If it was good enough for the Roman Empire

Olivia Fowler

Olivia Fowler

On The Way

By Olivia Fowler

I was surprised to learn that although the Roman Empire rose and fell, standard measurements they put into place 2,000 years ago may have determined the size of the rocket boosters used in the American space program.

My good neighbor, Brian Dismukes, told me about this when he was curing my computer of yet another nasty virus that had wormed its way into the system.

Please bear in mind that the following information was gleaned from various Internet sources, and of course we know everything on the Internet is true.

The standard gauge for the width of American railroad tracks is 56.5 inches. Why is this?

Well, this is the width of train tracks in England. They developed their rail systems before we did. The width of their train tracks was chosen because it was the track width already in use on their tram system.

English trams used this width because it was the width of axles used on wagons and coaches. I suppose they saw no need to mess with a good thing. As we all know, humans tend to resist change.

Unpaved roads had ruts worn into them from the many wagons in use. A wagon had to stay in the ruts or risk wrecking or getting stuck.

The ruts were made first by the Romans, who drove their chariots and wagons in England when they first arrived there about 54 A.D. This gave the wagon ruts more than 400 years to be worn into the roads.

This brings up yet another question. Who decided how wide a Roman chariot’s axles would be?

I don’t know, but here is the explanation offered, which makes perfect sense to me. A cart, wagon or chariot pulled by a pair of horses standing side-by-side must have axles wide enough to accommodate the size of the horses.

So, apparently the 56.5-inch dimension of wagon and chariot axles was established by measuring the width of two horses’ rear ends as they stood side-by-side, hitched to a wagon.

Not all pairs of draft horses are going to be exactly this size. I don’t know how they determined the 54.5″ width as the standard. Maybe they measured the rear ends of a hundred horses and got an average width from that. They seemed an imminently practical group.

Now let’s go all the way back to the size of the rocket boosters. The rocket boosters are manufactured in Utah. They must be transported by rail to arrive at their destination. The railroad tracks, at various points along the way, pass through tunnels.

The rocket boosters have to be a certain size to make it through the tunnels. So there you have it.

Therefore, I suppose we may conclude that almost everything going on in America today is because of a horse’s rear end.