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Engineering that endured.

PostPosted: Sun Aug 18, 2013 4:42 am
by calgarymark42
The U.S. 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 U.S. 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 jig 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.

In other words, bureaucracies live forever. So the next time you are handed a specification, procedure, or 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.

Now, the twist to the story:
When you see (saw) a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, you will notice that there are 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 their factory in Utah.
The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit larger, 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, nd 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! Now you know: Horses' Asses control almost everything...

Explains a whole lot of stuff, doesn't it? :(

Re: Engineering that endured.

PostPosted: Sun Aug 18, 2013 11:46 pm
by old guy
Sad but true! :cry:

Re: Engineering that endured.

PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 1:08 am
by aussieian
A good story!

I was aware that the standard railway gauge was "tied" to the dimension of Roman chariot axles, but I was unaware that the space shuttle program had been influenced by rail tunnel size which, of course, is commensurate with the prevailing rail gauge.

Yours naturally,
AussieIan.

Re: Engineering that endured.

PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 4:04 am
by sirius631
There was an attempt to use a wider gauge on the Great Western Railway in England.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Western_Railway

Re: Engineering that endured.

PostPosted: Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:31 am
by sandy_beach_cat
Probably not really true. There were a number of different gauges in use. They were more likely based on the earlier horse drawn railways gauge, so yes width of horse, no romans.

Re: Engineering that endured.

PostPosted: Thu Sep 12, 2013 3:36 pm
by Zaalbar
But NASA is now using SpaceX. What will we be using in 20 years?

Re: Engineering that endured.

PostPosted: Sat Sep 21, 2013 6:31 pm
by Zaalbar
Big government is to blame. Congressmen and Senators, especially those with Keynesian economic opinions, use NASA the military or other government programs to take jobs to their own districts. Good for the state but you wonder if you could get more done with the same money.

Re: Engineering that endured.

PostPosted: Sun Sep 22, 2013 12:16 am
by sandy_beach_cat
I'm not sure what you mean by "to blame" but, our railways were originally built by private enterprise. I'd assumed yours were too. a lot of the early kit was exported UK to USA. So no. The width of the track was down to private enterprise.

Re: Engineering that endured.

PostPosted: Sun Sep 22, 2013 2:08 am
by old guy
sandy_beach_cat wrote:I'm not sure what you mean by "to blame" but, our railways were originally built by private enterprise. I'd assumed yours were too. a lot of the early kit was exported UK to USA. So no. The width of the track was down to private enterprise.

I'm pretty sure ours were "private" too, with some of the later 19th century railroads using Federal land grants to build on/across.

Re: Engineering that endured.

PostPosted: Sun Sep 22, 2013 12:46 pm
by sandy_beach_cat
Zaalbar wrote:Big government is to blame. Congressmen and Senators, especially those with Keynesian economic opinions, use NASA the military or other government programs to take jobs to their own districts. Good for the state but you wonder if you could get more done with the same money.

The other thing about private enterprise, is that at the end of the day, it's purpose is to make someone a profit. Money will be diverted to that.

Re: Engineering that endured.

PostPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2013 2:16 pm
by Zaalbar
Yes! Governments hire private people. So what? You have seen me complain about government, but to the extent that it is wasteful and coercive in nature. Private power can be coercive and wasteful but not in it's nature, and lacks the monopolistic power of government. When business gets that bad we can see the government interference. My principle is anti coercion.

The blame is spreading the work all over the continent to get votes. Government taxes and overpays. The only tool of the state is destruction.

As long there is no coercion I'm okay with people using their resources to only make money. People love themselves and I will not expect otherwise. Work increases the collective wealth of humanity and we work for money. If two greedy non violent people want what the other one has they will trade. Both will gain and that is how we have accumulated all the wealth we have these days. After they get the money they put it in the bank or make loans making it possible for the modern world to exist.

Re: Engineering that endured.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 27, 2013 12:47 am
by old guy
This is the "Humour" section- more of that and less discussion, please?

Re: Engineering that endured.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 27, 2013 1:47 am
by FrankT
old guy wrote:This is the "Humour" section- more of that and less discussion, please?


Good point! :)

Re: Engineering that endured.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 27, 2013 4:36 am
by calgarymark42
old guy wrote:This is the "Humour" section- more of that and less discussion, please?

Another disastrous derailment? :x :( :cry:

Re: Engineering that endured.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 27, 2013 11:56 pm
by old guy
Could be.