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All materials on this website are currently available in Polish language only (except some news and interview with Isabelle Pellerey).
If you want to read more, please use the Google translation tool. If you try to use it... have a good fun!
Anyway, I'm still trying to prepare an independent version of my blog. Less news, more original posts. C.U.!

Maciej Stanislawski     
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Monday, 27th October 2014

Horse rump and the development of techniques (and civilization)

While I was recently browsing the archive of publications – during the preparation of the comment to report on CAx for the bimonthly "Steel. Metals & New Technologies" magazine – I've found an excellent text made by prof. Miroslaw Dakowski, that I published in one of the editions of the "Design and Construction ...". I thought that I can present it to you on the pages of that blog...

Before you start reading, let's see if the statement: "We always do it that way" does not raise any doubts in you? Well, let's hear the story.

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches *. That's an odd number? And do you know why was that gauge used?
Because that's the way they built the railroads 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 there just applied this standard. But why use that gauge then?
Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building train wagons, which used that wheel spacing. Alright! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing?

Ok, and here is the first point: what were the first trams?

But let's move on ...

If the builders tried to use any other spacing, racked by 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) built the Roman Empire for their legions. But how do these ruts?
Primary ruts where formed by Roman war chariots; any other users of these roads have to adapt to them, because otherwise they could destroy their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made ​​for Imperial Rome, they were all alike, when it comes to track. US standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is... simply... derived from the technical parameters of the Imperial Roman war chariot.

And because the bureaucracy is eternal... when you get you are handed a specification and begin to suspect that it may have something to do with the horse's rump :D, you will have absolutely right, because Roman war chariots were constructed so, that their width was adjusted to the total width of two war horses hindquarters :D.

And how it make influence on for ex., space technology?
When we look at the space shuttle on its launch pad, we see two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket, in short: SRB, produced at Thiokol (Utah, USA).

On the picture above you can see the space shuttle launch pad.

Unfortunatelly from this perspective, it is difficult to spot therockets mentioned in the text. When the shuttle is on the platform, from here you can only see the external fuel tank, but on the model (pictured below)...

 

... they are perfectly visible. And who could even thought that their design was influenced by Roman chariots and horses ...;)

The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but there was a small problem. SRBs could be delivered from factury only on the railroads. But the railway line is in a section of the tunnel in the mountains, so the rockets need to fit in the tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the line is, as you already know is ... the width of two horses' hindquarters :D.

So one of the major Space Shuttle design details, perhaps still the most modern transport system in the world, was determined over two thousand years ago ... the width of the horse's ass.

Who knows what would have taken the fate of the world if, for ex., the elephant was the most popular beast of burden?

Greetings

Maciej

 

On the basis of:
http://www.dakowski.pl/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=172&Itemid=59
Please, see also here: http://www.snopes.com/history/american/gauge.asp
Here you can find all about it more seriously :)

 

P.S.
And for sure... I used Google translator, but I've made some changes by myself. Hope it is ok :)
 

* Locomotives were being developed in the first decades of the nineteenth century; they took various forms, but George Stephenson developed a successful locomotive on the Killingworth Wagonway, where he worked. His designs were so successful that they became the standard, and when the Stockton and Darlington Railway was opened in 1825 it used his locomotives, with the same gauge as the Killingworth line, 4 ft 8 in (1,422 mm).
The Stockton and Darlington line was immensely successful, and when the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the first intercity line, was promoted (it opened in 1830), it used the same gauge. It was also hugely successful, and the gauge (now eased to 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)[8]), became the automatic choice: "standard gauge".

 

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