Skip to comments.The US standard railroad gauge is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. Thatís an exceedingly odd number.
Posted on 11/10/2012 7:13:35 AM PST by InvisibleChurch
The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. Thats an exceedingly odd number.
Why was that gauge used?
Because thats the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US Railroads.
Why did the English build them like that?
Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and thats the gauge they used.
Why did they use that gauge then?
Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.
Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing?
Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because thats the spacing of the wheel ruts.
So who built those old rutted roads?
(Excerpt) Read more at aviationhumor.net ...
I’ve heard this before.
If I remember correctly, this traces all the way back to the width of a Roman chariot.
Given enough time the EPA will come out with new regs to cut the gauge by 1/2 inch to combat climate change....
I wish that was sarcastic... But with these clowns it’ possible ....
And, it has something to do with the space required for 2 horses standing side by side with harnesses.
well, sure if you read the rest of the article you’ll find that you may be right
If true, the why were early railroads built as narrow as 3 feet and as wide as 5?
Because they were built in Eastern Europe and western Asia. Vtheir horses and roads were descendent from the Mongols.
In modern times they retained the gauge so that invaders from the west could not use their equipment to supply their forces.
I am reminded of the story I used to tell in my consulting days.
A woman was cooking Sunday dinner. She took the Roast Beef and cut off an inch on each end before putting it in the oven.
Her daughter asked her why. The mom responded that it was how she was taught by her mother. The next Sunday, the daughter asked her grandmother why she cut the ends off from the roast. She said that her mother taught he that way.
So, they got on the phone to call the girls great grandmother to ask her why she cut the ends off the roast.
She laughed about it for a minute. Then she told them that when she was first married, they were poor. So they only had one pan, and the Sunday roast was too big for the pan, so she cut off a little bit so it would fit.
The moral of the story is that in a lot of processes it is important to understand why they are done that way—because you will find the reasons don’t exist any more.
As an aside, we also found that if our employees just followed the rules as they were originally written, things would work fine.
Kind of like the Constitution.
Maybe because some Roman legions used Shetland ponies to pull their chariots?
This reason is nonsense. The Romans didn’t have war chariots - theirs was an infantry army (Republic and Principate). About the time of the Dominate (or perhaps the Third Century crisis), cavalry began to become more important.
War chariots are not particularly effective weapons, which is perhaps why they fell out of disfavor with the fall of the Persians to Alexander the Great (fourth century BC).
Let us note that chariots would be a particularly uncomfortable mode of passenger transportation. Imagine standing in a jolting chariot for more than a few minutes.
I recall that among the advantages which the North had in the American Civil War were that (a) railroads connected at central terminals in cities and (b) they all used the same gauge.
In the South, on the other hand, each railroad would have its own terminal in a city. Railroad A might have its terminal on the east side of (Stonewall) Jacksonvania while Railroad B would have its terminal on the south side of the place. Goods would have to be hauled by wagon or barge from one to the other when transferring between one railroads. It is my understanding (and I’m not an expert) that southern railroads did not have a standard gauge, so that even if the railroads were connected, the locomotives and rolling stock could not run on the other line.
The 4’ -8 1/2” “Standard Gauge” of railroad track is “standard” only in some countries, such as the U.S. Only about 2/3 of all rail line uses that spacing between rails. Gauge typically varies between 18” and 5’ -6”. Industrial lines where space was an issue, like mining and even trench systems constructed during WWI, had 12” or 18” track. Many railroads in New England and places like Colorado were 24”, 30” or 36” gauge, called “narrow gauge.” BART lines today are wider, at 5’ -6” between rails.
When George Stephenson started building rail systems in England he favored 4’ -8”, but 1/2” was added to allow play on curves. At that time 5’ -3” was “standard” in Ireland, and 7’ -1/4” was used by Stephenson's rival the Great Western railway. Stephenson won out.
While the article may play fast and loose with the historical facts, the author does have a point.
QWERTY keyboards are laid out using the alphabetical arrangement of typewriters which was originally selected to slow typists as much as possible to prevent the mechanical devices from jamming.
No, no matter what RAILROADS are still the most efficient way to move goods. IIRC, A gallon of Diesel can move 5 tons over 200 miles.
If you google “Pompeii roads stepping stones”, you will find pictures of the grooves made by chariots. Also, stepping stones were made in the road so that people wearing sandles could cross the street without having to step into sewage. I don’t remember the guage that our guide said it was.
Yep, pound for pound, rail is the most efficient. On average, it takes about 2.7 to 3.5lbs. of drawbar pull to move 1 ton of train. The average road locomotive is rated at 4400HP, and has about 120,000lb. of drawbar pull. The railroad I work for has an average 9000 ton train, at 10,800ft. length. Aside from the arcane info, does this mean that you can move a locomotive down an old Roman wagon trail?
How soon we forget the width of an oxen team and the bow length compared to a wagon width when we build our oxen yokes, which was later converted to rail and steam engine pulling the same wagons.
If we recall the last time we hitched up our oxen team to plow an acre of land to grow the food we consume, it becomes intuitively obvious that the bow length shouldn’t exceed 72 inches, and is more controllable at about 50”-70”.
Assuming most of us aren’t wealthy enough after Obamacare to own 2 large oxen to justify a 70” wide yoke, and measuring a common ox neck at his withers, say about 7.5-12” wide, say 9” and separating the oxen by 4x their bow each is about 36” plus 18” (2x bow) and remembering to keep about 1-1/2” thickness separation between the bow and the oxen’s neck for his gait, we have a natural pull width of about 36” + 18” + 3” = 57” minus width of a steel wheel and bolt linkages about 56.5” or 4’-8.5” for the width of our wheeled cart so as not to impede the gait of the oxen team.
Using this width as our gauge, we conveniently are able to use our carts and wagons either using our newly acquired ObamaOxen or Obama’s penchant for train transportation.
See how much better off we will be in 4 years than we are now! /s
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