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An interesting story behind Railway lines width 4.85 feets

In Indian railways system, the width between the railway parallel lines was of 4 types. In the old narrow gauge, the width maintained was 2.6 feet. Later in the meter gauge period , the width became 3.3 feet and later in standard gauge it became 4.85 feet and now in the broad gauge it is 5.8 feet.  

There is a reason behind providing this information. In America also the width maintained is 4.85 feet. This is a very unique number. It could have been either 4 feet or 5 feet. Have you ever wondered why is this ? There is one interesting history story behind this.

As American railways was earlier built by English men those who built in England, same methods were followed. Then question is why in England they used 4.85 feet ? In England , before railways trams were used. Later the same width for followed for railways also. Now the question again , why 4.85 feet in trams?
Just like in Europe, in England earlier roads were made by Romans. In those days , laborers who used to make the wheels for Horse vehicles were involved in making tram wheels. Hence the width was maintained same. Now why 4.85 feet for horse vehicles ?

Earlier Romans used 2 horses for their vehicles. They observed earlier the space between two horses was congested and the horse backs were getting hurt during travel. So they kept increasing the width slowly, when the width was more , during travel the vehicle used to have jerks . Hence to maintain balance , such that the horses backs should not get hurt and also avoid jerks a standard measurement was followed. That measurement is 4.85 feet !!

So now you will be surprised – Romans horse vehicles were designed to take care of horse backs, which were then followed in England.  As the same laborers were involved in tram wheel making, same width was maintained , then same was followed in railway by England and then in America. So even in India , earlier in the 18th , 19th century , railways was developed by England and hence the 4.85 width !

What a surprising story, one of the worlds common transport system railway lines width is based on the width of 2 horses backs !!  This makes us realize once that,  changing human mind’s decision & its resistance is very difficult sometimes!

Hope you enjoyed & remember this article when you pick up a train next time  !!