Wide Gauge?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by CSXFan, May 3, 2002.

  1. CSXFan

    CSXFan Member

    I was dooing some research into an old railroad that used to run through my hometown that i want to incorporate into my freelanced railroad that will be built sometime within the next year. When researching the railroad that died in 1936 i saw that it was orignally narrow gauge and wide gauge at the same time. Now i know what narrow and standard gauges are but what wa wide gauge? the railroad was later converted to standard gauge steam and then to electric interurban.
  2. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Wide Gauge

    Wide gauge is anything wider than standard (56 1/2").
    The widest extended system was the Great Western in England at 7' 1/4".
    I think the was one in the US at 6' (Erie???) and a bunch at 5'6".
    The Russians have a broad gauge system. (see Russian Decapods.)

    Lots of city trolley systems had gauges off standard so that they couldn't haul steam RR freight cars. TTC is 4' 10 7/8" (!) (Almost exactly 1.5 metres) and I think Philadelphia is 5'. (Or is it Pittsburgh?)

    Wide gauge was claimed to give a smoother and more stable ride.

    I read once that (some) engineers felt that a change in dimension of less than 50% wasn't worth doing. Consider this when looking at gauges of 24", 36", 56.5" 84.25".

    Some of the gauges were dictated by governments to limit other jurisdictions running through. Not sure of the reasoning.

    What area are you modelling? Multiple gauges make interesting trackwork, usually worth some sort of recognition in a model contest.
  3. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Before the formation of the AAR, & federalized standards for RR's, the comany, & investors would hire engineers to build the line, & things like track gauge were left up to the individual builder.
    Consequently, there were rail lines across the country with track gauges ranging from 18" up to 6' (I believe the Erie RR was originally built to run on track 6' wide)
    This became a major problem during the Civil War in the 1860's, with armies trying to move men & equipment from place to place, & track gauges would change literally, from county to county.
    A lot of the gauges were standardized during reconstruction in the late 1800's, so that afterwards, most RR's (with a few exceptions) were built to the 4'8 1/2" "standard gauge", or the 36" "narrow gauge".
  4. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    I've done dual gauge trackwork, and while it may be worth some sort of recognition at a model contest, it definitely rates lots of EXCEDRINE. Actually, it's probably excedrine headache #4.

    I've got painkiller, so will continue to do dual gauge trackwork.
  5. CSXFan

    CSXFan Member


    My model railroad is set in south western Ohio (USA). It's set in the modern era since i'm not a good enough modeler to try the handlaying track thing. The only reason I'm modeling the old Cincinnati, Georgetown, & Portsmouth is that in my freelanced world it survived until 1937 when it was absorbed into the fictional Atlantic and Ohio Western RR. But dual gauges are fun to watch. Anyone wanna try triple gauge?:D
  6. Bill Stone

    Bill Stone Member

    Although many narrow gauge lines surved much longer, the prime reason for the death of wide gauge in the US (the most common, I believe, was 5 feet) was the desire to interchange cars betwen railroads. Interchange was really getting going before the end of the 19th century. In the early days of interchange between roads of differing gauges, at some places they actually hoisted cars to be interchanged, and swapped trucks. In some cases cars --- and even locomotives --- were built with very wide tires that could handle both 4'8" and 5' gauge.

    Before interchange, a shipment that needed to reach a destination beyond the reach of the home road, was actually unloaded from it's original box (or whatever) car, and reloaded into a car of the next railroad. Interchange docks were common between narrow and standard gauge roads clear until the end of the narrow gauge lines in the 1930's-40's-50's.

    Bill S
  7. A little background here. First, Yes, the Erie and affiliated roads were built to a guage of six feet and continued so into the 1870's. At the same time, there was a 3 ft. gauge system that ran all the way from Toledo and Cincinnati, Ohio. to Houston, Texas!

    One of the many reasons for "the late unpleasantness" was the fact that the majority of the railroads in the North were built to a gauge of 4'8.5" while those in the South were built to a gauge of 5 ft., resulting in traffic moving for export rather than between regions. Gowan and Marx of Charleston, SC, were invited by the Czar of Russia to build the first Russian railroad, so the Russian system were built to the Southern gauge of 5 ft.! It was the 1880's before most of the lines in the South were regauged.

    With the invention of electric railways, a gauge of 5'2.5" was used by electric lines in many areas. As a matter of fact, the lines in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New Orleans (St Charles) are still 5'2.5". This, also, is the "broad gauge" referred to originally in the question about triple gauge track in the Cincinnati area.
  8. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Someplace at home I have a picture of quadruple gauge track. I think it's someplace in Australia.

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