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Length Of A Rail


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OK, I'm up on poles, perches, rods, chains and a few others. But a recent spate of 1942 benchmarks along a railroad bed use the term "rail" in the description, as in "turn south just two rails before you see the church." ;>)


I've searched in vain though I seem to recall the term in some past literature.

Can some kind soul restore my night's slumber and reveal just how a rail measures?


Thanks! patrick

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Thanks! This particular reference is on the Erie Railroad in New York State. I was favoring 33 feet (two perches) as the most probable measement on that road but, fortunately, was able to look up an old timer who worked on a branch of the Erie as a cribber. (That's the poor devil who tamps the stone fill under the ties to set them solidly.) He stated without hesitation that they used 39 feet as a rail.

When we get back to NY and work on that set of bench marks, we'll verify the measurement for that particular railroad.

It's not surprising that there would be more than a single measure for a rail, given the number of different standards that were used thoughout the country. I would just guess that the roads that were laid through the Public Lands would measure 33 feet, however, since all tlhat territory was surveyed by the Gunter chain. I'll check that out when we get back to Oregon.

Again, thanks for the response. . . . patrick

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Not specifically on subject but the following outlines (tries to explain) the US railway guage :P and the relationship to technology.


Cheers, Kerry.


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.


Okay! 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? 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? Roman war chariots first made the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels and wagons. Since the chariots were made for, or by Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. And why was the spacing what it was? The wheels were spaced to accommodate the width of the asses of two horses.

Thus, we have the answer to the original question. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman war chariot which was, in turn, based on the width of a horse’s a**.


Specifications and bureaucracies live forever. So, the next time you are handed a specification and wonder which horse's rear came up with it, you may be exactly right. Because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war-horses.


But there's more. When we 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 SRBs. Thiokol makes, or made, the SRBs at their factory at Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs might have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory had to run through tunnels in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through those tunnels. At least one tunnel is only slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as we know, is about as wide as two horses behinds.


So, the major design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined by the width of a Horse's rear!

Edited by Kerry.
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The roads,many Country and some small village streets were built by using the standard width(length) of the,Surveyor's Measurement of the Gunters Chain 66' feet wide they are still that way if you check most right of ways.

It was covinent to make them thus,because Surveyors found it easiest to simply measure them with 1 length of chain.


1 chain = 100 links

1 link= 7.92"

10 square chains,or 1000,000 square links = 1 acre.


World Book Encyclopedia


The Standard Length of a rail is 39' and weighs 60 to 155 lbs..

Some Railways use rails ranging from 45',60' and 78' at highway-railway grade crossings,station platforms,and other special places.

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The Standard Length of a rail is 39' and weighs 60 to 155 lbs..

Per each foot of length.


And, of course, we know they were not referring to today's modern "ribbon rail" with lengths approximately 1/4 mile long. Not sure of the actual ribbon rail length - this is from memory of my railroad days some 28 years ago and from visual observations of new ribbon rail laying along side tracks prior to installation.

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