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Thread: History of 4' 8.5" track gauge

  1. #1
    CNfavorite Guest

    Default History of 4' 8.5" track gauge

    Most fascinating if you read it in its entirety:

    >
    >Does the statement, "We've always done it that way" ring any bells...?
    >
    >The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet,
    >8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used?
    >Because that's 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
    >that's 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 that's the
    >spacing of the wheel ruts.
    >
    >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
    >Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. The
    >United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived
    >from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. And
    >bureaucracies live forever.
    >
    >So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse's
    >ass came up with it, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial
    >Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back
    >ends of two war horses.
    >
    >Now the twist to the story...............When you see a Space Shuttle
    >sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to
    >the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or
    >SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory at Utah. The
    >engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred 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 happens to run through
    >a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel.
    >The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad
    >track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses' behinds. So, a
    >major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's most
    >advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years
    >ago by the width of a horse's ass....
    >
    >and you thought being a HORSE'S ASS wasn't important!

  2. #2
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    Default RE: History of 4' 8.5" track gauge

    I've read here, www.snopes2.com(click on history, and its on the top) that that wasn't true(no offense).

    But please tell me where you read that.



    Greg Marck
    Act. Maker
    [email protected]

  3. #3
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    Default RE: History of 4' 8.5" track gauge

    That story gets posted in various Usenet forums all too often. Sometimes twice in the same day by two people who think they are each being original and impressing everyone.

    I'd say it is very worn out nowadays....

  4. #4
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    Default RE: History of 4' 8.5" track gauge

    Interesting, whether true or not. Anyway..... WHO is old enough these days to say it's true, or it's not true. We could agree to disagree forever on that one. There would probably be an element of truth in it anyway. But still made interesting reading and a very good grin.

    I wonder what the yarn would be for 3' 6" narrow gauge (pony's bum)
    For the 5' 3" broad gauge. (draught horses)
    So the 4' 8" standard gauge must be (race horses) [Link Expired]

    I just read a post "Train Whistle" on "Who invented the first steam whistle", interesting answer as well.
    I pondered on this Rocket's whistle bit and also, this post's track gauge and suddenly realised that about the only original thing still used today from Stephenson's Rocket days, is the wheel flanges. That's the bit of metal that sticks down to keep the wheels between the 4' 8" track, unless the track spreads of course, and does some fancy sleeper chopping.

    I noticed quite a few railway accidents lately, perhaps may need deeper flanges. [Link Expired]

    Like this picture below taken way back in May 1970 on the new 4' 8" Indian - Pacific standard gauge.
    [Link Expired]
    "Sorry Boss, I was only doing 5mph when we got a puncture".
    No! not really... the actual cause of derailment was put down to yes "a broken flange".

    Next time you get to see a railway wheel REALLY close up on the rails. Stop for a moment and take a good HARD look at the flange where it meets the rail and realise my friends, that this little flange is all that keeps the rollingstock going down the track at times at 100mph plus.
    Bit scary when you do ponder on it. One never ever really thinks much about that. Over my years in the Railways when I was shunting (switching) it would always amaze me that this little piece of metal is all that holds the whole train on the track at enormous speeds. Hello.... "Stephenson's Rocket".

    [Link Expired]

  5. #5
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    Default RE: History of 4' 8.5" track gauge

    DAMMIT BOY!!!:) JESTER

  6. #6
    CNfavorite Guest

    Default RE: History of 4' 8.5" track gauge

    Just thought it was an interesting and amusing little story for us rail fans to ponder atleast? Didn't think I was putting out a soapbox for Shoskin to stand on and use his very dry wit to educate others in disbelief?

    Who knows? Maybe it's right, maybe it's wrong? Maybe it's from Havard, maybe from Yale? But stay out of Killjoy U., doesn't do a thing for you. ;-)

  7. #7
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    Default RE: History of 4' 8.5" track gauge

    You know why Bureauocrasies live forever? Because Bureaucracy is about doing things by the book, to the word, and 'In the beginning there was the word', therefore Bureaucracy was there in the beginning. Therefore God was the first Bureaucrat, because who else but a bureaucrat could make us believe one rib was actually an entire person? :D

    http://members.aol.com/nutsvincey/logo.jpg

  8. #8
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    Default RE: History of 4' 8.5" track gauge

    *LOL* :-lol :-lol :-lol

    D.M.

    "Homini plurima ex homine sunt mala."

    - Plinius Maior, Naturalis Historia 7,1,5


  9. #9
    Starlight Guest

    Default RE: History of 4' 8.5" track gauge

    I once read somewhere on the web a technical explanation on just exactly how a flange works; or at least is supposed to work.

    I shall seek this information out again to back up what I read; but basically it stated the following.

    railroad tyres (the surface that meets the rail) are ground at a slight angle. I'm not sure exactly the degree; but it's somewhere in the neighbor hood of 4 or 5 degrees. This bevel, should under ideal conditions, be all that keeps a train on the rails. Now, on a straight and level area, that is entirely possible. There would be approximately a quarter inch gap between flange and rail head.

    According to this site, curves throw a big of a variable into the equation. Ok, more than a bit. While it is possible for the train to stay on the track (under ideal conditions) without the need of a flange...the specified train wouldn't be able to take a curve. Therefore, the flange is to guide it around the curve. (You may note that in some areas, there are greasers on the outside of the curve to grease the flanges and make the turn easier.)

    Now, as before, the flangeless wheel would only work in ideal situations. Sadly, we don't have an ideal situation. Wind, load issues, drawbar pull, and hundreds of other factors force the flanges into the rail head; Meaning that the flanges work that much harder to keep a car on the rail.



  10. #10
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    Default RE: History of 4' 8.5" track gauge

    [font color="blue"]
    > This bevel, should under ideal conditions, be all that keeps a train on the rails. Now, on a straight and level area, that is entirely possible. There would be approximately a quarter inch gap between flange and rail head. [/font]

    Starlight, I was going to mention this in my previous post about the flange, but thought I'd leave it and see if someone would come up with this.

    Yes that's true, because the bevelled tyre is made purposely like this for the fixed axle, so if going down straight track and the gauge is correct, and with no other influences the wheel or tyre on BOTH sides of fixed axle would be running in the middle of the tyre and both travelling the same distance or circumference, because of the bevelled tyre.

    Now when going around any curves, something happens on fixed axle wheels.
    The distances each wheel on a fixed axle has to travel are of a different distance because of the curve. Outer curves are obviously longer in distance than inner curves. ENTER the bevelled or angled tyre.
    If the tyre of fixed axles were made straight across the fixed wheel would be dragged around corners, and would cetainly not last very long, plus the extra draught horses (horsepower) needed ;-)

    The outer curve wheel is forced against the flange as this is the thickest part of the tyre and circumference of the wheel because now it has further distance to travel.
    Note!.. The inner side of flange is also quite rounded so it does not ride up on the rail and derail.

    Now the inside curve wheel is now running on the thinest part of the outside of the bevelled tyre or wheel. This thinest part or circumference now has a shorter distance to travel.

    Neat idea hey!.... I understand that this wheel to track setup is only original idea left from Stephenson's Rocket still used today.

    [Link Expired]

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