Q: What is
a Railroad Watch?
A: Many folks inaccurately describe
any watch that is old as a "Railroad Watch". The term "Railroad
Watch" or "Standard Watch" can be traced back to
the late 1880's. The most famous incident, occured on April
19th, 1891. 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
Be a size 16s or 18s;
Have a minimum of 17 jewels;
Be adjusted to at least five positions;
Keep time accurately to within 30 seconds a week;
Adjusted to temps of 34 - 100F;
Have a double roller escapement;
Have a steel escape wheel;
Be lever set with a winding stem at 12 o'clock;
and have black Arabic numerals on a white dial.
After WW2, the requirements
were tightened up to 21 jewels on some lines.
Therefore, just because it is
old, does not mean it is a Railroad Watch, just a good old
For more information, see Kent Singer's online
What is a Railroad Watch"