Re: The narrow gauge question? Best gauge?

Michael J

Hi John,

As one who has made a bit of a hobby out of investigating 2’6”/750mm
gauge railways in particular, your question is of some interest to me.

First thing to say is that 2’6” was not the unusual gauge we sometimes
think it is. Worldwide there was probably more mileage of 2’6” gauge
common carriers than 2’ gauge, and certainly more than 3’ gauge. There
were a number of systems with over 1000 route km, and many more with
less, in all parts of the world. The first 2’6” gauge lines started in
the early narrow gauge days. For instance the Antofagasta (Chili) &
Bolivia Railway started construction in 1872, and had a 1500km route
that climbed from sea level to over 4500 metres, while handling goods
traffic totalling near 2 million tons per annum. I have even read that
General Palmer considered 2’6” gauge for the D&RGW, and it was also
seriously considered for South Africa, only being replaced by 3’6”. So a
well read railway engineer in 1900 would not have found the idea of a
2’6” gauge railway strange.

The second thing is at the end of the 19th C there was quite a bit of
pressure to build NG railways in this gauge throughout the British
Empire. The British military declared that all future NG lines should be
2’6” gauge. While this would not have affected self governing Victoria,
it would have been a big hint. Also at this time railway engineer E R
Calthrop was promoting the use of 2’6” gauge. He did quite a bit of work
to show that for feeder lines, this gauge offered the prospect of the
best financial return. Calthorp was behind several lines in India, most
notably the Barsi Light Railway, but also the Weshpool & Llanfair and
the Leak & Manifold in Britain. He also introduced the concept of
transporter wagons. We know that Calthrop was corresponding with VR over
the proposed NG lines. So all said the gauge is perhaps not a surprise.

The rolling stock question is also interesting. There is a “rule” that
states that rolling stock should not be more than 3 times the track
gauge. Rules are made to be broken, but I’ve seen very few items of 2’
gauge rolling stock more than 6’ or 6’2” wide. So at 6’6” wide the VR
stock would be a little too wide for 2’ gauge. By comparison the Barsi
LR wagons were 7’ wide. I’m not sure you are right about being able to
build the locos in 2’ gauge. At 8’3” the nA class are as wide as any
2’6” gauge loco. I doubt if a feasible 2’ gauge loco could have been
built to the same specifications.

As a side point it is interesting to compare the rated maximum loads of
the VR and Barsi LR open wagons. Both were 25’ long on pressed steel
underframes, with Fox bogies. The Barsi LR had 30lb rail, and allowed an
axle loading of 5 tons. Calthrop multiplied this by the 4 axles, and
deducted .the weight of the wagon to give a loading of 14.75 tons per
wagon. This compares with the VR maximum loading of 10 or 11 tons, which
by comparison looks very conservative.


Michael J

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of crannyjohn
Sent: 06 February 2007 14:25
Subject: [LRRSA] The narrow gauge question? Best gauge?

Hi all,

Very interesting that the size of the VR rolling stock was more 2'
like. On reflection they do seem the same size as used on the NE
Dundus line in Tas. Given that the locos used could easily have been
built to 2' gauge, was there any real advantage in using 2' 6" gauge
in Victoria? It would be interesting if someone in the know could make
a comparison between the VR lines and NE Dundus.


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