The past month has been sort of tough. Spent some time just adjusting my own medicines (with my doctor, of course) and then a major overhaul of my basement and then my garage. And I FINALLY got the rest of the weight bench/machine set up. (It had to be taken apart for us to move in August 2006). Then in the past two weeks, there was a suicide, which made for an extremely hard funeral. And then I spent three days at a conference/continuing education event in Gettysburg. I’ll share about that later on. For now, here is what caught my attention this morning from email. I can’t verify the accuracy, but it’s a great story!!!
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 lineswere built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, andthat’s the gauge they used.
Why did “they” use that gauge then? Because the people who built thetramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for buildingwagons, 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 onsome of the old, long distance roads in England, because that’s thespacing of the wheel ruts.
So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the firstlong 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 wagonwheels. 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/ Processand wonder “What horse’s butt came up with it?” you may be exactly right. Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough toaccommodate the rear ends of two war horses. (Two horses’ butts.)
Now, the twist to the story: When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are twobig booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol attheir factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs wouldhave preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroadline from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains,and the SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is
about as wide as two horses’ behinds. So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is one of the world’s most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse’s butt. The width of a horse’s butt controls almost everything the Romans did…..and today horses butts are still trying to control everything else!