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In the 19th century, as railroads rapidly expanded and travel times were reduced from days to hours, timekeeping on U.S. railroads became very confusing.  Most cities and towns set their own local time, usually based on 'high noon' when the sun was at its highest point.  Each railroad used its own standard time for their schedules, usually based on the location of their headquarters.   Towns served by several railroads would have a clock for each railroad, each clock showing a different time.

"People whose journeyings have been limited to short distances can hardly appreciate the perplexity experienced by a traveler who undertakes to make a long tour in this country, when he endeavors to ascertain by what standard he must time his movements in order to catch a train advertised to depart at a certain hour. It is a lamentable fact that our railways are run to-day by no less than fifty different meridian times, varying from each other by all sorts of odd combinations of minutes."
(The Century, September 1883).

At precisely at noon on November 18, 1883, North American railroads (U.S. and Canada) switched to a new standard time system for rail operations, which they called Standard Railway Time (SRT).  Many American cities followed up by enacting ordinances, thus resulting in the creation of time "zones.” The four standard time zones adopted were Eastern Standard Time, Central Daylight Time, Mountain Standard Time, and Pacific Daylight Time. Though tailored to the railroad companies' train schedules, the new system was quickly adopted nationwide.




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