Imagine you are in the year 1876 and you were traveling on the railroad out west. How would you know what time trains arrive and depart from stations or find a map of the area you are traveling through? These questions are answered in the railroads timetable! Timetables are the booklet that the schedule of the arrivals and departure times of trains, planes and buses are printed.
John Stevens is considered the father of American railroads, because in 1826 he showed the possibility of steam locomotion on a track. This was three years before the steam locomotive was perfected in England. Stevens received the first railroad charter in North America in 1815, with work starting shortly thereafter to get the railroad up and running. It would not be until 1843 when the Western Railroad of Massachusetts was completed that the public saw the benefit to railroads. This information and more comes from History of Railroads and Maps and to read more click here.
As more railroads were completed the need for timetables for each of these railroads increased. Timetables were published by several publishers, one of the most prominent being Rand McNally, who used a type of wax engraving to create state of the art maps. Timetables not only included the times of arrivals and departures but also maps of the railroad and the county. The Museum of Railway Timetables is a virtual exhibition that shows Amtrak’s timetables. These timetables include a letter from president of Amtrak, how to read the timetable, arrival and departure information, passenger stations, the accommodations and features of Amtrak trains, and index map and symbols and abbreviations. All together these timetables are roughly 63 pages. To learn more about the types of timetables and timetable history, click here.
Here at the High Plains Museum we have several timetables in our collection. The photograph on the top left shows
the timetable “The Rock” issue No. 1. This was for use by employees and only effective 12:01 A.M. Central Standard Time, Sunday March 18, 1979. The photograph to the right shows four timetable books. From left to right: the “KS Division Timetable No. 30 October 25, 1959”, the “Eastern District Timetable No. 33 June 1, 1960”, the “Denver Division Timetable No. 112 April 24, 1960”, and the “Western Division Timetable No. 1 October 25, 1959.”
Published by companies like Rand McNally the timetables included much more than the arrival and departure of trains. Incredibly useful for the passenger, many of these timetables are still around today. The National Association of Timetable Collectors offers a place for collectors to get together and share their collections. What do you think about timetables? Please share your comments in the section below.