So what is "narrow?"

Discussion in 'Narrow Gauge Model Railroading' started by BrownMouse, Jul 5, 2007.

  1. BrownMouse

    BrownMouse New Member

    Around 1861, about 53% percent of the railroads in the US used 4' 8 1/2" guage, the others using 4'9', 4'10", 5' (21%, and popular in the south), 5'6", and 6'.

    So, for example, if I model 4' 8 1/2" southern railroad during the 1855-65 period, am I a narrow gauger? Just askin...:mrgreen:
  2. Bones

    Bones Member

    Nope, just a minority that was smart enough to be able to use more rails than their own.
  3. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    "Narrow" gauge is anything less than whatever is standard at the time.

    By the later 1800's, anything less than 4'8.5" was "narrow", generally 3' gauge in most of America with a few variances.

    If everything else was 3' gauge, then the 2' gauges in some parts of the mountains would be the "new narrow gauge".

    Life is simple. :cool:
  4. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    So, in South Africa, where 3'6" is standard and only gauges like 2' are locally called "narrow", does 3'6" not count as narrow?
  5. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    The Great Western Railway in England adopted 7' 1/4" as their standard, and referred to the Stephenson gauge (56.5") as "narrow gauge" when they were forced to use it.
  6. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    In South Africa, yes.

    That said, globally, 4'- 8-1/2", is considered "standard". Anything less, is "narrow", anything greater, is "wide".
    In most cases, the terms narrow, and wide, are not as prevelent as they used to be. Now if it isn't 4'-8-1/2" gauge, the actual gauge is simply stated.

    The South African Garrats run on 3'-6" gauge ??? Interesting, because the current HO scale Garrat models are 4'-8-1/2" gauge.
  7. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    I ssupect that's partly becuase Isambard Kingdom Brunel was so ambitious as to believe 7'0.25" should have been the standard gauge.

    But then again, in Colorado over 100 years ago, 4'8.5" was called "broad gauge" because 3' was the most common. I don't think many people would say that that makes an old-time Colorado narrow-gauger a standard-gauge modeller!

    In India, since there used to be almost equal-size 5'6" and metre-gauge networks, metre gauge wasn't called "narrow". They were called (and still are) "broad gauge" and "metre gauge". "Narrow gauge" is reserved for 2'6", 2', and the like.
  8. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    It would be to them, but probably not to an American or a Brit.

    In the Rockies the 3' gauge was "standard", leaving the two-footer's to be called "extra narrow" gauge. In India, however, the Darjeeling Railraod is 2' gauge and is regarded as quite the thing.

    It's all in the eye of the beholder.

    I always wonder what might have happend had the 3' gauge been adopted as "standard" throughout America? How might the cars and locos have developed to make them money makers despite the inherent limitations of the gauge? It would make a terrific free-lance MRR layout.
  9. BrownMouse

    BrownMouse New Member

    Actually, I was just having some fun, it wasn't really meant to be a serious question...

    Mountain Man,
    Interesting idea. Also think about what might have happened if 5' or 5'6" had been adopted? My point (as much as there was one) was that prior to 1870 or so 4'8 1/2" was the narrow gauge. If we had adopted a broader gauge, locomotive development might have been very different. As it was, I believe steam had reached its limit in terms of height and width by about 1930, and by the '40s had reached its length limit. The inability of steam to develop further helped ensure its demise, but if the track had been larger...
  10. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Look at EFVM and FCA in Brazil. They use metre gauge, but run SD40-2s, C36-7s, Dash 9s, and other US standard-gauge power. With... some differences.

    EFVM 748
    EFVM 748
    EFVM 747
    Loco Yard in Vitoria

    Estrada de Ferro Vitória-Minas
    Viewing Album: Diesels in Brazil - Railroad Picture Archives.NET
    Viewing Album: Heavy Railroading in Brazil - Railroad Picture Archives.NET

    (EFVM just happens to be my favorite foreign railroad. :D )
  11. Bones

    Bones Member

    Don't forget the DDM45! :thumb:
    It's an entirely South American design.
  12. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Steam might have reached a practical size limit in the '40s, but it never got a chance to develop it's full potential. There was lots of room for further efficiency developments. But efficiency, maintenance, labor rules, and the modularity of diesel power ended further development of steam.

    Most modern steam locomotives were custom-built for specific purposes. They usually did a great job for that purpose (coal drags on the N&W or the C&O, fast freights for the NKP Berkshires and the UP Challengers, and so on), but were quite inefficient when used for other purposes. Maintenance costs were high, and a lot of skill was needed to operate and maintain steam engines - at union labor rates and work rules.

    Multiple diesels could be assigned according to the load, and the union rules requiring a separate crew for each locomotive were circumvented. EMD's refusal to build custom diesel locomotives led to standardization and increased modularity of operations, lesser skill sets for the maintenance crews, and reduced parts inventories. Infrastructure requriements were significantly reduced also - turntables, water tanks, etc, not required. All these reduced costs out-weighed the inherent efficiency of steam over diesel, and resulted in early conversion to diesel in this country.

    just my thoughts
  13. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    For students of the American Civil War, & RR history from that period, it’s a fairly well-accepted fact that one of the detrements to the Confederate supply lines, & later to the Federals occupying the south, were the dizzying array of RR gauges throughout the region…
    Transfers had to constantly be made because there was no standards to the gauges of various RR’s…
  14. fsm1000

    fsm1000 Member

    In Japan one metre is 'standard' and the bullet train uses 'broad gauge' which is what we call standard here. They are slowly changing most of over to our gauge so soon their 'broad' will become their 'standard.
    Kind of funny if you think about it :)
  15. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Not to be picky, but Japan is mostly 3'6".

    I find countries that are trying to standardize on non-standard gauges rather behind the times. India, for example, is converting its metre guage lines to 5'6". IIRC, Brazil has decided that all new lines should be 5'3" - this despite metre gauge being at least three times as common in Brazil, and the complete lack of 5'3" in the rest of the Americas!
  16. fsm1000

    fsm1000 Member

    Triplex oops sorry you are correct there. Thanks for the update :)
  17. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Another factor in the end of steam was spare parts.

    As railroads with fleets of low-tech, low efficiency locomotives dieselized early, the PRR being a prime example, less manufacturers were producing parts for the surviving steam. The NKP Berks successfully defeated the EMD FTs in a head to head trial, but their maintenance costs went up as the supply of parts decreased.

    The Erie railroad was a good example of a broad gauge well as a railroad that never should have been built. The Erie started off as a 5' gauge line, and maintained all of their original clearances as they could haul oversize freight easier than other roads. Unfortunately, Lima, Ohio, pop 50,000, was about the largest town aside from the major destinations of NYC, Chicago, and Cleveland.

    Trivia: Does anyone know why standard gauge is 56.5" gauge and not 57" or 56"?

    Answer: It was based on the Roman Chariot width.
  18. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    I wouldn't say the PRR dieselized early. They last ran steam in 1957, which is pretty typical.

    The Erie was 6' gauge.
  19. SARModel

    SARModel New Member

    Not mine.....

    Mine are built to run on 12mm gauge (HOm or HOn3-1/2).
  20. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Not all Byer Garrats were sent to Africa. I believe a few were used in the British Isles and elsewhere which had 56.5" gauge track.

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