So what is "narrow?"

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

  1. sluggs

    sluggs New Member

    Thanx for starting this, I will now go to six inch gauge and you will be considered "wide gauge".... BTW, how will I keep my shtuff upright?sign1
  2. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    Very will you keep your shtuff upright....

    Teach it good values?
    Replace the wheels with Ballet slippers?
    Balance the loads extremely well?
    Wait, here it is.......use magic! :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
  3. sluggs

    sluggs New Member

    Hmmm good values? I'm a biker, and everyone knows that scooter trash have no values, I need my balet slippers for parties, I have no balence, spent it all on a new Harley.... but magic I can do
    POOF.... I'm gone....:wave:
  4. wjstix

    wjstix Member

    Interesting thread!! Going back to the original question, I think by 1860 the term "Standard Gauge" referring 4'-8-1/2" trackage was pretty well established. I suspect you could find it in railway publications and official rail documents of the time in common usage.

    In some areas local parlance might call a different size "standard" but they would be the exception. Anything narrower than standard gauge would be "narrow gauge", anything wider would be "broad gauge".

    Or to put it another way, I.K. Brunel may have called the GWR's 7' gauge "standard gauge" but everyone else called it "broad gauge".
  5. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    The European modelers have that whole HO/HOm/HOe thing going on...while we Americans/Canadians have the On2 On30 On3 O 3-rail O thing going...We generally seem to want our scale Garden railway stuff to be 1:20.3...but they don't mind throwing 30" gauge and meter gauge on the same layout...and that is something they do with HOe as well.

    They are such dramatically different approaches to modeling "narrow" gauges.

    I really feel sorry for the Brits with their HO/OO/EM mess. If they just produced true OO scale track...I'm sure it would provide a nice boast for On3 modeling! (The NMRA standards gauge for OO is the same as their On3 gauge...while British OO trains run on HO track...which is 4'1" gauge in OO...they use OOn49 by our standards).

    We Americans/Canadians are sticklers for our trains to have the appropriate track gauge...or at least designate any compromises (such as Bob Hayden compromising on HOn30). Europeans don't really care...they group it by family.
  6. MadHatter

    MadHatter Charging at full tilt.

    In South Africa we know it is narrow gauge, but we call it "Cape Standard Gauge" When trains first came to S.A. we also had 4' 8 and 1/2" track, but it would have been too expensive to go inland at the time. Triplex is correct, although we don't call 3'6'' standard gauge, our 2' gauge lines are known as narrow gauge.

    That's true about HO scale locos running actually on 4' 8 and 1/2'' gauge tracks :eek::eek:, but that's why some people are moving to 12mm gauge. Also have this problem in Train Simulator, lol. :rolleyes:

    I must say it looks great to see large locomotives on such narrow track- a break from the dinky looking stuff. :p:p:p
  7. David H

    David H Member

    Is it appropriate for a paper modeller to add some historical perspective?

    One view of the narrow/standard split is based on mining technology and geology.

    Where mines were driven horizontally into hilly ground wagons or barrows could be used to move the coal out. But restrictions were imposed on these early railways by the width and height of the mine. This was the case in the English Midlands and may be the origin of "narrow gauge".

    Where vertical shafts were sunk for coal the winnings were hauled up to the surface by winding engines / horse ginns and transferred to wagons. These may have originally been standard farm wagons but by the later 18th century plate-ways and railways had developed in north-east England. Now, there were no limitations on the axle widths of these wagons save the available materials and local practice.

    I cannot say why this was "standard gauge" it's just the width that wagon axles were.

    The first engineers to perfect a working railway for passengers and freight with self propelled engines (instead of horses or stationary engines) were the Stephensons and this was the gauge of track they were familiar with.

    Here ends the first lesson.

  8. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    I ran across a table recently:
    US narrow gauge mileage:
    17,608mi 3' gauge
    470ish mi 3'6" gauge
    200ish mi 2' gauge
    40mi 2'6"

    Asking what is standard and why is a logical question to understand what is narrow...but it is an even more difficult question to answer.
  9. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    The old story that goes with standard gauge is that it was literally the width of two horses butts, the wheel-to-wheel distance of the standard two-horse Roman chariots and carts in use in Britain. Since carts were made by the people, using "story sticks", i..e., strips of wood with pre-marked measurements, this became standard throughout first the Roman Empire in Britain, and later Britain itself.

    The centuries of usage had worn ruts in the Roman roads, and it was convenient to maintain the wheel spacing, which didn't change until better roads and railroads came along, at which point the cart and wagon makers were the only people with the skills to make coaches, for which they used the "standard" wheel spacing in place since Romans times - four feet 8 1/2 inches, the width of those two horses' butts in Roman times.

    Narrow gauge rail is easy to understand against the perspective of the Continental Divide which stretches across America from North to South. The three foot narrow gauge meant less grading and blasting, smaller tunnels, tighter curves through the mountains, lighter rail, lighter bridges and and it could be laid faster and more cheaply that standard gauge, which would have been prohibitive to build and operate in the mountains and narrow, twisting valleys.
  10. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Common carrier narrow gauge turned out to be a rather short-lived failure in the big scheme of things. In the 1870s, the vision was 7/8 the capacity at 3/4ths the cost of standard gauge. Keeping initial costs low was critical for railroads not receiving the federal land grants of the trans-continentals - which were required to be standard gauge.

    The 3/4ths cost wasn't quite as accurate as Gen Palmer would have liked. And the 7/8 capacity, although initially a reasonable rule of thumb, was rendered a joke by the substantial growth in size of standard gauge locomotives and cars in the 1890-1910 era.

    In the 1870s, interchange between railroads was practically unknown. But by 1900, interchange had been made practical and profitable (rules formulated in the 1890s for the most part), replacing the manual loading/unloading at every change of carrier. This was the knock-out blow for the 3 ft lines. Wherever traffic could justify the costs, the common carrier narrow gauge lines were converted to standard gauge - even in Colorado.

    Nevertheless, narrow gauge has a special place in my heart and on my layout.

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