Why does the standard gauge in US have a distance of 143.5 cm or 4 ft 8 1/2 inches ?

It is not a whole number in either meters or feet…how did the engineers come up with this number.. what made this the standard in this standard gauge.

Let’s examine the reasons:

– Because that’s what it is in UK, who were the original Pioneer of the railways.  Ok. But why?
– Because that was the distance of the tram in Pre- rail road era. Ok. But why?

Apparently this is the average distance between the two wheels of a horse pulled carriage of the yester years. The engineers who were developing the rail system, for lack of any reference points took this to be the standard.

And do you know why a two wheel horse pulled carriage had this really odd wheel distance?

horse drawn-carriage

That’s the shortest width that can accommodate the bum of two horses !!

So the horse’s bum determined the standard of a standard gauge.

The standard gauge size i.e the horse’s bum inadvertently went about to influence the size of the Solid Rocket Boosters made for the space shuttle in USA. These boosters had to be transported from the factory in Utah through the train.

This is a typical story of ‘That’s how its always done here’ syndrome’.

So, do we know why we do what we do? The question is not how but has always been why ?

For all the Ctrl C & Ctrl V coders and programmers dependent on the git hub, do you know and understand why the initial program was written as against why we are writing the current one. Are you launching a new product or a new version because your competitor has launched or because you have something valuable to give to your users.

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein

On a personal level, ask yourself,

Why you want to get married or be in a relationship?
Why do you want to have children?
Why do you want to get into IIT/IIM?
Why do you want to lose/gain weight?
Why do you want to change/not change your job/car?
Why do you want to buy a house?
Why do you want to start your business?
Why do you want to be a millionaire?

Is it because it will add value to your life or because your parents/friends are asking you to do it or the society expects you to do it?

The most important part of a goal setting is the why? When you know the why, the how can be easily figured out.

Do we know really know why we want what we want ?? Do we really think or do we just think about thinking and go by the established standards and procedures and ‘Log Kya Kehengae??!! Syndrome !!

Are you constantly not meeting the goals you had set for yourself. Ask yourself if the goal was something you really wanted for yourself or something that the society has imposed on you.

I know this post has more questions than answers. But if you are not asking the right questions, the answers do not matter. Are you letting the horse’s bum determine your space shuttle specification ?

Published by

Priya Krishnamoorthy

Exploring the Journey of life everyday with a new outlook

41 thoughts on “Why does the standard gauge in US have a distance of 143.5 cm or 4 ft 8 1/2 inches ?”

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  21. The mind is lazy, resistant to change and is all too happy to play second fiddle to stuck norms and keep everyone happy, rather than mustering up the initiative to ask fresh quesions and risk kicking up a storm. An excellent post that captures this mindset. Keep it up!

    1. Thanks Hari. True. The ability and the courage to question the established norms has what has brought all innovation in Life and we must constantly fight the urge to comply with the all too familiar norms.

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