Why is US standard railroad gauge 4' 8.5" ?
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 inEngland, 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-railroadtramways, and that's the gauge they used.
Why did "they" use that gauge then? Because the people who built thetramways 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 theytried to use any other spacing the wagons would break on some of theold, 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 inEurope 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 warchariots. Since the chariots were made for or by Imperial Rome theywere all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.
Thus, we have the answer to the original questions. The United State standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from theoriginal specification for an Imperial Roman army war chariot.Specs and Bureaucracies live forever.
So, the next time you are handeda specification and wonder what horse's ass came up with it, you may be exactly right. Because the Imperial Roman chariots were made to bejust wide enough to accommodate the back-ends of two war horses.