Timetables before 'Standardised Time'

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Mutant Lemming

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Before the advent of standardised time, were railway timetables compiled along the lines of modern international airline timetables giving the trains arrival and departure times in 'local' time ?
 
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Mutant Lemming

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Wasn't railway expansion part of the reasoning behind a standard time zone being set for the UK?
I believe so, but initially there must have been a spell where the provinces had their own times and I just wondered if how timetables were compiled during that time.
 

michael769

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My guess is that timetables would have been set based on the company HQ's "timezone" probably with no mention of the basis for the times. Prior to the railways folks simply would not have been accustomed to thinking about time differences - and it would take time for thinking to adjust.
 

John Webb

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Both the Great Western and the London & South-Western Railways used Greenwich Mean Time over their whole lines from their inception in 1838 to 1841. The several companies forming a line from Leeds-Rugby used GMT when it joined with the London and Birmingham at Rugby in 1841 - but the L&B used 'local' time!
As the electric telegraph spread in the 1840s, allowing time signals to be transmitted instantaneously, pressure increased and by by 1852 GMT was used on the principle long-distance routes, and was being adopted generally.
(Information from "The Oxford Companion to British Railway History)

Unfortunately the same source doesn't go into any detail about how the different times were accomodated in the earliest timetables.
 

Tiny Tim

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The very earliest timetables only listed the time of the train's departure at the start of the journey. Times at intermediate stations were flexible, so the issue of standard or local time wasn't important. Only when timetables became more detailed did the issue of London or local time arise. As previously posted, the need for standardised timekeeping was created by the railways. Prior to this nobody travelled far enough fast enough to be affected by variations across the country. It's difficult for us to conceive, but for many people knowing the proper time wasn't important before the railways. Even quite expensive watches weren't particularly accurate, only marine chronometers, used for navigation, kept good time but this technology, developed in the late 18th century by John Harrison, wasn't generally applied to clocks or watches, probably because nobody felt the need for it.
 

Welshman

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I recall reading in Harold Gasson's book of memories of a GWR signalman, how, every morning at approaching 11am, all the signalmen on the line would be on the 'bus phone, awaiting the lady's announcement from Paddington - "It's 11 o'clock"

They would then record in the train register that their signalbox clock had been set to correct [Paddington] time.
 

Greenback

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I recall reading in Harold Gasson's book of memories of a GWR signalman, how, every morning at approaching 11am, all the signalmen on the line would be on the 'bus phone, awaiting the lady's announcement from Paddington - "It's 11 o'clock"

They would then record in the train register that their signalbox clock had been set to correct [Paddington] time.
Presumably that would be after the introduction of standard time and was more to do with ensuring all the clocks were synchronised?
 

Oswyntail

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“Our judgments, like our watches, none
go just alike, yet each believes his own”
― Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism
Going slightly further, how did people in, say, Preston, actually know what the time was to be able to set clocks anyway? How did they manage in the period between the coming of the railways and electric communication (assuming there was such a period)? I can't believe there was an army of sky watchers measuring the exact angle of the sun so as to be able to adjust the time!
 

Greenback

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Going slightly further, how did people in, say, Preston, actually know what the time was to be able to set clocks anyway? How did they manage in the period between the coming of the railways and electric communication (assuming there was such a period)? I can't believe there was an army of sky watchers measuring the exact angle of the sun so as to be able to adjust the time!
Most towns would have had a central clock of some sort, which the locals would use to set their own watches and other timepieces.

But, as mentioned earlier, most people had little need to own a watch, or to know the precise time. Life was very different then. If you lived by the sea, the tides would have been more important, but most of the population were engaged in agriculture before the industrial revolution and would have lived their lives by the rising and setting of the sun.
 

Wyvern

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Before the end of the eighteenth century, most people got up with the sun and went to bed with it. It was only the beginning of the factory system that made people get up at a certain time to get to work at a given time -or even to go to work every day.
 

Tiny Tim

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The first telegraph system on the railways was installed in 1837, and it's use spread rapidly, so there was only a very short period when railways couldn't easily synchronise with 'London' time.

Public clocks before the railway era were almost entirely on churches, and largely only rang out the hour (and possibly half and quarter hours). Some of the few clocks with faces had only an hour hand. They were all, in any case, wildly inaccurate. If you look at the public clocks in your area today, they are nearly all Victorian, i.e. post railway. It's a testament to how the railways changed our lives that 'knowing the time' became important. The provision of clocks on Town Halls and the like was considered a necessary civic amenity, but before the railways nobody had really cared much about it.
 

aformeruser

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In an exhibition at Edinburgh castle it mentions problems with Glasgow-Edinburgh trains when not using a standardised time. Then to let people know of the standardised time you know what happens at 1pm.
 

Mutant Lemming

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Am finding it difficult to track down early timetables. This Liverpool & Manchester one of 1838 being one of those just listing departure times

http://www.pittdixon.go-plus.net/l&mr/timetable.htm

I'm wondering now what was the first timetable that listed departure and arrival times ? Was there an overlap one which listed departures and arrivals in local times or did standard time come first?
 

Lrd

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Michael Portillo did an episode about this in his Great British Railway Journeys recently, shall see if I can find it.

EDIT: Found it! It is Series 2, Episode 16. YouTube linky to part 1.
 
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