The Day The Gauge Changed

The Day The Gauge Changed

SUBTITLE'S INFO:

Language: English

Type: Human

Number of phrases: 121

Number of words: 2375

Number of symbols: 9955

DOWNLOAD SUBTITLES:

DOWNLOAD AUDIO AND VIDEO:

SUBTITLES:

Subtitles prepared by human
00:00
Between 1863 and 1869, three American railway  companies completed a project to connect the   existing east coast railway network with railroads  on the west coast. The 1,912 miles of track,   including nineteen tunnels through granite  mountains that were needed to complete the   Transcontinental Railroad, was an amazing  engineering feat for a country that already   had more miles of railway than the rest.. of the  world.. combined. And yet the completion of the   Transcontinental Railroad was not the only amazing  feat of American railroad engineering in history,   because in 1886 railways in the south managed  to convert the gauge on an estimated 11,500   miles of railway track in a period of just 36  hours. It is a little-known piece of American   railroad history that deserves to be remembered. The development of rail transport, that eventually   evolved into modern railways, started with the  carts used to move ore in mineral extraction   developed largely in the 16th century in Europe.  Early tracks used wooden rails but as technology  
01:03
developed cast-iron and then rock iron rails  replaced the wooden rails. Rails called plate   ways, which used l-shaped rails with the  upper side of the L holding the wheels in   place developed in the 18th century, but as  the weight of the railway carts increased the   plate weighs proved too fragile. Edge rails,  with a flat rail and a flanged railway wheel,   became the norm in the early part of the  19th century as railways became more common,   and Scottish inventor James Watts improvement  of a steam engine allowed for the successful   development of steam locomotives to pull railway  cars. But the development of edge rails and steam   locomotives pressed another issue, that of railway  gauge. Track gauge represents the spacing of the   rails on a railway track and is measured between  the interfaces of the load bearing rails. Plate   ways are relatively forgiving of car axle  widths, although gauge is still meaningful.   Edge rails require a fairly precise fit of the  flanged wheel to the track and gauge becomes more   important, as cars and locomotives built for one  gauge will not fit on tracks for another gauge.   Track gauge is an important factor, wider gauges  are more stable and generally allow heavier loads  
02:05
but are more expensive requiring heavier cars and  locomotives and a larger right-of-way. Narrower   gauges are less stable but carry smaller cars and  use a smaller right-of-way. In Great Britain that   led to a conflict in the first half of the 19th  century between the 7 foot or broad-gauge of the   Great Western Railway and the 4 foot 8 and 1/2  inch standard gauges used by the Liverpool in   Manchester and London and Birmingham railways.  The so-called “Gauge Wars” were an economic   competition over control of lines, but the cost of  transferring goods at the point where incompatible   lines met, called the break of gauge, finally  forced Parliament to act. “The regulating the   gauge of Railways Act” of 1846 stipulated that  new lines would be made on the standard gauge,   unless they were directly connected to the  current broad gauge network. In many ways the   standard gauge is a reasonable compromise, in  fact research on ancient Roman roads suggests   they used a very similar axle width on their  wagons and chariots. While the demands of wagons   and trains are somewhat different, they're both  gauged on the size of human beings, a wagon with  
03:06
an axle width of 4 foot eight and a half inches  comfortably fits two passengers side-by-side.   A railway car built for a four foot eight and a  half inch gauge, comfortably fits two passengers   on either side separated by a central aisle. The  United States started adopting rail in the 18th   century and by the mid 1820s had established  common carriers like the Baltimore and Ohio   Railroad. While there was relatively more rail  development in the more industrialized north,   railroads were also developed in the south, where  the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company,   became the first railroad to operate a locomotive  to be built entirely within the United States for   railway service. While railways in the United  States started out using a number of different   gauges, in general railways in the north tended  to use the standard gauge, whereas railways in the   south developed on a 5-foot, or broader rail, that  better fit cars that were built to carry cotton   bales. At first this wasn't a problem as there was  not a lot of rail commerce between the north and   south, although the difference did play a role  in delaying funding for the Transcontinental   Railroad, as in 1860, representatives from  the south were advocating for a more southerly  
04:08
route. The coming of the Civil War meant that  the southern representatives were no longer a   concern and Congress passed the Pacific Railroad  act in 1862 that not only guaranteed the central   route for the Transcontinental Railroad, but  stipulated that the entire route would be built   on the standard gauge. The Union was able to  leverage the large rail network during the war,   and the Union blockade contributed to a decline in  southern rail, as they could not get new equipment   and spare parts, but the difference in gauges  did make it more difficult for the Union to move   troops by rail in the south. After the war during  the period of reconstruction, trade between the   north and south grew substantially. The southern  railroad system was largely repaired and expanded,   but the gauge difference started to become more of  an obstacle. At first cars had to be laboriously   unloaded and reloaded at the point of break  of gauge, then an ingenious device called the   Ramsey Car Apparatus was used to change the trucks  under a car without having to reload the cargo,   still the process was expensive and took time. In  1884 and 1885 two lines that operated in both the  
05:08
north and south, the Illinois Central and the  Mobile in Ohio, switched to a standard gauge,   this allowed them to be more efficient and put  pressure on other Southern Railways to compete.   In February of 1886, operating officers of the  south's railroads met in Atlanta and agreed to   change the southern gauge. Curiously they did not  adopt the standard four foot 8 and 1/2 inch gauge,   but the slightly broader four foot nine inch gauge  used by the Pennsylvania Railroad, with which many   of the southern lines connected. While trains  from the two gauges were largely compatible,   it was short-sighted of the committee not  to move to the four foot eight and a half   inch gauge that as the track gauge of the  Transcontinental Railroad, was clearly the   gauge of the future. Still the Commission went  with the four foot nine inch Pennsylvania gauge.  Understand the sheer magnitude of this process,  not only did they have to convert some 11,500   miles of rail, but also all the locomotives and  rolling stock. And as trains would not be able to   operate during the switch it was important that  the switch over occur as quickly as possible,   the date for the switch was set between Monday  May 31st and Tuesday June 1st. That gave just four  
06:14
months to prepare for the massive undertaking,  only one rail had to be moved so rails all along   the way were marked for the new gauge using  a three inch length of pipe, as many as two   and three of the spikes on the inside of the  rail were removed, moved to the new gauge and   partially hammered, ready for when the rail was  to be moved. Where possible, axles on the rolling   stock were modified ahead of time, some engines  were mounted with plate shaped wheels that turned   out it fit the old gauge, on the day of the switch  the wheel would be reversed and fit the new gauge.   Some axles were laid for the new gauge and had  a ring added to hold the wheel at the old gauge,   during the switch the ring was removed and the  wheel moved to the new gauge. Lays were positioned   along the lines in order to convert rolling stock  that could not be modified ahead of time, in some   cases new tools were invented such as a circular  pipe that could be hooked into a city gas works,   creating a torch to modify axles. As the date  approached lines that could be easily cleared of   traffic were converted. When the day came and the  lines were cleared crews started working at 3:30   am, the crews have pulled the spikes, move the  rails to the mark spot and hammered new spikes.   Some lines gave crews a mileage quota, others had  a crew in a direction and told them to stop when  
07:19
they ran into a crew working the other direction,  some lines gave bonuses for extra miles converted,   although that meant that some of the work was  sloppily done. Trains were prepared with the   new gauge carrying an extra work crew, the train  serves as a test of the line and if it caught up   with a crew that was behind schedule, the extra  crew could jump out and assist, to get back on   schedule. The work was done with amazing speed, in a period of just 36 hours virtually the entirety   of the southern railway lines, an estimated 11,500  miles worth, as well as their locomotives and cars,   had been converted. The work was done so  economically and so quietly the Journal of   the Association of Engineer Societies noted “that  the public hardly realized it was in progress”  The ability to make such a massive change in such  a short period of time with so little disruption   is a testament to the value of the planning.  One of the railways had managed to shut down   a 200 mile length of track early, and so they had  trained all their crews on the process before the   critical day came. Presetting crews and support  equipment and testing processes was critical in   short planning guaranteed success. The cost of  the switch was about $100 per mile of track,  
08:23
which is roughly the equivalent of $2,100 in  today's dollars, and that was easily made up   with the increased efficiency. The gauge change is  part of the Golden Age of American Rail and came   during a dynamic period in American history when  railroads were helping to facilitate a massive   economic shift. In 1880 nearly half of the U.S.  workforce worked in agriculture, while only one in   seven worked in manufacturing. By 1920 agriculture  and manufacturing represented almost equal shares   of the workforce. But the immediate impact of  this which was somewhat surprising, the increased   standardization should have resulted in lower  shipping costs because of greater efficiency. By   the 2016 analysis of route level traffic data  determined that while the switch moved some   commerce from river boats to railways, overall  freight traffic did not increase. The reason,   anti-competitive practices on the part of the  railroad cartels kept them from passing on the   savings terms of lower shipping costs, the railway  owners just pocketed the savings. The analysis  
09:23
suggests that if they passed on just fifty percent  of the savings in terms of lower shipping costs,   it would cause an overall 10 percent increase  in overall trade. Ironically it was the same   level of cooperation that an economic incentive  that allowed the switch to be made so quickly   and efficiently that prevented the full  realization of the value of the switch.  I'm the History Guy. I hope you enjoyed  this edition of my series of short snippits   of forgotten history, about 10 minutes long. And if you did enjoy this then   please click that thumbs up there on your left. If you have any questions or comments   feel free to write them in the comment section and  I would be happy to personally respond. And if you'd like  more snippits of forgotten history,  all you need to do is subscribe.

DOWNLOAD SUBTITLES: