Track Gauges

Discussion in 'Narrow Gauge Model Railroading' started by pjb, Jun 18, 2004.

  1. pjb

    pjb Member

    Dec 22, 2000
    Likes Received:
    This site is a fairly comprehensive listing of the gauges in use on the world's railroads, as well as where,
    when, and to a lesser extent- what amount
    of trackage is, or was, in a given place in that
    specific scale.

    In this list the term Feldbahn is applied to
    permanent industrial or military RRs. It is
    NOT used as a synonym for the portable military
    lines used to support war making logistics so
    familiar to military buffs and military modellers.

    < >

    In North America, early railroads were built to both
    4ft. 8 1/2 inch , and 4 ft. 9 inch gauge, as standard
    gauge. Most railroads south of the Ohio River, and
    east of the Mississippi were built to 5 ft. gauge, the
    Erie's various subsidiaries were 6ft. gauge. and the Missippi and Ohio that connected with the Erie at Cincinnati and ran to St.Louis was also 6 ft.

    Defining Narrow Gauge railroads as those of less
    than standard gauge , we see a major push to
    develop them as a cheap alternative to both the
    civil engineering costs of building wider railroads
    and the greater mechanical engineering and
    construction costs of standard gauge equipment.

    It is easy to be taken in by the railroad maps of
    1860, in terms of the nature of the railroad system, ESPECIALLYwith respect to connectivity. The railroad,
    in most cases, offered such an advantage in speed
    of transport over road or canal , that people did
    not mind the lack of connectivity or the need to
    haul goods from one railroad to another when the
    initial railcarrier ended. You should understand, that
    it didn't matter if the gauges were common or not,
    the various railroads almost never connected. Many
    of them had charters that forbid connectivity ,
    because the local, or state government thought
    it was a deleterious thing to the local prosperity..

    There was a powerful local interest made up of
    the teamsters, commission agents, forwarders ,
    and a host of other people who had secondary
    jobs as part of the break of travel. The Mississippi
    and Ohio , which had both a common gauge
    and physical connection to the Erie, would not
    allow itsequipment to interchange with the Erie.

    In most places the connectivity you see on maps
    did not exist. You see railroads entering a given
    town, or crossing each other, but this misstates
    what was there. Six railroads came into Richmond, Virginia, four to Petersburg, Virginia , and
    several reached Philadelphia, Pa. Prior to the
    Civil War, and the military stepping in to build the connections , none of the railroads in those key
    places had a physical connection with each other.
    The locals didn't want them , and in Richmond and Petersburg the connections were to be severed
    after the war was over, in the legislation passed
    by the city fathers.

    The narrow gauge promoters, who really show
    up in the 1870s were not wrong about the virtues
    of their alternative system, if the status was to be
    quo, as they say. However, it was not, because
    the 'Fast Freight' lines , that were organized as
    separate entities to operate through service
    were going to make interchange normal. They
    and the express companies issued through
    bills of lading, eliminating countless middlemen.

    The larger more efficient standard gauge boomed,
    and the larger gauge lines had to go small,
    because the various devices such the car hoists
    that were all over the ERie at junctions to change
    trucks, created costly burdens that slowed commerce.
    The thousands of pairs of trucks with sliding wheels
    for use on different track gauges that were found
    on the Pennsy,Grand Trunk, and elsewhere,... failed at unacceptable rates, as their locking mechanisms
    broke and flanges wore out rapidly. So they also
    were not ananswer to the gauge differences.

    While the last big eastern narrow gauge line
    didn't die until the 1930's , the promise of the
    narrow gauge system that reached from Lake
    Erie to the Texas Gulf Coast was never realized.
    The standard gauge lines were able to exploit
    the greater speed and safety , of their equipment;
    first at the behest of the 'Fast Freight Lines'
    and the Express companies , and later on under
    the rail carriers own control.
    Good-Luck, PJB
  2. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    Aug 15, 2002
    Likes Received:
    That's quite a list, and interesting. Not much on the Philippines, but it does list the current PNR mainlines gauge accurately as 42" and the old Corregidor Railway, but I didn't see any reference to any current Philippine (sub 42") narrow gauge. Not surprising, since so little is known. Looks like I'll have to go there and measure it myself ;)

    On Corregidor:

    The system was state o fhte art, and destroyed by Japanese fire early in WW2.

    There was also the Meralco electric railway in Manila, and I don't know what gauge it was:

    It was also quite advanced for that corner of the world.

    There were and/or still are a lot of platation, mining and logging railways there, of varied and often unknown (to us) gauges and motive power. Steam was known to operate into the 80's, but we fear it is now gone.
  3. pjb

    pjb Member

    Dec 22, 2000
    Likes Received:
    Narrow Gauge industrials/feldbahns

    Looking for individual plantation lines and similar, can
    be difficult, but there are many railbuffs around the world
    who pursue ALL the obscure lines, and the WWW has
    expanded access to their work.
    Many feldbahnen,were/are engaged in pretty
    obscure and very seasonal operations.
    The Watercress field lines in the U.K. and the
    bog roads in N.J.-Wis.-Me.-N.B.
    found on this side of the pond that
    were involved with berries, are two that
    come to mind.

    With respect to war , Dempsey's boys and the
    Krauts, tore up the tiny (2 ft. approx.) system in
    Normandy sixty years ago this month, and it
    was not rebuilt because it was considered redundant
    to motor truck, and bus transport.

    It is good that they didn't stop making the world
    class apple jack (CALVADOS) of the region, or it would
    have been a double disaster.

    If english language materials dealing with the
    true "short lines" of the world is your thing, then
    joining their excursions to the far corners of the
    railroad earth, will have a lot to offer.

    They are easily Googled-Up , and have embarked
    upon a service that few historical societies
    have the time and people to pursue.
    They are placing all their old OoP journals
    on the web so they can be downloaded. They also
    have put an index to the first 15 years or so
    on their website, which is an especially useful
    tool to researchers. It keeps you from having to
    go to the research library to find out what is
    in the publications.
    In any event, Good-Luck, PJB