Bad Time


I like time - the very concept of it.

I enjoy its history and the methods by which its passage is computed.

I appreciate printed timetables and the schedules contained therein, as well as the operational discipline required in adhering to them.

I own several mechanical time pieces, too, from pocket watches to a grandfather clock - and have been known to listen to radio station WWV, just for fun!

I especially derive a great deal of satisfaction from the knowledge that it was our industry which first developed Standard Time.

Now, having said all that, it may not surprise anyone to learn how much I DISlike Advanced Standard Time (a.k.a. "Daylight Saving Time"). It is my considered opinion that if our railroads had wanted some sort of Daylight/Summer time to exist, they would have established it when they created standard time zones and other time-related accouterments.

When I speak of Bad Time Day (the annual rite marking the beginning of D.S.T. in the U.S.), my friends and family immediately know what I mean (and, I'm afraid, they stand ready for a lecture or two on this very subject!).

It is said that confession is good for the soul; therefore, I confess that I'm still a bit punch-drunk from my lost hour of sleep this past Sunday. I confess it galls me to know how Washington, even after passing the Uniform Time Act of 1966, just can't keep its hands off our clocks. I even confess that it has crossed my mind (upon more than one occasion) to take a hammer to an electronic timepiece simply because its internal programming dictates a certain date for the time change which no longer matches the calendar.

Maybe if the feds were more honest, it'd make things easier to take. They could be forthright (could they?) and confess that certain retailers, leisure businesses and travel concerns like the idea of Daylight Saving Time. We all know our elected officials must kowtow to contributor's wishes; we're not that dumb! Just leave off the part about farmers (since chickens don't wear watches), how much energy D.S.T. supposedly saves (since statistical evidence doesn't support that idea) and the various issues surrounding public health.

In fact, the only supposition which seems to make sense is the simplest of all: an "advanced time" routine gives the populace an additional hour of useable (if forced) light at day's end.

It certainly makes for a logical argument (although it begs the question: why not advance the clocks but once, then leave them be?).

At any rate, one may ask how this matter ties back into the world of our favourite organised sport: railroading (you knew I'd eventually come full-circle, didn't you)?

Well, as an avid connoisseur of railway timetables, I collect issues, both modern and ancient, of The Official Guide. I've maintained a subscription for years (and years) and have copies going back to the 19th century. At one time, the lead section, entitled "General Railway Information," contained Editorial Comments which often made for entertaining reading.

In The Guide's June 1916 edition, the editors opined regarding Daylight Saving Time. I have long enjoyed what they had to say, and I offer an excerpt of their words for your edification:

"The movement called 'Daylight Saving,' by means of which it is proposed to readjust the hours of daylight to the hours of work by changing the hands of the clock, has spread over the continent of Europe, has been adopted as a war measure, for the Summer of 1916 only, by Great Britain, and is vigorously urged in the United States. It is under consideration by Congress...

"The advantages claimed for the shifting of the hands of the clock an hour forward have been loudly urged and need not be here repeated. Some of them may appear plausible, but for the most part they would do credit to the late Colonel Mulberry Sellers*... There is, of course, no daylight 'saved.' It is merely an adjustment of the clock to meet the habits of men. If a man who has been in the habit of going to work at 8 00 o'clock in the morning should be required to commence at 7 00 he would probably strike. If, however, while he is sleeping the hands of his clock are pushed ahead one hour he goes contentedly to the shop at 7 00, thinking that it is 8 00; and in the afternoon, at knocking-off time, he will find that he has, in May and September, as much time between shop closing and sundown as he formerly had in July."

*Long live Mark Twain!

Best wishes to all and to all a good night.


P.S. It is in this same issue of The Guide that the original Empire Builder and founder of the Great Northern Railway, James J. Hill, was eulogised. He had died in Saint Paul on May 29th.



  • You sort of need Daylight Saving Time from at least the end of May through the end of August.  Otherwise the sun comes up at 4:00 am, the basset hound wakes up with the sun, jumps up on the bed, and wants to be let out, well before you're ready to wake up.  I'd be happy to see it go back to what it was when I was in grade school:  end of April through end of September.  Starting it in March is way too weird.

  • I know it screws up Church Attendance on that day

  • Sometime over 20 years ago the time change went to the first Sunday in April rather than the last Sunday.  Before, it was next to impossible for the DST change to occur on Easter Sunday.  With that alteration, the time change happened right in the middle of the time when Easter could occur.  The first year it did, those of us in the choir watched with amusement all the C&E* people showing up an hour late.

    *"C&E" = Episcopal for "Christmas and Easter" people; those who only come on those two days.  Not to be confused with CofE which means Church of England.

  • Garl, here's a book that you would enjoy - "Hemingway In Michigan" -, by author Constance Cappel Mongomery. Publisher, Date: Waitsfield, Vt.: a 224 page edition from Vermont Crossroads Press, 1977

    The book is loaded with lots of illustrations, maps, photographs and materials highlighting the extensive railway networks, depots, stations and lakeports with rail-connections around the Great Lakes.

  • I see that your blog was resurrected from 2011.  My wife says that I have a watch fetish. I think she may be correct as I have at least 25 watches as well as my fathers railroad watch ( He was an engineer on the New York Central) I agree with you.   I like the politically incorrect story of the native American.. "his neck was cold in bed, so he cut off 12 inches from the bottom of his blanket and sewed it onto the top of the blanket".  I think of this story every time we change the clocks and all the other electric and electronic devices in and around my home.