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18s railroad watches? "Click" to Login or Register 
posted
I have often wondered why the railroads stopped accepting 18 size watches for service. The18 size watches were only a fraction larger than the 16 size watches--and then when Illinois developed the 60 hour main springs they accepted them although they were 17 size. Can anyone explain this thinking?
 
Posts: 827 | Location: Bloomington, Illinois in the USA | Registered: September 29, 2008
IHC Member 1110
posted
Hi Steve, That made little sense to ban 18S railroad watches, especially since at the time the change was made, there were thousands of 18 sizes still in use.Imagine how aggravating it must have been to railroad men to tell them that they had to buy another new watch, when RR watches were a huge investment at that time!Some of the finest RR watches ever made were 18 size, and to have to park them just because of size seems pretty stupid.I also have heard that a lot of watchmakers didn't like working on full-plate 18 sizes, maybe that had something to do with it. I never understood how Illinois got away with the 17S Sangamo Sp'l., when technically it was not a standard 16S.I don't even understand why they didn't just make them standard-size anyway.Anyway the size change must have been a "bailout" for the watch industry!Just my opinion, I'm sure some of the more expert members would have a better answer, though.....Ted.
 
Posts: 1286 | Location: Lebanon, Connecticut USA | Registered: March 28, 2008
posted
I agree, Ted. In their time a mass changeover from 18s to 16s, and in our time think of the forced transition from analog television to digital.
 
Posts: 2962 | Location: Western New York in the USA | Registered: March 24, 2008
Picture of Chris Hughes
posted
Weren't 18 size watches that were in service grandfathered in? Also, I've read that the switch was driven almost exclusively by Webb C. Ball, but I don't remember where I read it so I may be wrong...
 
Posts: 310 | Location: Portland, Oregon in the USA | Registered: February 07, 2010
IHC Vice President
Pitfalls Moderator
IHC Life Member
Picture of Edward L. Parsons, Jr.
posted
I agree with Chris, the prohibition of 18 size watches was instituted only for new watches entering time service after a certain date. The existing inventory of 18 size watches in time service were "grandfathered in" for those that already had them.


Best Regards,

Ed
 
Posts: 6696 | Location: Southwestern Pennsylvania, USA | Registered: April 19, 2004
posted
I believe 18 size movements were being phased out by 1920 in favor of newer technology and better manufacturing and ease of service of 16 size movements. Older 18 size watches were kept in service as long as they preformed to standard. I have a 1946 Union Pacific time service bulletin that prohibits any 992b from service below a certain (1945) serial number. New watches had to be really new for some railroads. Also the problem with the Sangamo Special was not its size, but the hinged case. I know for a fact that the Great Northern Railway disallowed a hinged case. Thus they became screw bezel and back and eventually dropped under Hamilton. Anyway some 18 size watches soldiered on along with steam locomotives to the 1950s.
 
Posts: 653 | Location: St Paul, Minnesota in the USA | Registered: May 04, 2004
IHC Member 163
Picture of Mark Cross
posted
I know my great grandfather carried his 18s pre 1920 Elgin on the Norfolk and Western until the day he retired from service in 1957 or so. It was the only railroad watch he ever carried on the road too.

Regards! Michaelson
 
Posts: 3813 | Location: Estill Springs, Tennessee, USA | Registered: December 02, 2002
Picture of Chris Hughes
posted
quote:
It was the only railroad watch he ever carried on the road too.


It's interesting. My great grandfather carried a Hamilton 992L for his entire career as well, from 1910 until about 1955. He was a conductor, so he probably could have afforded to upgrade at some point, but chose instead to just continue servicing the 992L. He did recase it when the original wore out. I wonder how common it was for railroad men to hang on to a single watch for their entire careers?
 
Posts: 310 | Location: Portland, Oregon in the USA | Registered: February 07, 2010
IHC Member 163
Picture of Mark Cross
posted
That I can't say, but considering the cost of the item vs. what they were earning, they really couldn't AFFORD to change models if they didn't have to. It was just a required tool to many of them.

Regards! Mark
 
Posts: 3813 | Location: Estill Springs, Tennessee, USA | Registered: December 02, 2002
posted
This has been a fascinating discussion. Thanks, everyone!

Steve G.
 
Posts: 827 | Location: Bloomington, Illinois in the USA | Registered: September 29, 2008
IHC Life Member
Picture of Richard M. Jones
posted
My Godfather was among the last U.P. steam engineers and he carried his 992 on a daily basis. I recall him telling me that in the depression some railroaders would sell the movement and use a less expensive 17j movement with a RRG dial and case. Maybe he meant they sold the gold case but the older engineers didn't go much for gold cased work watches. What if you got caught with a lesser movement? What was the penalty?


Deacon
 
Posts: 1004 | Location: Omaha, Nebraska in the USA | Registered: February 14, 2009
IHC Life Member
Picture of David Abbe
posted
Hey Deacon, it all depends on what would be a "lesser watch" like my "Caboose Watch, I usually wear on April 1!

 
Posts: 6492 | Location: Southern California in the USA | Registered: July 19, 2007
Picture of Chris Hughes
posted
quote:
What if you got caught with a lesser movement? What was the penalty?


Well, considering the fact that the watches were regularly inspected, I don't see how a person could hide the fact that they had the wrong movement.
 
Posts: 310 | Location: Portland, Oregon in the USA | Registered: February 07, 2010
IHC President
Life Member
Picture of Lindell V. Riddle
posted

I agree, any change in movements would be found out.

The employee was required to carry their rating card which listed the make, movement number, date of last inspection and service as well as other particulars. This was considered very serious business, not only because the railroad ran on accurate time, but their property and many lives could be at risk due to an unreliable watch.

By the way, until 1920s the 17-Jewel movements were accepted into Time Service when that was changed to 19-Jewels and by 1930 the standard became 21-Jewels and 16-size. As mentioned above that prohibition was not against watches already on the railroad but rather those entering time service, and the inspectors had some leeway.

A few years later, during WWII things would take quite different turn as new watches were very difficult to come by. In 1942 my dad was hired by the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad and he was asked to come up with a Railroad Timekeeper. He proudly produced the South-Bend 17-Jewel 18-size Marked Grade 313 that his grandfather had purchased new some thirty years before and had passed along to him upon his 1928 graduation from High School.

Many years later my dad explained to me how the railroad time inspector kept his watch for ten days of service, adjustment and evaluation. At the end of that time the 18-size, 17-Jewel South-Bend was certified to enter Time Service. My dad would then carry that reliable South-Bend on the Bessemer Railroad for the next ten years, when he left the railroad in 1952 both he and the watch were both forty years old. This topic is bringing back childhood memories, I remember so very well the short black strap hanging from dad's watch pocket with a silver heart on the end of it.

Today that watch (see image three posts below) is here on display in a dome, one of my most prized possessions.

Lindell

Wink
 
Posts: 10552 | Location: Northeastern Ohio in the USA | Registered: November 19, 2002
IHC Member 1110
posted
Hi Lindell, that's a really interesting story.Would you mind sometime posting pictures of your Dad's South Bend? Always enjoy seeing 18s South Bends, I think they were some of the best looking full-plate movements ever made!Thanks!, Ted.
 
Posts: 1286 | Location: Lebanon, Connecticut USA | Registered: March 28, 2008
IHC Member 1110
posted
This has been another great IHC education for me.I always thought that 18sizes were only allowed to be kept in service until the employee could get a new 16S. You learn something new every day on here!....Ted.
 
Posts: 1286 | Location: Lebanon, Connecticut USA | Registered: March 28, 2008
IHC President
Life Member
Picture of Lindell V. Riddle
posted

Thank you Ted, the fact we "learn something new every day" adds to our enthusiasm and piques our curiosity. This watch and my love of Studebaker cars and trucks which began with a '53 Commander V-8 Starlite Coupe jump-started my interest in South-Bend watches and eventually brought me to serious watch and clock collecting.

Per your request below is a movement image of the South-Bend watch my dad's grandfather bought nearly a hundred years ago and gave to him in 1928 when he graduated high school.


This 18-size South-Bend watch rode the rails...


 
Posts: 10552 | Location: Northeastern Ohio in the USA | Registered: November 19, 2002
posted
It looks brand-new, Lindell. The "train-track" pattern through the middle of the movement is especially cool Cool.

The fact that it was your great-grandfather's gives it even more meaning.
 
Posts: 2962 | Location: Western New York in the USA | Registered: March 24, 2008
IHC Member 1291
Picture of Buster Beck
posted
Say Eric,
Are you by chance RR or ex RR Confused
I would be willing to wager the farm that only a RR man would recognize that straight line "ribbon~rail" pattern going thru the middleEek
Truth now Lindell, you just now noticed that didn't ya Confused [ you can tell us, its OK ]
Big Grin Big Grin Big Grin
regards,
bb
 
Posts: 6360 | Location: Texas in the USA | Registered: July 27, 2009
Picture of Chris Hughes
posted
Fantastic! What does the 3/3 or 313 in the banner mean?
 
Posts: 310 | Location: Portland, Oregon in the USA | Registered: February 07, 2010
IHC Life Member
posted
It's a grade 313. There's a thread about the grade in the South Bend section.
https://ihc185.infopop.cc/eve/f...4101939/m/6421057022
 
Posts: 217 | Location: Oak Harbor, Washington in the USA | Registered: May 21, 2009
Picture of Chris Hughes
posted
I'm not up to speed on the South Bend grades. Thanks for the link!
 
Posts: 310 | Location: Portland, Oregon in the USA | Registered: February 07, 2010
IHC Member 1110
posted
Lindell, thanks for the picture.That is a really beautiful South Bend!Looks like the day it was new.I also was also a Studebaker "nut".I had several Larks, a bulletnose 4-door, for many years, my '49 1/2 ton pickup took me back and forth to work.Also had a '46 M5 pickup, and a '47M16 1-1/2 ton rack truck.One of my Larks, I put a Stude 289 4bbl. in to replace the 6 cyl, it was pretty fast!Thanks again!....Ted.
 
Posts: 1286 | Location: Lebanon, Connecticut USA | Registered: March 28, 2008
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