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Tuesday, September 19th, 2006
11:00a - Railroads
>
> RAILROADS
>>
>>
> Does the statement, "We've always done it thi way" ring any bells? Read on.
>>
>>
> 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 English expatriates built
> the US 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 jigs and tools
> that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.
>>
> 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's the spacing of the wheel ruts.
>>
> So who built those old rutted roads?
>>
> Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England )
> for their legions. 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 Imperial Rome, they
> were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. The United States standard railroad gauge
> of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. And bureaucracies live forever.
>>
> So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse's ass came up with it,
> you may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses.
>>
> Now, the twist to the story.
>>
> When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, 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 at Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, 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.
>>
> 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 !

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