If you live in the United States, you may live in the Eastern Standard Time Zone. Or maybe you live in Mountain Standard Time or one of the other standardized time zones. But these time zones have not always been around. In fact, it's a fairly recent development. William Heuisler explains the history of time and how trains changed everything.
While the vast majority of the world operates on the same minute as standard time, there are several nations that operate on half-hour differences and a few that operate on quarter-hour differences. In Australia, for example, many of their time zones are 30 minutes different than Greenwich Mean Time. This is also the case in Venezuela (South America), Afghanistan (Asia) and Newfoundland (North America) to name a few more. The Chatham Islands in the Pacific operate their clocks 45 minutes off from GMT. Even with these slight variances, it is safe to say that standard time has greatly benefitted the modern world and will remain a part of our daily lives for the foreseeable future. See here for more.
The history of standard time in the United States began November 18, 1883 when American and Canadian railroads instituted standard time in time zones. Before then, time of day was a local matter, and most cities and towns used some form of local solar time, maintained by some well-known clock (for example, on a church steeple or in a jeweler's window). The new standard time system was not immediately embraced by all.
The Great Western Railway (GWR) was a British railway company that linked London with the south-west and west ofEngland and most of Wales. It was founded in 1833, received its enabling Act of Parliament in 1835, and ran its first trains in 1838. It was engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who chose a broad gauge of 7 ft 0 1⁄4 in (2,140 mm), but from 1854, a series of amalgamations saw it also operate 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard-gauge trains; the last broad-gauge services were operated in 1892. The GWR was the only company to keep its identity through the Railways Act 1921, which amalgamated it with the remaining independent railways within its territory, and it was finally wound up at the end of 1947 when it was nationalized and became the Western Region of British Railways.
Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is a time system originally referring to mean solar time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London, which later became adopted as a global time standard. It is arguably the same as Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), and, when this is viewed as a time zone, the name Greenwich Mean Time is especially used by bodies connected with the United Kingdom, such as the BBC World Service, the Royal Navy, the Met Office, and others, particularly in Arab countries, such as the Middle East Broadcasting Center and OSN. It is the term in common use in the United Kingdom and countries of the Commonwealth, including Australia, South Africa, India, Pakistan, and Malaysia, as well as many other countries in the Old World.
The islands of Great Britain and Ireland used Local Mean Time until railway timetabling gradually established the two standards of Greenwich Mean Time and Dublin Mean Time (UTC-00:25, no longer used). These were officially adopted under the Statutes (Definition of Time) Act 1880 (43 & 44 Vict.). By 1916, Greenwich Mean Time was introduced to Ireland.
Where did time-telling come from? What are time zones and why are there so many of them? Get the answers to these questions and more in this journey through the history of time -- from sundials to hourglasses to modern clocks.