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Railroad gauges

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  • Carlos F. Pardo SUTP
    Interesting info below from a measurement and how it came to be. Carlos F. Pardo The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 4, 2006
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      Interesting info below from a measurement and how it came to be.

      Carlos F. Pardo

      The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4
      feet, 8.5 inches, an exceedingly odd number.

      Why was that gauge used?

      Because that's the way they built them in England, and the English
      built the first US railroads.

      Why did the English build them like that?

      Because the first rail lines were built by the people who built the
      pre-railroad tramways, and that is the gauge they used.

      Why did they use that particular gauge then?

      Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and
      tools that they used for building wagons, which used the same 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 the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the
      spacing of the wheel ruts in the granite sets.

      So, who built those old rutted roads?

      Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and
      England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since.

      And the ruts in the roads?

      Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had
      to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the
      chariots were made for (or by) Imperial Rome, they all had the same
      wheel spacing. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet,
      8.5 inches is derived from the specification for an Imperial Roman
      war chariot.

      Specifications and Bureaucracies live forever. The Imperial Roman war
      chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of
      two war-horses. Now let's cut to the present...

      The Space Shuttle, sitting on its launch pad, has two booster rockets
      attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket
      boosters, or SRBs. A company builds SRBs at its factory in Utah. The
      engineers who designed the SRBs wanted to make them a bit fatter, but
      the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch
      site. The railroad line from the factory has to run through a tunnel
      in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel, which is
      slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track is
      about as wide as two horses' behinds.

      So.... a major design feature of what is arguably the world's most
      advanced transportation system was determined two thousand years ago
      by a horse's ass.
      Which is pretty much how most government decisions are made.

      So now you know !!!!


      Shekhar Singh
      Shekhar Singh
      National Campaign for People's Right to Information,
      C 17A Munirka,
      New Delhi 110 067

      Telefax: +91 (0)11 26178048

      Sujit Patwardhan
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