RE: [gardeners] In the garden

Seyfried,Alice (
Mon, 16 Nov 1998 09:54:18 -0500

I believe this is what you are looking for.  It is amazing how "Specs can
Live Forever".

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 the US railroads were built
by English expatriates. 
Why did the English people 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 used for building wagons,
which used that wheel spacing. 
Okay! Why did the wagons use that odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to
use any other spacing the wagons would break on some of the old, long
distance roads, because that's the spacing of the old wheel ruts. 
So who built these old rutted roads? The first long distance roads in Europe
were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The roads have
been used ever since. And the ruts? The initial ruts, which everyone else
had to match for fear of destroying their wagons, were first made by Roman
war chariots. Since the chariots were made for or by Imperial Rome they were
all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. 
Thus, we have the answer to the original questions. The United States
standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original
specification for an Imperial Roman army war chariot. Specs and
Bureaucracies live forever. So, the next time you are handed a specification
and wonder what horse's hind end came up with it, you may be exactly right. 
Because the Imperial Roman chariots were made to be just wide enough to
accommodate the back-ends of two war horses. 


>  There was another good one. I was sure I saved it, spent an hour looking
> for it in my old mail, but I can't find it.
>  It was a history lesson in just a long paragragh, but it spanned over 2
> millenia. It started with "why are the rails on a train spaced the
> distance
> they are?" It went back to include the Roman roads, the average distance
> of
> wheels on a cart, the approximate distance of several men walking abreast,
> etc.
> It was fascinating! If anyone is familiar with it, please let me know
> where
> I can find a copy of it.
> Have fun and stay warm
> Matt
> Matt Trahan  <> or <>
> USDA zone 8, AHS heat zone 7, Sunset zone 31, northeastern N.C.