Tehachapi Depot Railroad Museum

Feb 22 2013

Truth is Stranger

ARE WE SURE, "TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION"

From Aviationhumor.net.....(Compiled by Nick Smirnoff-FOTD Library)
(This has been floating around the internet lately and is reprinted for your contemplation!)

The US standard railroad gauge 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 US 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 spec and are told "we have always done it that way," and wonder what horse's ass came up with that, you may be exactly right. Imperial Roman war 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 booster rockets, 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 "Fatter", but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from their factory to the launch site.

The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track as you know, is 4feet 8.5 inches OR, about as wide as two horses' behinds. So, a major Space Shuttle design feature on what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horses' ass.

And you thought being a horses' ass wasn't important!

Museum Hours

11 to 4 Thursday–Monday
Closed Tuesday & Wednesday

    ** Special ** Special  **
Tehachapi Mountain Festival
August 16 & 17 - Open 9 t0 5