Pocket watches are highly collectible and for many a passionate pastime. We have come across several pocket watches of all sorts in our antique adventure but some of the most notable are railroad pocket watches.
Interestingly, I was watching a short documentary on a town in our area. Originally the village of Wissahickon, Ambler, as it’s called today, is rich in Railroad history. In the mid 1800s the North Pennsylvania Railroad was on a mission to link city life and the booming economy of Philadelphia with the Lehigh Valley.
On July 17, 1856, there was a horrible railroad accident at the Wissachickon station where 1,100 passengers were on board looking forward to a day of fun in the Pennsylvania country side. Unfortunately people perished and others were injured.
Mary Johnson Ambler a wonderful Pennsylvania Quaker women, took it upon herself to help the injured in her home showing leadership, kindness and compassion ultimately helping save lives. Due to her courage the town was fittingly named “Ambler” in 1869.
Time and schedules had been around from the start of the growing railroad industry but with schedule and timing oversights like the one in Wissachickon (Ambler) the need of precision and disciplined execution of the schedules was required. A precise, quality built pocket watch was valued more then ever.
Illinois Central Railroad started watch inspections that became standard in the railroad industry. This included railroad companies requiring minimum standards for the railroad employee pocket watches. The American railroad pocket watch became internationally known for quality and precision.
Although standards varied for different railroad companies some of the standards required an open face, adjusted, winding stem at the 12 o’clock position, lever set, size 18 or 16, minimum of 15 jewels, and the pocket watch could not loose or gain 30 seconds within a week.
Even if collecting pocket watches is not your passion I think you will be amazed at all the pieces intricately engineered in a relatively small casing. Many of which continue to work perfectly today.
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