Re: Narrow gauge - in 1905


John Stutz
 

On June 20, 2021 6:28 PM climax@... wrote:

I have the prefect reason that narrow gauge existed and was used for so long. They used less wood. Wood ties that is. The ties were shorter and smaller! Think of the money they saved.

Dave

Dave

That was Matthias N.  Forney's conclusion, in a mid 1890's editorial review of the construction cost savings directly attributable to the choice of 3' gauge over 4' 8.5", all other factors being equal:  That the biggest difference would be the cost of ties, for an overall savings of about 1%.

But the principle point made in that editorial was that a standard gauge road could be built and operated on any alignment over which a 3' gauge road had been built.  As was being demonstrated by widespread recent and ongoing gauge conversions.

Unfortunately I did not record a reference to that editorial, so cannot give the source.  But Hilton's "American Narrow Gauge" has an entire chapter on the gauge question, and probably does reference this. 

My own take on the gauge question is: Good transportation facilities are key to the prosperity of any community, and in the U.S. prior to the flowering of the Good Roads movement in the 1920's, railroads were the only means for reliable all-weather overland transport.  Add in the universal experience that smaller is (usually) cheaper, and I think it obvious why rail-less communities, faced with the overwhelming costs of existing railroad's construction, could convince themselves that a smaller railroad must be a cheaper one.  The supporting semi-technical arguments were primarily rationalizations, devised to justify the wished for conclusion.  And proved to be no more effective than most such rationalizations. 

But as several others have said better than I can, the result made for some very attractive modeling prototypes.

John Stutz

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