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Friday, August 1, 2008

An Interesting History Lesson On Horses Ass


Railroad tracks. This is fascinating. Be sure to read the final paragraph; your understanding of it will depend on the earlier part of the content.

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England , and English expatriates built the US railroads.

Why did the English build them like that? 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 then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel 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's the spacing of the wheel ruts.

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

And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore the United States
standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Bureaucracies live forever.

So the next time you are handed a Specification/Procedure/Process and wonder 'What horse's arse came up with it?' you may be exactly right. Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses. (Two horses'arses.) Now, the twist to the story:

When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides 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 would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRB's had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railway line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains, and the SRB's had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly
wider than the railway track, and the railway track, as you now know, is about as wide
as two horses' behinds.

So, a major Space Shuttle 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 arse. And you thought being a horse's arse wasn't important? Ancient horses' arses control almost everything... and CURRENT Horses Arses are controlling everything else . In case you were wondering...

Sir Dayvd of Oxfordshire


  1. Since I've been called a Horses' Ass on many occasions, I feel much better now knowing that I have contributed to mankind in a very special way. Or as Ceaser would say, "I came, I saw, I kicked some horses ass!"

  2. Yes, I too have been accused of being a "horses ass!" Usually when I'm being stubborn as a mule.

    We humans are inventive and, at the same time, also resistant to change.

    As to the story, the U.S. rail system didn't exactly have a "standard" gage until after the Civil War. The South had over 100 different railroad companies operating on at least 3 different gages (perhaps a reason they ran into so much transportation trouble). When the North began rebuilding all the rails in the south, the gage became standard.

    I'm not so sure about the "tunnel" part of the story. But, it sure is amusing.

    As John Glenn is reported as saying while sitting atop his rocket, "I felt about as good as anybody would, sitting in a capsule on top of a rock that were both build by the lowest bidder."

    Sir Bowie

  3. Yeah I too wondered about the measurements of the tunnel.... as its got to be way wider than even 6ft +.. But the gist is there, as even here track has never changed...and i figure if you had a wider gauge on that track in Utah then the train stock could have been made wider and the tunnel too and so on...

    I also thought that maybe the Horses Arses would have been bigger till i've just read an essay on Roman war horses and Mediveal Knights horses...and found that they...and indeed the people involved with riding the horses, were considerably smaller and shorter than we have and are today, if we went back in time we'd be considered Giants in comparison, at our avearge 5'8 to 6'3 that a lot of guys are.

    Sir Dayvd ( 5'10 Giant ) of Oxfordshire