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Odd Railway Gauges Essay, Research Paper

The distance between the two rails of a railway on a normal railway in the United States is 4 feet 8.5 inches. Such a strange measurement basically evolves from the width of two horses rears. Imperial Rome built the original cross-country roads in England for their army. They also built war chariots that were just wide enough to contain the rears of two horses for their army. These chariots all were made with the same width between the wheels because they were all made by Imperial Rome. Because they had the same spacing they created grooves in the roads driving on them continuously in the same spot. Because these roads were still in use and had these grooves, wagons had to be built so that their wheels would fit into them in order to prevent their wheels from breaking. With the same implements and patterns that were used to create these wagons, people built tracks for trams to use. The same people who built these then proceeded to build the earliest railway tracks. As a result, the railways had the same specifications as the tram tracks. The English natives, who have now found a permanent home in America, then built the U.S. railways using the same measurements as the English railways. Thus the distance between the two rails of the railroad is 4 feet 8.5 inches. This unusual width has even affected the most highly developed means of transportation in the world, the Space Shuttle. Connected to the chief fuel tank of the Space Shuttle are two large booster rockets, which are called solid rocket boosters (SRBs). Made by Thiokol in Utah, these SRBs had to be shipped to the launch site via the railway. During its travel to the launch site, the railway ran through a tunnel encompassed by mountains. Because the SRBs had to go through the tunnel and the tunnel is only slightly larger than the width of the railway, the designers of the SRBs had to make them a little smaller than what they had wanted.


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