The size of the Space Shuttles booster rocket was decided by the size of a standard Roman horse’s backside. How come? Well read on and get to the end as there is a moral to this story.
When we saw a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there were two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs might have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory had to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track.
US rail gauge – 4 foot 8.5 inches
The railroad track gauge (width between the two 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 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.
Based on the existing Coaches
Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that’s the spacing of the wheel ruts.
Roman chariots made the ruts
So who built those old rutted roads? The first long distance roads in Europe (and England) were built by Imperial Rome for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots first formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for (or by) Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.
So the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman war chariot because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses. Thus, we have the answer to the original question
Specifications 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,.
So, the major design feature of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a Horse’s Ass!
Now the twist to the story . . .
Amazing isn’t it, this has been repeated all over the world and accepted as a good story and entirely plausible, it will carry on being repeated but some people think its not true, well at least some of it. If you want to find out more go to http://www.snopes.com/history/american/gauge.asp
The moral is that something is accepted as true because it’s plausible, at cmx we never take anything at face value we investigate and try everything first. You may be tempted to just use Microsoft servers and Office 365 but we have solutions that work the same and will save you £8,000 and £600 respectively. So if you want to talk to us and find answers to the questions we ask then email email@example.com or pick up the phone 24/7 and talk to a human in Colchester, Ipswich, Braintree or Bury St Edmunds (We don’t do machine answering).