Why is 4 foot 8 inches the rail gauge standard? Here's one answer!

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Rusty Stumps, Oct 26, 2002.

  1. Rusty Stumps

    Rusty Stumps Member

  2. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    not quite true, but....

    From that site:
    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!

    Not quite true, but makes a good story. A railroad tunnel is considerably wider than just the tracks....... :eek:
  3. Rusty Stumps

    Rusty Stumps Member

    Re: not quite true, but....

    Well if the tunnel was straight there probably is much of a problem but if it's curved that could limit the width quite a bit, even a slight curve.
  4. Sandia

    Sandia New Member

    width of tracks

    Some thing in my unfertile grey matter says that this distance of 8 ft and 6 inches dates back to the Roman Empire with the width of the of the Chariots axels and over time having even had their transition to the UK in the early times. I will absorb the flogging of a wet noodle if proven wrong again.
  5. Rusty Stumps

    Rusty Stumps Member

    Re: width of tracks

    Red, are you talking about rail gauge or road width as I'm not sure I know of any 8'-6" gauge railroads.
  6. Sandia

    Sandia New Member

    You got that right Rusty, dont know what i was thinking about , type faster than the brain works, but thats what happens when you come off of seven weeks of radiation on the throat, must have fried some of the brain too. Tumor is gone, wonder if any of the brain is left.

    Getting back to the original question of 4ft 8in am I in the dark on that one?
  7. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    I read somewhere that the 4' 8.5" gauge may go back as far as the ancient Assyrians. If I remember the story correctly, Alexander the Great adopted the standard in order to run carts over the old Assyrian roads, and this standard was eventually adopted by the Romans, who built their empire over much of the Greek empire in that region. It was the Romans, I think, who actually adopted it as a "national standard."

    I wonder if the Romans ever made narrow gauge carts? :)

    Red, I hope that the treatment was successful. A mother of one of my co-workers is having the same treatment. Feel better soon!
  8. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    I seem to remember reading somewhere that in Canada we changed our RR guage to prevent those pesky US troop trains from invading Canada during the War of 1812. Obviously that's not the case now. :D :D :D

    Anyone have any real info on this? - mine is a clearly little sketchy.
    :confused: :confused: :confused:

  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I've always wondered if the gauge was set at five feet when they used rails with flanges on the outside and flat wheels, and when they went to flanged wheels they kept the same mountings but everything moved in a few inches.
    Val, it's interesting the way that governments (and some railways) did whatever they could to hinder interchange. Wasn't the Ontario Government gauge 5'6" ?
  10. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Yes it was, but it was changed to 4' 8.5" in 1873. Lest you think I'm a big expert or something :rolleyes: I got this info from:

    And then you have the TTC streetcars operating on 4' 10-7/8" gauge track. Why? I've read on one website that it was to accommodate wagon wheels, but an ex-TTC employee told me it was to keep regular trains from using the city trackage! I prefer the latter explanation....

    Can't resist this pic


    Attached Files:

  11. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Interesting fact: TTC gauge works out to 1.5 metres as close as you could like, but they quote it as 1495mm for some reason.

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