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Occasional Train Blogging: Central European Time

by DoDo Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 09:08:58 AM EST

This special episode is not really a train diary, but one combining three of my favourite themes: astronomy, history and railways. And a bit of clock blogging, too.

Station clock on a platform between a "rubber-nosed" Öresund train and an X-2 tilting train in Malmö Centralen, Sweden. Photo from iPlaneta.cz

'Everyday' and 'abstract' are commonly viewed as rather distant adjectives. But some utterly abstract concepts are very much basic to our 21st century civilised life, and even if most people aren't much aware of the abstractions involved, they have (have to have) a sense of them.

One such concept is right in the word 'everyday': it is time, or more narrowly, daily time. Our modern "day" is neither a period of light and darkness, nor one rotation of the Earth, or any other 'real' thing.

What a day

Time is measured, nay defined with natural cycles. The problem is, the different natural cycles won't neatly fit and follow each other.

At first, the day was the period of light, or the period of light and following darkness. When and where this period received sacral significance, usually, the start of the day period was set at sunrise or sunset. With the awareness of the fact that the Sun is highest in the sky (=noon) above always the same direction (south resp. north, whose connecting line through the zenith "on" the sky is the "Meridian"), time within the day could then be measured: with the angular distances between the directions of sunrise, Meridian, and the Sun at the moment.

Alas, there was trouble with the weather (if you didn't see the sunset or the Sun), and no coherence with non-astronomical natural cycles, say one provided by one 'wind-down' of a water clock or a hourglass. Depending on season, the water clocks ran faster (in the summer) or slower (in the winter) than sundials.

However, there were other astronomical cycles to rely on. Once people become aware of the fact that celestial objects seem to circle around a fixed axis, time can also be measured by the angle of these objects relative to some zero direction (say the Meridian).

If one chooses the Sun, the connection with the simplest sense of "day" remains, and it's still rather reality-based, but sunrise and sunset count no more. The time between two noons is the solar day. If one chooses some star, now time during night can be measured too, and lots of small points in the sky mean easier and more precise measurements than with one big disc of light. The time between two Meridian passages of a star is the astronomical or sidereal day.

Trouble is, these two days don't fit.

For a start, in one passage of the seasons (one year), there is exactly one more sidereal day. The reason is that the Sun moves in the sky relative to the stars – or in our heliocentric, post-Newton view of the world: the Earth goes around the Sun. In the same worldview, for the same reason, the true rotational period of the Earth is not the solar but the sidereal day (in modern units, around 23 hours 56 minutes 4 seconds).

Heliocentric rendering of the difference between the solar day (time between two noons) and the sidereal day (one rotation of the Earth). Diagram from Wikipedia

But there is more trouble. The Sun not only appears to move slower in the sky than the stars, but does so with seasonally changing speed and direction.

Since Copernicus, we can blame the larger part on Earth's tilted axis. Since Kepler, we explain the rest of the speed changes by the fact that the Earth's orbit around the Sun is not a circle but an ellipse, with the Earth moving a bit faster when closer to the Sun. So if we want a single time day and night, and base it on astronomical time (e.g. set our mechanical clocks by the stars), then we also have to sacrifice the connection with the noon.

Thus was the mean solar day born: the sidereal day is multiplied by the yearly average of the solar day/sidereal day ratio. Presently the 12 o'clock in mean solar day can be as much as 14 minutes before (middle of February) and 16½ minutes after (start of November) the real noon. We modern people experience this for example when during autumn, the sunset gets earlier faster than sunrise gets later.

Everything considered so far was local time: daylight, sunrise, noon, stars passing the Meridian from the viewpoint of one man behind one telescope fixed at one specific place. But, obviously, daylight, sunrise and noon aren't at the same time in Paris and Beijing, or even Paris and Strasbourg. And this is where railways came in.

Railway Time

The first railways were short, trains slow, and only a couple of them ran a day, and people at the time had no problems with waiting hours at a station. Thus, the first railways had timetables not that precise, or even nonexistent (with ad-hoc traffic).

After a dozen years of rapid development, in this British timetable, time is still counted in quarter-hour units only

As networks grew, faster trains travelled longer distances, and ever more trains travelled on the busiest lines, and people began to set ever tighter appointments. So with all the different local times, assembling a schedule became a rather complicated calculation, errors could result in delays or even collisions, stations had to install multiple clocks (like on airports today, except there was difference in the minutes too).

The situation was even more complex in the Ottoman Empire, where the sunset still counted as beginning of the day, and thus mechanical clocks were re-set each day – including railway clocks.

The pressure for some form of standardisation had its first effect where railways started: Britain. But the solution came via another mode of transport: ships. How does one measure a ship's geographical position, in particular longitude? One way to do it is to take a mechanical clock on-board that shows the time of some reference city [plus an almanac tabling the solar day - mean solar day difference], then wait for the Sun to pass the local Meridian, e.g. wait for the local noon, and then check how 'late' the mechanical clock is (e.g. each hour difference = 15° difference in longitude). Naturally, this gives special prominence to the local time of widely used reference points.

For British and thus for most ocean-going ships, Greenwich Observatory near London was the reference – hence, Greenwich Mean Time gained special importance. And thus already in 1847, the Railway Clearing House decided to adopt the same time standard for trains in the UK. This decision had sweeping consequences: within years, most clocks used by the British public adopted Greenwich time, even though it was made official national time only in 1880.

In the meantime, many other parts of the world also sought to adopt standard times. Some countries had national times usually fixed to the local time of the capital. Elsewhere, only railways had a standard time of their own, often only for internal use, while the public still used local time. For example, various German railways had this practice for almost two decades beginning 1874.

Instructions regarding time standard and clock adjustment via telegraph lines in the 1881 Rules of the Sussex Railroad in the US. From 1800's Ephemera

Standard time also required the synchronisation of station (and locomotive engineer) clocks. The telegraph lines of railways offered themselves as a natural network for such a centralised adjustment, and consequently, railways could serve as the source of precise time for general use. A precise time signal was usually received each morning from an astronomical observatory, and then a signal was sent out along the telegraph line network at midday. (The first such system was already in place in 1852 in Britain.)

Railroad Time

But some countries were just too big for a national time. Above all the USA. The idea of multiple timezones one hour apart first came up in 1863. A decade later, Canadians also proposed it as a global system, but there were too many conflicting interests for every player to agree on one solution even in the USA. The companies struggled on using a great multitude of internal times.

On these cut-outs from the 1977 Central Railroad of New Jersey and the internal "LEHIGH & HUDSON RIVER RAILWAY TIME TABLE" of spring 1883, you can see the footnotes defining the local time used as standard along the whole line. From 1800's Ephemera

What finally brought motion in the affair was railway moguls feeling the threat of the federal government prescribing them something. So US and Canadian railroads sat together and adopted a plan for timezones, whose borders were drawn so that most railways wouldn't cross them (and thus have one standard timezone on their network). On 18 November 1883, railways switched station clocks and timetables to this new standard time, without consulting anyone. (Indeed some locals were outraged, many cities kept their local time, and railroad timezones didn't became national standard time until the 19 March 1818 decision on daylight savings time.)

However, even though they were aligned with Greenwich time, the US timezones were still only national in scope.

In the next year, the International Meridian Conference sat together, and made two important decisions: it finally made the British zero longitude the international geography standard, and the time measured in Greenwich Observatory the international time standard, now called General Mean Time (GMT).

However, still no decision was made on a global adoption of 15°-wide, 1-hour-apart standard times. The adoption of timezones across the whole surface of the Earth came as an effect of many local initiatives over the coming decades, with railways playing a prime role as pushers.

Don Pedro II Station in Rio de Janiero, which featured in the film Central do Brasil (US: Central Station). In the late Industrial Age, not only have main stations began to resemble cathedrals, but, symbolising the railways' takeover as time standard for the public, some got clock towers. The one on the picture is 134 metres high. Photo from The Daily Yomiuri

The second region to adopt a time-zone, in 1888, was Japan. And the third was Central Europe.

Developing Country

After losing the fight for dominance among German countries in the 1866 Austro-Prussian War, the Habsburg Empire was in a difficult position. The rulers could barely keep the lid on the revolutionary sentiments of a dozen nationalisms. So they had to have at least one neutralised, or even better, win as ally.

The largest, Hungarian, produced a big revolution in 1848-9, and after it was crushed, the province of Royal Hungary was put under direct government by institution of a police state. But in 1867, the Habsburgs succeeded in beating out a Compromise, which gave wide autonomy to a Hungary containing also the provinces Transsylvania and Croatia. This transformed the monarchy into the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and left aspiring third constituents in the Czech lands and Croatia high and dry (not to mention smaller ethnic groups and Italians).

The new leaders of course aspired to catch up with Western Europe, primarily by industrial development. Like in Spain today, this sometimes resulted in a rush to adopt anything New and Modern. [Edited->] (See also: trams, subways; and a first: zone tariffs were invented for my railway, in 1889.) And although the new elite was generally inspired by Manchester Capitalism, infrastructure projects were pushed in a statist way – above all, railways.

Network development around the Carpathian Basin (borders are that of the Hungary part of Austria-Hungary). Notice how the network developed from Vienna-centred to Buda/Pest-centred

Since before the revolution, there was a general plan for a rail network. To get development closer to it, just a year after the Compromise, the state established the Hungarian Royal State Railways (my company, albeit with 'Royal' dropped since) by purchasing a private railway with a single line (the same I photographed a double-deck train on). Paralleling development in German areas (primarily Prussia), its network then grew both by building new lines and nationalising bankrupt privates. In a decade, it became a strong company doing policy on its own.

Central-European Time

In 1890, the Verein Deutscher Eisenbahn-Verwaltungen (Union of German Railway Administrations) held a meeting in Dresden/Saxony/Second Reich. Note that at this time, the two Germanic empires involved most of modern Poland, westernmost Ukraine, modern-day Slovakia and Hungary, and half of modern-day Romania, the north-western half of what became Yugoslavia, bits of Northern Italy, and Alsace to the west; and railway-wise, were also defining for Romania, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire.

Prior to the meeting, the Hungarian Royal State Railways circulated a proposal for the adoption of a GMT+1 timezone, following the US model. At the meeting, the proposal was accepted, and the railways chose 1 June 1891 for the compulsory adoption of the new Mitteleuropäische Zeit (MEZ) for internal use. [Edited->] This name became the common name of the timezone. (The English translation was alternatively Middle or Central European Time, but in the nineties, to avoid confusion with the acronym of Middle Eastern Time, the second version and hence CET was made standard.)

Austria-Hungary had public timetables in MEZ four months later. South German states only from 1 April 1892, North German states exactly one year later. At the same time, an Imperial Law made MEZ the standard time for all public life in Germany, showing that it was a quick success with the wider public and politicians. (At the time, MEZ deviated from local time by 36 minutes in the westernmost and 31 minutes in the easternmost part of the Second Reich.)

[Edited->] Italy and Scandinavian countries soon changed their national time to CET. During the two World Wars, Germany's invading troops also brought CET to its western neighbours, which would naturally belong to GMT+0 (e.g. Western European or British Time). Then for some strange reason, the BeNeLux countries and France finally adopted CET just after WWII, with Franco's Spain following in 1946.

Decades later, it was again mainly the railways (but also postal services and military) that forced through the introduction of the 24-hour time in public use (15 May 1927 in Germany), to end the frequent confusions of timetable readers. This change was strongly opposed from various circles, as it buried quite a few traditions (including the expression "wenn die Uhr dreizehn schlägt" = when the clock strickes thirteen, i.e. never), people didn't like the zero, and the 24:00 = 00:00 singularity still remained. The little-remembered solution railways proposed (and adopted for themselves) was to write arrivals as 24:00, departures as 00:00. British Rail adopted the new system only in 1964.

A railwayman of the West German Federal Railways (DB) next to the railway 'Mother Clock' (left) in Hamburg, just before giving the daily precise time signal of 27 June 1950. At this time, the railway Mother Clock was only following the maritime time standard, a quartz clock. Photo from Epoche-3.de

At the end of the day

Let me close by completing the levels of abstraction in our present concept of the day.

The Earth as rotating mass is not a perfect symmetric gyroscope. One consequence of the asymmetries is that the rotational axis 'wobbles' by a few dozen metres relative to the surface. Hence, the real geographical position of individual observatories wobbles too, and different observatories would measure time with a slight difference. For a real Universal Time (UT), a compensating factor is introduced – and with that, we have even ditched Greenwich as 'real' point of reference. (To be precise, this is UT1. The old GMT, which depreciated despite common use by the public, is equivalent to UT0.)

Using Newtonian physics, one must expect that in the Earth-Moon system, the friction caused by tides causes the Earth's rotation to slow, and – to conserve moment – the Moon's orbit to grow. Dang goes our time standard! To get a new standard that is okay with Ike, astronomers began to measure the Moon's orbit, and calculated Earth's slowdown and other effects from it. This was Ephemerides Time (ET). In ET, you could pick the length of the mean solar day on some fixed date ("epoch"), and divide it by 24x60x60 to get a standard time unit. Usually, the beginning of the 20th century was taken as epoch.

Incidentally, the super-precise ET was in rather good agreement with the best time-measuring standard physicists could bring forward in terms of non-astronomical cycles: the atomic clock. But the latter has one giant practical advantage: rather than allowing adjustment only a few times a year, and after-the-fact, it can give time instantly, continuously: on-line. So half a century ago, atomic clock operators measured how many atomic cycles make one year-1900 second from ET, and then used that cycle number as time unit for their Atomic Clock Time (this is the International Standard or SI second).

Note that in Ephemerides Time, the 24 hours a day, 60 minutes an hour, 60 seconds a minute time can no longer be maintained. While Earth's rotational period (the sidereal day) so far got longer in Newtonian time only by a very small amount (and growing each cycle by an amount minuscule even relative to this), that small extra is added to each day, adding up over hundreds of days.

But the public didn't got a taste of this until the dethronement of astronomy as lender of the time standard, when public clocks switched from UT1 to atomic clocks. So to solve the length-of-day problem, leap seconds were introduced: when the days our clocks display shifted more than 0.9 seconds relative to UT1, then usually on New Year's Eve (but sometimes 30 June), there is an extra second: 23:59:60.

To finally arrive to our presently used civil time: it is no more fixed to the number of atomic cycles counted in the nearest atomic clock, but on an average of clocks world-wide. It is called Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

So astronomy, the 'real' thing, now only serves as guidance to re-set the beginning of the period called "day" in our hyper-abstract time. And even that no more by watching visible stars, switching to the radio waves from much much much more distant objects. But, meanwhile, astronomers continued to refine Ephemerides Time, first by taking into account the effects of other solar system objects, and then in a big reform in the seventies by adding effects of Einstein's theories of relativity.

Speaking of Einstein: above a drawing of his famous train thought experiment. You'll find a simple explanation here

:: :: :: :: ::

Check the Train Blogging index page for a (hopefully) complete list of ET diaries and stories related to railways and trains.

By the way, I hope most of you know by now where Central Europe is ;-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 29th, 2007 at 06:50:01 PM EST
I went back to the discussion you linked to concerning Central Europe. It made me realize that everyone here - everyone being the MSM - uses the term "Eastern Europe", while I have always used the term "Central Europe".

All it took was a visit to Prague and Budapest, while they were still part of the former Soviet Block. One had the very clear sensation of being in the centre of Europe, stuck between the West (us) and the East (you know, those guys).

So, this is a solemn promise, from this day, I swear (where is my Bible ?) that I will correct anyone using this inaccurate terminology :
"If you really want to experience Eastern Europe, just go to Kazan or to the Urals, then you'll understand".

BTW, your diagram showing the relation between the sidereal day and the solar day is excellent.

by balbuz on Tue Jan 30th, 2007 at 03:38:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Uhm ehm ahem, should have credited Wikipedia :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 30th, 2007 at 05:18:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now done.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 30th, 2007 at 05:21:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a Park of the Center of Europe.

But the next calculation showed the Center of Europe kilometers away from the park ;-))

by das monde on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 10:20:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You post a part of a timetable from the Central Railroad of New Jersey, noting that the time for the CNJ was established by the clock at the Elizabeth station.

Here's a picture of the CNJ Elizabeth station, although of later vintage than your timetable:

This shows the station with it's westbound side intact.  This is near where the CNJ intersects with the Pennsylvania RR, and is most likely photographed from the PRR overpass.  Note the self-propelled diesel "Budd car" which briefly provided service to stations east of Cranford after New York bound service on the CNJ was diverted at Aldene Junction to Penn Station in Newark.

This westbound station was destroyed in a spectacular derailment in 1972:

Photos and wreck story from Nick Gomich

Now the "elizabeth clock" in your 19th century timetable was most likely in the original terminus, in Elizabethport, now long gone. More info on the CNJ in Wikipedia

by dmun on Mon Jan 29th, 2007 at 08:29:21 PM EST
Wow, I haven't even realised that we have the right man living close by! Thanks for the story behind the footnote. On the photos, is that the original station clock and clock tower?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 30th, 2007 at 05:24:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know the date on the Elizabeth station, but it has a definite 1910 look to it. A question is why the CNJ had the money to build an elegant cut stone station in Elizabeth, when, except for their grand terminus in Jersey City, near the Statue of Liberty,

photocredit: pgengler.net

all of their stations were pretty rudimentary. Despite the rather grand name, the CNJ was always the weak sister of the New Jersey Railroads. It ran commuter service to lower manhattan from the un-chic southern suburbs, and brought coal from Pennsylvania. It was always sort of a financial play more than a railroad, and was more or less constantly in and out of bankruptcy. In the last years of it's life, after the end of coal heating, it was on government subsidy life support to keep it's commuter trains running.

The main line of the CNJ is now the Raritan Valley Line of the NJtransit system. Since it never had the money to electrify, like the Pensylvania or the Erie-Lacawanna, it continues as a diesel only route, and all trains terminate in Newark, since no diesel trains can go through the tunnel to NYC.

On a rail history note, when I started commuting from Cranford to NYC in 1979, all the coaches were from the 1920's and 30's with steam heat and windows that mostly didn't open. Even our diesel locamotives were crummy and old, since they needed special engines that produced steam for heat. At that time there was one self-propelled coach that made one round-trip per weekday to Reading Terminal in Philadelphia. In the early eighties the state of New Jersey took over all commuter routes, and introduced modern equipment. At that time the Electric trains on the Erie routes were the original ones produced by Thomas Edison.

by dmun on Tue Jan 30th, 2007 at 09:39:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not sure this is a railway station clock diary, but just in case  :

Image hébérgée par hiboox.com
The main clock at Kazanskii Vakzal, Moskva, summer 2006

I wasn't aware at all of the time complexity in terms of railways. My education about time came about when I learned astronomy navigation, with a sextant and a very accurate clock/watch.
Of course, without time, no longitude possible, only latitude by highest observed height of sun/stars.

by balbuz on Tue Jan 30th, 2007 at 05:24:59 AM EST
Have you used equation of time tables?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 30th, 2007 at 05:33:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The very first time, yes. Later on, I had bought one of these programmable calculators (in Basic, I still have the calculator) and had written my own spherical trigonometry nav programs.

This first time, I was the only person onbard with any navigation knowledge. It took me the better part of two days to master the beast - I mean, do a sighting while the boat is trying to throw you overboard, then fight seasickness and work out those mysterious tables.

It's a whole new feeling when you are out in the ocean, and you know where you are because you've been able to position yourself with some distant stars. Kind of part of the cosmos.

by balbuz on Tue Jan 30th, 2007 at 10:28:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
IIRC, all the clocks in Soviet train stations and airports were set to Moscow time, which created interesting discrepancies as you moved further away (the country then straddling 11 (or 12?) time zones - Russia probably still does, too).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 03:42:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From this what you say appears to be wrong, but maybe FarEasterner or blackhawk will have a definite word. The speciality of Russia is the partial elimination of every second timezone, e.g. two-hour jumps at timezone borders.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 04:36:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Have you ever read Witold Kula's Measures and Men? You might find it interesting.
by MarekNYC on Tue Jan 30th, 2007 at 05:44:15 PM EST
I have heard of the book before, but no, haven't read it (or even seen it in bookstores). Will look out for it.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 10:16:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a fabulous diary DoDo, thank you!
I'm always impressed with the way that you can make railways and trains relevant to just about anything else!
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 09:20:37 AM EST

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 10:06:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know why the BeNeLux countries, France and Spain -- all of which would really belong into the GMT+0 timezone, e.g. British Time -- adopted MEZ/CET

For France, it's most probably not to adopt the same time  zone as the Perfid Albion. In 1795, France had established the Bureau des Longitudes to be able to compete with the British Navy on the world's seas.

And for the same reason Europe is developping Galileo in order not to depend on the US GPS system.

Maybe dMun could do a diary on marine clocks...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 09:41:15 AM EST
Could it not also be that train-integration was a driving force here too?

More trains went to central europe then to England...

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 10:10:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
However, just two decades before the Germanic neighbor adopted MEZ, France suffered a shocking military defeat from them, and lost Alsace -- so maybe the railway-connected Northeastern neighbour was more dreaded at the time than Albion.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 10:15:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But the telegraphic standardisation of mainland europe continued during this time. Telegraphs are connected to railroads but more important is that both systems depend heavily on standardisation for cross-border purposes. If railroads were the main reason for standardisation of time, then this could simply have been settled at some railroad conference somewhere in Europe.

We lack solid data here.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 10:23:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To say anything about that, first I would have to know when France adopted CET.

By the way, I am calling Migeru out of the woodworks. Could it be that Spain only adopted CET when joining the EU? I know it was so with Portugal, which moved back since to Western European (British) Time when everyone felt awful in the morning.

If we are here, can you (A swedish kind of death) find me anything about the Swedish adoption of a timezone? My only reference was a sentence in a railway history book.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 04:21:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, we've had the mainland at CET and "one hour less in the Canaries" (i.e., GMT) for as long as I remember.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 04:33:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Should never forget: Wikipedia is your friend. It says France (and BeNeLux as well) adopted CET only in 1940 (Nazi occupation!) and returned to it after a brief post-occupation break, while Spain only in 1946.

They say Sweden adopted CET only in 1900 -- so maybe in 1888, they adopted something else, like GMT+0?

The article writes 1884 for all ex-Yugoslav countries, which I am 100% certain is erroneous.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 04:51:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am not sure the occupied and free zones in France during WWII had the same time.
by balbuz on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 04:56:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, and after some more browsing on what was replaced in 1940, I find both the Netherlands and France sticked to non-standard timezones even after 1884 (Amsterdam resp. Paris Mean Time).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 04:57:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the best books on France under German occupation is Philippe Burrin's La France a l'heure allemande where the time zone shift is used as an explicit metaphor.
by MarekNYC on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 05:02:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Possible answer for balbuz therein:

Vichy France's adaptation to a German-imposed summer timetable (Daylight Savings Time) offers Philippe Burrin an apt metaphor for French life under German occupation.

Maybe the reviewer wasn't aware of the original timezone difference, with this emphasis on summer time?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 05:08:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's complicated and I can't get it all straight. France adopted summer time during WWI (1916), and maintained it afterwards, so I think the reviewer is mistaken. Unfortunately I haven't read Burrin's work (tipped by Marek). But I think the occupied zone (between summer 1940 and November 1942) was on "l'heure allemande".

In 1945 France chose GMT + 1 as its time, winter and summer. In 1975, Giscard d'Estaing brought summer time back in response to the first oil shock. Since then France has been on GMT + 1 in winter, GMT + 2 in summer.

What changes have there been to German time over that period? (C20?) Didn't West Germany also bring back summer time in the late '70s?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 04:03:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Summer time was first introduced by the Central Powers. Checking the German Wiki and this ultimate source I just found, it was six weeks before France, but it was short-lived, and resurrected during the next fuel shortage: the next world war... and then lasted till 1949. In 1947, there was even a "High Summer Time", two hours ahead!... Reintroduction in 1980 was EC-inspired. The war-time German Summer Times differed each year, but generally April to September/beginning of October, post-oil-shock it was end of March to end of September, then with the 1996 EU standardisation the end was moved one month later (I remember this, the same change affected Hungary).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 04:51:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From that source and a few cross-references, it appears:

  • France had GMT from 1911, Spain from 1901.
  • Unless one and two half lines were deleted, both German-controlled and Vichy France applied both CET and CEST, with the sole difference of the occupied zone remaining in summer time during the 1940/1 and 1941/2 winters!
  • Norway switched to CET in 1895, Sweden was at GMT+1h10m and got CET in 1900.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 05:38:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See my response to balbuz below.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 2nd, 2007 at 08:19:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would assume that in 1888 Sweden adopted "Stockholm time" for the railroads. Considering Sweden was not connected with railroad to any other nations then Norway (and Norway was in a union with Sweden) and Finland until they built the bridge to Denmark the other year there is no apparent reason why in 1888 they would choose a GMT-system time.

That is unless Finland (in union with Russia) had the GMT-system. And that delightful wikipedia-article linked to one with Eastern European Time (EET) which informed me that Finland adopted it in 1921 (independence). However I can not find what system Finland used previous to independence. Thinking about it, Sweden only had one rail-connection to Finland anyway so it was not that hard to set clocks.

In the long run, the strong business and cultural connections with Germany probably made adopting German time sensible.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 06:36:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Considering Sweden was not connected with railroad to any other nations then Norway ... there is no apparent reason why in 1888 they would choose a GMT-system time.

Well, that was true for the USA, too, what's more, the Central European network wasn't connected to the British network until the Eurotunnel -- but was connected to the French and Dutch when they still had non-GMT-plus-whole-hour times -- yet still adopted it. And the very first national time, that of New Zealand from 2 November 1868, was GMT+11h30m.

But, I googled around a bit more, and found this:

On January 1, 1879 a standard time zone was introduced for the entire of Sweden. Swedish standard time was set accordingly to the meridian half way between Stockholm on the east coast and Göteborg on the west coast.

Göteborg is 11°58', Stockholm 18°04', that would be rather neatly 15°01', within 4 seconds off CET. So either my three-decades-old West German railway history book erred in the date, or a few seconds difference was eliminated in 1888, or my book still erred and Wiki is right, e.g. the few seconds difference would have been eliminated in 1900...

Now it really bugs me, did Sweden pre-empt even the US or did it conform with GMT+1 only after Central Europe... Could you Google the dates and the subject in Swedish?

I also found that Italian railways began to introduce a national time (Rome Time) from 12 December 1866, but it wasn't official (for example Venice public clocks switched only in 1880); and they joined MEZ/CET on 10 August 1893.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 12:42:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 04:35:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A quick research :

Summer time existed in France from 1916 to 1946.

The decision to advance the legal time in France to GMT+1 was taken in 1945, I don't know why. It has remained so ever since.

When summer time was reintroduced in 1976, France went under a "double summer time", 2 hours ahead of solar time, with associated difficulties. Imagine those poor Bretons (from Brittany).

Now, France alone cannot suppress summer time. The solution would be of course to go back to UTC - Western European Time, while keeping summer time like everyone else. The problem is the same for Spain, Belgium, etc.

I think a review of the system is due in 2007 - let's hope common sense prevails.

by balbuz on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 04:54:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
After more gloogling:

Daylight Savings Time (heure d'été, sommerzeit) was widely used in WWII (even by the US, where it was called War Time). Britain set up (1940) GMT + 1 all year round, then (from 1941 to 1945) added an extra hour in summer, so GMT + 2. (In other words, the UK was on CET, CEST). See this page in French for a full table of annual UK changes. (UTC = GMT).

The same link gives a table for France. For the WWII years, Vichy zone times are given. They were the same as the UK and Germany, ie GMT + 1, GMT + 2. (= CET, CEST).

However, in all German-occupied territories from 1940 to 1942, GMT + 2 was applied all year round. So inhabitants of the French occupied zone (and no doubt Belgian and Dutch too?) jumped from their normal winter time (GMT) to GMT + 2. Paris à l'heure allemande wasn't metaphorical in the first instance.

There was some confusion after the war. Wikipedia says this:

In 1945, Berlin and the Soviet Occupation Zone even observed Central European Midsummer Time (Mitteleuropäische Hochsommerzeit, MEHSZ; UTC+3); in 1947, whole Germany switched to midsummer time from 11 May to 29 June.

Hochsommerzeit = the high summer time mentioned by DoDo above. The point for the French decision was that Berlin time in 1945 was going even further away from GMT. France at that point was still fighting for its independent existence and was extremely prickly about administrative symbols. So the choice was made (just when the UK was moving back towards GMT) to take a middle path, ie GMT + 1 (= CET) all year round. Neither London nor Berlin...

    Abandon de l'heure d'été
pour rompre avec "l'heure de Berlin" imposée pendant l'Occupation. Le décret du 14 août 1945 fixe l'heure légale à GMT + 1 heure, solution de compromis entre l'heure allemande (GMT + 2 heures) et l'heure de Greenwich.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 2nd, 2007 at 08:15:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What a mess it must have been! Now the mystery that remains is why Spain decided to follow France the next year.

from 1940 to 1942, GMT + 2 was applied all year round. So inhabitants of the French occupied zone (and no doubt Belgian and Dutch too?)

It can be checked on that German-language page I linked. Indeed I see the same practice was followed in Germany, Italy and (after some delay) Hungary and all territories they occupied this side of the Soviet Union.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Feb 2nd, 2007 at 12:38:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mystery solved. Thanks to afew and Dodo.
by balbuz on Sat Feb 3rd, 2007 at 01:38:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for this fascinating diary, DoDo, As you show, railroads have played a major role in shaping modern society. They also set the standards for modern industry. Have you read Alfred Chandler's "The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business". It's one of the major books to understand industrial capitalism.

In "The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business", Alfred Chandler distinguishes two different phases in the history of American business: before 1850, in what could be called market capitalism, companies were most of the time managed by their owners and were driven by market mechanisms. They were also usually single location companies.

After 1850, big, complex, multiple locations companies started to grow, thanks to the development of modern, reliable transports and telecommunications systems. In such complex organisation, administrative coordination did better than market mechanisms to improve productivity and reduce production costs. It was the beginning of what Chandler calls managerial capitalism. This change brought a revolution in the enterprise, for the operation of the company was transferred from the owner to a full-time, salaried, professional manager.

For Chandler, the railroad companies were both catalysts and pioneers for this managerial revolution: railroad companies were the first multiple, geographically-dispersed locations organisations where operations had to be carefully coordinated. They created the first formalized organisations, including job descriptions, organisation and communication charts and, for the first time, accurate cost accounting.

The irony is that Chandler wrote this major book in the early 70s, just before the changes that saw the end of industrial capitalism and the dawn of financial capitalism...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 10:41:42 AM EST
Sounds interesting. But at the same time as this managerial capitalism evolved in American Business, in Europe, railways became models not of a different capitalism, but nationalisation. (With some delay even in France and Britain.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 05:20:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Chandler's book is really worth reading. As far as I know, railway companies have been the pioneers of modern industrial organisation in Europe, too.

By the way, in France, nationalisation of railways occurred only in 1938.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 06:10:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, in France, nationalisation of railways occurred only in 1938.

It was only finished then, with the establishment of SNCF. But in the West and North, the Chemin de Fer de l'État existed from 1878.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 09:22:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the most relevant illustration for this diary is Arman's sculpture "L'heure de tous" which is located in front of Saint Lazare station in Paris:

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 11:36:33 AM EST
We haven't had enough "object blogging" lately... Where are the bridge blogging diaries gone? (Where's PeWi? Where's our German contingent, for that matter?)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 03:43:30 PM EST
I am still in hiber-lurcation.
by PeWi on Sat Feb 3rd, 2007 at 11:14:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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