Basic Railroad Question : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread


I have a couple of basic railroad questions to ask. First off, what is track gauge on a railroad. I think someone told me the track on one route was 80 lbs. How is this measured and what is standard gauge? Last question, how far apart are the rails in North America?



-- James Baker (, October 09, 2001


many ex-ACL lines in florida were originally narrow gague before they became part of the ACL or plant system. Including the line which became the trilby to clearwater line (SCL trilby sub i think it was called). There is a link somewhere here with a historical webpage link. Im at work right now so dont have it handy

-- troy nolen (, October 13, 2001.

Many railroads used 3' gauge for economy reasons. The rail was lighter, thus less expensive. The cross ties which are a substantial cost, are also smaller as is the equipment. This was the reason the norrow gauge lines in Colorado were built to 3' gauge. Smaller track and equipment meant less construction cost through some of the most wild country in America. The original builders of the FEC probably used the 3' gauge for the same reasons: economy. Even though the FEC's geography was not nearly as challenging as the Colorado pikes, it was cheaper to build the line through what was at the time pretty much a frontier.

-- John V. Pasquariello (, October 13, 2001.

The 4' 8 1/2" gauge is standard in Canada, the US, and Mexico, in most of Europe, the Transcon in Australia, the Japanese "bullet" lines and a few other places. Elsewhere you find a variety- Japanese and South African "standard" is 3' 6"; Russia is 5'; Spain is 5' 3" and Ireland 5' 6" (or else the other way around); and large areas use 39 3/8"- a bizarre measurement, until you realize it's also called "meter" gauge (or something like that). And although we associate 3' with mountains, the FEC line south of Jacksonville was originally 3'- and that is one of the flattest and straightest railroads ever built! Several CSX lines in Florida began as

-- Larry Brennan (, October 13, 2001.

Inside to inside

-- J.Oates (, October 11, 2001.

Is the 4' 81/2" track guage measured between the inside edge of the railheads, the outside edge of the railheads, or the center of the railheads? Bob at FEC mp194.

-- bob lowry (, October 10, 2001.

To add to Larry Goolsby's answer -- until the mid-40's, ACL's main line was laid in 100# rail. Many a derailment (injury and death) could be traced to transverse fissures developing in the 100# Tennessee rail rolled in 1924-27. By the mid-40's, ACL relaid its main line in 131# rail. Although the derailments subsided, 131# rail had a tendency for head and web separations. By comparison, Florida East Coast's 1940's main line was laid in 90# rail, while Pennsylvania Railroad used 155# rail.

broken 100#

-- Harry Bundy (, October 09, 2001.

Track gauge is the distance between the rails. The standard gauge for U. S. railroads is 4', 8 1/2". Some railroads in the 1800s (and later) were built to broader or narrower gauges. The most common narrow gauge was 3' and was often used on mountainous lines. The "80 pounds" you mention is one of the standard weights of rail, referring to pounds per yard, and is the usual way of designating rail height and thickness. 80-pound rail was common around the early 1900s but is seldom seen today except perhaps on old sidings that see little use. Most mainline rail is now 133 or 136 pounds per yard. Heavier rail is necessary for the heavier and faster trains of today.

-- Larry Goolsby (, October 09, 2001.

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