The development of the steam locomotive in the early 19th century transformed the world, carrying people and goods at unprecedented speeds around the globe. America's first steam-powered railroad—the Baltimore & Ohio—opened in 1830, and within decades hundreds of thousands of railway miles crisscrossed the nation. Today, 189 years later, the descendants of those first railroads—including CSX Transportation—continue to play a key role in our lives, moving millions of carloads of freight each year. From the earliest steam locomotives to today’s high-speed “bullet trains,” here's something you may not know about the “iron horse":
It gave us standardized time zones.
Britain adopted a standardized time system in 1847, but it took nearly 40 more years before the United States joined the club. America still ran on local time, which could vary from town to town (and within cities themselves), making scheduling arrival, departure, and connection times nearly impossible.
After years of lobbying for standardized time, representatives from all major U.S. railways met on October 11, 1883, for what became known as the General Time Convention, where they adopted a proposal that would establish five time zones spanning the country: Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific. The plan originally called for a fifth time zone, the Intercontinental, which was instituted several years later and became known as Atlantic Time.
At noon on November 18, the U.S. Naval Observatory sent out a telegraph signal marking 12:00 pm ET, and railway office in cities and towns across the country calibrated their clocks accordingly. However, it wasn’t until 1918 that standard time became the official law of the land, when Congress passed legislation recognizing the time zone system (and instituting a new “daylight savings time” designed to conserve resources for the World War I war effort).