What horse’s ass came up with this?

15 Mar

The U.S. standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That’s an exceedingly odd number.
Why was that gauge used?
Because that’s the way they built them in England, and English expatriates designed the U.S. railroads.
Why did the English build them like that?
Because the first rail lines 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 had used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.
Why did the wagons have that particular odd 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 (including England) for their legions. Those 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 for fear of destroying their wagon wheels.
Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore, the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. In other words, bureaucracies live forever.
So the next time you are handed a specification, procedure, or process, and wonder, ‘What horse’s ass came up with this?’, you may be exactly right.
Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses.
Now, the twist to the story:
When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, you will notice that 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 larger, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains, and 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 ass.
And you thought being a horse’s ass wasn’t important!
Now you know, Horses’ Asses control almost everything…….Explains a whole lot of stuff, doesn’t it?

8 Responses to “What horse’s ass came up with this?”

  1. Jay in Ames March 15, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    Probably my greatest work ever that I stole from an email.

  2. Jay in Ames March 15, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    “Have you ever seen a twenty dollar bill all crumpled up?” asked the wife.

    “No,” said her husband.

    She gave him a sexy little smile, slowly reached into her cleavage and pulled out a crumpled twenty dollar bill.

    “Have you ever seen a fifty all crumpled up?” she asked.

    “Uh, no,” he said.

    She gave him another sexy little smile, seductively reached into her panties and pulled out a crumpled fifty dollar bill.

    “Now,” she said, “Have you ever seen 40,000 dollars all crumpled up?”

    “No,” he said, now really intrigued.

    “Well, go look in the garage…”

  3. LC Aggie Sith March 15, 2013 at 12:02 pm #


    omg… bureaucracies do live forever. We are so screwed.

  4. Jay in Ames March 18, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    aggie on St. Patrick’s Day?


  5. LC Aggie Sith March 19, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    How did you know??

    Actually, not really, since I gave up alcohol for Lent.

    Damn it.

  6. Jay in Ames March 20, 2013 at 3:41 pm #
  7. LC Aggie Sith March 21, 2013 at 8:04 am #


  8. Aye July 27, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    Just happened on, and thought I’d weigh in. A little more technically, the width was determined by the wheel size. The Romans used the standard cubit as the wheel diameter. For the width, they used the circumference of the wheel. A cubit is right around 18″, times Pi comes out to 56.5″!!!

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