How Specifications Live Forever!
Here's a bit of folklore that I got from Geoff Metcalf…The U.S. Standard Railroad Gauge
(distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number.Why was that size used?
Because that's the way they built them in England, and the U.S. railroads were designed and built during the Industrial Revolution by English expatriate engineers to accommodate English-built locomotives.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 was the gauge they used.Why did they use that gauge then?
Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tooling 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 in Europe and England. This was due to the old wheel ruts worn into the road.So, who built these old rutted roads?
The first long distance roads in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The thoroughfares have been used ever since.And the ruts?
The initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagons, were first made by the Roman war chariots. These chariots were designed to be pulled by two horses hitched side-by-side. In order to roll smoothly, the chariot wheels had to be spaced far enough apart to avoid the hoof marks left by the horses, yet not protrude past the flanks of the horses to prevent entanglement with opposing traffic or roadside vegetation. Since the chariots were made for, or by Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.Thus, we have the answer to the original question.
The U.S. Standard Railroad Gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the specification for an Imperial Roman army war chariot. Two thousand years later, and a continent away, the track layout of the entire U.S. railway network is based upon the fact that Imperial Roman chariots were made to be just wide enough to accommodate the rear-ends of two war horses.Specifications and bureaucracies live forever. So, the next time you are presented with a specification and wonder if some horse's ass is responsible for it, you may be exactly right! Get this FREE eBook to help YOU Organize Your Business & Get Rid of Confusion, Turmoil, and Discord! Today we see various organizational trends
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