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Marking 125 Years Since the Great Gauge Change

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the railly-good-effort dept.

Transportation 426

Arnold Reinhold writes "This month ends with the 125th anniversary of one of the most remarkable achievements in technology history. Over two days beginning Monday, May 31, 1886, the railroad network in the southern United States was converted from a five-foot gauge to one compatible with the slightly narrower gauge used in the US North, now know as standard gauge. The shift was meticulously planned and executed. It required one side of every track to be moved three inches closer to the other. All wheel sets had to be adjusted as well. Some minor track and rolling stock was sensibly deferred until later, but by Wednesday the South's 11,500 mile rail network was back in business and able to exchange rail cars with the North. Other countries are still struggling with incompatible rail gauges. Australia still has three. Most of Europe runs on standard gauge, but Russia uses essentially the same five foot gauge as the old South and Spain and Portugal use an even broader gauge. India has a multi-year Project Unigauge, aimed at converting its narrow gauge lines to the subcontinent's five foot six inch standard."

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And still shortsighted (0)

x*yy*x (2058140) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065580)

It needs to be done once again when larger areas want to connect. And then continents. And again until we actually get the whole world to use the same. And by that time trains are obsolete already.

Re:And still shortsighted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065670)

how do you pronounce gauge?

Re:And still shortsighted (1)

furbearntrout (1036146) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065754)

With a long A and a hard G.

Re:And still shortsighted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065970)

And, how do you pronounce 'savages'?

http://www.borderlandbeat.com/ [borderlandbeat.com]

Re:And still shortsighted (5, Funny)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066058)

And, how do you pronounce 'savages'?

WINN-dohs YUZ-ers

Re:And still shortsighted (1)

isopropanol (1936936) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065698)

There's not much rail traffic between the americas and Russia, nor will there be in the forseable future... For cargo we have intermodal containers, which are compatible with almost any guage.

Re:And still shortsighted (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065730)

Of course, there will always be rouge nations using odd guages.

Re:And still shortsighted (5, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065870)

Of course, there will always be rouge (sic) nations using odd guages (sic).

Rouge nations? Would that be the Kingdom of Maybelline, the Covergirl Islands, or the Republique de l'Oreal?

And what's a "guage"? It sounds french. Do you pronounce it "goo-aj", "g-ow-gh", or "joo-a-jee"?

Re:And still shortsighted (1)

Ossifer (703813) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065988)

Don't yuo hate when poeple invert thier diphthongs?

Re:And still shortsighted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065990)

Woosh!

Re:And still shortsighted (2)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065996)

Obviously, your education was lacking in firearms training and the study of railroads. You should have put a couple years in the Navy. You would have learned that a riot gun is actually a 12 guage shotgun, and that a 5 inch 54 caliber gun's chamber is 54 inches long, and 5 inches diameter where it necks down into the barrel.

First "g" is hard, the "au" is a long "a" second "g" is soft. End it right there - the "e" is silent. I guess you could sound it out if I were to spell it G-A-J-E.

Re:And still shortsighted (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066078)

Obviously, your education was lacking in firearms training and the study of railroads. You should have put a couple years in the Navy. You would have learned that a riot gun is actually a 12 guage (sic) shotgun, and that a 5 inch 54 caliber gun's chamber is 54 inches long, and 5 inches diameter where it necks down into the barrel.

And perhaps you should have paid attention in your English classes. It's "gauge [wikipedia.org] ", not "guage". There's no such word as "guage" in the English language.

... which was also why I made fun of how you would pronounce the fictitious word.

Re:And still shortsighted (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066106)

LOL - alright, I knew that, but you win because I wasn't paying attention!

You've seen those tests, where they type sentences, paragraphs, even pages of stuff with a lot of letters missing or transposed. People read right through them, because they "fix" it in their own minds. Guage or gauge, I read it the same.

Wooshed by the wooshed (3, Funny)

traindirector (1001483) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066102)

Wooshed! by he who himself was wooshed.

Also, for those who can't tell, I inverted the "o"s in woosh for added effect.

Re:And still shortsighted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36066082)

Woosh.

Re:And still shortsighted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065978)

not between russia and the america's, but there is the potential for future growth of rail traffic between continental europe and russia.

And of course there isn't much rail traffic currently between europe and russia, the rail stock uses different gauges.

Re:And still shortsighted (1)

kabloom (755503) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066024)

It could still aid rail car manufacturing, which is an international industry with orders for trains in one country from companies in a different country.

Re:And still shortsighted (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36066112)

On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
Well by seventy-six we'll be A.O.K.

Re:And still shortsighted (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065706)

It needs to be done once again when larger areas want to connect. And then continents.

Europe - Asia no problemo

N.A. - Australia this is getting difficult

S.A. - Antarctica now that's ridiculous.

Arguably with intermodal all that really matters is container size, since you'll be switching transport providers every couple thousand miles anyway.

Re:And still shortsighted (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36066154)

If the USA ever physically links to Australia, Americans tourists would have the roos and koalas and Ayer's Rock all to themselves very quickly, because the Australian people would have immediately emigrated to the USA.

Talk about every Aussie's fondest wetdream!

Re:And still shortsighted (1)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065732)

It needs to be done once again when larger areas want to connect. And then continents. And again until we actually get the whole world to use the same. And by that time trains are obsolete already.

When it comes to trains the US is "all aboard" the standards express, but when it comes to the metric system, nada.

Re:And still shortsighted (1)

Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065766)

We pretty much are, 4' 8 1/2" is standard in most of the world.

Re:And still shortsighted (2)

frisket (149522) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065950)

Ireland, however, uses 5' 3". Fortunately we are an island, with no rail intercommunication with anywhere else :-)

Yay. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065584)

The United States did something right. Shame it wasn't health care.

Did they (1)

Grindalf (1089511) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065598)

Did they have to go on a training course? :0)

Re:Did they (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065614)

Nope. Just basic braining. [youtube.com]

Part of a general pattern (4, Insightful)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065636)

In the second half of the 19th century the US took rail transit very seriously. The standardization of the gauge isn't the only example of this. The US also spent a large amount of effort building the transcontinental railroad. A major reason for the success of the United States in the 20th century was the massive investment in infrastructure in the end of the 19th. Unfortunately, the US hasn't done much in the way of large scale infrastructural improvement since the building of the highway system in the 1950s. Our electric grid is primitive and outdated and our fastest passenger trains like the Acela high speed rail on the East Coast are slower than regular trains in other places like Japan (the maximum speed of the Acela is less than the average speed for some of the Japanese trains). I'm deeply worried about what the next few years are going to be like.

Re:Part of a general pattern (3, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065760)

Our electric grid is primitive and outdated and our fastest passenger trains like the Acela high speed rail on the East Coast are slower than regular trains in other places like Japan

Both have the same core problems...

First, private monopoly large scale providers result in the inevitable property taxes levied on the routes, after all why not make the "outsiders" pay property taxes until they bleed... The owners can/might survive depreciation and interest costs of improved routes, but they'll never survive the prop taxes on improved routes. Its kind of like adding an extra 5% to the published interest rate in perpetuity, and taxes always and only go up making an unlimited liability for the private owners.

NIMBY is the second problem, for better or worse we operate sorta kinda partially under the rule of law, and we certainly have plenty of hungry lawyers out to stop all progress.

Re:Part of a general pattern (5, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065844)

I know I'm stating the obvious for many readers. But that's because post WW2, oil was cheap, and driving equated to the ultimate form of personal freedom. So much freedom in fact that the suburbs were created in that time period too. Of course, cheap energy wont last forever. I can't predict what will happen in the future with regards to transportation, but I can predict that the current status quo will not last.

The problem wasn't our desire for freedom and independence with how we lived our lives. The problem was the instruments of energy we chose to achieve that without a clear vision or plan in mind to maintain it.

Re:Part of a general pattern (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065892)

Cheap energy in the form of nuclear reactors is possible but the wusses in congress fold every time the greenies knock on their door.

Re:Part of a general pattern (5, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065960)

driving equated to the ultimate form of personal freedom

Still does. Try getting anywhere that's not in New York City, San Diego, or Chicago without a car, and you'll be spending a lot of time waiting or being herded where others want you to go. And you'd better plan in advance, because the bus isn't stopping at that quaint roadside diner you just saw.

Re:Part of a general pattern (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066048)

Cheap energy hasn't happened yet.

As soon as solar and wind becomes cheap and efficient enough the natural gas and coal devoted to power production will be able to go toward syngas and Diesel production.

While the US never had the rock oil reserves of Saudi Arabia, the US has alot of natural gas, coal and potential for both solar and wind.

It'll either be cheap and ubiquitous solar/wind or fusion that brings on the age of cheap energy.

Rail is best for heavy freight (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065854)

Railroad's advantage is in lower friction than rubber tire on cement. That is maximized with slow freight railroads, which the United States has among the best in the world. Most of the energy losses at ~200 mph, are aerodynamic, not friction. Rail does not help there.

Also, high speed transport, including all air transportation, is a fraction of the boring highways. Less than 1 percent of freight travels by air. High speed transportation is more of a luxury. I thus think it is quite logical for the United States not to have high speed rail.

Electric grid primitive? Compared to what? (2)

calidoscope (312571) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065938)

I'd like to know which country has an electric grid that makes the US grid look primitive. Japan still has the 50/60Hz split, the US grid has been 60Hz only since 1948 (albeit there are remnants of 25HZ systems for railway/electrochemical use). Haven't heard anything about Europe that makes it superior to the US. China might have an edge due to the newness of their infrastructure.

Re:Electric grid primitive? Compared to what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065982)

It is primitive. Not necessarily that it needs to be compared to anything...most countries have grids that could stand improvement.

The US grid is actually 3 individual grids. East, West, and Texas. Makes some sense as the Rockies divide east and west. But I'm not sure why Texas is on their own.

Re:Electric grid primitive? Compared to what? (2)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066080)

Actually five grids.

Two major, three minor.

Western Interconnection and Eastern Interconnection are the two major, the three minor interconnections are the Québec Interconnection, the Texas Interconnection, and the Alaska Interconnection.

Western and Eastern currently have six DC connections and a giant connection is being built between Texas, Eastern and Western - Tres Amigas SuperStation was announced to connect the Eastern, Western and Texas Interconnections via three 5 GW superconductor link

Compared to what's possible/needed (5, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066056)

I'd like to know which country has an electric grid that makes the US grid look primitive.

I don't think it's so much that the US grid is primitive compared to other countries. Rather it is primitive compared with the available technology and projected needs. The monitoring and control equipment on much of the grid remains rather primitive, the wire infrastructure is fragile (major outages every time a serious storm blows through), many areas still depend on sending a person out to read the meter for billing, there is a too much interdependence without adequate safeguards [wikipedia.org] , local generation (solar, wind, etc) remains problematic in many places, generation sources are relatively dirty, usage controls are primitive, etc. Most of our infrastructure was built decades ago and (IMO) too little was allocated for ongoing upgrades nor were the increases in demand adequately planned for.

The grid works but it's not nearly as robust, efficient or clean as it could be. That's the problem.

Re:Electric grid primitive? Compared to what? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36066088)

Maybe it's the piss poor domestic voltage (110V P-E) that necessitates using 2 phase supplies for domestic electric heating, the occasional domestic installations rated for 50 amps (5.5kW) and the un-earthed non-polarised plug / sockets? Or maybe it's just the yearly summer rolling blackouts?

Coming from a country where you can run a 3kW power-tool from a single phase domestic plug / socket combo, then when your done quickly boil water in an electric tea kettle to make a nice hot drink, and at the end of the day wash yourself clean in a 10kW electric shower I can say that the US domestic supply at least looks pretty fucking dismal.

as Great Great Great Stephen P. Jobs the 1st said: (1)

arcite (661011) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065648)

"Standard Gauge is thin. Standard Gauge is beautiful. Standard Gauge goes anywhere and lasts all day. There’s not right way or wrong way. It’s crazy powerful. It’s magical. You already know how to use it. It’s 11,500 miles of track and counting. All the worlds” interchanges in your hands. It’s 4 ft. 9 in., standard. More rail than you could ride in a lifetime. It’s already a revolution and it’s only just begun."

Re:as Great Great Great Stephen P. Jobs the 1st sa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065762)

Standard Gauge is NOT 4ft 9in.
IT IS Frigging 4ft 8.5in. OK.

Only a few left.... (0, Troll)

caluml (551744) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065660)

Metric. Date format. IPv6. 240v 50Hz. Not many left to go, Americans.

Re:Only a few left.... (1, Troll)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065714)

Metric would be good.

Re:Only a few left.... (2)

x*yy*x (2058140) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065758)

Date format is stupid all around the world. Everyone should just use 2011-05-08 15:00. Yes, drop the stupid am/pm stuff too.

Re:Only a few left.... (4, Funny)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065834)

Well if you're going to do that then you should also drop the 24 hours clock - 24? What's up with that??? The 100 hour/day clock makes much more sense - think of all the overtime we'd get!

Re:Only a few left.... (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065890)

I think Swatch made a watch that basically counted 1000 .... ticks? per day. So you'd wake up at, say, 300, go to work from 400 to 800, etc. Just found it [wikipedia.org]

Re:Only a few left.... (1)

lilomar (1072448) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065906)

Oh, I see you use the Microsoft theory of "standard" aka: make shit up that doesn't match what anyone else is doing, then try to force everyone to follow.
(yes, I know you were being factious, so was I.)

Re:Only a few left.... (2)

dakohli (1442929) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066000)

Date format is stupid all around the world. Everyone should just use 2011-05-08 15:00. Yes, drop the stupid am/pm stuff too.

Try: 1500 08-05-2011

Re:Only a few left.... (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066148)

2011-05-08 15:00 sorts naturally left-to-right. 1500 08-05-2011 requires you to parse out the elements and sort on each one individually.

Internally, though, you should just use POSIX time, which is universal and mostly easy to handle, only becoming difficult when you have to make distinctions based on traditional representations (and that's *always* difficult). Convert it out to whatever format the users need when necessary.

Re:Only a few left.... (0)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066004)

i find 8-5-2011 the most logical date order. and the stupidest way is 5-8-2011. now that is just random!

Re:Only a few left.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36066136)

"i find 8-5-2011 the most logical date order"

Logical in what way? the digits are most significant first, and the date/time elements are least significant first.

If you want to be consistent with least significant first, you would have:

00:51 80-50-1102

If you want most significant first, you would have:
2011-05-08 15:00

Which is international scientific

Re:Only a few left.... (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066170)

Most significant on the left is the natural order for most writing systems (if you're not from the middle east), and including leading zeros makes it easier to sort automatically, thus 2011-05-08 is more logical than 8-5-2011. Both are more logical than 5-8-2011, though.

Re:Only a few left.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36066070)

In Hungary, that is the standard and everyday use. (only with dots in the date instead of dashes)

Re:Only a few left.... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065720)

Mosyt of those, there are clear advantage to. easy base conversion and unit creation, unambiguous and lexical-chronological sorting equivalence, more than 4bil addresses respectively

is there some clear advantage to 240v 50hz AC?

Re:Only a few left.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065894)

240V lets you use less copper to deliver a given amount of power. (Higher voltage -> lower current -> lower resistive losses -> higher acceptable wire resistance).

Re:Only a few left.... (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065974)

Yeah, but there is any advantage on 50Hz? Or any disadvantage? Or any kind network effect?

Re:Only a few left.... (5, Informative)

dj245 (732906) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065900)

There is a slight advantage to having 240v but not much. Cables can be thinner and carry the same amount of power since the amps are lower. But, for the highest power devices in US homes (water heaters, clothes driers, ovens, etc) they are already on 240V. For other appliances there isn't enough advantage to justify switching the entire country and changing billions of dollars of infrastructure. The efficiency advantage is small. 60hz has the advantage as far as frequency goes. 60hz distribution systems are slightly more efficient. 60Hz steam turbines are smaller than their 50hz counterparts, which saves material costs for turbine manufacturers (and the utilities who buy them). There is basically no difference to the end-user. All the advantages/disadvantages are on the utility and distribution side. Again, there is no compelling reason to change the entire US over to 50Hz, and change out billions of dollars of infrastructure.

Re:Only a few left.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065910)

Higher voltage = lower transmission losses. (APC has a whitepaper recommending 240 V in the server room on this basis.)

50 Hz vs 60 Hz makes no difference (except that analog equipment designed for one will fail horrible on the other, of course.)

Considering that modern switching power supplies will happily accept anything from 100 to 250 volt, and any frequency (even DC), there's not much point in standardizing either.

Re:Only a few left.... (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065918)

I think most of the world works on 240/50. It would make travelling, a lot easier. Different plugs, sure that's easy, and adapters are small, but to have to bring converters with you, that's a pain. Although I have just looked up which countries use what [wikipedia.org] , and actually it's not quite such a clearcut divider as metric/imperial.

Re:Only a few left.... (5, Informative)

Glendale2x (210533) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065992)

is there some clear advantage to 240v 50hz AC?

No. Frequency is largely irrelevant. The only common (although probably not so much anymore) residential application I can think of are wall clocks with synchronous motors using the line frequency to keep time. Increasing the voltage would give you more usable power out of your common 15/20A household branch circuit, but that's it. Perhaps you could lower the total number of branch circuits by going to higher voltage, but I don't know how many people would really care that they have 1/3 fewer breakers. Or you have crazy ass things like the UK ring circuit [wikipedia.org] .

Take a look at a lot of your electronics and you'll see that they probably accept a "universal input" of 50/60Hz between 100-240VAC. One distinct advantage higher frequency has is allowing smaller size of components like transformers. This is why you'll see things like 115VAC @ 400Hz in aircraft [wonderquest.com] .

Re:Only a few left.... (2)

isopropanol (1936936) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065744)

Houses are already wired for 240v, just not most appliances so not most outlets. Few residential applications use synchronous motors, so the frequency doesn't matter much (beyond higher frequencies allowing smaller transformers). And at least mainland North American countries all use the same plug.

Re:Only a few left.... (5, Funny)

Jeek Elemental (976426) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065804)

wow that must be one mother of a plug

Re:Only a few left.... (2)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065874)

Fire marshal had a heart attack when he saw all the daisy chained power strips.

Re:Only a few left.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065884)

Metric.

*shrug*

Date format.

Unnecessary.

IPv6.

Eventually.

240v 50Hz.

Unnecessary.

Not many left to go, Americans.

Ah, yes arrogance. Let me guess - you're from Europe? That's the only part of the world that has the arrogance to insist everyone else should live, act, and think exactly like they do. Woe to the person(s) who don't.

Sorry, why again should we bow down to you people, oh great and wonderful god-like perfect Europeans?

Re:Only a few left.... (3, Funny)

dascritch (808772) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065940)

Well, as long America is a British Empire Colony, no way to explain them the beautiful simplicity of the Metric system.

Re:Only a few left.... (1)

lucian1900 (1698922) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066186)

That's an odd thing to say, seeing as how the UK has been transitioning to metric for quite a while now.

240v is a lot more dangerous than 120v (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36066012)

Metric. Date format. IPv6. 240v 50Hz. Not many left to go, Americans.

240V is getting into voltages that kill.

Besides, (1) only the last few yards are likely to be a the relatively low voltage fed into your house, and (2) most US homes already have 240 anyway in 2 phases.

And if you're going to be smug, don't forget to act superior to the Japanese, who have two grids - one at 50 Hz, one at 60 Hz.

Don't forget to bash Mexico, too, as Mexico actually converted to 60 Hz in the 1970s.

But that wouldn't allow you to toot your smug anti-American horn, now would it?

Funny that you posted in English on a website hosted in the US, ain't it?

Re:240v is a lot more dangerous than 120v (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36066110)

240V is getting into voltages that kill.

Since when did voltage kill?

Re:Only a few left.... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066022)

Funny but you do know standard gauge is not a metric standard. So when is Europe going to finish it's move to metric and change all their rail road tracks to some metric standard?

Re:Only a few left.... (2)

Megane (129182) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066134)

143.5cm. There, all done! Now get cracking on moving all those rails 0.1mm closer.

Re:Only a few left.... (2)

stumblingblock (409645) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066120)

Your forgot Esperanto.

Slight delay here? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065684)

Over two days beginning Monday, May 31, 1886, the railroad network in the southern United States was converted

Isn't that something like 21 years after they lost "The War of Northern Aggression" known by Ken Burns and the yankees as "The Civil War"?

Give me 21 years to pre-plan and pre-position supplies and workers and I can probably pull 11500 miles of CAT-5 in 2 days.

Re:Slight delay here? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065800)

When I took history in Alabama it was "The war between the states".

Re:Slight delay here? (3, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065994)

I suspect that one General Sherman's er... enthusiastic removal [wikipedia.org] of southern legacy hardware really helped speed up the transition. He did have a real air of resolve when it came to dealing with insurgents.

Re:Slight delay here? (0)

Ossifer (703813) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066182)

In New York we called it "The War To Put Down The Hicks".

And no, you didn't have 21 years to plan. The decision wasn't made in Appomattox Court House. And you'll have to pull your Cat 5 after General Sherman destroys your cities, towns, homes, and economy.

And then, after all that, you'll find we're not using Cat 5 any more in the developed world you live next door to...

Need to switch to broad anus. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065686)

Instead of using the Tubgirl guage, you should be using the Goatse Guage now, in order to have more throughput from the bigger troll penises.

What about curves? (1)

AmericanBlarney (1098141) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065692)

It seems like any time there was a curved track section, it wouldn't work to just move it in 3 inches since the old piece would be to long or too short (depending on which way the curve was going). Not sure exactly how frequent this is, but I would think there would be quite a few to replace in 11,000+ miles of track. That would actually be interesting to me since you would have to have all the new pieces ready and on site (since you couldn't move them with the track torn up) waiting for that day.

Re:What about curves? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065798)

Ah that's relatively easy. A harder problem is adjusting the radii of all those curves. The hardest part is stretching all the bridges, tunnels, and viaducts 3 inches wider. And X crossings. Even station platforms might have to be moved...

Re:What about curves? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36066158)

The radii of the curves remain the same for the most part (railroad curves are very gentle by design, 90 mm just isn't that much).

Bridges, tunnels and viaducts don't need to be stretched wider, because the conversion was from 5-feet to 4-feet-8.5.

Crossings were mostly across dirt roads in those days, not a big deal.

Finally, there were no station "platforms" as such. Passengers had to board trains by climbing up stairs on each carriage. No level platforms, and no gaps to mind either.

In other news (1)

hoytak (1148181) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065722)

"This month ends with the -125th anniversary of one of the most remarkable achievements in the technology future. Over two days beginning Monday, May 31, 2136, the gui manager for the linux desktop was converted from the old-earth version one to one compatible with the slightly narrower one used in the space federation. The shift was meticulously planned and executed. It required one side of every gui to be moved three inches closer to the other. All font sets had to be adjusted as well. Some minor animations and rolling stock were sensibly deferred until later, but by Wednesday, the 11,500 megaline code base was back in business and able to exchange screenshots with the rest of the world. Other operating systems are still struggling with incompatible interfaces. MicrApple still has two. Most of the solar system runs linux, but the outer planets use essentially the same gui gauge as old earth and CmdrTaco and timothy use an even broader gui size. Alpha centari has a multi-year Project Unigui, aimed at converting its narrow gui lines to the federation's five foot six inch standard."

surprised slashdot is bringing this up (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065764)

Outside of rail circles, this is the FIRST time I have heard the Great Gauge Change mentioned. I am quite shocked really.

There is only one true BROAD GAUGE (1, Troll)

RotateLeftByte (797477) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065780)

and that is the 7ft 0.25in of Brunel's GWR.
anything else is just a sham.

Re:There is only one true BROAD GAUGE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065868)

Somebody's a railfan...

Re:There is only one true BROAD GAUGE (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066150)

and that is the 7ft 0.25in of Brunel's GWR. anything else is just a sham.

You know, it doesn't quite capture the larger-than-life, cigar-smoking awesomeness unless you say it in full: Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Great Western Railway.

John C. Gault? (1)

adenied (120700) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065808)

Is it just me or is it a little amusing that the guy who was telling them that the 4 ft. 9 in. gauge wasn't necessarily a good idea was named John C. Gault?

I wonder if Ayn Rand had any idea.

Time for the next big step. (0)

Fuzzums (250400) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065850)

Convert them all from feet to centimeters :)

Re:Time for the next big step. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065956)

Why would you want insects on your feet?

HO GUAGE FOR ME, THANK YOU VERY MUCH !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065882)

Anything bigger and I just can fit it in the basement !!

Or I'd have to dig up the bodies !!

Victories of Standardization (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065888)

Now let's see this applied to the Japanese grid (60/50Hz split).

How did they do it? (4, Interesting)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065914)

How did they get the work done on time? How many people were involved?

11,500 miles/track is around 32 million railroad spikes that have to be pulled and respiked in the new location. If it takes one person 20 seconds to pull a spike and rehammer it in, it would take a crew of 16,000 people working 16 hour shifts to do the work in 3 days. And this is only the guys that are doing the spiking, it ignores the thousands of others that would be involved in moving (and lengthening/shorting curved sections when necessary) the rails, altering the running stock gauge and handling the supply logistics for materials, food, water, housing, etc for these large teams. So maybe 20,000 - 25,000 workers were involved?

Re:How did they do it? (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066166)

I would imagine there's more to it than moving spikes: the spikes are ~1 inch thick (I think) so having them ~2 inches away from the old hole in the sleeper might not be such a good idea. I'm curious, did they need to replace the sleepers too?

Re:How did they do it? (2)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066190)

The bulk of the Southern Railroad net was damaged or destroyed by the War, so likely they started the rebuilding during the Reconstruction around fall of 1865 or spring of 1866, there were large numbers of demobbed soldiers and freed slaves for a work force.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confederate_railroads_in_the_American_Civil_War [wikipedia.org]

Re:How did they do it? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36066202)

Lotsa free niggers in those days to do the heavy work. Imagine if modern niggers were 0.0001% as useful...

Metric system, anyone ? (0)

dascritch (808772) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065926)

meters meters meters

At the risk of invoking Godwin (5, Informative)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065948)

The fact that the old Soviet trains ran on a non-standard gauge was a contributing factor to the survival of the Soviet Union from the German blitzkrieg. Germany was not able to immediately use the Soviet rail system to reinforce and supply its troops, and was faced with having to use a few captured locomotives while re-engineering the Soviet rail system to accommodate German trains. Because of this most of the supplies needed by the army had to be shipped by road, except there are a few months out of the year when Russian roads turned into rivers of mud...

Re:At the risk of invoking Godwin (1)

dbc (135354) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066094)

Except that if memory serves correctly... the German army assembled a work train of well trained track layers as part of an invasion force and converted a strategic section of the Soviet rails over to German standards.

Why the difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36065964)

Those now living in a modern peaceful and standardised regions of the world, should not forget how having different rail systems would be an excellent tactical choice during war times, as an invading country could not directly and effectively make use of the invaded host's rail system to move troops, equipment and supplies.

Mil specs live forever (2)

dargaud (518470) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066060)

I have no idea if this is true, but I've always liked this story [wilk4.com] that's been going around the 'net for years...

Gauge shift on the trans mongolian railway (5, Interesting)

ascii (70907) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066076)

I took the trans mongolian railway from Moscow to Beijing about 10 years ago. One memorable experience is that near the border between Russia and Mongolia (or Mongolia and China i forget) they will change the bogie's on the entire train because the gauges differ in russia and china. The entire trainset is lifted up; the bogies moved out and new ones put in place. A very memorable experience.

Too Narrow For The Future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36066164)

Standard rail gauge is already an anachronism. In the future, it will be more ridiculous still.

As peak oil is passed, our society will once again rely more and more on railroads for heavy transportation. Even today, railroad companies are introducing larger freight cars in an attempt to increase capacity, but the only realistic way to meet future needs is to increase rail gauge. What was appropriate for the nineteenth century just will not apply for the twenty-first, twenty-second, and beyond.

People of the future will lament that an increase in gauge was not planned much earlier. Having to redesign and rebuild a national rail infrastructure is no mean feat. We need to get moving now.

standards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36066212)

Standards area a good thing. So, how about the metric system America?
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