Tuesday, September 28, 2010

History of Railroad Tracks

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 roads 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. Bureaucracies live forever.
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.
(Two horses' butts.)
Now - the twist to the story:
A Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad has 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 a factory in Utah . Engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, 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!

Ancient horse's asses control almost everything. 
CURRENT Horses Asses in Washington are controlling everything else.

Remember to Vote in NOvember!

Thanks Dan


  1. Paaaaah Ohhhhhhh
    I just do not know what else to say
    - except, November can NOT come soon enough.
    have a bonkful fine day

  2. Pierro, We all hope NOvember works well for all of us. You have a bonkful fine day too.

  3. History is not as boring as people made it out to be. Or maybe you just have a knack for these sorts of things, Odie. Either way, I am rooting for a great NOvember!

  4. Opie, Yes here's to a successful and wonderful NOvember!

  5. I love this, I had heard it before somewhere? but what an excellent job you did with the illustrations!

    I swear there are more horses asses in D.C. than in the hores-and-buggy days!

    That town is in desperate need of a revolution and not the industrialed sort that ushered out the horseback days but the kind of intelligence embedded in our Constitution.

  6. Nice logic trail; now ask yourself why the French invented 'metrication' (just to be different) yet still use inches, and fractions thereof, to measure their plumbing.

  7. Go get em Christopher. I can't wait for NOvember either.

  8. Banned, nothing the French do surprises me anymore.


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