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DPRG: Fw: Standards and Specs

Subject: DPRG: Fw: Standards and Specs
From: bob houston rhouston at wf.net
Date: Wed Sep 29 20:54:21 CDT 1999

Oldie but goodie with a twist
Bob Houston
1759 Cuba Road
Bridgeport, Texas
rhouston at wf.net
> The US Standard railroad gauge, the 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 people build them
> like
> that?  Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who
> 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 use that odd wheel spacing?
> Well, if they tried to use any other spacing the wagons would break on
> some of the old, long distance roads, because that's the spacing of the
> wheel ruts.  So who built these old rutted roads?
> Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe for the
> benefit of their legions.  The roads have been used ever since.  And the
> ruts?
> Roman war chariots first made the initial ruts, which everyone else had
> to match for fear of destroying their wagons.  Since the chariots were
> for or by Imperial Rome they were all alike in the matter of wheel
> Thus, we have the answer to the original question.  The United States
> Standard Railroad Gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original
> specification for an Imperial Roman army war chariot.
> Specs and Bureaucracies live forever.  So, the next time you are handed
> a specification and wonder what horse's behind came up with it, you may be
> exactly right.  Because the Imperial Roman chariots were made to be just
> wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war-horses.
> Now the twist to the story....
> There's an interesting extension of the story about railroad gauge and
> horses' behinds.  When we see a Space Shuttle sitting on the launch pad,
> there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel
> tank.  These are the solid rocket boosters, or SRBs.  Thiokol makes the
> SRBs at a factory in Utah.  The engineers who designed the SRBs might 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 to the
> runs through a tunnel in the mountains.  The SRBs had to fit through that
> tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than a railroad track, and the
> track is about as wide as two horses' behinds.
> So a major design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced
> transportation system was determined by the width of a horse's behind!


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