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  • Need some help!!

    Hamy3 tells me that there are some "Railroad Guys" on this forum...I need your help. Can anyone out there tell me what the track width was on the Civil War era U.S.M.R.R. track was vs. the Confederate 'Narrow Guage' track was?
    I need to know the width of both for something I'm working on. I need to know the measurement between the rails for both...
    Thanks a lot Guys,

    Dave "razorboy" Creel

    “The test of success is not what you do when you are on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom." - George S. Patton

  • #2
    Defense Standardization Program Journal
    August 2001
    Stephen Lowell, Defense Standardization Program

    Relevant info...

    ...the American Civil War in 1861, there were more than 20 different
    rail- road track gauges in the US ranging from 3 feet to 6 feet.[5]
    In fact, 5 feet was by far the most prevalent gauge in the South[6],
    so if the Confederacy had won the war, the standard size in the U.S.
    might be different today.

    Probably more than any other single event, the American Civil War
    is why the US has the one standard track gauge today. The Civil
    War was the first war in which railroads played an important part
    in transporting troops, equipment, and supplies. The variety of
    track gauges forced army units to unload and then reload cargo at the
    junction point between lines with different gauges. Such delays were
    inconvenient, expensive, and annoying for civilians during peacetime,
    but for an army to experience such delays sometimes meant the
    difference between victory and defeat.

    While the US government did not mandate conversion to a standard track
    gauge, it did take steps that accelerated standardization towards the
    4 foot 8-1/2 inch gauge. In 1862, the United States Military Railroad
    Organization was created to address a number of rail transportation
    issues, including standardization of track gauges.

    Since the 4 foot 8-1/2 inch track gauge accounted for more than half
    the track in the U.S., it made sense from a military and economic
    viewpoint to promote this as the standard gauge. More than 4,000 miles
    of new track was laid down in the North during the war, most of which
    conformed to the 4 foot 8-1/2 inch track gauge.[8] In some cases, the
    Union forces altered the track gauges of captured Confederate rails.
    For example, the 5-foot gauge of the Norfolk & Petersburg rail was
    changed to 4 foot 8-1/2 inch gauge.[9] In other cases, the government
    succeeded in convincing nonstandard Northern railroads, such as
    the New York Central, to change their track gauge.[10] Finally, the
    Pacific Railway Act of 1864 mandated the standard 4 foot 8-1/2 inch
    gauge for the Transcontinental Railroad.[11]

    The most significant contribution of the government for standardizing
    track gauges, however, was to serve as a catalyst in bringing together
    industry to promote railroad cooperation during the Civil War.
    In February of 1862, Secretary of War Stanton and other government
    leaders met with the owners of the major railroads to discuss a
    number of issues, including standardization of track gauges.[12]
    These meetings continued throughout the Civil War.

    Following the war, industry continued to meet, and on September
    18, 1867, representatives from twenty-nine railroads formed the
    Master Car Builders Association. At the top of their agenda was
    the standardization of track gauge in the US. It would take another
    nineteen years, but through the cooperative efforts of industry brought
    together initially by government, commercial railroad track gauges in
    the US were at last standardized to 4 feet 8-1/2 inches in 1886...


    5 Robert L. Frey, ed., Encyclopedia of American Business History and
    Biography, Railroad in the Nineteenth Century, Bruccoli Clark Layman
    Book, 1988, p.333.

    6 Thomas E. Griess, ed., Atlas for the American Civil War, The West
    Point Military History Series, Avery Publishing Group, Inc., Atlas
    Map No. 2.

    7 Frey, op.cit., p.343.

    8 Thomas Weber, The Northern Railroads in the Civil War, 1861-1865,
    King's Crown Press, 1952, p.15.

    9 Allan Nevins, The War for the Union: War Becomes Revolution 1862-1863,
    Charles Scribner's Sons, 1960, p.462.

    10 Allan Nevins, The War for the Union: The Organized War 1863-1864,
    Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971, p.23.

    11 Achsah Nesmith, "A Long, Arduous March Toward Standardization,"
    Smithsonian Magazine, March 1985, p.83.

    12 Phillip Shaw Paludan, A People's Contest, The Union and Civil War
    1861-1865, Harper & Row Publishers, 1988, p.141.




    • #3

      Thanks Mate!
      That's a true wealth of information. I do appreciate it.

      Thanks again,

      “The test of success is not what you do when you are on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom." - George S. Patton


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