Re: Best gauge


Frank et. al.

Given the size of the 3ft 6in gauge network in Queensland; Tasmainia;
South Australia; Northern Teritory; Western Australia, i wonder
whether the selection of 4ft 8 1/2in was the 'Best Gauge' for
Australian railways?

I suspect that adopting standard gauge in Australia was more a result
of a powerful engineering technician in John Whitton, and later inter-
state politicing than technical suitability for the Australian
railway task!

Adopting standard gauge, rather than a narrower gauge, contributed to
plunging NSW railways into enormous capital debt. A narrower gauge
would have been cheaper to build,so be easier to pay-off. A narrower
gauge would have been cheaper to operate, so make running the network
easier make pay. Standard gauge contributed towards crippling the
railway accounts. Until recently many NSW trains were characterised
as 'little trains running on a little railway'(S. Sharp, pers dis).
Few trains paid a return on standard gauge track. Reducing the gauge
by 1ft 2 1/2in may well have produced a railway more in natural scale
to the transport task that was to be performed here. In NSW standard
gauge was an economic disaster!

John Kerr reckoned that the narrow gauge triumphed in Queensland!

The question would make an interesting counterfactual PhD thesis.

Jim Longworth

--- Frank Stamford <frank.stamford@...> wrote:

Well if you are seeking the "best" gauge for a public railway
passengers and freight, I thought that question was settled in
about 1835 -
it is 1435 mm.

No doubt about that in my mind, every deviation from it was an

But all those economic disasters produced some wonderful
material for organisations like the LRRSA to write about, and for
societies around the world to preserve.

George W. Hilton's book "American Narrow Gauge Railways" (Stanford
University Press, 1990) covers this subject very well In the early
sections of that book he covers the world-wide development of
gauges, and goes into the economics of it very thoroughly.


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