Rome and the train trench specifications

The Reno train trench will have two sets of tracks running through it.

The rails of those tracks will each be spaced 4 feet, 8.5 inches apart.Why? The U.S.

Standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches.

That is a very strange distance.Why is that gauge used? Because that is the distance that was used in England, and the Americans copied what they learned from the British.

Why did the British use that measurement? Because that was the spacing they used for their wagon wheels.

The British learned from the Romans, and it was the Romans who built the English roads.

The wheeled Roman chariots were hitched between two horses, and the hooves of the horses when hitched together wore a pair of paths 4 feet, 8.5 inches apart.

The spacing of the chariot wheels fell right in the middle of those ruts and made for a smoother ride.Wider or narrower spacing would make chariots, and later wagons, bounce and break on the uneven ground.When trains first appeared, axles of that width were already available, so that is what was used.

Therefore, the answer to the original question is that the 4 feet, 8.5 inch gauge is from the original specification for the Imperial Roman army war chariots.

Specifications and bureaucracies live forever.

So when you are wondering what horse's ass came up with that idea, you might just have the correct answer.

Now, for more to this story: When the Space Shuttle was designed, it was to be made with two booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank.

These solid rocket boosters are made by Thiokol at a factory in Utah, not far from Promontory Point.

The designing engineers wanted the booster rockets to be larger, but discovered they had to be shipped by rail from the factory to the Florida launch pad.

The railroad had a width limit because of bridges and tunnels on the way.

Bummer! So the solid rocket booster had to be made smaller to fit the railroad.

That means design of the Space Shuttle, our most advanced transportation system,was determined in part by two horses' asses more than 2,000 years ago.

So was the Reno train trench.

Bureaucracies and specifications and horses' asses do live on forever.

Lee Heidenfeldt is owner of Riplee Packaging Co.


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