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The origin of the 4' 8.5" railway gauge is traced back to Roman times, and forward to its effect on space rockets
Let's look at THE ORIGIN OF THE 4' 8,5" RAILWAY GAUGE (that is, the distance
between the two rails on which the trains run.)
lnitially railways in South Africa were built to a 4'8.5" gauge. lt was only in 1873 that the
decision was taken to adopt the more flexible 3' 6" gauge in the mountainous Cape
Colony, with equally mountainous Natalfollowing suit. However, 4'8.5" is still the
standard gauge in Europe and Britain, as well as in the United States of America and
some other countries.
So where did this odd-numbered 4' 8,5" gauge (1,435104328m, so it's not a metric
conversion, as some peculiar dimensions are) come from? lt was used here because that
was the way they built them in ENGLAND.....
Why did the English build them like that? Because the people who built the first railways
had previously built the pre-railroad TRAMWAYS, which had a gauge of 4' 8.5".....
Why did THEY use that gauge for the tramways, then? Because the people who built the
tramways used the same jigs and toots that they used for building WAGONS, which were
built with their wheels spaced 4' 8,5" apart.....
Okay! 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 was the distance between the wheel ruts.
So who built those old, long distance roads and made the ruts in them?
lmperial Rome built the first long-distance roads in Europe and England for the use of its
legions. Many of the 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 (or by) lmperial
Rome, they all had the same wheel spacing.
And why did these Roman chappies use a gauge of 4' 8,5" for their chariots? Well, as
they needed good horse power when engaged in their war-like pursuits, they had two
horses harnessed, side by side, to their chariots. And 4'8,5" is just wide enough to
So you see the railroad gauge of 4 feet 8,5 inches is derived from the original
specification for an lmperial Roman war chariot.
But this is not where it ends. SPACE TRAVEL has also been affected.
The NASA into-space-launching ROCKETS are transferred by 4' 8,5" gauge railways to
Cape Canaveral. And as the width of rockets cannot exceed a certain size if they are to
be transported by rail, the 4'8.5" rail gauge in fact controls the rocket dimensions, as to
balance the restricted width the length of the rockets has to be increased. The rocket
designers apparently would have preferred shorter, larger diameter rockets!
So because the back ends of the war horses used on the lmperial Roman war chariots
were a certain size today's space rockets are longer and narrower than they desirably
should be!!
lf you don't believe my story, go to POMPEI. There you will find wheel ruts in the ancient
streets 4'8,5" apart!!
Unie van Suid-Afrika.'n Eeu van veruoer. 1960:17,18.
Chris Lange and Daryl Jorgenson,in World HighwaydRoufes du Monde, May 2OO1:82.
Pieter Louw, pers com:2001-07-31.
Thinus Ferreira, in Die Beeld of 2OO2-05-11.
gldr (RailGauge2)
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