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  • Caught in a rut? You're not alone

    Railroad tracks in Canada and the US are precisely four feet, eight and one half inches wide. Why this odd measure you ask? Well, North American railroads were for the most part built by British immigrants, and back in England they built their railroad lines 4 feet, 8.5 inches wide. But why were English railroads built this way? Because the first rail lines in England were built by the very same people who had built the country’s tramways, and that was the distance the tramways used. The tramways in turn were constructed this odd width because trams and wagons were being built by the same people, and so the wagon producers decided to build the trams the same width as their wagons.

    But why were wagons this odd width? Because wagons any wider or narrower didn’t fit into the old wheel ruts on the country’s highways and the wagons had to fit into these ruts or their axles would break. So the question is, who originally formed these ruts on England’s highways? The Romans of course. Many of the roads across Great Britain were originally built by the Romans, who used chariots with a wheel base of 4 feet, 8.5 inches. They made the ruts and thus set the width of railroad lies 2000 years later.

    SOURCE: J. William Pfeiffer’s Roadkill on the Information Highway

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