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Webb C. Ball’s Standard Railroad Dial

Ball “Official RR Standard” Railroad Dial, c.1905.
Pictured: Ball “Official RR Standard” Railroad Dial, c.1905.

Webb C. Ball was arguably the most prolific figure associated with time inspection on the railroads. As general time inspector for many of the major railroads throughout the country, Ball frequently emphasized the importance of industry standards. At the 1920 National Safety Council meeting, he presented a paper titled, “Safety and Time Service.”

On the topic of dials, Ball wrote:

“Another very important factor of safety is the dial, that part of the watch which quickly and surely reveals the correct time to the engineer, the conductor and other trainmen. As this information is often required at night when lights are dim and obscure, it is needless to emphasize the importance of dials that give the hour and minute without any confusion of fantastic figures or freakish designs.

The figures should be 12 plain upright Arabic figures to indicate the hour points and the 12 five minute division points in the dial circle should be distinct squares, diamond, or round dots, with the four intervening minute dashes not quite so heavily marked by distinct for easy reading.”Webb C. Ball, Safety and Time Service (1920)

This description exemplifies Ball’s perfect railroad dial, featuring a standardized format that was easy to read.


Webb C. Ball’s “Freak Dials” Comparison, Published in the October 8, 1920 Issue of Railway Age.
Pictured: Webb C. Ball’s “Freak Dials” Comparison, Published in the October 8, 1920 Issue of Railway Age.

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