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History

Railroad tracks: The Roman Legacy
By Editorial Staff
Mar 29, 2011 - 12:05:51 AM

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Someone once said that there was nothing new under the sun. Everything is just a reinvention of something from the past. In these two slightly quirky articles on the legacy of the Roman Legions and 'A Green Environment', we receive some education on the past, the present, and perhaps the future.


Railroad tracks.

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches, the same as NSW. 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 US and NSW 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 and NSW standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Bureaucracies live forever.

So the next time you are handed a specification/procedure/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. (Two horses' asses.)

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. 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? Ancient horse's asses control almost everything... and CURRENT Horses Asses in Washington, Canberra and especially Macquarie St. Sydney are controlling everything else .


A Green Environment

An interesting perspective on today's "New" concern for the environment.

In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that plastic bags weren't good for the environment. The woman apologised to her and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day."

That's right, they didn't have the green thing in her day. Back then, they returned their milk, lemonade and beer bottles to the shop. The shop sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilised and refilled, using the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.

But they didn't have the green thing back her day.

In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn't have an escalator or lift in every store and office building. They walked to the grocers and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two hundred yards.

But she's right. They didn't have the green thing in her day.

Back then, they washed the baby's nappies because they didn't have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 240 volts - wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that old lady is right, they didn't have the green thing back in her day.

Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house - not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a dinner plate, not a screen the size of Scotland. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn't have electric machines to do everything for you. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the post, they used scrunched up newspaper to cushion it, not styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, they didn't fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They exercised by working so they didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she's right, they didn't have the green thing back then.

They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty, instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. They refilled pens with ink, instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But they didn't have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the bus and children rode their bikes or walked to school, instead of turning their parents into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical socket in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they didn't need a computerised gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites out in space in order to find the nearest pizza parlour or chippie.

It's a crying shame that we didn't have "the green thing" back then!


'Just for a Laugh' Series

Posted by R.P. BenDedek

Email: rpbendedek@hotmail.com

Provided by readers from an unknown original sources.


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