November 18, 1883: Railroads Create the First Time Zones
On this day in 1883, American and Canadian railroads began using four continental time zones. This stemmed from schedulers’ confusion transporting passengers across thousands of local times. Most towns in the United States had their own local times based on “high noon” when the sun reached its highest point in the sky.
The railroad companies created the new time coding system without assistance from the federal government. Most Americans and Canadians embraced the time zones since railroads were the primary link between the two countries. Congress did not officially adopt the time zones until 1918 under the Interstate Commerce Commission.
Check out American Experience’s “Streamliners” timeline of significant events related to the development of American railroads.
St. Paul Union Depot, Seven Years After Closing, 1978
Passenger rail service officially came to an end in downtown St. Paul on April 30, 1971. The last train, the Burlington Afternoon Zephyr, left the depot that evening, bound for Minneapolis. Amtrak launched its passenger service to the Twin Cities the next day, bypassing downtown St. Paul. These photos, taken seven years after the fact, come from a wonderful collection by Kurt Haubrich.