Some Railroad fun info

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Rdsok
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Some Railroad fun info

Post by Rdsok » Wed Jan 12, 2005 4:17 am

..This is apparently an Urban legend and not completely true, but still an enjoyable fantasy..

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Try and follow along.... J

Because that's the way they were built in England, and English expatriates built the U.S. Railroads. Why?

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?

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?

To avoid breaking, the wagon wheels were built to match the spacing of the wheel ruts on some of the old, long distance roads in England.

So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads are still used. And the ruts in the roads?

Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels.

Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. And bureaucracies live forever.

So the next time you are handed a spec and wonder what horses' 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.

Now the twist to the story...

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.

I bet you never thought a HORSE'S ASS was this important????
Last edited by Rdsok on Fri Jan 14, 2005 5:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by ComputerBob » Wed Jan 12, 2005 5:18 am

I remember reading aout that railroad/Rome connection many years ago, but I never knew if it was true or just a shaggy dog tale -- what was your source for the info in your post?
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Post by Rdsok » Wed Jan 12, 2005 6:06 am

I strongly believe this is an urban legand, but it was just too good to pass up. It just smells a bit to contrived. I recieved this in a email so the source is certainly not reliable.

Reasons I don't really believe it that I can see right off..

Road widths were/are different everywhere, the widths are determined by their intended use not some old Roman standard.

Railways weren't standardized in the US until after they started planning for a national railway.

There are probably other obvious weaknesses also.. but that wouldn't be as much fun now would it... lol

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Post by Renier » Wed Jan 12, 2005 8:42 am

Snopes says it's false.

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Post by ComputerBob » Wed Jan 12, 2005 3:04 pm

Thanks, Renier -- I should have thought of checking Snopes. :roll:

And Randy, when you post stuff like that, please tell us if you're quoting it from an infinitely forwarded email message, because if you don't tell us that, it looks like you wrote it yourself, and that gives it more credibility than it deserves. :wink:
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Post by Rdsok » Fri Jan 14, 2005 5:49 am

I had lightly verified this but didn't check with sites such as Snopes, normally, I do check things better, but I've been so busy with the AVG forum that I didn't take as much time. All I can say is sorry about that, but I did put a notice on the top of it now.

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Post by ComputerBob » Fri Jan 14, 2005 6:19 am

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Post by ilNebbioso » Sat Jan 15, 2005 10:50 am

(I made a lot of work to read the post and answer)

I think there wasn't any Roman law about this, but (I speak as an Railroad lover) it is true that Stevenson first used that width because it was used for cars with animal traction.

In this way wheels were not dirty by animals ... trashes!

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