Seems that BART and a few other rail systems have non standard gauge track--This seems to make interchanging MOW equipment harder and buying off the shelf equipment harder...what was the brains behing this?
In the early days of railroads the gauge chosen was of purely local significance and Pennstlvania used a slightly broader gauge than what eventually became the world standard 4'8.5". This broader gauge survives on a few tram systems which are not connected to the main line railways. BART was designed by a firm that builds airplanes and seemed to be unaware of railroad standards so poor old BART is lumbered with something that does not fit in with anything else.
As I recall the early days of BART, a study of car dynamics was commissioned and the result was that a somewhat wider gauge gave a smoother, better quality ride for the passengers. It seems the trade off against cost and inconvenience of requiring specially designed equipment came out in favor of passenger comfort - I am not sure exactly how this exercise was done. It would be of interest to know if experience over the years has justified the decision and how the determination might be made. I do know that there is a section of the track toward SFO that, when I traveled it last June, is the noisiest I have ever experienced on rail transit.
The noise, non-standard gauge and vintage fleet (some cars still have carpet) aside, the BART system represents one of the most advanced and efficient rapid transit systems in the U.S. today. it was designed in the 1960s and we'll be hard pressed to see the deployment of that kind of ingeniuty in the U.S. again anytime soon!
I noticed this gauge on Pittsburgs PAT trains...you dont notice it unless your a rail geek...local lore has it that the main line RR companys did not want the trolleys to take away there freight traffic....no info yet on if the interurbans had diffrent gauges which would require a gaunlet track =
It is not just Pittsburgh, but Philadelphia and, at one time, quite a few other cities across Pennsylvania that use or used "Pennsylvania Standard Gauge" (PASG) for trolley cars and some subway lines. Philadelphia's esat - west Market - Frankfort line is PASG and the north - south Broad Street Subway is 4' 8.5" standard gauge. It was done to keep the electric street car lines separate from the "steam railroad" lines, but a large number of individuals, not just the major rail lines wanted this. Philadelphia and other cities which had some streets occupied by conventional railroads found that a string of freight cars and a steam locomotive were quite disruptive. They did not want them running down every street car line in the city.
Presumably BART and others who have followed have found, like Septa in Philadelphia, that it costs very little more to have a special track gauge for a closed system when the operator orders cars hundreds at a time. It is only the single car that has a significant price difference for he non-standard.
Regarding BART's wider gauge, I once asked a BART person about this. He said that during the design phase, there was an option to eventually extend the network across the Golden Gate Bridge. The engineers then studied various aspects pertinent to having trains go over the bridge. They determined a wider gauge was required for safety reasons, in particular the possibility of strong winds.
BART covered their engineering decisions by implying the safety aspect which no one would question (note the varied safety responses). The real reason is that they didn't want to share track with standard guage operators.
I believe some engineer may have said that. I also think it has some merit on paper at least. But when a person stops and considers a little bit about the world experience, the argument begins to look weak, at best. Standards gauge systems are operated all over the world, many on elevated bridges through mountains and across ravines, etc. Many existing systems use rolling stock (bi-levels) and even LRVs with higher centers of gravity than the current BART LRV. If the gauge in and of itself posed a legitimate concern related to operating through areas of high cross wind, I'm thinking others would have proposed something similar.
My recollection is that BART's original proponents were non-railroaders who wanted to build a spectacular "new" transportation system unlike any in the world. An early version of their dream used very wide gauge -- more that six feet -- that was totally impractical. I also recall that they wanted nothing to do with conventional railraod operations.
The final compromise BART gauge remained wider than standard, but not wide enough to permit dual gauge trackage anywhere. This, and the BART low profile car design, effectively prohibited joint use of the BART Transbay tunnel, so intercity passenger trains from the east still cannot reach San Francisco. This was a truly unwise decision hat is unlikely to be corrected in the lifetime of most people alive today.
I believe your explanation to be the closest to the truth. The sad thing is that, aside from the gauge, the system was remarkably advanced then (conceived in the late 60s) and even today!
I've spent my entire career in this business and I can't figure out why the industry in general is so far behind other industries. We fly jets 5-8 miles above the earth at speeds approaching 600 mph, often times on autopilot. But the minute you put a similarly sized vessel (similar in pasenger capacity not actual size) on the ground on a predetermined guideway (the rail line) and move at much more modest speeds (let's face it 110 mph is the highest for all but the NEC), all of a sudden the idea of completely automated control and efficiency is out the window. BART is somewhat of an exception in this regard. The system truly is completely automated and their on time performance (considering their aged fleet) of above 95% is to be commended.
So while the engineers may have got the gauge wrong, much of the rest of the design was spot-on!
In the 1800's 60" was "The other Standard gauge". It was used by several northeast railroads and almost all of the southern railroad that were not narrow gauge. In the latter 1800's all of the 60 inch railroads converted to 56 1/2" to allow exchange of equipment and seamless transportation. A number of streetcar systems were built to 60" and some of the streetcar systems still operating, such as New Orleans, are still 60". I believe BART chose 60" because it is theroredically more stable. Also, they did not want or need to be able to inerchange with any standard gauge railroad. A number of European railroads are 60" or other non standard "wider gauges" , both for stability, and in the past, to prevent other railroad equipment from crossing their borders.
The term "Standard Gauge" or "Other Standard Gauge" is a little misleading. The worldwide international acceptance of 56 1/2" is more about the promotion and influence of British colonial interests. Being the first to develop railway systems as we know them today, the British were in a prime position to point to the success of their national system. The French interests offered a metric based system around 1000mm (39.37") and 1600mm (63") as, for example, we see in Brazil. To counter the French 1600mm track gauge, the British developed 66" (1676mm) track gauge for colonial interests in SE Asia. and also 42" (1067mm) for African interests. Of the serious railroads in Europe, I can think of only Russia on 60" Portugal on 66" and Spain on 56 1/2" and is it 60", or is that to 66"........and isn't BART 66" rather than 60"?
Bart, to me, is an overall better ride for it's passengers than other similarly aged standard gauge systems, because of its broad gauge. Sharp curves can be a problem due to the circumferential wheel needs to compensate for the difference in high and low rail radii.
If you go back in history you will find the railway development of
Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He developed a system with a track gauge of 84.125" for Great Western Rail (GWR - some still call it God's Wonderful Railway). This remained the railway standard until the 1880's/1890's when it was regauged to 56 1/2". There were a number of significant benefits, chief amongst them was the stability of the track bed even after regauging. Much development of higher speed trains was conducted on GWR in the 1950's and 1960's because of the track stability. It has been reported that many of the original track structure (trackbed and bridges) laid out to Brunel's instructions remained untouched for almost 150 years. Overall maintenance costs must be a major consideration.
the market d n
Another common Urban Legend is that unusual tram gauges were so the local
horse carts, built to differing local standards, could run in the
grooves of the tram tracks.
BART is 5 feet, 6 inches, the same as railroads in most of Spain and Portugal, and a few places in South America. BART could have through running if they used regular Spanish TALGO trains, which can change gauge when they cross the border onto standard railroad gauge French railways.
Ireland is 5 feet, 3 inches, decreed by a government official as the average of the competing suggestions.
Some Welsh coal mines use 4 feet gauge. Is that why San Antonio, Texas trams were that gauge? Did they hire a Welsh consultant?
Russia and Finland are 5 feet, the same as many original railroads in the South of the U. S. of A. before the 1880s. Many trams in the South of the U. S. of A. State of New Jersey were also that gauge, and some of the trams in a few other cities like Columbus, Ohio and Louisville, Kentucky.
many of the trams in the SouthEast and SouthWest of the U. S. A. State of Pennsylvania are 5 feet, 2-1/2 inches, although the City of Philadelphia is 5 feet, 2-1/4 inches. As noted earlier, the rapid transit lines in Philadelphia are split, the older is tram gauge, the newer ones are standard railroad gauge. Altoona, Pennsylvania had 5 foot, 3 inch trams, Baltimore, Maryland trams were 5 feet, 4 inches, but interurban trams to the National Capital were standard railroad gauge, as is the present Light Rail Line.
Trams in Cincinnati, Ohio and its Southern suburbs were similar to Philadelphia gauge, but the standard railroad gauge interurban trams from the North were abandoned before the Subway, still not finished, could allow them access to the City.
The present trams in New Orleans, Louisiana are similar to Philadelphia gauge, older standard railroad gauge tram lines were either converted or abandoned.
Some trams in Denver, Colorado and Los Angeles, California used the British Colonial gauge of 3 feet, 6 inches; San Francisco cable car lines used at least 3 different gauges.
St. Louis, Missouri had 4 foot, 10 inch gauge trams, also originally used by some early railroads near Lake Erie.
Toronto, Ontario, in Canada has a tram gauge of about 4 feet, 10-7/8 inches; could it be Metric? It's very close to 1.5 metres!
Trenton, New Jersey had 4 different tram gauges for 3 different companies. 2 of them also had standard railroad gauge tram lines which only connected via the national railroad system, as they both handled interchange railroad cars!
It wasn't just the trams. Dunkirk, New York had a local law that all railroads coming into the place had to have a different gauge, to force passengers and goods to stop there. The New York Central & Hudson River was standard railroad gauge, the Erie was 6 feet, and the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern was 4 feet, 10 inches!
I do not recall the source, but my information was that Southern Pacific (you may recall that SP had just a wee bit of influence) didn't want the possible freight competition, considering that a direct connection across the Bay would be a real threat to them. So SP was the real reason behind the non-standard guage push.
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