In Case You ever Wondered...

Discussion in 'General Lounge' started by Quixote, Sep 27, 2001.

  1. Quixote

    Quixote Well-Known Member

    Caveat: I received this as a forwarded e-mail, so, no, I have not checked the facts. But it does have the ring of truth to it; for better or worse, and is entertaining regardless.

    Good Engineering lasts forever!

    The U.S. standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet,
    8.5 inches. That is an exceedingly odd number.

    Why was that gauge used?

    Because that's the way they built them in England, and the U.S.
    railroads were built by English expatriates.

    Why did the English build them that way?

    Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built
    the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.

    Why did "they" use that gauge?

    Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools
    that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

    So why did the wagons have that particular odd spacing?

    Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would
    break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that
    was the spacing of the wheel ruts.

    So who built those old rutted roads? The first long distance roads in
    Europe (and England) were built by imperial Rome for their legions.
    The roads have been used ever since.

    And the ruts in the roads? The ruts in the roads, which everyone
    had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels, were first
    formed by Roman war chariots. Since the chariots were made for
    (or by) Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

    The U.S. standard railroad gauge of 4 feet-8.5 inches derives from
    the original specification for an Imperial Roman war chariot.

    Specifications and bureaucracies live forever.

    So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse's
    ass came up with it, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman war
    chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back end of two
    war horses. Thus we have the answer to the original question.

    Now for the twist to the story. When we see a space shuttle sitting
    on it's launching pad, there are two booster rockets attached to the
    side of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRB's.
    The SRB's are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers
    who designed the SRB's might have preferred to make them a bit fatter,
    but the SRB's had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch

    The railroad line from the factory had to run through a tunnel int he
    mountains. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the
    railroad track is about as wide as two horses' rumps.

    So, a major design feature of what is arguably the world's most
    advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years
    ago by the width of a horse's ass!

    Don't you just love engineering?

    Kinda makes you wonder how the dollar bill came to be 6 inches...

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