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Thursday, January 26, 2017

In the Display Case: All Aboard! Railroad Memorabilia

Climb on board the display case this month with All Aboard!, a presentation of railroad memorabilia from longtime Roselle resident Don Fulmer. On display through January 31, the collection includes a conductor's hat and stopwatch, rare keys and buttons, railroad passes, books, timetables, and more.

The stopwatch you see above tells time, but did you know the rise of railroads created standard time? Before the 24 time zones we know today, hundreds of different times existed in the United States, varying by city, and sometimes even within the same city.

This made scheduling train arrivals and departures almost impossible. So in 1884, the International Meridian Conference in Washington, D.C. established the prime meridian for timekeeping at Greenwich Observatory in the U.K., with time zones spreading in both directions.

Train tracks are also used in both directions, which led to railroads installing locks, switches, and buildings to prevent collisions. Employees could carry dozens of keys at a time, all similar in appearance but opening different locks. These keys were so precious, many employees were fired for losing even one. Keys from out-of-business railroads are quite valuable now.

So were railroad passes, given to executives, employees, family members, and special guests. As you might guess from the name pass, they let their owners travel free, which sometimes earned them the nickname dead heads, because they paid nothing for their ride.

But you had to plan your ride first, and to help, the railroads created ornate timetables full of arrivals, departures, station names, destinations, train numbers, and more. They worked well for the first commercial airlines, who adopted their style starting in 1927.

You can see Mr. Fulmer's collection in the display case just past the second set of doors on your right.

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