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I thought we all might get a little chuckle over this as we examine why we 
do some of the things we do in our industry.  I'm sure that they all are for 
very good reasons.
A friend in a very different industry sent this to me.
Paul Wood

This may sound familiar to some of you.

How Specs Live Forever

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 the US railroads were 
built by English expatriates. Why did the English people build them like 

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 

Thus, we have the answer to the original questions. The United States 
standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original 
specification for an Imperial Roman army war chariot. 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. 
Because the Imperial Roman chariots were made to be just wide enough to 
accommodate the back-ends of two war horses.

  Professor Tom O'Hare
  Germanic Languages
  University of Texas at Austin

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