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Steve Hoffman <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Wed, 10 Dec 2014 18:16:22 -0500
text/plain (48 lines)
Funny, I was just reading (in Bill Bryson's 
delightful In a Sunburned Country) about how 
inconsistent gauges hindered development of 
efficient train travel in Australia.

According to Wikipedia, it was Victoria that had 
the wider gauge, New South Wales the narrower 
gauge.  So assuming Wiki is correct, Twain's words 
are correct and the printed illustration incorrect.

Funny how this happened. In the mid-19th century, 
as Australian railroads were being built, the 
chief engineer of the Sydney Railway was an 
Irish-born fellow who persuaded the New South 
Wales legislature to utilize the Irish gauge 
(5'3", 1600 mm), and the other colonies (including 
Victoria) adopted it.  But when the Irish chief 
engineer of the Sydney Railway was replaced by a 
Scottish-born guy, the Scotsman convinced New 
South Wales to switch to English standard gauge, 
which was narrower (4'8", 1435 mm) .... thus 
requiring these changes of gauge to travel between 
Australia's two major cities, as Twain experienced.

Other parts of Australia (such as Queensland) 
adopted yet a different gauge, the very narrow 
3'6" (1067 mm).

--Steve Hoffman
Takoma Park
(p.s. I'm planning a trip to Australia in 2015 
that includes train travel across the continent, 
from Sydney to Perth -- all standard gauge 
nowadays). Will also spend time in Melbourne, 
after flying there from Perth.)

On 12/10/2014 1:52 PM, Scott Holmes wrote:
> Just a bit of a puzzle.  Chapter 14 of Following the Equator has Sam and
> party railroading from Sydney to Melbourne.  The border of New South
> Wales and Victoria has an abrupt change in railway gauge requiring the
> passengers to disembark from one train and board the next.  This was
> done in the early morning chill.  Twain's narrative has it with a narrow
> gauge to the frontier and a wide gauge to Melbourne.  The illustration
> and chapter abstract has it the other way around.