Ever wonder why railroad tracks have such odd spacing?
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Ever wonder why railroad tracks have such odd spacing?

This is a discussion on Ever wonder why railroad tracks have such odd spacing? within the Off-Topic forums, part of the Main Category category; The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why ...

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    Default Ever wonder why railroad tracks have such odd spacing?

    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? Because that's the way they built them in England , and English expatriates designed the US railroads.

    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 had used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

    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 road in England , because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.

    So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (including England ) for their legions. Those roads have been used ever since.

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

    So the next time you are handed a specification/procedure/process, and wonder, 'What horse's ass came up with this?' , you may be exactly right.

    Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses.

    Now, the twist to the story:

    When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, you will notice that 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 would have preferred to make them a bit larger, 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, and 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?

    So, Horse's Asses control almost everything...
    ...Explains a whole lot of things, doesn't it?
    Charlie

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    Just what does that have to do with guns ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by n4sxx View Post
    Just what does that have to do with guns ?
    Would someone please explain to this latest horse's ass what OFF TOPIC means.
    Charlie

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    That's awesome. I love that kind of stuff. Trivia in it's purest form!
    (Insert random tough-guy quote here)
    "See my gun?? Aren't you impressed?" - Anonymous sheepdog
    The hardware is the same, but the software is vastly different.

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    Interesting post... thanks
    "You don't hurt 'em if you don't hit 'em." (Lieutenant General Lewis B. Puller, USMC, 1962.)
    Land Of The Free... Void Where Prohibited By Law.

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    There are many things that we wonder "who came up with that stupid figure or whatever" and usually no one knows the actual reason For instand why the 74 minute length of a CD recording (To hold Beethoven's 9th) or who was Murphy of Murphy's law. (He was a real person who died in 1990).

    The rail gauge may have its roots in ancient Rome but there is probably a little more to it. Maybe someone can tell me why we have a .410 gauge shotgun instead of something that makes sense.

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    I love that story.
    Ton up!

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    Sticks and stones may break my bones BUT whips and chains excite me !
    So together we are the weith of train rails
    All i see are threads on my phone not where they are on the main site

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    Anyone who likes this kind of stuff should check out the BBC series "Connections" (and the sequels) hosted by James Burke. Every once in a while they'll show up on BBC America, Discovery, etc.
    (Insert random tough-guy quote here)
    "See my gun?? Aren't you impressed?" - Anonymous sheepdog
    The hardware is the same, but the software is vastly different.

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    Quote Originally Posted by n4sxx View Post
    All i see are threads on my phone not where they are on the main site
    This.

    The phone app is nice, but you don't get any information about where the thread is, and once you click on the thread, you don't even have the title anymore.

    And BTW, this is false: snopes.com: Railroad Gauges and Roman Chariots
    Bob Mueller
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