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... It All Sounds Like It Could Be True ...                                   
The US 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
     Why did the English people 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 used for building wagons,
which used that wheel spacing. 
     Okay! Why did the wagons use that odd spacing? Well, if they tried to
use any other spacing the wagons would break on some of the old, long
distance roads, because that's the spacing of the old wheel ruts.  So who
built these old rutted roads? The first long distance roads in Europe were
built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The roads have
been used ever since then.                       
     And the ruts? The initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for
fear of destroying their wagons, were first made by Roman war chariots.
Since the chariots were made for or by Imperial Rome they were all alike in
the matter of  wheel spacing. Thus, we have the answer to the original 
questions. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches 
derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman army war 
chariot. Specs and Bureaucracies live forever. So, the next time you are
handed a specification and wonder what horse's ass came up with it, you may
be exactly right. Because the Imperial Roman chariots were made to be just
wide enough to accommodate the backends of two war horses. 
     When we see a Space Shuttle sitting on the launch pad, there  are two
big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are
the solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at a
factory in Utah.  The engineers who designed the SRBs might have preferred
to make  them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the
factory to the launch site. The railroad line to the factory runs through a
tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel
is slightly wider than a railroad track, and the railroad track is about as
wide as two horse's behinds. So a major design feature of what is arguably
the world's most advanced transportation system was determined by the width
of a horse's ass.

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