribute to to the making of a great American collectible. If you pay a fair value for a good running railroad pocket watch, you can expect that its value will hold, or most likely appreciate over the years--making it a good investment.

For more information about railroad watches, here is another good link:
Just What Is A Railroad Watch? Compliments of Kent Singer - www.pockethorology.org




Mike Fox

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Re: RailRoad Pocket Watches
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2011, 10:16:27 PM »
The railroad was the reason for the current time zones. Everyone used to be on Sun time, or someting like it. If it was 4:30 in New York City, it may have only been 4:15 in Philidelphia. Along with the watches, they got everyone on standard time.

Now we only have to worry about Daylight savings and if everyone on the crew has their watch set to the current time. ;D
Mike
Doing way too much to list...

Craig "Red" Heun

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Re: RailRoad Pocket Watches
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2011, 10:25:44 PM »
I guess my watch wouldn't cut it... it runs on battery...but at least its when the battery dies it will be correct twice a day!


Stewart "Start" Rhine

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Re: RailRoad Pocket Watches
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2011, 10:06:39 AM »
Good thread.  A true railroad watch can be identified by the things mentioned, especially the lever set control.  It was essential that the time couldn't be changed by movement in the pocket.  To change the time you unscrew the watch crystal from the face and then pull the set lever out.  This engages the top stem to advance or retard the hands.  After setting the time to the railroads standard clock, the lever is pushed back in which locks the hands into the time drive gears.  As was noted, railroad watches were inspected at regular intervals.  The inspector would scribe a number inside the back plate each time the watch was inspected and passed.  An inspection card was issued to the employee with the same number that certified the watch for use in railway time-keeping.  Trainmasters often asked conductors and brakemen to produce their cards to show that their watches were approved.  Watches that were used for a number of years will have a group of numbers etched in the inside of the rear cover.  They are often small and can be seen better with a magnifying glass.

Some of the better watches were the Hamilton 922B Railway Special and the Waltham Vangaurd 23 jewel.

Stewart

Keith Taylor

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Re: RailRoad Pocket Watches
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2011, 11:40:06 AM »
Some of the better watches were the Hamilton 922B Railway Special and the Waltham Vangaurd 23 jewel.
Among the more collectible watches are those of the Ball Watch Co. Ball didn't actually make watches, but Webster Ball ran the time service for many railroads. He had watches made to his specific requirements by many of the major watch companies including Waltham, Hamilton, Howard, Elgin and Illinois and others. When I was running trains for Conrail and before that the Lehigh Valley, I usually wore a Ball "Official Railway Standard" or an Illinois "Bunn Special."
Collecting and studying railroad approved pocket watches is a fascinating hobby.
Keith
P.S. To Stewart. I assume it was just a typographical error....the Hamilton 922 was a 15jewel stem set watch that would not be RR approved. I am guessing that you meant the Hamilton 992 and 992B which were 21 jewel RR approved watches. The Hamilton 950 was their 23j RR watch.

Stewart "Start" Rhine

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Re: RailRoad Pocket Watches
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2011, 09:35:12 PM »
Keith, Glad ya caught my goof!  Yes, I did mean the Hamilton 992B, I have used one for the last 25 years and it's a fine running watch.

Keith Taylor

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Re: RailRoad Pocket Watches
« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2011, 04:04:07 PM »
Keith,  Yes, I did mean the Hamilton 992B, I have used one for the last 25 years and it's a fine running watch.
There is a very nice write up on the Hamilton 992B at this web page: http://mb.nawcc.org/showthread.php?t=32489
They are the "gold standard" by which all other RR watches were judged.
Keith

Stewart "Start" Rhine

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Re: RailRoad Pocket Watches
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2011, 04:28:14 PM »
Thanks for the link.   Interesting stuff.  I got my Hamilton at a York, PA watch shop when I started on the Stewartstown RR in 1985.  The elderly watch repair man said the PRR men used to carry the 992B because it was one of the best movements ever made.   

Craig "Red" Heun

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Re: RailRoad Pocket Watches
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2011, 06:36:30 PM »
WOW! I should bite the bullet and get a real on ;D


Craig "Red" Heun

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Re: RailRoad Pocket Watches
« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2011, 06:39:35 PM »
uh make that real one..oops

Craig "Red" Heun

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Re: RailRoad Pocket Watches
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2011, 07:46:22 PM »
Seriously though, I was just doing some more research on line, it's very interesting. The precision of things always amazes me. I used to take care of two church tower clocks, okay one church and one factory. They were accurate enough, but I needed to set the time every week when I would wind them, but then again they were from the early 1800's (church had a Revere Bell from the 1760's, I believe. I was the First Congregation Church in Saco, burned about 10 years ago, was rebuilt but don’t know about the bell).  The workings were far from delicate but they were also truly amazing and in a sense works of art.

Anyway I’m glad this thread was started I already learned a lot. Thanks.

Red

Stewart "Start" Rhine

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Re: RailRoad Pocket Watches
« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2011, 03:35:24 AM »
Red, Interesting story about the tower clocks.  You can see one up close at the Clock Museum at Old Sturbridge Village in MA.  The gears are hugh!

Stewart

Keith Taylor

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Re: RailRoad Pocket Watches
« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2011, 07:50:01 AM »
Stewart, the Balzer family in Freeport are the leading restorers and manufacturers of tower clocks. http://www.balzerclockworks.com/
They made the magnificent turret (or tower) clock movement that is on display at the L.L. Bean store in Freeport. There is also a very nice tower clock on display at Congress Square in Portland, not far from the State Theatre.
Keith

John McNamara

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Re: RailRoad Pocket Watches
« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2011, 11:42:12 AM »
There is also a very nice tower clock on display at Congress Square in Portland, not far from the State Theatre.

I believe that is the clock from Portland's Union Station.

Craig "Red" Heun

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Re: RailRoad Pocket Watches
« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2011, 06:46:30 PM »
Thanks for all the info. I will check out the place in MA on my next trip.

The old Union Station clock is in front of the Eastland Hotel on Congress....I hear they want to move it back to the old station area (there was a plan somewhere on line about developing that area and little park)

I learned how to set the clocks in Saco and Biddeford by a Mr. McDonald of Saco.  Mac passed away a number of years ago (he showed me in 1988-89). He fixed both the Congregationalist church clock and the one in the factory (Pepperell Mill) in Biddeford. He said when he fixed (rebuilt) the clock in the mill he had to remove a tandem dump truck load of bird poop!

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