Author Topic: A LITTLE BIT OF TRIVIA  (Read 2690 times)

Ed Lecuyer

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« on: January 21, 2009, 10:37:01 PM »
A LITTLE BIT OF TRIVIA has been converted from the pre-July 2008 WW&F Discussion Forum.
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Ira Schreiber wrote:
I think that you all might enjoy this bit of trivia, expanded.

Bruce Wilson replied:
Interesting piece Ira...
Don't forget that in Maine in the mid-1800's, what we today call "standard gage" was then called "narrow gage", as everything bigger than 4' 8 1/2" was called "broad gage".

Wayne Laepple replied:
It's a fun story, but from what I've read, "standard gauge" was just one of 20 track gauges in use in the USA in the Civil War era. The track gauge we call "standard" was the most common, and during the Civil War, about 4,000 miles of new track was built, most of it to that common gauge so that transfer of war materials was not required.
The 56-1/2" gauge was actually devised by none other than George Stephenson (the same guy who invented the eponymous valve gear). Mr. Stepehnson was a mining engineer in England, and he found that the then-common 48" track gauge used in the mining industry was too small. He actually favored a 66" track gauge, but was overruled by mine owners who thought it would be too expensive, and horses and ponies would be unable to pull wagons of that size. The 56-1/2" gauge was the compromise, and Mr. Stephenson went on to build the first successful steam locomotive to that gauge. Nowhere have I seen any evidence that Roman roads had any effect on the choice of gauge.
Quite a few railroads here used a gauge of 4'9" inches, including the famed Strasburg and parts of the far-flung Pennsylvania RR in the 19th and early 20th century. And some coal mines in the anthractie region of Pennsylvania used 48" gauge track. In fact, mines used track gauges from 18" on up, although 36" and 42" gauges were the most common.

jockellis replied:
According to "Nothing Like It In All the World" Abe Lincoln was about to specify a 5-0 gauge for the transcontinental railroad until persuaded by the Union Pacific's Dr. Thomas Durant (a man who knew how to talk to cajole politicians by talking softly and carrying a fat wallet) to make it the same 56 1/2 inches of yore.
Jock Ellis
Ed Lecuyer
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