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Hate to burst your bubble...http://www.snopes.com/history/american/gauge.asp
Brandon, the Snopes article is very interesting in that it (grudgingly) confirms the story - other than the rocket booster part.
The same reason why Windows all the way up to Windows 3.11 sucks- it still has commands that date all the way back to MS-DOS. Not a question of bureaucracy, but a question of backwards compatibility.
I've seen this posted and rebutted many times, but I can't for the life of me figure out how the SNopes article somehow "debunks" the claim that horse-drawn, wheeled conveyances were what evetually dictated the width of the railroad gauge that was used through the Union and most all of the USA (except for the backwards-assed South, apparently)*They so much as confirm that this is exactly why the gauge is what it is. Tracing it back to Roman chariots may be a little bit more of a stretch, but consider that Romans were really the first to make roads in many parts of the world, and the wagons would have likely been built to match the ruts in those roads - well, it doesn't stretch the imagination THAT much to assume that the standard Roman wagon width may have carried through to the modern railroad track gauge. Snopes is a bit of a funny reference site - sometimes they make calls that just don't add up, like this time, where they say "false" but then go on to more or less confirm the story. A lot of the times you can tell that they are struggling with a political bias (look at some of the articles defending Obama against "urban legends" that are inarguably true), but in this particular article, i can't figure out where they are coming from. Strange.*Joke, guys. Joke. Seriously, don't get all southern-fried outraged up at me now.
I recall reading loooooong before the internet sucked up all my time, that in Australia each state/territory had its own railroad system each with its own unique gauge thanks to the idiosyncracies of the Scottish engineer in charge until unification made it important to have a nationwide system with one gauge throughout.
I find the literal story-as-told questionable for an entirely different reason. Roman roads, at least the better ones, were made of stones. Roman wagon wheels were made of wood. How do wooden wheels wear ruts into stone roads? The bit about the railroad tunnel and the SRBs is questionable for still another reason: railroad tunnels were generally not made to that tight a tolerance. They were blasted out with black powder and other primitive explosives, which are hardly high-precision tools.
Wolfwalker, you can find places on the Oregon Trail where the Conestoga wagons wore ruts into the bedrock. That only took 35 years.Agree that the tunnel bit is the weakest part of the story, but the rest is, as the Mythbusters like to say, plausible.
Wolf - Not all roman roads were stone. Not only that, but wagon wheels will wear ruts in bedrock if you give them enough time, and the Romans were around for a long, long time.
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