Moreidlethoughts Weblog

humour,art,gardens, books and whatever idle thoughts float through my mind (it's a very draughty mind.)



Yes, I have been “missing in action” again. Not my fault, people! The computer had a nasty infection which required some rather expensive “medicine.”

But I am back and I have an amusing and educational morsel for you.

Does the statement: “We’ve always done it like that” ring any bells?

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is four feet eight and a half inches.That’s an exceedingly odd number.
Why was that gauge used?
Because that’s the way they built railroads in England, and English expatriates built the US Railroads.
Why did the English build them like that?
Because the first railways were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that’s the gauge they used.
Why did “they” use that gauge then?
Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.
Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular wheel spacing?
Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that’s the spacing of the wheel ruts.
So who built those old rutted roads?
Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since.
And the ruts in the roads?
Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match or risk destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they all had the same wheel spacing.
The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot.

And bureaucracies live forever.

So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse’s arse came up with it, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses!

Now, the twist to the story… when you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs.The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. d’you see where I’m going with this?
The railroad line from the factory runs through a tunnel in the mountains.
The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel.
The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses’ behinds.

So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse’s arse.

And you thought being a HORSE’S ARSE wasn’t important!

All these snippets of information are probably available from several sources; I am indebted to my friend, Genie, for pointing me in this direction.


Author: dinahmow

A New Zealander, currently living in tropical Queensland,Australia (with 2 cats and one Main Man).Old enough to remember George VI, white tennis balls and life-before-television.You want more? Read the blog!

12 thoughts on “LE DERRIERE DU CHEVAL

  1. lol… too funny. 🙂


  2. Hahaha!This is excellent.


  3. that’s so brilliant – I shall look at Freddie (and Fern)’s arse with a new respect now!


  4. I knew about the train tracks (what American worth her salt doesn’t? /snicker) but the shuttle thing was new, and I’m still amazed!

    Wahoo, rock on Romans!


  5. oh that’s a TRIP.
    no way!

    i love it!


  6. yes, I thought there’d be some chuckles for this one, especially FN who is well-versed in matters scientific!


  7. Dinah, now THIS is what I truly call learning something new every day!

    You are, literally, a fountain of information.

    Who’dathunk it?

    (Not that you’re very bright, but that the SRBs on the space shuttle are the way they are because of technology and bureaucracy from two millenia ago?



  8. Now that is Blogging!
    I am standing in my chair and clapping and whistling…that was awesome.
    I was waiting for this lesson to end with the revelation that _________ was 4′ 8 1/2″ tall!



  9. ww and he…pleased I can increase that formidable Northern brainpower.


  10. hilarious! I’ve bookmarked your blog, it’s great 🙂


  11. Well I’ll be…… LOL.


  12. Lts hear it for horses arses!! I laughe dso hard! Great resesrch.


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