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We've always done it that way

Posted by Flyboy 
January 07, 2009 02:31AM
Does the statement, “We’ve always done it that way.” Ring any bells?

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 the 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 toads?

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 spec and told we have always done it that way and wonder what horse’s ass came up with that, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate tha 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 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 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 horse’s behinds.

So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably one of 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 was not important?


When in doubt, use full throttle,
it may not improve the situation, but it will end the suspence.
January 07, 2009 10:05AM
Boy, I can't wait for the next party when someone calls me a horse's ass!!!

grinning smiley

January 07, 2009 10:45AM
haha that is a great little anecdote there!

January 07, 2009 12:07PM
Boy, I can't wait for the next party when someone calls me a horse's ass!!!

grinning smiley


This happens frequently?

1990 325i(s)
2004 325XiT
January 07, 2009 02:14PM
Nice to read, this urban legend.
January 07, 2009 03:13PM
It's not unheard of. Usually in the midst of a heated political discussion.

winking smiley

January 08, 2009 06:22AM
Such things are not supposed to be discussed in polite company! And for precisely that very reason! smiling bouncing smiley

1990 325i(s)
2004 325XiT
January 13, 2009 11:58PM
It appears to have a good historical theme, could be accurate.

Bob in Everett
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