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How Military Specs Live Forever

From: (Glenn Campbell, Las Vegas)
Date: Fri, 4 Apr 1997 09:45:48 -0800
Subject: How Military Specs Live Forever



The U.S. 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 the U.S. railroads
were built by English expatriates.

Why did the English people 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 use that odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried
to use any other spacing the wagons would break on some of the old,
long-distance roads, because that's the spacing of the old wheel ruts.

So who built these old rutted roads? The first long-distance roads in
Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The
roads have been used ever since. And the ruts? The initial ruts, which
everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagons, were first
made by Roman war chariots. Since the chariots were made for or by
Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

Thus, we have the answer to the original questions. The United State
standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original
specification (military spec) for an Imperial Roman army war chariot.
Military specs 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. The Imperial Roman chariots
were made to be just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war

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