I agree that railway over capitalisation resulted from many sources,
with gauge being one of several contributors. Railways so
revolutionised land transport in overcomming the tyranny of distance
that cost implications were swamped by the slashed travel times.
Months on the road with a bullock team were literally cut to hours on
a train. There was little competition in performing the land
transport task. We now see the railway from a vastly different
perspective. With our different view comes comparing the railway with
concerns indiscernable during the great railway years.
Light American engineering would have been cheaper to build and be
more readily abandoned when the traffic failed to develope as
proponents claimed it would. If traffic did build up, then the light
line could have been upgraded, saving further small but worth having
funds. I argue that now in our post-railway era, 3ft 6in gauge would
have left us with more kilometres of open railway.
The railway was not seriously expected to make a proffit. Some
critiques said lines should pay their way, but in NSW Government
built lines for many reasons other than making the railway business
proffitable. Lines were highly political, often to secure votes from
areas. Many were described as developmental, in the hope they might
stimulate business. Some did some didn't. As with much British
engineering, NSW railways were built to last for a long time.
Builders could not concieve of the railway being superceeded by a
better transport technology. Gaining a line was seen as a great boost
in town prestige. Freight rates were cross-subsidised to assist
primary industry. Primary industry came to depend on cheap rates.
Passenger fares were cross-subsidised to share metropolitan benefits
with country communities, who thought they were travelling the longer
distances. The railway was seen as a mass employer. Government,
railway administrators, and communities all expected the railway to
be run as a so-called 'public service'. That was not just lip
service, but a significant ideology to be found in many spheres of
traditional Australian culture.
Seriously expecting the railway to pay seems to be a modern idea,
probably based on neo-liberal economic theory. Public shareholder
value is quite different to private shareholder value, yet the latter
seems to be being applied to the former.
--- In LRRSA@yahoogroups.com.au, Frank Stamford <frank.stamford@...>
system, I agree that 3 ft 6 in gauge would have been completelysuccessful
as a national railway gauge, and certainly infinitely better thanthe mess
that we have been inflicted with.between
narrow gauges and standard gauge is greatly overstated. There isgood
evidence for that - I think - in the way that vast mileages of verylight
standard-gauge-ish railways were built in the USA at very low cost,and
then upgraded as traffic warranted. (They still didn't get thegauge right,
as they were using gauges of 4 ft 6 in, 4 ft 8-1/2 in, 5 ft, 5 ft 6in, and
6ft and others, but the point is they were building very cheaprailways
which were not narrow-gauge).capital
debt. But I do not think that was much related to the choice ofgauge, for
it was true of every state of Australia.same
was true of the early railways in Victoria and South Australia. Butthe
money wasted was not in the gauge, it was in the civil engineering.It
would have been better for the Colonial governments at the time tohave
brought in American railway engineers. That way much greatermileages of
track could have been built quicker, and upgraded as the trafficbuilt up.
(The downside of that is that we would not have been left with allthe
magnificent buildings, bridges, and tunnel mouths from that era,they would
have all either fallen down or been replaced, and all the earlylocos would
have been 4-4-0s!).saying "EVERY
deviation from it was anTasmainia;
resultSouth Australia; Northern Teritory; Western Australia, i wonder
inter-of a powerful engineering technician in John Whitton, and later
tostate politicing than technical suitability for the Australian
narrowerplunging NSW railways into enormous capital debt. A narrower gauge
networkgauge would have been cheaper to operate, so make running the
gaugeeasier make pay. Standard gauge contributed towards crippling the
scaleby 1ft 2 1/2in may well have produced a railway more in natural
standardto the transport task that was to be performed here. In NSW
forgauge was an economic disaster!
(Stanfordnumeroussocieties around the world to preserve.
earlyUniversity Press, 1990) covers this subject very well In the
sections of that book he covers the world-wide development ofdifferentgauges, and goes into the economics of it very thoroughly.