Brunel's 7ft standard gauge

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Ris4history, Sep 25, 2008.

  1. Ris4history Well-Known Member

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    Aside from messing with world history, I also like to mess railway history. I am much better informed regarding American railroading. However, my two year old has become enamored with Thomas the Tank Engine. So...I have been researching British,
    Scottish and Irish prototype history.
    WI Brunel's 7ft gauge continued to exist side by side with OTL standard gauge? I read somewhere that if Brunel had been five years earlier with "his" gauge then standard gauge might not have become 4'81/2". Brunel's gauge might have been more successful.
    Any thoughts or comments????
     
  2. The Dean No Pain No Pain

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    I don't know how much earlier Brunel's gauge would have had to be in order to become "standard". The "horse truck" gauge, as Brunel contemptuously called it, was adopted by Stevenson because it could use the lines and stock from existing industrial railways in mines, factories and quarries. It was of course far more logical than 4' 8 1/2", which was based on the space required for a horse to walk between the metals and has been around since certainly Roman times and possibly as far back as the early Egyptians.

    With the 7' gauge trains would be far more stable and able to carry heavier loads, this is exactly the reason why countries, such as Russia, adopted wider gauges.
     
  3. Max Sinister Retired Myriad Club Member Banned

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    Time for monster trains! :cool:
     
  4. The Dean No Pain No Pain

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    [​IMG]
     
  5. Ofaloaf Nothing really mattress

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    I'm not certain Brunel's 7' guage would exist side-by-side with OTL standard in the UK up to now if his guage had been more popular-- for one thing, the standardization of guages in the late 19th century would've demanded that all track go one way or another, so it'd be all 7' guage (at least in the UK) if we're looking for a successul retension of Brunel's idea.

    I doubt the guage would spread too far, outside of some British colonial holdings. The wider the guage, the more expensive tracklaying and rail gear becomes, thus the 7' guage is unlikely to catch on in, say, America until it's too late to relay everything for the wider track. Cape Gauge would still probably be the norm in South Africa, as more expensive 7' track would not be necessary until after much of the rail had been laid and traffic had been given time to grow.

    In short, even if Brunel's 7' guage had caught on in Britain, it probably wouldn't have spread far outside of the Isles.
     
  6. Alexius Airship Janissary General

    This would probably make building underground railways more expensive...
     
  7. The Dean No Pain No Pain

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    Why would it cost more? It used the same length of rail and the same number of sleepers (ties) It didn't cost the GWR any less to lay a length of standard gauge than it did broad gauge.
     
  8. Ofaloaf Nothing really mattress

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    Ties are wider, grading needs to be wider, more land has to be used and purchased, and rolling stock has to be larger.

    Most of the smaller independent lines and park railways out there are narrow gauge for a reason. It really is cheaper.
     
  9. The Dean No Pain No Pain

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    The GWR used the same size of timber for sleepers for standard and broad gauge in fact they shared them where the lines ran in tandem. Yes they were a bit longer but not enough to break the bank. The extra amount of land required was trivial compared to the length of the routes and several times less than roads today use.

    The whole point of broad gauge is that the rolling stock is larger.

    Yes, horses for courses. If you have a small job you use little tools, when you have a big job you want large equipment. That's why we have the Airbus 380.
     
  10. Ofaloaf Nothing really mattress

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    Look at the railroad history of Japan, though. The first railroads were built to Cape Gauge even when connecting to major shipping ports, and as Japan began rapidly industrializing and expanding freight and passenger services, they still stuck to narrow gauge. It was only with the introduction of the Shinkansen that major standard gauge routes were built in Japan, and even then they're still limited to high-speed rail.

    If it's not because of cost that Japan chose Cape Gauge and stuck to it, then what is it?
     
  11. Nekromans Mernber

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    Sorry to quote such a large image, but I would cry if I had to backspace that beauty. I'm in love...
     
  12. Sachyriel Banned

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    If that's a dwarf, I've been mislead...but a normal man...and a train like that...

    Can anyone else think of a reason besides transporting an army of Mecha for that kind of train?
     
  13. Nicole Parallel Universe Imajin

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    What about the issues with narrow mountain passes?

    Though cost is certainly a reason to go narrow- I seem to recall that the Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn was built as a narrow-gauge railway because narrow-gauge engines were cheaper, but standard-gauge ties were cheaper, so at least the initial part of the railroad was built with narrow-gauge rails but on standard ties.
     
  14. PMN1 Member

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    One restriction on British tanks removed.......removing the other, the Treasury would be a bit more difficult.
     
  15. Wanderlust I practically AM the military.

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    Of course, there'd be no more of this 'tying the damsel-in-distress between the tracks' in films :(
     
  16. TIMER Philosophical Sociopath

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    The wider the gauge the wider the minimum radius for a curve in the track also the volume of excavation for a double track cut or tunnel is much more expensive and difficult.
     
  17. Ed Costello Like tickling a trout in the wild

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    The thing is, Brunel's broad gauge used an insanely complicated sleeper system that was much more expensive to maintain - the main ties went directly beneath the rails rather than underneath them, with posts driven into the trackbed to secure them and only weak ties between the rails. The other option - using standard cross-braces - is much simpler and cheaper, but it requires sleepers to be much bigger in both length and width in order to take the additional stresses of the much larger rolling stock. A sleeper for 7' gauge would probably have a footprint about twice the size of that of a standard gauge sleeper.

    It's a pity, really - Brunel's Great Western Railway had a grace that wasn't matched elsewhere until after it ceased to exist.
     
  18. perfectgeneral Velocireader. Highly socially inept. CMII Donor

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    Indian/Chilian/Argentine track is all 5'6". Is this the old Imperial Standard gauge?

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1f/Rail_gauge_world.png

    edit: It seems that Broad Gauge or Project Unigauge (as 5'6" is called) was first used in Canada. Wide enough for big hill climbing trains and high speeds with stability. We should all switch to Broad Gauge.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2008
  19. Ofaloaf Nothing really mattress

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    Oh god no, the costs to relay track alone would be astronomical. Then redoing all the stations and depots for 5'6" gauge track, replacing all the rolling stock with 5'6" gauge locomotives and cars, and generally just spending metric butt-tons ("butt-tonnes") of money.

    Ugh.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2008
  20. Sir Scott Smartest fool in England

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    actually , the Metropolitan line (the worlds first "underground" railway) WAS built to broad guage , it was being bankrolled by the GWR and they wanted to be able to run their goods trains under the city ,ergo the whol line was built to GWR Loading guage.

    As for the whole Broad Vs Standard , brunels innovation was far ahead of its time. I believe one or several factors that could have saved it. 1) more extensive mileage , more railways with broad guage would have added to the arguements for a dual system , 2) less vested interest in favour of standard , such as stephensons company , and the bigger carriers of the time . 3) Advances in technology that allowed briad guage locos to go even faster and carry more than they did in OTL