After the first line was opened in Dublin (1834), Ireland’s railway system expanded rapidly. At its peak, post-World War I, the network covered 3,500 miles (5,600 km). The gauge used for track was standardized in 1843. Pressure to coordinate railway timetabling resulted in the Definition of Time Act (1880), whereby mean time was standardized throughout Ireland (previously Cork had been eleven minutes behind Dublin). The major railway franchises were the Great Southern and Western (opened 1844) and the Great Northern (which incorporated the previous Dublin and Drogheda, Ulster and Dublin and Belfast companies in 1873). Arthur Balfour, Secretary for Ireland, promoted development of lines to disadvantaged rural areas, primarily on the western littoral (1887–91). By the 1901 Census, 11,500 workers were employed by the railways, of which just 96 were women. The railways promoted lifetime employment, with accommodation tied to the job, in planned towns and at stations and manned crossings.
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