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Railway Gauge/Width of

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165344.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 11:01 am Reply with quote

Further to last Monday's discussion:

For no particularly good reason that anyone can fathom, though colourful and hotly-disputed theories often involving Roman chariots abound, the earliest railways in the UK were built to the rather illogical gauge of 4' 8.5". (ie: thatís how far apart the rails are) This continues to this day, and most railways the world over are built to that gauge. A few places use slightly wider gauges - notably Ireland, (5' 3") Russia, (5') and Spain and Portugal (5' 6"). And of course there are many narrow-gauge railways around, though none particularly economically significant.

Source: British Railway Vocabulary

165469.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 5:21 pm Reply with quote

There's a Straight Dope on this at

165541.  Fri Apr 13, 2007 3:53 am Reply with quote

Interestingly the straight dope article mentions the fact that tramways (upon which UK railway tracks were based) varied in width from region to region. However, it fails to mention that early UK railways also varied in width, notably IKB's Great Western Railway which ran a wider gauge of 7ft 0.25in.

I think straight dope's conclusion sounds about right when it says that the myth about a connection between roman carriages and Stephenson's tramways is just a coincidence because they were both pulled by pairs of horses which happen to be around 4ft 8in wide (for the pair, not per horse, you understand)


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