Kansas Mountain Time

Loyal reader Mr. Burns pointed out that my intended Dust Bowl route will traverse a psuedo-geo-oddity, moving from Central Time to Mountain time heading due north. That happens in other places sporadically, although not as rarely as moving east from Mountain Time into Pacific Time for example. One can’t be too choosy in this depopulated corner of the nation so I will take what I can get. Mildly unusual works for me.

The whole concept of Mountain Time in Kansas feels strange. Maybe it’s the name. The thought of referencing jagged peaks to a Great Plains state like Kansas seemed alien and out of place. Nonetheless, four of Kansas’ 105 counties on its westernmost edge do in fact observe Mountain Time, and there were many others that did the same in previous decades.

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Most interstate travelers probably enter Mountain Time in Kansas while driving along Interstate 70, about 35 miles before they hit Colorado. Look closely at the image and notice the green sign announcing the change. Mountain Time intrudes into Sherman, Wallace, Greeley and Hamilton Counties. I will likely clip only the southernmost of those counties, namely Hamilton. Even the small rural road I plan to use appears to have a time zone notice (street view) so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Time Zones are defined in Title 49 of the United States Code of Federal Regulations, which deals with Transportation. That’s an historical artifact reaching back to the rise of railroads dependent upon standard times to define passenger and freight schedules. According to the Department of Transportation, standard times were created in 1883 (and each location could select its preferred time), then switched to Federal oversight in 1918 via the Interstate Commerce Commission, and finally shifted to the Department of Transportation in 1966 upon its creation.

49 CFR 71.1 clearly defines the Kansan portion of Mountain Time for those who simply must know the pertinent details.

(d) Kansas-Colorado. From the junction of the west line of Hitchcock County, Nebraska, with the Nebraska-Kansas boundary westerly along that boundary to the northwest corner of the State of Kansas; thence southerly along Kansas-Colorado boundary to the north line of Sherman County, Kansas; thence easterly along the north line of Sherman County to the east line of Sherman County; thence southerly along the east line of Sherman County to the north line of Logan County; thence westerly along the north line of Logan County to the east line of Wallace County; thence southerly along the east line of Wallace County to the north line Wichita County; thence westerly along the north line of Wichita County; thence westerly along the north line of Wichita County to the east line of Greeley County; thence southerly along the east lines of Greeley County and Hamilton Counties; thence westerly along the south line of Hamilton County to the Kansas-Colorado boundary; thence southerly along the Kansas Colorado boundary to the junction of that boundary with the north boundary of the State of Oklahoma.

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Consult a map and it’s easy to understand why a few Kansas counties continue to cling to mountain time.

Goodland, Kansas, a town within Mountain Time and sitting astride I-70 is located 200 miles (322 km) east of Denver, the capital of neighboring Colorado. Likewise, Goodland is 344 miles (554 km) west of Topeka, the capital of Kansas, and 406 miles (653 km) from the state’s largest metropolitan area, Kansas City. Clearly Goodland had an incentive to skew towards Denver rather than Kansas City. Nonetheless the bump can lead to time confusion. The best, in fact the only article I found that addressed this situation came from the Rocky Mountain News in 2008 — "Clock Change a Daily Challenge in Part of Kansas." It’s worth a read.

View Mountain Time in Kansas in a larger map

Mountain Time in Kansas shifted farther west over the past century. It used to run much closer to the 100th Meridian, a traditional division between east and west not only in the United States but also in Canada. Notice the current area of Kansas in Mountain Time (shaded) versus the boundaries recognized by various railroads in 1908, the black lines. Railroads focused on their tracks and not on the surrounding countryside so it’s difficult to reconstruct an exact historical time zone boundary line. The dark horizontal lines should be viewed as rough approximations exaggerated in length to enhance visibility.

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Dodge City was one of those places on the boundary a hundred years ago. The town and its residents observed Central Time, which was their prerogative during the period before Federal oversight. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad defined time a little differently. They drew a line precisely through the Dodge City railway station. Trains heading east from this point recognized Central Time. Trains heading west recognized Mountain Time. The railroad constructed two large decorative sundials on either side of the figurative line to recognize the distinction, a visual reminder to passengers and crew alike. Those some sundials still stand at the station today, recently restored, a relic of a period when Mountain Time cut much deeper into Kansas. Both sundials appear in the satellite image.

I couldn’t find a photo with a Creative Commons license to embed on this page so feel free to open a new tab to view one on Flickr. They wanted to charge $35 for a license to embed it here. Sheesh!

The momentum is pushing all of Kansas into Central Time although the four holdout counties don’t seem to be in much of a hurry.

Completely Unrelated

I know there are a couple of beer geeks in the audience. You may want to check out my Findery post about my recent visit to the smallest brewery I’ve ever seen.

9 Replies to “Kansas Mountain Time”

  1. There is a similar situation in Australia. The four eastern states (New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania)all are in the same (eastern) time zone. However, the city of Broken Hill in the far west of NSW runs on Central time the same as South Australia and the Northern Territory. The explanation is similar. Broken Hill, once a major mining town was connected to South Australia by rail so all commerce was with SA. Thus it was more convenient to run on central time. This time applies to Broken Hill city only – the surrounding areas (not that there’s much there) run on eastern time.

    1. Being on the border like that, Broken Hill also has similarities with West Wendover, Nevada. West Wendover officially observes Mountain Time while the rest of Nevada follows Pacific Time. That’s so gamblers driving over from Salt Lake City, Utah — the closest metropolis — don’t have to change their watches (there is also at least one other Nevada town that observes Mountain Time for the same reason, albeit unofficially). We sure wouldn’t want to dissuade anyone from gambling, eh? Of course I had to drive out of my way to visit that little time anomaly during my visit to Utah a couple of years ago.

  2. Lucky for us in Oklahoma, we were spared being split by a time zone, which is interesting since in many other aspects, the panhandle of Oklahoma is cut off from the rest of the state. As I think you’ve mentioned before, Kenton, OK, which is just a few miles at most from the NM border, does unofficially observe mountain time.

  3. That’s interesting. I hadn’t heard of Barnhouse, but I’ve heard of other nanobreweries of about that scale before. Just recently I’ve been to Moccasin Bend Brewing in Chattanooga, TN, which has a brewing capacity of just a few dozen barrels, and Paw Paw Brewing in Paw Paw, MI is also very small.

    It seems odd to me that it makes any kind of economic sense to open a brewery of that size given the costs associated with just getting the brewing license, inspections by the state, et cetera — numbers I’ve seen indicate that doing the basic bare-bones licensing on a commercial brewery can run into the thousands or ten of thousands of dollars before a drop of beer has been produced, which seems to make it prohibitive (to say the least) to bother with such tiny batches. Maybe they have a lot of start-up capital, or maybe the regulatory environment in VA is different than other places.

    On the general topic of time zones, I used to drive quite often between Huntsville, AL (CST) and Chattanooga, TN (EST). Along the way on Hwy 24 there is a short dip into Georgia, and according to this map (http://www.maptechnica.com/map_tools_counties.php) passed briefly through Hamilton County, TN just before doing so. I can’t remember exactly where the sign marker is these days, but if so, I was actually passing from CST to EST in a generally southerly direction, although more SE than directly south. That area is mostly trees, but if the map is accurate there’s a least a small area in TN where one can cross from CST to EST by walking directly south, even though there may not be road access.

    1. This one has some interesting extenuating circumstances. The guy built it in the garage of his house so the space already existed (no additional mortgage, no rent). As far as equipment, he probably already had most of it since it’s pretty much a souped-up homebrew setup. Look closely and you can see that one of the kettles is a jerry-rigged half keg. I do believe he had to purchase a couple of 2-barrel fermenters and build a small cold room so it wasn’t completely without expense, just minimal compared to a standalone brewery. I also think that much of the expense of a more traditional brewery startup would relate to time. Folks gotta eat and live someplace during the months and months it takes to get licensed, all while burning through investment capital. Barnhouse is truly mom-and-pop. The owners have full-time salaried jobs independent of the brewery and operate it on nights and weekends. It think this unusual and happy confluence of events may actually makes it a feasible model.

  4. Not only are those counties on Mountain Time, but there was also a movement about 20 years ago for them to secede from Kansas!

  5. I learned something. I grew up in Kansas, thinking the entire western stack of counties was in Mountain Time.

  6. I remember seeing on a map of Kansas about 25 years ago that the time zone boundary used to run a few miles east of Lakin, Kansas, about 3 to 5 miles east of the town.

  7. This is a couple of year late, but what the heck…My parents like not far from Knoxville, TN in Eastern Time. A drive from their house to downtown Nashville would be a bit over 200 miles. Going there would take roughly about 3 1/2 hours. Since you cross a time zone boundary on the way (Nashville is in Central Time), it would be about 2 1/2 hours going there and about 4 1/2 hours if you went from Nashville to their house.

    They live just outside of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. We go through Pigeon Forge. My mother used to work at Dollywood, and their neighbors have full-time jobs there.

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