Scotch-Irish-L ArchivesArchiver > Scotch-Irish > 2000-02 > 0950715083
From: John Flinn <>
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000 08:31:23 -0700
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From: "John Selman" <>
To: "Paul & Gertrude Sollosy" <>,
"Rob Mountain" <>,
"Len & Hannah Nemeth" <>,
"Jim & Magda Howes" <>,
"Julie Hoover" <>,
"Allison Glover" <>,
"John & Jean Flinn" <>,
"Stan & Myra Blaker" <>,
"Ted & Genette Ashton" <>
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2000 15:17:11 -0700
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Subject: Feats of Engineering
If you ever wondered where a design principle came from, here is the
Modern Engineering Design Principles-
The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet
That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used?
Because that's the way they built railroads in England, and the US
railroads were designed and built by English (Irish) expatriates.
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
that 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 roads?
The first long distance roads in Europe (and England) were built by
Imperial Rome for 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 wagon wheels and wagons, were first made by
Roman war chariots. Since the chariots were made for, or by Imperial
Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.
Thus, the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is
derived from the original specification for an Imperial Roman war
Specifications and bureaucracies live forever. So, the next time you are
handed a specification and wonder which horse's ass came up with it, you
may be exactly right. Because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made
just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses.
Now, the twist...
When we 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 might 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 had 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
is about as wide as..............two horses asses.
So, one of the major design features on what is arguably the world's
most advanced transportation system was determined by the width of a