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 into the corporate mind
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Female Senior Member
258 Posts

Houston, TX


Ninja EX250R

Posted - 03/19/2008 :  9:04 PM                       Like
Ok for all you smarty pants who think they know what color ties people are wearing:

The Corporate Mind

Here is a look into the corporate mind that is very interesting,
educational, historical, completely true, and hysterical all at the
same time:
The US standard railroad gauge (width between the two rails) is 4
feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge
Because that's the way they built them in England, and the US
railroads were built by English expatriates.
Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines
were built by the same people who built 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 have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because
that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.
So who built those old rutted roads? The first long distance roads in
Europe (and England) were built by Imperial Rome for their legions.
The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? Roman
war chariots first formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to
match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots
were made for (or by) Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter
of wheel spacing. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4
feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an
Imperial Roman war chariot. Specifications and bureaucracies live
forever. So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder
what horse's ass came up with it, you may be exactly right, because
the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to
accommodate the back ends of two war horses. Thus, we have the answer
to the original question.
Now the twist to the story..............
There's an interesting extension to the story about railroad gauges
and horses' behinds. When we 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 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 from the factory had 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 is
about as wide as two horses' behinds. So, the major 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!

Male Senior Member
413 Posts

San Francisco, CA


73 CB450, Kymco 150

Posted - 03/19/2008 :  9:32 PM
Pretty bizarre. But we humans are fickle creatures.
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Male Advanced Member
896 Posts

Copperas Cove, Texas


2006 GL1800 Trike

Posted - 04/27/2008 :  1:09 PM
Interesting regarding that the US adopted the English railroad track width. I guess the US never anticipated that the English would invade the United States by rail.

Lived quite a while in South America and Boliva which is on the southern boundry of Peru established the width of its rail system totally different from its neighbors to prevent raids into Bolivia using the trains.

Even today, to travel from Peru, Paraguay, Brazil to Bolivia and back, one must exit the train at the border wait for a Bolivian train to arrive and then hop aboard the Bolivian train.

Safe maybe, but that was the thinking back in the 18th century. Not too much has changed since then.
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Advanced Member
1053 Posts

Northern, Virginia



Posted - 04/27/2008 :  8:14 PM
During the "Cold War", Soviet Train tracks were built to a slightly different width than the rest of Europe (I don't recall if it was slightly wider or slightly narrower).

Soviet rail cars were designed with adjustable width wheel chassis --the idea being during an invasion of Western Europe, when advacing Soviet trains reach NATO rail lines, they could adjust their wheel chassis and keep advancing. On the other hand, western trains, with a fixed chassis, would not be able to use Warsaw Pact rail lines.
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Male Starting Member
8 Posts

Flushing, NY



Posted - 08/01/2008 :  2:24 PM
The idea that a consistent track/road gauge spec could be consistent and propagated all the way from Ancient Roman times is not particularly mind-blowing to me. If anything, it's an affirmation on the basic practicality of human engineering.

What IS mind-blowingly frustrating is when the NYC subway system runs a whole subsystem of trains that don't share a gauge with the other lines, so that the subway cars can't be shared either... Due to there being three separate operators historically (the BMT, IRT and IND lines). When the IND lines started up, they intentionally used a different gauge to discourage any takeover attempts from the other two lines. Then, when ultimately the city absorbed all three of them, it inherited the headache of maintaining separately gauged cars and equipment.
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Junior Member
61 Posts

Athens, GA



Posted - 08/29/2008 :  3:46 PM
Ummm, http://www.snopes.com/history/american/gauge.asp

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