Across the tracks…

By Sandra L. Brown

October 11, 2017 1:46 PM


Before clocks or timepieces were invented, time was kept by using the position of the sun in the distant sky. 
It was “high noon” when the sun was at its highest point. 
During the late 1800s, North American railroads had 100s of different local time zones causing a lot of confusion for train schedules. 
As early as 1883, standardized time zones were introduced to alleviate these scheduling issues. 
However, Britain had already established its own standardized time system. 
It was the first country to set a standard time throughout its region. 
This helped to establish a world-wide system of time zones adopted internationally in 1884.
Sir Sandford Fleming, a Canadian civil and railway engineer, was a key player in this undertaking. 
As an “ardent advocate for an all-British railway from the Atlantic to Pacific coasts,” he developed the system of international standard time.  Interestingly, he also designed the first postage stamp.
The Greenwich Meridian (GMT) was now the Prime Meridian of which all time zones were based from and helped to keep the railway stations on an organized schedule. 
This was replaced in 1972 by the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) as the world’s standard. 
Replacing random local times, Standard Time became law in Saskatchewan in 1912 and in the United States in 1918. 
This act also introduced Daylight Saving Time (DST) which later was repealed the following year. 
So to finish my brief history lesson on time, one can only conclude the railway is the root cause of time zone changes.
When the tracks were laid through Lloydminster there was cause for celebration.
In fact stores were closed, a band played, folks dressed in their Sunday best and crowds thronged the railway station for the arrival of the first train (Canadian Northern Railway) in July 1905; the same year both Alberta and Saskatchewan officially became provinces. 
With the advent of the railway being the lifeblood for towns along its tracks, changes appeared overnight providing a more efficient link to the rest of the nation. 
It provided quicker transportation for supplies, passengers and reduced prices of manufactured goods which no longer had to be solely freighted by wagon. 
Trips which took weeks could now be undertaken in a matter of days. 
News from across the country was more readily available and mail could now be sent by train.
The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) finally arrived in 1926 after years of delayed promises.
The railway provided new markets and had a profound effect on the settlement of the untamed prairies. 
The coming of the railway to Lloydminster wasn’t really a major world event, but to the local and area folks it was. 
One homesteader was reportedly so enthusiastic that he stopped to kiss the rails! 
In her letter to folks in the old country relaying news of their first Christmas (1903) in the Barr Colony, Alice Rendell wrote, “We have had a good supply of wood from our own land and the “price of coals” is another item over which we have no need to worry. 
We have to pay very dearly for flour, 1 ½ dollars for 100 lb. 
The reason things are so dear is of course owing to the freightage. 
When the Railway comes through the Colony everything will be cheaper.”
After the railway arrived you could hear her excitement as she wrote, “Little did I think that the whistle of a railway engine would sound so sweet ... it is hard for you to realize in the smallest degree what we have gone through in the last two years of comparative isolation. 
All provisions had to come in by road from Saskatoon.” 
Under the 1966 Time Act, Saskatchewan observes Central Standard Time with a few exceptions.
Being somewhat unique, Lloydminster follows the Mountain Standard Time (Alberta) during the winter months.
The railway was the root influence for standardized global time zones to optimize its daily train schedule and decrease confusion.
Under the law, the main reason for changes to a time zone is for “convenience of commerce” rather than proposing more daylight. 
This continues to be a widely debated topic especially at this time of year when Daylight Saving Time throws us a slight curve across the tracks.

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