Author Topic: Narrow Gauge Comfort and Speed  (Read 17213 times)

Robin Hillyard

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Narrow Gauge Comfort and Speed
« on: April 30, 2009, 01:21:29 PM »
Well, this might start a bit of controversy...

I started wondering how the WW&F (and more especially the W&Q) could have hoped to have comfortable passengers on their anticipated long routes.  The WW&F must have been one of the longest narrow gauge railroads in the world! (I'd be interested to know about longer routes).  Narrow gauge is all very well for relatively short rides and/or where the haulage is predominantly minerals, coal, etc.

In the mid-19th century it was vehemently reasoned, with numerous supporting experiments, especially by I. K. Brunel of the Great Western Railway, that the broader the gauge, the better the stability and comfort at a given speed.  Thinking about elementary dynamics, it would seem to be a reasonable conclusion.  The GWR broad gauge was 7' 0 1/4" but unfortunately for Brunel, the 4' 8 1/2" gauge just had too strong a foothold (sleeper-hold? tie-hold?) to be displaced.  Eventually, the GWR had to give in.

But a 2' 0" gauge is the opposite extreme.  I wonder how much the lack of passenger comfort was a factor in the demise of the WW&F. 

Comments welcome.

    Robin

John McNamara

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Re: Narrow Gauge Comfort and Speed
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2009, 02:01:55 PM »
Since the Wiscasset to Albion trip only took 2:40 in 1899, it was probably not too uncomfortable, especially relative to other transportation modes of the time.

I expect that the real undoing of the two-footers was financial. The great appeal of two-footers was that the construction costs were substantially lower than for standard gauge. Thus, they were particularly attractive in locations where the prospects for financial success were marginal from the beginning. When times got tough for railroads, i.e. the Depression and highway competition, the two-footers were among the first railroads to fail.

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Keith Taylor

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Re: Narrow Gauge Comfort and Speed
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2009, 07:38:58 PM »
If the roadbed is solid and well maintained, two foot gauge presents no comfort issues. I believe the Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes had passenger trains that regularly reached sixty miles per hour. A speed that would be impossible on the standard gauge Rockland Branch, with its tight curves. The demise of most railroads had less to do with passenger comfort than it did falling freight revenues. I can't think of a single railroad of any gauge that claimed passenger traffic was profitable. Most railroads were forced to carry passengers in order to get permission to build the railroad and take property by eminent domain.
Keith

Wayne Laepple

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Re: Narrow Gauge Comfort and Speed
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2009, 09:19:32 PM »
I wonder how many of the WW&F's passengers travelled from one end of the line to the other? I suspect many of them  were riding relatively short distances between towns, rather than going to Wiscasset or Albion.

Keith Taylor

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Re: Narrow Gauge Comfort and Speed
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2009, 07:53:25 AM »
Wayne, not only would the average trip be a short one, but even a long trip in a coach with soft seats and sprung and equalized trucks would be a vast improvement over a horse drawn wagon on a dirt road!
Keith

Tom Casper

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Re: Narrow Gauge Comfort and Speed
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2009, 08:14:09 AM »
Yes,  you have to compare what was the alternate mode then not now.  We have comfortble cars compared to buckboard seats.  I think they would have enjoyed the ride all the way to Quebec.

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Wayne Laepple

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Re: Narrow Gauge Comfort and Speed
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2009, 08:14:32 AM »
Or walking!

Zak LaRoza

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Re: Narrow Gauge Comfort and Speed
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2010, 11:43:44 AM »
Or even worse than walking, crawling!  :D

John L Dobson

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Re: Narrow Gauge Comfort and Speed
« Reply #8 on: November 04, 2010, 06:23:28 AM »
Well, this might start a bit of controversy...

Comments welcome.

    Robin


There were (and are) a number of two-foot gauge railways around the world much longer than the WW&F. The longest was probably the Otavi railway in South West Africa, which was around 300 miles long at its greatest extent, and ran overnight 'express' trains with sleeping cars and diners.

The longest surviving line is probably the Avontuur in Cape Province, South Africa, which is 177 miles long, although the top third of the line has been closed for some time. When I rode it in 1997, on a tour organised by the Ffestiniog Railway, it took three days to cover the entire line - although that did include a return trip up the Patensie branch, which added another 38 miles, and numerous stops for run-pasts, long lunches and a minor derailment at one point... We travelled in carriages built at various time over the previous 100 years and I had few complaints about the standard of comfort, or the ride.

Even then, our train was the first to have been the whole way up to Avontuur for over a year, and I have vivid memories of the crew digging out the mud and gravel that blocked the track at some of the dirt road crossings. At Avontuur itself the railway authorities had had to send in a bulldozer to clear a landslide about 200 feet long and 3 to 6 feet deep from the station throat so that we could get in!

The train included a commissary car which was equipped with ovens, and one of many pleasant memories of the trip are the regular mid-morning and late afternoon stops in a convenient loop where tables were set up by the lineside and the staff served tea and/or coffee and freshly-baked scones...
« Last Edit: November 04, 2010, 06:26:07 AM by John L Dobson »
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James Patten

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Re: Narrow Gauge Comfort and Speed
« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2010, 10:18:30 AM »
Are there any surviving plans or pictures of the Otavi's sleepers and diners?  While they would have been built to European designs (I believe SW Africa was owned by the Germans at the time?) we have speculated in the past what WW&F sleepers and diners would have looked like.

Zak LaRoza

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Re: Narrow Gauge Comfort and Speed
« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2010, 10:52:38 AM »
I guess that the WW&F would have been a lot like the Otavi if they had actually made it to Quebec...

John L Dobson

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Re: Narrow Gauge Comfort and Speed
« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2010, 01:55:12 PM »
Are there any surviving plans or pictures of the Otavi's sleepers and diners?  While they would have been built to European designs (I believe SW Africa was owned by the Germans at the time?) we have speculated in the past what WW&F sleepers and diners would have looked like.

There are a detailed diagrams of an Otavi Sleeping Coach and a Dining Saloon on pages 121 and 122 of Namib Narrow Gauge by Sydney M Moir & H T Crittenden, published by Oakwood Press in UK in the 1960s.

The Sleeping Coach was 40’ 6” feet long, 7’ 3” wide  and 9’ 10” high. It was a corridor vehicle with 5 compartments in a staggered formation, the corridor zig-zagging between them. Each compartment had a longitudinal bench seat convertible to a bunk bed, with a drop bunk above. The car would therefore accommodate 10 passengers. There was a toilet/washroom at one end of the car.

The Dining Saloon, built in 1926, was 35’4” long and 11’ high over a clerestory roof. About half of the length was kitchen and the other half would seat 12 diners around 4 tables - two four-seaters one side of the aisle and two two-seaters the other - rather like present-day Ffestiniog Railway buffet cars.

All of the sleeping cars and the dining saloon were transferred to the Avontuur, along with the ‘Kalahari’ 2-8-2s, when the Otavi was converted to 3’6” gauge in 1959, but were never used there. The dining saloon eventually became a trainman’s caboose.  A photograph of the diner in this condition appears between pages 76 and 77 of Namib NG. I’ve also seen a photograph of a sleeping car out of use after transfer to the Avontuur, but can’t lay my hands on it at the moment.
John L Dobson
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James Patten

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Re: Narrow Gauge Comfort and Speed
« Reply #12 on: November 04, 2010, 05:52:17 PM »
There's also the two-foot gauge sugar mill industrial lines in Queensland, Australia.  Overall they have 1800 kilometers of track - that's over 1000 (one thousand!) miles.  Probably not all connected, but most of them are operational and quite advanced.

John L Dobson

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Re: Narrow Gauge Comfort and Speed
« Reply #13 on: November 05, 2010, 07:33:36 AM »
I've found the sleeper car photo - page 98 of Round the World on the Narrow Gauge by PB Whitehouse & PC Allen (Ian Allan, UK, 1966) I was mis-remembering the location - it's of a car still on the Otavi, but out of use.

Unfortunately the shot is almost end-on, and the car appears to be an open-balcony design unlike the diagram in Namib Narrow Gauge
« Last Edit: November 05, 2010, 07:37:12 AM by John L Dobson »
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John L Dobson

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Re: Narrow Gauge Comfort and Speed
« Reply #14 on: November 05, 2010, 10:55:52 AM »
I've done scans of the drawings I mentioned earlier. See the attached
John L Dobson
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