Railroad Watch Question

Railroadforums.com is a free online Railroad Discussion Forum and Railroad Photo Gallery for railroaders, railfans, model railroaders and anyone else who is interested in railroads. We cover a wide variety of topics, including freight trains, passenger and commuter railroads, rail news and information, tourist railroads, railway museums and railroad history.

Sean R Das

MODS: If this doesn't belong here, please feel free to move it.

I am a new trainee at the Northwest Railway Museum for a train crew position. I was told I needed an accurate watch--as their rule book states, "with a sweep second hand and that is able to display the correct time with a variation of no more than 30 seconds in 24 hours." I did pick up a replica pocket watch from the museum gift shop a month ago, but the guy I worked with said that it wasn't a "real watch."

I looked on the internet and I saw several accurate watches, but they cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars, which is way out of my budget (you are talking to a jobless recipient of SSDI and food stamps here). I was discussing this with someone and they said that most modern quartz watches are very accurate, but I don't believe him.

What do I do about this problem? I don't have 3 or 4 figures to invest in a high-end watch, but I don't want to end my career as a train crew volunteer at the museum. SO what do I do?


I did pick up a replica pocket watch from the museum gift shop a month ago, but the guy I worked with said that it wasn't a "real watch."
Does he want you to have a wrist watch? Any watch that has a second hand should be fine. I've never heard of the requirement for a sweeping second hand, just needs a second hand.

Back in the day you use to need to have a 'railroad watch' which were expensive and needed to be checked out every year by the railroad and you had to have a watch card. No days any cheap walmart watch can keep accurate time, so they got rid of the 'railroad watch' requirement.

GCOR 1.48 Time
While on duty, crew members must have a watch. Other employees must have access to a watch or clock.

The watch or clock must:
• Be in good working condition and reliable.
• Display hours, minutes, and seconds.
• Not vary from the correct time by more than 30 seconds.
• Be compared with the time source designated in special instructions.


A Quote from Donald de Carle's Watch and Clock Encyclopedia, first published in 1950. "SWEEP SECONDS. The American term for the Centre Seconds Hand (q.v.). Sometimes known as the cursor hand when applied to large dials, especially of synchronous clocks, the hand advancing continuously and not indicating second intervals." For those who want to know. Tom.


Rodeo Clown
Seems a little absurd to require a volunteer Brakeman on a tourist railroad to drop thousands on a watch ... its not like you have to make sure your train is in the hole before the hotshot express roars through ... lol

I would ask some of the other volunteers what they have for a watch or ask the person in charge what the actual requirement is and why the watch you bought from the gift shop doesn't cut it.


Maybe the guy who said it wasn't a "real" watch just meant it wasn't a real railroad grade pocket watch. If it keeps accurate time there shouldn't be any reason it couldn't be used. Unless maybe it has Roman Numerals.

Most modern quartz watches are accurate, which I'm guessing the replica pocket watch is also. Even the cheapest should be accurate enough to meet the museum's requirement. Just check your watch against the museum's designated time standard before starting your train crew's duties. (Something you should be doing anyway.) If it is over 30 seconds out of range, just re-set your watch to the correct time.

RailroadForums.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

RailroadBookstore.com - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section.

ModelRailroadBookstore.com - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.

Affiliate Disclosure: We may receive a commision from some of the links and ads shown on this website (Learn More Here)