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4 Seconds Fast: 1943

4 Seconds Fast: 1943

March 1943. More Marceline, Missouri. "A dispatcher at work in the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad offices." This fellow would seem to be sensitive to glare. Photo by Jack Delano for the Office of War Information. View full size.


RE: left to right and right to left

"why does the "Mission" board go to Chicago from left to right, and the "4 Second" board go Kansas City (?) to Chicago right to left?"

I would guess that "4 Seconds Fast" guy is seated facing south with Chicago to his left and "Mission Control" guy is facing north.

Face to Face

Dave - your comment about being different desks is correct. In fact, they appear to be facing each other. Note the position and shape of the "poster board" tied to the pipe above them.

What gives?

It appears as if some major changes were made in this office during March of 1943. Comparing the current image with the previous, we see: 1) the telegraph key has either been moved or eliminated, 2) “Mission Control” has the desk lamp over what appears to be a speaker device missing in “4 Seconds Fast: 1943,” 3) the standard clock is on one wall first, then another subsequently, and 4) in “4 Seconds” the dispatcher has what I’m guessing is a CTC board in front of him, absent in “Mission.” The one comforting constant is the sacred train sheet, spread from one end of the desk to the other. (Well, not so sacred anymore, as train movements are recorded and stored by computer software these days, not pen and ink…at least on Class 1 railroads.)

[The two pictures were taken within minutes of each other, and nothing has moved except the photographer. These are two different desks. - Dave]

Okay Dave, that makes sense. But your answer only raises two more questions: 1) why are there two desks for the same territory (a sure prescription for disaster), and 2) why does the "Mission" board go to Chicago from left to right, and the "4 Second" board go Kansas City (?) to Chicago right to left?

Housekeeper's holiday

Based on this photo, the feather duster must have been invented in 1944.

I have that picture on the wall in my hallway!

My parents had the picture of the hunting dog (along with three others, forming a set) for as long as I can remember, until they gave them to me back in 1992. I've had them on the wall in my house ever since. One, sadly, was damaged ten years ago when the 1930s era frame simply fell apart suddenly and it crashed down, smashing the glass and slicing the print. The others are still hanging on the wall in our hallway.

Standard Time

Under the TT&TO (Timetable and Train Order) system of train operation used by railroads for over a century, timing was critical to keep trains from running into one another. Every railroad had one very accurate "Standard Clock". Every employee whose duties were affected by the TT&TO Rules had to carry a railroad watch, certified annually by an approved jeweler to be accurate to not vary more than 30 seconds per week. Each employee starting on duty was required to compare his watch to a local standard clock at that station, and if it varied more than 30 seconds from the standard to correct it. Each station, the local standard clock had to be compared by telephone or telegraph to the Standard Clock, and if it varied by more than 30 seconds it had to be corrected.

Walt Disney

The Marceline depot is now the Walt Disney Hometown Museum.

Judging by the window (double hung sash with a small transom), I would say that it is indeed the same building.


The clock says it's four second fast. I wonder how they (a) know and (b) at what point do they correct it?

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