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  #1  
Old Posted Jun 28, 2019, 7:11 AM
Myrtonos Myrtonos is offline
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Converting uncommon track width to regular gauges

A regular gauge is a gauge compatible with standardised rolling stock, examples are metre, standard and soviet gauges. But there are some tramway and railway networks that have unusual or even unique gauges.
A classic case is Toronto, where the streetcar and subway track networks are built to a unique gauge wider than standard by about the width of the railhead. The only possible dual gauge track between the Toronto gauge and standard gauge is interlaced track, with extra minimum clearence relative to the width of the loading gauge.
The Toronto streetcar system is also the largest legacy system in North America and is interconnected, with two depots, all but two routes being mostly east-west and both depots serving all east-west routes.
Toronto's Transit Commission has plans to convert from trolley-pole to pantograph current collection and replace single-bladed points with double bladed points, doing both a little at a time, conversion of their track width to standard gauge is not something that can be done a little at a time and is not going to happen even though there is no intrinsic case for the gauge to remain. I'm not even advocating a conversion that is too costly with too much disruption.
Toronto's Transit City Light rail, if ever built, will be standard gauge. With completely new rolling stock on completely new track, the gauge is chosen according to external factors.

The Pennsylvania trolley gauge, also wider than standard differs enough that three-rail dual gauge track is possible. The Pittsburgh light rail used to be a streetcar system with looped unidirectional running and trolley-pole current collection and ran mostly on-street including downtown.
Pittsburgh's T has migrated from trolleypole to pantograph current collection, new off-street track has been added (including underground downtown track), most off-street track no longer being in use, and now only has bi-directional rolling stock, presumably, all turning loops are gone. But the track gauge has remained the same. And given the additional customisation of rolling stock due to gauge (mainly the bogies), how can changing gauge "lack any real benefit"?

I would like to see some railfan vlogger make a documentary on track gauge, and maybe other track geometry issues, including a section on dual gauge track and even why changing gauge is often more complicated than it's worth.
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  #2  
Old Posted Jun 29, 2019, 11:35 AM
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I don't see the point in having any type of standard, or more to the point, push to rip up streets to make tracks a standard gauge across cities whose systems are not connected (and in different countries). Rail vehicle manufacturers should be able to cater for an individual system's needs and if they can't then they're not doing their job properly.

The rails may be the same distance apart, but nearly every city will have a different loading gauge .: an obsession with track gauge standards is just meh.
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Old Posted May 16, 2020, 4:01 PM
Myrtonos Myrtonos is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tayser View Post
I don't see the point in having any type of standard, or more to the point, push to rip up streets to make tracks a standard gauge across cities whose systems are not connected (and in different countries). Rail vehicle manufacturers should be able to cater for an individual system's needs and if they can't then they're not doing their job properly.
There is a type of standard, especially for newbuild systems, rail vehicle manufactures need to be able to cater for an individual system's needs if building for a legacy system, less so if building completely new vehicles running only on completely new track.
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The rails may be the same distance apart, but nearly every city will have a different loading gauge .: an obsession with track gauge standards is just meh.
Of course, the rails must be the same distance apart in order to match the axle-length.
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Old Posted May 16, 2020, 6:36 PM
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Having to buy customized rolling stock to fit a unique gauge increases costs because it would not be offered as a general standard option and would require additional design costs for the company manufacturing the vehicles that would get passed along to the agency purchasing the vehicles.
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  #5  
Old Posted May 16, 2020, 8:24 PM
Myrtonos Myrtonos is offline
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Nevertheless, there are a few existing tramway networks (like that of Toronto) which have that gauge and show no signs of converting. Is anyone here prepared to explain why? Not looking for a simple uniform explanation of what guaranteed that these gauges would remain (in spite of the additional customisation) but tell a much richer story behind it.
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  #6  
Old Posted May 16, 2020, 11:08 PM
llamaorama llamaorama is offline
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Converting old infrastructure to a standard probably wouldn't be worth it unless total reconstruction was necessary either way.

However I can't think of any good reason to NOT build everything to a standard gauge and loading gauge and power distribution standard and everything. For example in North America there's a over a dozen roughly similar 1980s/1990s era light rail networks that use basically the same rolling stock with some layout and cosmetic differences. It's enough that the Siemens factory in Sacramento has been able to keep running all these years and continuously comes out with new US and Canada oriented train vehicle models. IIRC, in China aren't new metros designed to a specification depending on if they use "type a" or "type b" trains, etc? I remember reading about that somewhere.

Nonstandard rail infrastructure always gets neglected or is hard to expand because its expensive. BART extensions have been costly. Weird monorail or people mover transit networks in Jacksonville and Detroit only hang on because of the political implications of closing them but are white elephants. Indianapolis's elevated Clarian Health automated tram just shut down for good, Tampa had an very short automated rubber tire tram line that is also gone, and there are more than a couple abandoned monorails and people movers in Japan.
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Old Posted May 17, 2020, 12:57 AM
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doesnt make sense for current systems, but should be a prime consideration for any place building a new metro system.

looking at you now dublin, and maybe places like austin, indy and columbus someday.
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  #8  
Old Posted May 17, 2020, 1:08 PM
Myrtonos Myrtonos is offline
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Originally Posted by llamaorama View Post
Converting old infrastructure to a standard probably wouldn't be worth it unless total reconstruction was necessary either way.
In many cases, it's not possible to change gauge without a total reconstruction with no part up and running during conversion.
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Originally Posted by llamaorama View Post
However I can't think of any good reason to NOT build everything to a standard gauge and loading gauge and power distribution standard and everything. For example in North America there's a over a dozen roughly similar 1980s/1990s era light rail networks that use basically the same rolling stock with some layout and cosmetic differences. It's enough that the Siemens factory in Sacramento has been able to keep running all these years and continuously comes out with new US and Canada oriented train vehicle models. IIRC, in China aren't new metros designed to a specification depending on if they use "type a" or "type b" trains, etc? I remember reading about that somewhere.
There are a lot of light rail networks in cities that previously had standard gauge networks, standard gauge made sense probably for the same reasons it did before then. Does that mean they are getting something that might have been if their previous systems had not been dismantled?

I couldn't think of anything to say on the rest.
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  #9  
Old Posted May 18, 2020, 3:55 AM
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Systems like Toronto typically used slightly wider gauge in the 19th century to foreclose the possibility of street railway trackage being used by steam railroads for freight cars. That's no longer a threat, and there are real advantages to being able to order off-the-shelf rolling stock, switches, crossings, and special trackwork. Several miles of open rail, as seen on modern LRT networks, can be regauged in a weekend, but obviously it would be very expensive to regauge street rail set in asphalt or concrete. Changing rolling stock a couple of inches, to or from Pennsylvania, Toronto, or New Orleans gauge, is not especially difficult, and can be accomplished by local staff, but it's easier for a new system to be planned and built to standard gauge. A more substantial gauge change, such as redesigning high-speed equipment from standard to Iberian gauge, on the other hand, was not something Alsthom engineering thought it could do in less than two years when Spain's first AVE line was built.

BART chose a 5-foot-6 gauge due to the expectation that it would be crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, potentially in high winds. One of the lessons taken from BART, though, is that there are real advantages to buying off-the-shelf hardware.
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Old Posted May 18, 2020, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr Downtown View Post
Systems like Toronto typically used slightly wider gauge in the 19th century to foreclose the possibility of street railway trackage being used by steam railroads for freight cars. That's no longer a threat, and there are real advantages to being able to order off-the-shelf rolling stock, switches, crossings, and special trackwork. Several miles of open rail, as seen on modern LRT networks, can be regauged in a weekend, but obviously it would be very expensive to regauge street rail set in asphalt or concrete. Changing rolling stock a couple of inches, to or from Pennsylvania, Toronto, or New Orleans gauge, is not especially difficult, and can be accomplished by local staff, but it's easier for a new system to be planned and built to standard gauge. A more substantial gauge change, such as redesigning high-speed equipment from standard to Iberian gauge, on the other hand, was not something Alsthom engineering thought it could do in less than two years when Spain's first AVE line was built.
Note that systems like Toronto have curves too tight and grades too steep for heavy rail equipment. Also, you say changing gauge is not especially difficult, but what about changing the gauge of large, interconnected networks?

Toronto has two depots and apparently both depots serve most or all routes and dual gauge track between T.T.C and standard gauges is not even possible in most cases.

No comment on BART.
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  #11  
Old Posted May 20, 2020, 12:01 AM
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19th century freight cars were much smaller than even a Toronto PCC.

Quote:
you say changing gauge is not especially difficult, but what about changing the gauge of large, interconnected networks?
I'm not sure what you're asking. PCC streetcars had their bogies regauged a few centimeters by local shops as they moved from city to city, from various US cities phasing them out to Mexican cities or Toronto—and in some cases, back to San Francisco for its Market Street operation. I don't know of any transit operation that has ever regauged its guideways, and the only large-scale network regauging I've ever heard of is the one (maybe 3000 km in all) undertaken in the Southern US in 1886.

As 1435mm high-speed trains came to Spain (1668mm) and Japan (mostly 1067mm), they had to build entirely new lines and stations, and only regauged very short portions of the existing network.
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  #12  
Old Posted May 20, 2020, 12:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr Downtown View Post
...from various US cities phasing them out to Mexican cities or Toronto—and in some cases, back to San Francisco for its Market Street operation.
Don't forget about Belgium, Spain and Yugoslavia...

Here's an ex-DC PCC operating in Sarajevo in the 70s, just cuz:


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  #13  
Old Posted May 20, 2020, 1:33 AM
Myrtonos Myrtonos is offline
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Originally Posted by Mr Downtown View Post
19th century freight cars were much smaller than even a Toronto PCC.
Didn't these have to be hauled by locomotives, which may well have been much larger.

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Originally Posted by Mr Downtown View Post
I'm not sure what you're asking. PCC streetcars had their bogies regauged a few centimeters by local shops as they moved from city to city, from various US cities phasing them out to Mexican cities or Toronto—and in some cases, back to San Francisco for its Market Street operation. I don't know of any transit operation that has ever regauged its guideways, and the only large-scale network regauging I've ever heard of is the one (maybe 3000 km in all) undertaken in the Southern US in 1886.
Regauging vehicles themselves is one thing but changing the gauge of an existing network means changing the tracks as well as regauging or renewing the existing fleet, and not every operator can do this a little at a time.

A few European tramway networks, such as Stuttgart and Chemitz, have been regauge, but metre gauge and the narrow gauge used in Chemitz differ(ed) enough from standard that dual gauge track is possible, and so they could do the conversion a little at a time, with dual gauge track wherever the old and new fleet shared tracks.
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Old Posted May 20, 2020, 4:00 AM
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Stuttgart didn't just re-gauge for the sake of re-gauging. The gauge was changed during the process of converting the surface tram network to a more mode separated and rapid operating Stadtbahn system which saw many sections isolated from the street and tunneled.
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  #15  
Old Posted May 20, 2020, 4:34 AM
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Didn't these have to be hauled by locomotives, which may well have been much larger.
Lots of locomotives, especially on electrified railways, were no bigger than tractors. The fear wasn't that mile-long 20th century coal trains would run through the streets of Toronto or New Orleans, but that individual boxcars would be pushed onto piers or warehouse sidings using the street railway network. In some cities, where political opposition didn't prevent it, that's exactly what happened. And many, many American cities had steam railroad branches that ran right down the middle of the street. Many still exist.

Sarajevo, it turns out, also regauged, in 1960, and that's probably why they were in the market for standard-gauge PCCs like the ones from DC. Since they went from 760mm to 1435mm, they probably did gauntlet track for a few years, or converted one depot/group of lines at a time.
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Old Posted May 21, 2020, 7:39 PM
Myrtonos Myrtonos is offline
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Originally Posted by Mr Downtown View Post
Lots of locomotives, especially on electrified railways, were no bigger than tractors. The fear wasn't that mile-long 20th century coal trains would run through the streets of Toronto or New Orleans, but that individual boxcars would be pushed onto piers or warehouse sidings using the street railway network. In some cities, where political opposition didn't prevent it, that's exactly what happened. And many, many American cities had steam railroad branches that ran right down the middle of the street. Many still exist.
I wonder if the cities where that happened might be flatter than Toronto, where gradients are steep enough that every Toronto L.R.V has all wheels powered. Toronto's curves get as tights as just under 11 metres, and I wonder if the wheelbase of four-wheeled locomotives may have been too long for them.
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Sarajevo, it turns out, also regauged, in 1960, and that's probably why they were in the market for standard-gauge PCCs like the ones from DC. Since they went from 760mm to 1435mm, they probably did gauntlet track for a few years, or converted one depot/group of lines at a time.
I wonder if converting from 760mm to 1,435mm might be much less complicated than going from 760mm to 1,000mm. Changing the gauge of a large, interconnected network is going to be much less disruptive if dual gauge track is possible.

Apparently Stuttgart did convert a little at a time with dual gauge track during the conversion period.

For an analogy, some electrified railway networks have been converted from one electrical standard to another. To convert, say between medium voltage D.C and high voltage A.C (both supplied by an overhead wire) it has to be done a little at a time with rolling stock in service during the transition being capable of running on both standards, never would the whole of a large network be converted at once.
Conversion between one standard supplied by a third rail and another supplied by overhead wiring could probably be done simply by dual electrifying the whole network during the fleet renewal.

Another one is water mains, if some city council plans to replace all the water mains in their city, they have to make proper contingencies while replacing them, such as running temporary pipes on the surface while replacement is done. This limits how much can be done at a time so water mains in a large city can only be replaced a little at a time, regardless of the reason for replacing them.
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Old Posted Jun 19, 2020, 4:00 AM
Myrtonos Myrtonos is offline
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Originally Posted by llamaorama View Post
Converting old infrastructure to a standard probably wouldn't be worth it unless total reconstruction was necessary either way.
I'm not sure converting a large, interconnected network would be worth it even then, as any total reconstuction of such a network can only be done section by section.
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Originally Posted by llamaorama View Post
However I can't think of any good reason to NOT build everything to a standard gauge and loading gauge and power distribution standard and everything. For example in North America there's a over a dozen roughly similar 1980s/1990s era light rail networks that use basically the same rolling stock with some layout and cosmetic differences. It's enough that the Siemens factory in Sacramento has been able to keep running all these years and continuously comes out with new US and Canada oriented train vehicle models. IIRC, in China aren't new metros designed to a specification depending on if they use "type a" or "type b" trains, etc? I remember reading about that somewhere.
Indeed, and a previous system in the same city being an uncommon gauge doesn't make it any cheaper or easier to build a new one to that gauge.
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Nonstandard rail infrastructure always gets neglected or is hard to expand because its expensive. BART extensions have been costly. Weird monorail or people mover transit networks in Jacksonville and Detroit only hang on because of the political implications of closing them but are white elephants. Indianapolis's elevated Clarian Health automated tram just shut down for good, Tampa had an very short automated rubber tire tram line that is also gone, and there are more than a couple abandoned monorails and people movers in Japan.
Except for the BART, the examples mentioned here are not conventional rail, and BART follows many uncommon or unique technical standards, not just the gauge.

The T.T.C streetcar and subway systems are built to a unique gauge but have not been neglected. Same could be said for the Pittsburgh light rail and Philadelphia trolley. Both have tunnels where dual gauge track between the gauge they use and standard might not be possible.
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Old Posted Jun 19, 2020, 4:49 AM
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The main reason to standardize the gauge is to reduce the number of car transfers required with huge numbers of freight cars, thereby reducing the costs of shipping on a national scale. Shippers on the BNSF line in Fort Worth should be able to ship to customers on the UP line in San Antonio, without having to pay to change cars or change a car's gauge.

Stand alone transit systems in a city could operate on any gauge, as long as that transit vehicle never leaves any individual line or group of lines using the same gauge. Boston has commuter (MBTA), subways (red & orange lines), and light rail (green lines) that do not change the lines they run on. The red & orange subway lines are standard gauge, but the green line is narrow gauge. There is no operational reason to rebuild the green line to standard gauge.
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Old Posted Jun 19, 2020, 7:00 AM
Myrtonos Myrtonos is offline
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The main reason to standardize the gauge is to reduce the number of car transfers required with huge numbers of freight cars, thereby reducing the costs of shipping on a national scale. Shippers on the BNSF line in Fort Worth should be able to ship to customers on the UP line in San Antonio, without having to pay to change cars or change a car's gauge.
That's valid for heavy rail.
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Stand alone transit systems in a city could operate on any gauge, as long as that transit vehicle never leaves any individual line or group of lines using the same gauge.
Yet new ones are always built to a regular gauge, usually standard gauge. Existing large networks with uncommon gauges might be, for all intents and purposes, impossible to convert to a regular gauge.
One way to convert, when a fleet is renewed is to provide the network with dual gauge track while the old non-standard fleet and the new standardized fleet shares tracks, but dual gauge track is not always possible.
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Old Posted Jun 19, 2020, 7:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Myrtonos View Post
One way to convert, when a fleet is renewed is to provide the network with dual gauge track while the old non-standard fleet and the new standardized fleet shares tracks, but dual gauge track is not always possible.
This may work well on dedicated railroad corridors, but unlikely with light rail or tram lines in the middle of city streets. Taxpayers will be more willing to take the construction delays for a permanent solution, but I doubt they will be willing to accept those delays twice - once building the interim solution adding the third rail, and again later on removing the unneeded rail after all the old trains have been replaced. There is already too much highway congestion - why make it worse twice?
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