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We take our responsibilities at NTT pretty seriously, but we like to play also. Here's a bit of humor forwarded on to us.
How Specs Live Forever
The US Standard railroad guage (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that guage 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 that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the guage they used. Why did "they" use that guage 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 spacing.
Thus, we have the answer to the original questions. The United States standard railroad guage of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specifications 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 to two war horses.
Frightening though isn't it? But thousands of years from now, our horses asses will have names like OSHA, NIOSH, EPA, ASTM, MSHA and the list goes on.
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