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Track gauge

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Track gauge

Track gauge
By transport mode
Tram · Rapid transit
Miniature · Scale model
By size (list)
Graphic list of track gauges

  Fifteen inch 381 mm (15 in)

  Two foot,
600 mm
597 mm
600 mm
603 mm
610 mm
(1 ft 11 12 in)
(1 ft 11 58 in)
(1 ft 11 34 in)
(2 ft)
  750 mm,
Two foot six inch,
800 mm
750 mm
760 mm
762 mm
800 mm
(2 ft 5 12 in)
(2 ft 5 1516 in)
(2 ft 6 in)
(2 ft 7 12 in)
  Swedish three foot,
900 mm,
Three foot
891 mm
900 mm
914 mm
(2 ft11 332 in)
(2 ft 11 716)
(3 ft)
  Metre 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)
  Three foot six inch,
Cape, CAP, Kyōki
1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)
  Four foot six inch 1,372 mm (4 ft 6 in)

  Standard 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)

Five foot
1,520 mm
1,524 mm
(4 ft 11 2732 in)
(5 ft)
  Irish 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in)
  Iberian 1,668 mm (5 ft 5 2132 in)
  Indian 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in)
  Six foot 1,829 mm (6 ft)
  Brunel 2,140 mm (7 ft 14 in)
Change of gauge
Break-of-gauge · Dual gauge ·
Conversion (list· Bogie exchange · Variable gauge
By location
North America · South America · Europe
World map, rail gauge by region
Indian Narrow and Broad gauge tracks

In rail transport, track gauge is the spacing of the rails on a railway track and is measured between the inner faces of the load-bearing rails.

All vehicles on a network must have running gear that is compatible with the track gauge, and in the earliest days of railways the selection of a proposed railway's gauge was a key issue.

As the dominant parameter determining interoperability, it is still frequently used as a descriptor of a route or network.

There is a distinction between the nominal gauge and actual gauge at some locality, due to divergence of track components from the nominal. Railway engineers use a device, like a caliper, to measure the actual gauge, and this device is also referred to as a track gauge.


  • Nominal track gauge 1
  • Units 2
  • Selection of gauge 3
    • Early track technology 3.1
    • The Stockton and Darlington Railway 3.2
    • Broad gauge 3.3
    • Gauge differences 3.4
    • Gauge selection in other countries 3.5
  • Terminology 4
    • Medium gauge 4.1
    • Narrow gauge 4.2
    • Break of gauge 4.3
    • Mixed gauge 4.4
  • Maintenance standards 5
  • Dominant gauges 6
  • Future 7
    • New lines 7.1
    • Kenya-Uganda-Sudan proposal 7.2
    • Latin America 7.3
  • Temporary way – permanent way 8
  • Timeline 9
  • See also 10
  • Notes 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13

Nominal track gauge

The nominal track gauge is the distance between the inner faces of the rails. In current practice it is specified at a certain distance below the rail head as the inner faces of the rail head (the gauge faces) are not necessarily vertical.

Rolling stock on the network must have running gear (wheelsets) that are compatible with the gauge, and therefore the gauge is a key parameter in determining interoperability, but there are many others—see below. In some cases in the earliest days of railways, the railway company saw itself as an infrastructure provider only, and independent hauliers provided wagons suited to the gauge. Colloquially the wagons might be referred to as "four-foot gauge wagons", say, if the track had a gauge of four feet. This nominal value does not equate to the flange spacing, as some freedom is allowed for.

An infrastructure manager might specify new or replacement track components at a slight variation from the nominal gauge for pragmatic reasons.


Track is defined in old Imperial units or in universally accepted metric units or SI units.

Imperial units were established in United Kingdom by The Weights and Measures of Act of 1824. The United States customary units for length did not agree with the Imperial system until 1959, when one International yard was defined as 0.9144 meters, i.e. 1 foot as 0.3048 meter and 1 inch as 25.4 mm.

The list shows the Imperial and other units that have been used for track gauge definitions:

Unit SI-equivalent Track gauge example
Imperial feet 304.8 mm
Castilian feet 278.6 mm 6 Castilian feet =1,672 mm (5 ft 5 1316 in)
(2 Castilian feet = 558 mm, 1 ft 9 3132 in)
Portuguese feet 332.8 mm 5 Portuguese feet = 1,664 mm (5 ft 5 12 in)
Swedish feet 296.904 mm 3 Swedish feet =891 mm (2 ft 11 332 in)
2.7 Swedish feet =802 mm (2 ft 7 916 in)
Prussian feet (Rheinfuß) 313.85 mm 2 12 Prussian feet =785 mm (2 ft 6 2932 in)
Austrian fathom 1520 mm 12 Austrian fathom =760 mm (2 ft 5 1516 in)

Selection of gauge

Early track technology

In the earliest days of railways, single wagons were manhandled on timber rails, almost always in connection with mineral extraction, within a mine or quarry leading from it. Guidance was not at first provided except by human muscle power, but later a number of methods of guiding the wagons were employed. The rails had to be at a spacing that suited the wagon wheels.[1]

The timber rails wore rapidly and later flat cast-iron plates were provided to limit the wear. In some localities, the plates were made L-shaped, the upstand of the L providing the guidance; this is generally referred to as a "plateway".

As the guidance of the wagons was improved, short strings of wagons could be connected and pulled by horses, and the track could be extended from the immediate vicinity of the mine or quarry, typically to a navigable waterway. The wagons were built to a consistent pattern and the track would be made to suit the wagons: the gauge was more critical. The Penydarren Tramroad of 1802 in South Wales, a plateway, spaced these at 4 ft 4 in (1,321 mm) over the outside of the upstands.[2]

Fish-belly cast-iron rails from the Cromford and High Peak Railway

The Penydarren Tramroad probably carried the first journey by a locomotive, in 1804, and it was successful for the locomotive, but unsuccessful for the track: the plates were not strong enough to carry its weight. A considerable progressive step was made when cast iron edge rails were first employed; these had the major axis of the rail section configured vertically, giving a much stronger section to resist bending forces, and this was further improved when fish-belly rails were introduced.[3]

Edge rails required a close match between rail spacing and the configuration of the wheelsets, and the importance of the gauge was reinforced. Railways were still seen as local concerns: there was no appreciation of a future connection to other lines, and selection of the track gauge was still a pragmatic decision based on local requirements and prejudices, and probably determined by existing local designs of (road) vehicles.

Thus, the Monkland and Kirkintilloch Railway (1826) in the West of Scotland used 4 ft 6 in (1,372 mm);[4] the Dundee and Newtyle Railway (1831) in the north-east of Scotland adopted 4 ft 6 12 in (1,384 mm);[5] the Redruth and Chasewater Railway (1825) in Cornwall chose 4 ft (1,219 mm).[6]

The Arbroath and Forfar Railway opened in 1838 with a gauge of 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm),[7] and the Ulster Railway of 1839 used 6 ft 2 in (1,880 mm)[7]

The Stockton and Darlington Railway

An early Stephenson locomotive

Locomotives were being developed in the first decades of the nineteenth century; they took various forms, but Stockton and Darlington Railway was opened in 1825, it used his locomotives, with the same gauge as the Killingworth line, 4 ft 8 in (1,422 mm).[8][9]

The Stockton and Darlington line was immensely successful, and when the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the first intercity line, was promoted (it opened in 1830), it used the same gauge. It was also hugely successful, and the gauge (now eased to 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)[8]), became the automatic choice: "standard gauge".

Broad gauge

The Liverpool and Manchester was quickly followed by other trunk railways, with the Grand Junction Railway and the London and Birmingham Railway forming a huge critical mass of standard gauge. When Bristol promoters planned a line from London, they employed the innovative engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He decided on a wider gauge, to give greater stability, and the Great Western Railway adopted a gauge of 7 ft (2,134 mm), later eased to 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm). This became known as broad gauge. The GWR was successful and became greatly extended, directly and through friendly associated companies, widening the scope of broad gauge.

Gauge differences

At the same time, other parts of Britain built railways to standard gauge, and British technology was exported to European countries and parts of North America, also using standard gauge. Britain polarised into areas that had broad gauge lines or standard gauge lines. In this context, standard gauge was referred to as narrow gauge to indicate the contrast. Some smaller concerns selected other non-standard gauges: the Eastern Counties Railway adopted 5 ft (1,524 mm). Most of them converted to standard gauge at an early date, but the GWR's broad gauge continued to grow.

The larger railway companies wished to expand geographically, and large areas were considered to be under their control. When a new independent line was proposed to open up an unconnected area, the gauge was crucial in determining the allegiance that the line would adopt: if it was broad gauge, it must be friendly to the Great Western railway; if narrow (standard) gauge, it must favour the other companies. The battle to persuade or coerce that choice became very intense, and became referred to as "the gauge wars".

As passengers and freight between the gauges became increasingly important, the difficulty of moving from one gauge to the other — the break of gauge – became more prominent and more objectionable. Parliament intervened with an Act that forbade the construction of broad gauge lines unconnected with the broad gauge network, and the broad gauge network was eventually converted—a process called gauge conversion—to standard, progressively until 1892. The same Act mandated the gauge of 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) for use in Ireland.[10]

Gauge selection in other countries

Different gauges, from left: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in), 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in), and 600 mm (1 ft 11 58 in), on display at the China Railway Museum in Beijing

As railways were built in other countries, the gauge selected was pragmatic; the track would have to fit the rolling stock. If locomotives were imported from elsewhere, especially in the early days, the track would be built to fit them. In some cases standard gauge was adopted, but many countries or companies chose a different gauge as their national gauge, either by governmental policy, or as a matter of individual choice. Government officials in Spain and Russia were concerned that the rail lines they were planning could be used by an invader, and purposely chose gauges that were different from their neighbors.

Narrow gauges were widely used in mountainous regions as construction costs tended to be lower and they provided for tighter turns that were often required. In some countries, multiple gauges were chosen by long-distance networks, particularly in India and Australia.


The terms standard gauge, broad gauge and narrow gauge do not have any fixed meaning. A "standard" gauge is only standard in a geographical region where it is dominant, but it is generally understood to be 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in). An infrastructure owner would be ill-advised to order track materials simply as "standard gauge", but would normally specify the required critical dimensions of the components.

Broad gauge and narrow gauge are relative to the generally adopted standard.

In the British area of influence in southern Africa, 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) was widely adopted.

The terms structure gauge and loading gauge have little connection with track gauge. They are both widely used, but imprecise, terms. Structure gauge describes the cross-section envelope into which new or altered structures (bridges, lineside equipment etc.) must not encroach. Loading gauge is the corresponding cross-sectional profile within which rail vehicles and their loads must be contained. If an exceptional load or a new type of vehicle is being assessed to run, it must conform to the route's loading gauge.

Historically, a space between the two profiles was required to allow for dynamic effects, extreme wear and surveying tolerances, but in current practice, all tolerances are incorporated into the vehicle operating profile and no other allowance is necessary.

Nowadays, there are other parameters that must be assessed for interoperability, including electro-magnetic compatibility, compliance with control system parameters, axle load and loading envelope.

In British practice, the space between the rails of a track is colloquially referred to as the "four-foot", and the space between two tracks the "six-foot", descriptions relating to the respective dimensions.

Medium gauge

The term medium gauge had different meanings throughout history, depending on the local dominant gauge in use.

  • In Australia, 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) and 3 ft (914 mm) gauge railways are classified as medium gauge[11][12] in order to make a distinction with standard gauge and the narrow gauges such as the widely used 2 ft (610 mm) gauge sugar cane railways.
  • In India and Bangladesh, broad gauge (BG) is the classification for the dominant Indian gauge, Metre[13] or medium [14][15] (MG) for 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) gauge railways and narrow gauge (NG) for 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) and 2 ft (610 mm) railways.
  • In 1847, the 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) Irish gauge was considered a medium gauge compared to Brunel's broad gauge and the 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) narrow gauge, nowadays being standard gauge.[16]
  • In North America medium gauge was 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) track gauge, also called "Canada Gauge".[17]
  • Sometimes railways built on gauges between 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) and 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) are referred to as "medium-gauge" railways.[18]

Narrow gauge

762mm Sri Lankan Narrow Gauge

During the period known as "the Battle of the Gauges", Stephenson's standard gauge was commonly known as "narrow gauge", while Brunel's railway was termed "broad gauge".

As the gauge of a railway is reduced the costs of construction can be reduced since narrow gauges allow smaller-radius curves, allowing obstacles to be avoided rather than having to be built over or through (valleys and hills); the reduced cost is particularly noticeable in mountainous regions, and many narrow gauge railways were built in Wales, the Rocky Mountains of North America, Central Europe and South America.

Industrial railways are often narrow gauge. Sugar cane and banana plantations are often served by narrow gauges such as 2 ft (610 mm), as there is little through traffic to other systems.

The most widely used narrow gauges on public railways are

  • 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) (Southern and Central Africa, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, parts of Australia, New Zealand, Honduras and Costa Rica.)
  • 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge (SE Asia, 17,000 km (11,000 mi) in India, East Africa, South America and Central Europe).
  • 762 mm (2 ft 6 in) (formerly in Sri Lanka Kelani Valley Line and Udapussellawa lines).

Break of gauge

A cartoon depicting the horrors of goods transfer at the break of gauge at Gloucester in 1843

Through operation between railway networks with different gauges was originally impossible; goods had to be transhipped and passengers had to change trains. This was obviously a major obstacle to convenient transport, and in Great Britain, led to political intervention.

On narrow gauge lines, Rollbocks or transporter wagons are used: standard gauge wagons are carried on narrow gauge lines on these special vehicles, generally with rails of the wider gauge to enable those vehicles to roll on and off at transfer points.

On the Transmongolian Railway, Russia and Mongolia use 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 2732 in) Russian gauge while China uses standard gauge. At the border, each carriage is lifted and its bogies are changed. The operation can take several hours for a whole train of many carriages.

Other examples include crossings into or out of the former Soviet Union: Ukraine/Slovakia border on the Bratislava-L'viv train, and the Romania/Moldova border on the Chişinău-Bucharest train.[19]

A system developed by Talgo and Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) of Spain uses variable gauge wheelsets; at the border between France and Spain, through passenger trains are drawn slowly through apparatus that alters the gauge of the wheels, which slide laterally on the axles. This is fully described in Automatic Gauge Changeover for Trains in Spain.[20]

A similar system is used between China and Central Asia, and between Poland and Ukraine, using the SUW 2000 and INTERGAUGE variable axle systems.[21] China and Poland use standard gauge, while Central Asia and Ukraine use 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 2732 in).

Mixed gauge

Mixed gauge track at Sassari, Sardinia: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) and 950 mm (3 ft 1 38 in)

Where a railway corridor is used by trains of two gauges, mixed gauge (or dual gauge) track can be provided, in which three rails are supported in the same track structure. This arose particularly when individual railway companies chose different gauges and were subsequently required to share a route; this is most commonly found at the approaches to city terminals, where land space is limited.

Trains of different gauges sharing the same track can save considerable expense compared to using separate tracks for each gauge, but introduces complexities in track maintenance and signalling, and may require speed restrictions for some trains. If the difference between the two gauges is large enough, for example between 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) and 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm), three-rail dual-gauge is possible, but if not, for example between 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) and 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge, four-rail triple-gauge is used. Dual-gauge rail lines are used in Switzerland, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, North Korea, Spain, Tunisia and Vietnam.

Reconstructed mixed-gauge track at Didcot Railway Museum, England

On the GWR, there was an extended period between political intervention in 1846 that prevented major expansion of its broad gauge[note 1] and the final gauge conversion to standard gauge in 1892.

During this period, there were many locations where practicality required mixed gauge operation, and in station areas, the track configuration was extremely complex. This was compounded by the fact that the common rail had to be at the platform side in stations, so in many cases, standard-gauge trains needed to be switched from one side of the track to the other at the approach. A special fixed point arrangement was devised for the purpose, where the track layout was simple enough. Jenkins and Langley[22] give an illustration and description.

In some cases, mixed gauge trains operated, conveying wagons of both gauges. For example, MacDermot[23] says:

In November 1871 a novelty in the shape of a mixed-gauge goods train was introduced between Truro and Penzance. It was worked by a narrow-gauge engine, and behind the narrow-gauge trucks came a broad-gauge match-truck with wide buffers and sliding shackles, followed by the broad-gauge trucks. Such trains continued to run in West Cornwall until the abolition of the Broad Gauge; they had to stop or come down to walking pace at all stations where fixed points existed and the narrow portion side-stepped to right or left.

Maintenance standards

Infrastructure owners specify permitted variances from the nominal gauge, and the required interventions when non-compliant gauge is detected. For example, the Federal Railroad Administration in the USA specifies that the actual gauge of track that is rated for a maximum of 60 mph (96.6 km/h) must be between 4 ft 8 in (1,420 mm) and 4 ft 9 12 in (1,461 mm).[24]

Dominant gauges

Sixty per cent of the world's railways use 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge.

Gauge Name Installation (km) Installation (miles) Usage
1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) Metre gauge 95,000 59,000 SE Asia, India (4,000 km or 2,500 mi but was 30,000 km or 19,000 mi in 1991, decreasing with Project Unigauge), Argentina (11,000 km or 6,800 mi), Brazil (23,489 km or 14,595 mi), Bolivia, northern Chile, Switzerland (RhB, MOB, BOB, MGB), East Africa
(approx. 7% of the world's railways)
1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) Three foot six inch gauge 112,000 70,000 Southern and Central Africa, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, New Zealand, Queensland Australia, Western Australia
(approx. 9% of the world's railways)
1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) Standard gauge 720,000 450,000 Europe, Argentina, United States, Canada, China, Korea (South), Korea (North), Australia, India (Only used in MRTS/Metro), Indonesia, (only at Aceh), Middle East, North Africa, Mexico, Cuba, Panama, Thailand (used in BTS Skytrain, MRT (Bangkok) and Airport Rail Link (Bangkok)/Metro), Venezuela, Peru, Uruguay and the Philippines. Also privates companies lines & JR high-speed lines in Japan. High-speed lines in Taiwan and Spain.
(approx. 60% of the world's railways)
1,520 mm (4 ft 11 2732 in) Russian gauge 220,000 140,000 Latvia, Lithuania, Mongolia
(approx. 17% of the world's railways; all contiguous — redefined from 1,524 mm (5 ft))
1,524 mm (5 ft) Finnish gauge 5,865 3,644 Finland (contiguous to and generally compatible with 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 2732 in))
1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) Irish gauge 9,800 6,100 Ireland (1,800 km or 1,100 mi), and in Australia mainly Victoria and some South Australia Victorian gauge (4,017 km or 2,496 mi), Brazil (4,057 km or 2,521 mi)
1,668 mm (5 ft 5 2132 in) Iberian gauge 15,394 9,565 Portugal, Spain. Sometimes referred to as Iberian gauge. In Spain the Administrador de Infraestructuras Ferroviarias (ADIF) managed 11,683 km of this gauge and 22 km of mixed gauge at end of 2010.[25] The Portuguese network is actually at 1674mm[note 2] The Portuguese Rede Ferroviária Nacional (REFER) managed 2,650 km of this gauge of this track at the same date.[25]
1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) Indian gauge 78,500 48,800 India (60,000 km or 37,000 mi; increasing with Project Unigauge), Pakistan, Argentina 24,000 km or 15,000 mi, Chile, Sri Lanka 1,508 km or 937 mi
(approx. 6.67% of the world's railways), BART in the United States San Francisco Bay Area.


Further convergence of rail gauge use seems likely, as countries seek to build inter-operable networks, and international organisations seek to build macro-regional and continental networks. National projects include Australian and Indian efforts to create a uniform gauge. The European Union has set out to develop inter-operable freight and passenger rail networks across its area, and is seeking to standardise gauge, signalling and electrical power systems.

EU funds have been dedicated to assist Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in the building of some key railway lines (Rail Baltica) of standard gauge, and to assist Spain and Portugal in the construction of high-speed lines to connect Iberian cities to one another and to the French high-speed lines. The EU has developed plans for improved freight rail links between Spain, Portugal, and the rest of Europe.

Gauge conversion of existing lines is extremely expensive and it is likely that only primary trunk routes will be converted, with new strategic lines being built to standard gauge.

The interoperability problem within the EU is not only rail gauge but also loading gauge, especially for the United Kingdom, which has standard rail gauge but generally one of the smallest loading gauges in the world.

New lines

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) is planning a Trans-Asian Railway that will link Europe and the Pacific, with a Northern Corridor from Europe to the Korean Peninsula, a Southern Corridor from Europe to Southeast Asia, and a North–South corridor from Northern Europe to the Persian Gulf. All these would encounter breaks of gauge as they cross Asia. Current plans have mechanized facilities at the breaks of gauge to move containers from train to train rather than widespread gauge conversion.

  • Lines for iron ore to Oakajee port in Western Australia are proposed to form a combined dual-gauge network.
  • Lines for iron ore to Kribi in Cameroon are likely to be 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) with a likely connection to the same port from the 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge Cameroon system. This line owned by Sundance Resources may be shared with Legend Mining.

Kenya-Uganda-Sudan proposal

A proposal was aired in October 2004 [26] [27] [28] to build a high-speed electrified line to connect Kenya with southern Sudan. Kenya and Uganda use 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge, while Sudan uses 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge. Standard gauge was proposed for the project.

Latin America

Temporary way – permanent way

Narrow gauge work train in an East Side Access cavern that will eventually house a standard gauge station for the Long Island Railroad.

The temporary way is the temporary track often used for construction, replaced by the permanent way (the structure consisting of the rails, fasteners, sleepers/ties and ballast (or slab track), plus the underlying subgrade) when construction nears completion. In many cases narrow-gauge track is used for a temporary way because of the convenience in laying it and changing its location over unimproved ground.

In restricted spaces such as tunnels, the temporary way might be double track even though the tunnel will ultimately be single track. The Airport Rail Link in Sydney had construction trains of 900 mm (2 ft 11 716 in) gauge, which were replaced by permanent tracks of 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) gauge.

During World War I trench warfare led to a relatively static disposition of infantry, requiring considerable logistics to bring them support staff and supplies (food, ammunition, earthworks materials, etc.). Dense light railway networks using temporary narrow gauge track sections were established by both sides for this purpose.[31]

In 1939 it was proposed to construct the western section of the Yunnan–Burma Railway using a gauge of 15 14 in (387 mm), since such tiny or "toy" gauge facilitates the tightest of curves in difficult terrain.[32]


  • 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) – 1825 – chosen by George Stephenson
  • 5 ft (1,524 mm) – 1827 – chosen by Horatio Allen for the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company
  • 1 ft 11 12 in (597 mm) – 1836 – chosen by Henry Archer for the Festiniog Railway to easily navigate mountainous terrain (started Britain's first narrow gauge passenger service in 1865) (originally horse-drawn)
  • 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm) – 1838 – chosen by I. K. Brunel
  • 5 ft (1,524 mm) – 1842 – chosen by Moscow – Saint Petersburg Railway based on Southern US practice
  • 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) – 1846 – chosen in Ireland as a compromise
  • 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) – 1853 – chosen by Lord Dalhousie in India following Scottish practice
  • 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) – 1862 – chosen by Carl Pihl for the Røros Line in Norway to reduce costs
  • 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) – 1865 – chosen by Abraham Fitzgibbon for the Queensland Railways to reduce costs
  • 3 ft (914 mm) – 1870 – chosen by William Jackson Palmer for the Denver & Rio Grande Railway to reduce costs (inspired by the Festiniog Railway)
  • 2 ft (610 mm) – 1877 – chosen by Billerica and Bedford Railroad to reduce costs (inspired by the Festiniog Railway)
  • 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) – 1887 – chosen by Everard Calthrop to reduce costs; had designs for a matching fleet of rolling stock

See also


  1. ^ The Act of Parliament did not prohibit expansion of the existing broad gauge system, but it had the indirect and delayed effect of forcing conformity with the "standard" gauge eventually
  2. ^ According to Alvarez both Spanish and Portuguese national networks were originally built to 1674mm, but the Spanish network "has been converted" to 1668mm.


  1. ^ M J T Lewis, Early Wooden Railways, Routledge Keegan Paul, London, 1970
  2. ^ R Cragg, Civil Engineering Heritage—Wales and West Central, Thomas Telford Publishing, London, 2nd edition 1997, England, ISBN 0 7277 2576 9
  3. ^ Andy Guy and Jim Rees, Early Railways 1569–1830, Shire Publications in association with the National Railway Museum, Oxford, 2011, ISBN 978 0 74780 811 4
  4. ^ Don Martin, The Monkland and Kirkintilloch and Associated Railways, Strathkelvin Public Libraries, Kirkintilloch, 1995, ISBN 0 904966 41 0
  5. ^ Dr N Ferguson, The Dundee and Newtyle Railway including the Alyth and Blairgowrie Branches, The Oakwood Press, 1995, ISBN 0-85361-476-8.
  6. ^ D B Barton, The Redruth and Chasewater Railway, 1824–1915, D Bradford Barton Ltd, Truro, 2nd edition, 1966
  7. ^ a b Francis Whishaw, The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland Practically Described and Illustrated, 1842, reprint 1969, David & Charles (Publishers) Limited, Newton Abbot, ISBN 0-7153-4786-1
  8. ^ a b W W Tomlinson, The North Eastern Railway, its Rise and Development, Andrew Reid & Co, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1915
  9. ^ Nicholas Wood, A Practical Treatise on Rail-Roads, Longman, Orme, Brown, Green and Longmans, London, Third edition, 1838
  10. ^ "An Act for regulating the Gauge of Railways" (PDF). 18 October 1846. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  11. ^ Linking a Nation: Australia's Transport and Communications 1788 - 1970
  12. ^ Adoption of the 3ft. 6ins. gauge for queensland railways (1983)
  13. ^ Railway Gauges in India
  14. ^ Planned development for transport sector
  15. ^ PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN INDIA - Page 2: Trucks and Railways
  16. ^ The beginning of the Great Southern and Western Railway
  17. ^ Proceedings of the standing committee on rail-roads and telegraph lines (1831) [4]
  18. ^ Rail Gauge Distances
  19. ^ "Beyond Thunderdome: Iron Curtain 2k6". Retrieved 2007-10-10. 
  20. ^ Alberto García Álvarez, Automatic Gauge Changeover for Trains in Spain, Fundación de los Ferrocarrilos Españoles, 2010, online at [5]
  21. ^ Experience and results of operation the SUW 2000 system in traffic corridors at [6]
  22. ^ S C Jenkins and R C Langley, The West Cornwall Railway, The Oakwood Press, Usk, 2002, ISBN 0 85361 589 6, page 66
  23. ^ E T MacDermot, History of the Great Western Railway, vol II: 1863–1921, published by the Great Western Railway, London, 1931, p316
  24. ^ "Track Safety Standards Compliance Manual Chapter 5 Track Safety Standards Classes 1 through 5" (PDF). Federal Railroad Administration. Retrieved 26 February 2010. 
  25. ^ a b Karl Arne Richter (editor), Europäische Bahnen '11, Eurailpress, Hamburg, 2010, ISBN 978-3-7771-0413-3
  26. ^ SudanTribune article : After 21 years of civil war, railway to link Sudan and Kenya
  27. ^ People's Daily Online - Roundup: Kenya, southern Sudan to enhance ties
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Venezuela, Argentina begin construction of railway linking their capitals". China Daily. Xinhua. 2008-08-21. Retrieved 2008-08-21. 
  31. ^ Christian Wolmar, Engines of War: How Wars Were Won & Lost on the Railways, Atlantic Books, London, 2010, ISBN 978 1 84887 172 4
  32. ^ "TOY RAILWAY.".  

External links

  • A history of track gauge by George W. Hilton
  • "Railroad Gauge Width". Archived from the original on 17 July 2012.  — A list of railway gauges used or being used worldwide, including gauges that are obsolete.
  • European Railway Agency: 1520 mm systems (issues with the participation of 1520/1524 mm gauge countries in the EU rail network)
  • The Days they Changed the Gauge in the U.S. South
  • Juan Manuel Grijalvo - The Myth of the "Standard" Gauge
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