Australia's Rail Gauge Disgrace

 
  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
The concept of building a standard gauge line in the middle or two narrow gauge lines is facinating now you mention it.

A case of standards over practical sense ?

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  woodford Chief Commissioner

$10m seems extraordinary when you consider the government should already have planners for the network tasked with actually delivering planning and improvements.   What the hell is going on?
Sadly the larger part of the experinced railway planning expertise has departed from the Government in recent years to both the rail Operators and also as private Consultants .
And a good thing too, if they had any planning ability Victoria would have been converted to standard gauge long ago.
nswtrains
Originaly both Victoria and NSW agreed to build there railways to 5ft 3in gauge, NSW railways got a new engineer and apparently without consulting Victoria change the gauge in NSW to SG. Interestingly as both VIC and NSW were colonies of Britain all decisions had to be appoved by the British Parliment, inspite of Britain just having finished an inquiry into there multiple gauges which concluded all railways in the land must be built to the same gauge, the british approved the different gauge stupidity.
Even at the time the Australian press said Australia would live to regret such a stupid decision

woodford
  woodford Chief Commissioner

An off topic historical note on the gauge debate.

Sadly VIC NSW state jealouies did play a significant part in the railway gauge decision, Victoria was formed in 1851 being split off from NSW, Victoria achieved self government in 1855. Around this time a very large amount of gold was discovered in Victoria, While gold was discovered also in NSW it was in nothing like the quantities in Victoria. So Victorian was a much richer state than NSW, this is something that NSW did NOT like and to some extent it was down hill from then on.

woodford
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
And a good thing too, if they had any planning ability Victoria would have been converted to standard gauge long ago.
NO if the entirety of Australia had good planning ability NSW, VIC, TAR, SA would have been broad gauge, like the original plan was until NSW flipped from 'standard' to broad to 'standard' . Then the force us to waste money on standardisation and make break of gauge worse by the construction of the Tar to SG instead of BG and making the silverton tramway NG instead of BG RANT OVER
Dangersdan707
Wrong on all counts. The Mexicans deserve a substantial portion of the blame when it comes to the 'original sin' of railway gauge choice in Australia. No BG railways had been built in Victoria nor locomotives ordered before NSW made its final decision to use Standard Gauge. Victorian Governor La Trobe was well-informed of the NSW gauge decision (he received official correspondence on it) and was bloody-minded enough to ignore it.

Even then though, it wouldn't have been difficult to re-gauge the small Victorian network once the folly of their gauge choice was realised by those concerned. Conversion of locomotives and rollingstock were the only obstacle of any substance.

Interestingly as both VIC and NSW were colonies of Britain all decisions had to be approved by the British Parliament, in spite of Britain just having finished an inquiry into there multiple gauges which concluded all railways in the land must be built to the same gauge, the British approved the different gauge stupidity.
woodford
The British just didn't care - which is, if you think about it, the fundamental basis of the Australian-British relationship.

Actually, I think the decision to build the Trans as standard gauge is completely perplexing.

It would have seemed to be more logical to build it as 3'6". Both the connecting systems were 3'6", and this would have allowed traffic across Australia with one gauge change (Broken Hill from Sydney, and Terowie from Melbourne).
Historian
I see the choice of SG for the Trans-Australian Railway as a triumph of Federalism. The State Railways Commissioners had jointly agreed that Stephenson Standard Gauge was to be the standard gauge and the Feds kept their word and built the TAR to SG.

The more interesting question in my mind is why 3'6" Cape Gauge wasn't picked as the Australian Standard Gauge by the Commissioners. By Federation, a plurality of states had 3'6" networks, 3'6" held the plurality of track mileage and the ease of dual-gauging it with SG or BG made it a good choice for retrofitting existing interstate railways. Irish Broad Gauge on the other hand never stood a chance of becoming the Australian standard.
  Bethungra Train Controller

Narrow gauge on the TAR would probably have meant narrow gauge line into Adelaide which I believe never happened.  SG was probably the right choice in the end but for it to work required a lot of additional investment at state level.

NG would have been the logical choice and would have provided same gauge for large part of the continent.
  Dangersdan707 Chief Commissioner

Location: On a Thing with Internet
Narrow gauge on the TAR would probably have meant narrow gauge line into Adelaide which I believe never happened. SG was probably the right choice in the end but for it to work required a lot of additional investment at state level. NG would have been the logical choice and would have provided same gauge for large part of the continent.
Somebody
better than SG as there was more of it and more logical
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
And a good thing too, if they had any planning ability Victoria would have been converted to standard gauge long ago.
NO if the entirety of Australia had good planning ability NSW, VIC, TAR, SA would have been broad gauge, like the original plan was until NSW flipped from 'standard' to broad to 'standard' . Then the force us to waste money on standardisation and make break of gauge worse by the construction of the Tar to SG instead of BG and making the silverton tramway NG instead of BG RANT OVER
Dangersdan707
Whatever youre on @Dangersdan707, ill have some....
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
And a good thing too, if they had any planning ability Victoria would have been converted to standard gauge long ago.
NO if the entirety of Australia had good planning ability NSW, VIC, TAR, SA would have been broad gauge, like the original plan was until NSW flipped from 'standard' to broad to 'standard' . Then the force us to waste money on standardisation and make break of gauge worse by the construction of the Tar to SG instead of BG and making the silverton tramway NG instead of BG RANT OVER
Wrong on all counts. The Mexicans deserve a substantial portion of the blame when it comes to the 'original sin' of railway gauge choice in Australia. No BG railways had been built in Victoria nor locomotives ordered before NSW made its final decision to use Standard Gauge. Victorian Governor La Trobe was well-informed of the NSW gauge decision (he received official correspondence on it) and was bloody-minded enough to ignore it.

Even then though, it wouldn't have been difficult to re-gauge the small Victorian network once the folly of their gauge choice was realised by those concerned. Conversion of locomotives and rollingstock were the only obstacle of any substance.

Interestingly as both VIC and NSW were colonies of Britain all decisions had to be approved by the British Parliament, in spite of Britain just having finished an inquiry into there multiple gauges which concluded all railways in the land must be built to the same gauge, the British approved the different gauge stupidity.
The British just didn't care - which is, if you think about it, the fundamental basis of the Australian-British relationship.

Actually, I think the decision to build the Trans as standard gauge is completely perplexing.

It would have seemed to be more logical to build it as 3'6". Both the connecting systems were 3'6", and this would have allowed traffic across Australia with one gauge change (Broken Hill from Sydney, and Terowie from Melbourne).
I see the choice of SG for the Trans-Australian Railway as a triumph of Federalism. The State Railways Commissioners had jointly agreed that Stephenson Standard Gauge was to be the standard gauge and the Feds kept their word and built the TAR to SG.

The more interesting question in my mind is why 3'6" Cape Gauge wasn't picked as the Australian Standard Gauge by the Commissioners. By Federation, a plurality of states had 3'6" networks, 3'6" held the plurality of track mileage and the ease of dual-gauging it with SG or BG made it a good choice for retrofitting existing interstate railways. Irish Broad Gauge on the other hand never stood a chance of becoming the Australian standard.
LancedDendrite
Well said LD.

In the 1880s and 1890s there were various proposals, both government and private for a railway to connect WA and SA. There were several routes examined but all foundered for political and financial reasons of one sort or another. It seems that 3'6" was simply assumed and no alternative gauges considered in these proposals.

The 1903 Conference of Railway Engineers in Chief, established to consider the Commonwealth proposal for a railway between SA and WA, recommended the route via Tarcoola and standard gauge which gauge had already been agreed by the Railway Commissioners in 1897 as the future standard for Australia.

In 1911 a deputation of 'influential but unofficial' South Australians tried to get King O'Malley to change the gauge to BG and the route to go via the Gawler Ranges apparently due to self interest. They were, obviously and thankfully, unsuccessful.

Even in those days the level of private self interest and State parochialism was alive and well. The South Australians actually complained that the Turning of the First Sod clashed with Show Week!!! How little some things have changed in the last 100 years.
  Dangersdan707 Chief Commissioner

Location: On a Thing with Internet
I just realised I have done it again Rolling Eyes

No need for SG in Vic !

also @YM quiet hypocritical of you I must say from WA thread and yes I understand that it is more expensive and you practically need to rebuild the entire line

We are talking $$$$ squillions to build SG railways in the SW of WA to what benefit. The existing NG can move everything that needs to be moved. OK build a few new NG wagons/locos if you like but to build new SG would require a huge Pilbara like traffic task. Just look at what moves on modern NG in Bananaland.
YM
why not? no more interstate break of gauge does it really need more money to be wasted, alas I shall not be returning to this thread as I have said, refer to the link if you remember
  kitchgp Chief Commissioner

Wrong on all counts. The Mexicans deserve a substantial portion of the blame when it comes to the 'original sin' of railway gauge choice in Australia. No BG railways had been built in Victoria nor locomotives ordered before NSW made its final decision to use Standard Gauge………………………………………
LancedDendrite

Essentially the gauge difference problem is due to the dithering and intransigence of the NSW Government of the time and its three successive incompetent Engineers-in-Chief.

This has been posted before, however this discussion paper, delivered to the Victorian Institute of Engineers in 1906, details the history of the railway gauge fiasco. The fourth NSW Engineer-in-Chief, who took over a year or so after NSW trains started running, recommended (as did the Railways Commissioner) that NSW change from SG to BG before it was too late. This was confirmed in correspondence between the engineer and the paper’s author. It was a long time before NSW achieved plurality in track mileage and much much longer before it achieved majority, so why didn’t NSW change?

From Melbourne University’s Digitised Collection:
https://digitised-collections.unimelb.edu.au/bitstream/handle/11343/24373/305903_UDS2013255-16-0016.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
  woodford Chief Commissioner

Wrong on all counts. The Mexicans deserve a substantial portion of the blame when it comes to the 'original sin' of railway gauge choice in Australia. No BG railways had been built in Victoria nor locomotives ordered before NSW made its final decision to use Standard Gauge………………………………………

Essentially the gauge difference problem is due to the dithering and intransigence of the NSW Government of the time and its three successive incompetent Engineers-in-Chief.

This has been posted before, however this discussion paper, delivered to the Victorian Institute of Engineers in 1906, details the history of the railway gauge fiasco. The fourth NSW Engineer-in-Chief, who took over a year or so after NSW trains started running, recommended (as did the Railways Commissioner) that NSW change from SG to BG before it was too late. This was confirmed in correspondence between the engineer and the paper’s author. It was a long time before NSW achieved plurality in track mileage and much much longer before it achieved majority, so why didn’t NSW change?

From Melbourne University’s Digitised Collection:
https://digitised-collections.unimelb.edu.au/bitstream/handle/11343/24373/305903_UDS2013255-16-0016.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
kitchgp
kitchgp said....... "so why didn’t NSW change?"

It would have been a funding issue, NSW was not a rich state and sufficient funds for railway infrastructure was an issue for a long time.

woodford
  M636C Minister for Railways

kitchgp said....... "so why didn’t NSW change?"

It would have been a funding issue, NSW was not a rich state and sufficient funds for railway infrastructure was an issue for a long time.

woodford
woodford
Apart from which, it would always have been cheaper for Victoria and South Australia to change to standard gauge.

NSW would have had to replace every sleeper, while to go the other way Victoria and SA only needed to move one rail towards the other. This move inwards can be done very cheaply, although it can be too cheaply...see Mildura line photos.

The difference in gauge was so small as to not have provided any significant advantage and as discussed in the 1906 paper, the clearances for vehicles were just as restrictive as standard gauge. Victorian suburban trains, despite the larger gauge, are narrower and lower in height than the Sydney trains.

Peter
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
Apart from which, it would always have been cheaper for Victoria and South Australia to change to standard gauge.

NSW would have had to replace every sleeper, while to go the other way Victoria and SA only needed to move one rail towards the other. This move inwards can be done very cheaply, although it can be too cheaply...see Mildura line photos.

The difference in gauge was so small as to not have provided any significant advantage and as discussed in the 1906 paper, the clearances for vehicles were just as restrictive as standard gauge. Victorian suburban trains, despite the larger gauge, are narrower and lower in height than the Sydney trains.

Peter
M636C
And perhaps from the perspective of hindsight, NSW was making a decision based on world experience.  The UK recceomended standardisation, and the US was in the throes of standardisation.  

I suspect if the rail network was developed around the 1870s onwards (after whole scale standardisation in the US occurred) then we would have seen SG rail be the dominant gauge throughout the country.  As it was it looks like a substantial amount of the track was laid before then before the world really had experienced gauge issues and so we are where we are.
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Richmond Vic
We've travelled a long way from the Goulburn Valley haven't we?
  kitchgp Chief Commissioner

And perhaps from the perspective of hindsight, NSW was making a decision based on world experience.  The UK recceomended standardisation, and the US was in the throes of standardisation……….........
james.au

Whatever gauge was adopted overseas was irrelevant to Australia as the Australian system was, and is, never going to connect with other countries. There is zero possibility of a ‘chunnel’ to our nearest neighbours NZ or Tasmania, apart from which, they use NG (not counting brief dalliances with the sinful BG). Plenty of BG rolling stock has been manufactured in Australia over the years. Excluding The Pilbara region iron ore lines, little, if any, rolling stock is bought off-the-shelf from overseas. Connection to the other state systems however was foreseen by many, including the fourth NSW Engineer-in-Chief, John Whitton, who recommended changing to BG when NSW only had about 23 miles of track and little rolling stock. The NSW Act mandating the use of 5’ 3’’ gauge wasn’t repealed (reneged would be a better choice of word) until August 1855, more than 6 months after trains were regularly operating to Port Melbourne, nee Sandridge.

Anyhow the problem is what it is and this discussion is mainly for historical accuracy, so, ignoring the NSW ‘revisionists’, essentially the gauge difference problem is due to the dithering and intransigence of the NSW Government of the time and its three successive incompetent Engineers-in-Chief.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
And perhaps from the perspective of hindsight, NSW was making a decision based on world experience.  The UK recceomended standardisation, and the US was in the throes of standardisation……….........

Whatever gauge was adopted overseas was irrelevant to Australia as the Australian system was, and is, never going to connect with other countries. There is zero possibility of a ‘chunnel’ to our nearest neighbours NZ or Tasmania, apart from which, they use NG (not counting brief dalliances with the sinful BG). Plenty of BG rolling stock has been manufactured in Australia over the years. Excluding The Pilbara region iron ore lines, little, if any, rolling stock is bought off-the-shelf from overseas. Connection to the other state systems however was foreseen by many, including the fourth NSW Engineer-in-Chief, John Whitton, who recommended changing to BG when NSW only had about 23 miles of track and little rolling stock. The NSW Act mandating the use of 5’ 3’’ gauge wasn’t repealed (reneged would be a better choice of word) until August 1855, more than 6 months after trains were regularly operating to Port Melbourne, nee Sandridge.

Anyhow the problem is what it is and this discussion is mainly for historical accuracy, so, ignoring the NSW ‘revisionists’, essentially the gauge difference problem is due to the dithering and intransigence of the NSW Government of the time and its three successive incompetent Engineers-in-Chief.
kitchgp
Connectivity is not the issue - rollingstock is.  And is the reason why we are in this mess in the first place. Different groups did deals with the country of their origin for rolling stock, influencing the decisions made at the time.
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
Wrong on all counts. The Mexicans deserve a substantial portion of the blame when it comes to the 'original sin' of railway gauge choice in Australia. No BG railways had been built in Victoria nor locomotives ordered before NSW made its final decision to use Standard Gauge………………………………………

Essentially the gauge difference problem is due to the dithering and intransigence of the NSW Government of the time and its three successive incompetent Engineers-in-Chief.

This has been posted before, however this discussion paper, delivered to the Victorian Institute of Engineers in 1906, details the history of the railway gauge fiasco. The fourth NSW Engineer-in-Chief, who took over a year or so after NSW trains started running, recommended (as did the Railways Commissioner) that NSW change from SG to BG before it was too late. This was confirmed in correspondence between the engineer and the paper’s author. It was a long time before NSW achieved plurality in track mileage and much much longer before it achieved majority, so why didn’t NSW change?

From Melbourne University’s Digitised Collection:
https://digitised-collections.unimelb.edu.au/bitstream/handle/11343/24373/305903_UDS2013255-16-0016.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
kitchgp
I strongly encourage you to read Mills 2006 ("The Myth of The Standard Gauge: Rail Gauge Choice in Australia, 1850-1901"), particularly section 5.3, which covers the Victorian gauge decision. He cites primary sources (namely, correspondence between the colonial administrations and the railway companies) from the time period in question, unlike the Victorian Institute of Engineers paper you linked above which only cites 'public knowledge'. To wit:

[Victoria's] private sector rail corporations continued to plan and design their railways at a gauge of 5ft. 3in, with the support of the new colony’s government. They proceeded until Lieutenant-Governor LaTrobe circulated the memorandum [from Governor-General Sir Charles Fitzroy] referred to in p. 111 above dated 2 February [1853], advising him of NSW’s intention to revert to 4ft. 8½in., and seeking his conformance in respect of Victoria.”

The Minutes of the meeting of the Board of Directors of the Melbourne & Hobson’s Bay Railway Company on 14 March 1853 record receipt of a letter from Lieutenant-Governor LaTrobe. This letter advised them of NSW’s intention to revert to 4ft. 8½in. and sought a response from the Board.
....

Two further Board Meetings of this Company are relevant. The Minutes of 4 April 1853 record that “A letter from the Colonial Secretary’s Office was read, which stated that His Excellency, the Lieutenant-Governor [LaTrobe] intends to recommend an adherence to the gauge of five feet three inches.” On 18 April 1853, the Minutes record that the Manager advised that the Engineer had already despatched duplicate sets of orders for locomotives and rolling stock to the UK on board the vessel Chusan. The Chusan sailed on 7 April. Presumably the Board decided to commit its investment in plant and equipment on receipt of notice of LaTrobe’s intention minuted on 4 April.
Mills 2006, pages 125-126

It is clear that the directors of the Melbourne & Hobson’s Bay Railway Company and the Geelong and Melbourne Railway Company did not order railway equipment until after being advised by Governor LaTrobe that he favoured a gauge of 5ft. 3in.
...

The timing is such that we can be almost certain that this decision was nothing more nor less than an expression of LaTrobe’s personal opinion, based on the opinions received from two companies. There is no evidence that any kind of disciplined analysis of the various gauge options available to Victoria was carried out or that any attempt had been made to consider any difference there may have been in NSW/Victorian conditions. On 28 July 1853, some three months after his decision had been made, LaTrobe advised the Governor General that he declined to cooperate in the choice of 4ft. 8½in.
Mills 2006, page 128

The whole fiasco was avoidable at many points between 1846 and 1855, but the Victorian administration was the first to essentially refuse to cooperate on a common choice of railway gauge for the colonies. If you are feeling unkind, Victorian Lieutenant-Governor LaTrobe is the original figure to blame for the gauge issue. As I pointed out in my previous post however, he should not be apportioned with all of the blame but he should certainly receive a fair share for his recalcitrance. LaTrobe was officially subordinate to Governor-General Fitzroy and he defied the latter's memorandum, informed him of a decision 3 months after he had made it (seeking a fait accompli, no doubt) and then proceeded to go over the Governor-General's head and requested the Secretary of State for the Colonies to mandate 5'3" as the standard railway gauge for the Australian colonies.
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
I suspect if the rail network was developed around the 1870s onwards (after whole scale standardisation in the US occurred) then we would have seen SG rail be the dominant gauge throughout the country.  As it was it looks like a substantial amount of the track was laid before then before the world really had experienced gauge issues and so we are where we are.
james.au
I disagree - had the Australian colonies developed railways later we would've settled on 3'6". Narrow gauge had come into vogue by the 1870s. The terrain surrounding the Sydney basin would've been a strong incentive for NSW to construct 'Queensland-style' range crossings that took full advantage of the curvature advantage of a narrower gauge. All colonies had a desire to construct lightly-laid 'pioneer'-style branch lines as cheaply as possible to serve as many of their constituents as possible and 3'6" was an ideal gauge for that very purpose.

Why? Because Japan did exactly the same thing. Japan opened their first railway in 1872; it was built to 3'6" Cape Gauge due to the mountainous terrain. New Zealand is another good case study - and an example of how a gauge muddle can be resolved after the fact.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
Wrong on all counts. The Mexicans deserve a substantial portion of the blame when it comes to the 'original sin' of railway gauge choice in Australia. No BG railways had been built in Victoria nor locomotives ordered before NSW made its final decision to use Standard Gauge………………………………………

Essentially the gauge difference problem is due to the dithering and intransigence of the NSW Government of the time and its three successive incompetent Engineers-in-Chief.

This has been posted before, however this discussion paper, delivered to the Victorian Institute of Engineers in 1906, details the history of the railway gauge fiasco. The fourth NSW Engineer-in-Chief, who took over a year or so after NSW trains started running, recommended (as did the Railways Commissioner) that NSW change from SG to BG before it was too late. This was confirmed in correspondence between the engineer and the paper’s author. It was a long time before NSW achieved plurality in track mileage and much much longer before it achieved majority, so why didn’t NSW change?

From Melbourne University’s Digitised Collection:
https://digitised-collections.unimelb.edu.au/bitstream/handle/11343/24373/305903_UDS2013255-16-0016.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
I strongly encourage you to read Mills 2006 ("The Myth of The Standard Gauge: Rail Gauge Choice in Australia, 1850-1901"), particularly section 5.3, which covers the Victorian gauge decision. He cites primary sources (namely, correspondence between the colonial administrations and the railway companies) from the time period in question, unlike the Victorian Institute of Engineers paper you linked above which only cites 'public knowledge'. To wit:

[Victoria's] private sector rail corporations continued to plan and design their railways at a gauge of 5ft. 3in, with the support of the new colony’s government. They proceeded until Lieutenant-Governor LaTrobe circulated the memorandum [from Governor-General Sir Charles Fitzroy] referred to in p. 111 above dated 2 February [1853], advising him of NSW’s intention to revert to 4ft. 8½in., and seeking his conformance in respect of Victoria.”

The Minutes of the meeting of the Board of Directors of the Melbourne & Hobson’s Bay Railway Company on 14 March 1853 record receipt of a letter from Lieutenant-Governor LaTrobe. This letter advised them of NSW’s intention to revert to 4ft. 8½in. and sought a response from the Board.
....

Two further Board Meetings of this Company are relevant. The Minutes of 4 April 1853 record that “A letter from the Colonial Secretary’s Office was read, which stated that His Excellency, the Lieutenant-Governor [LaTrobe] intends to recommend an adherence to the gauge of five feet three inches.” On 18 April 1853, the Minutes record that the Manager advised that the Engineer had already despatched duplicate sets of orders for locomotives and rolling stock to the UK on board the vessel Chusan. The Chusan sailed on 7 April. Presumably the Board decided to commit its investment in plant and equipment on receipt of notice of LaTrobe’s intention minuted on 4 April.

It is clear that the directors of the Melbourne & Hobson’s Bay Railway Company and the Geelong and Melbourne Railway Company did not order railway equipment until after being advised by Governor LaTrobe that he favoured a gauge of 5ft. 3in.
...

The timing is such that we can be almost certain that this decision was nothing more nor less than an expression of LaTrobe’s personal opinion, based on the opinions received from two companies. There is no evidence that any kind of disciplined analysis of the various gauge options available to Victoria was carried out or that any attempt had been made to consider any difference there may have been in NSW/Victorian conditions. On 28 July 1853, some three months after his decision had been made, LaTrobe advised the Governor General that he declined to cooperate in the choice of 4ft. 8½in.

The whole fiasco was avoidable at many points between 1846 and 1855, but the Victorian administration was the first to essentially refuse to cooperate on a common choice of railway gauge for the colonies. If you are feeling unkind, Victorian Lieutenant-Governor LaTrobe is the original figure to blame for the gauge issue. As I pointed out in my previous post however, he should not be apportioned with all of the blame but he should certainly receive a fair share for his recalcitrance. LaTrobe was officially subordinate to Governor-General Fitzroy and he defied the latter's memorandum, informed him of a decision 3 months after he had made it (seeking a fait accompli, no doubt) and then proceeded to go over the Governor-General's head and requested the Secretary of State for the Colonies to mandate 5'3" as the standard railway gauge for the Australian colonies.
LancedDendrite
Most informative LD.
Thanks for posting.
One non rail thing that I learned was that Fitzroy was technically GG even prior to Federation. Smile
  kitchgp Chief Commissioner

The above ignores the fact that NSW, Victoria and South Australia originally agreed to SG. It was NSW that changed to BG, with the others following suit.
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
The above ignores the fact that NSW, Victoria and South Australia originally agreed to SG. It was NSW that changed to BG, with the others following suit.
kitchgp
...which was all theoretical at that stage given that no railway company in the colonies had ordered equipment until the Melbourne & Hobson's Bay Railway Company did so some time between the 4th and 7th April 1853. There was time to fix the muddle with effectively zero cost up until that point. NSW kept the other colonies informed of their changing choices.
  potatoinmymouth Chief Commissioner

Sorry, maybe I'm missing something here – but if BG was agreed, and MHBRC ordered equipment based on that agreement, how is LaTrobe to blame for passing on the information he had?
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
I suspect if the rail network was developed around the 1870s onwards (after whole scale standardisation in the US occurred) then we would have seen SG rail be the dominant gauge throughout the country.  As it was it looks like a substantial amount of the track was laid before then before the world really had experienced gauge issues and so we are where we are.
I disagree - had the Australian colonies developed railways later we would've settled on 3'6". Narrow gauge had come into vogue by the 1870s. The terrain surrounding the Sydney basin would've been a strong incentive for NSW to construct 'Queensland-style' range crossings that took full advantage of the curvature advantage of a narrower gauge. All colonies had a desire to construct lightly-laid 'pioneer'-style branch lines as cheaply as possible to serve as many of their constituents as possible and 3'6" was an ideal gauge for that very purpose.

Why? Because Japan did exactly the same thing. Japan opened their first railway in 1872; it was built to 3'6" Cape Gauge due to the mountainous terrain. New Zealand is another good case study - and an example of how a gauge muddle can be resolved after the fact.
LancedDendrite
I didn't think of that.  I dont think id like to have seen that happen though if the alignments chosen in Queensland are any indication of what could be done eslewhere, tight turns, and much added distance to get places.  That might have been a costlier mistake than non standard gauge...
  M636C Minister for Railways

Why? Because Japan did exactly the same thing. Japan opened their first railway in 1872; it was built to 3'6" Cape Gauge due to the mountainous terrain.

And it worked for Japan right up until 1964, when they had to adopt standard gauge to carry their increasing passenger traffic.

They now have electric multiple units with variable gauge axles in order to reach cities on the 1067 network but able to use the standard gauge to get to Tokyo. In other areas they run standard gauge trains built to 1067 gauge clearances for the same reason.

However, if Victoria had been part of Japan, there wouldn't have been a twenty year hiatus in converting lines to standard gauge.

The narrower gauge has load limitations. The heaviest coal wagons in Queensland are 106 tonnes gross, those in the Hunter Valley are 120 tonnes gross, so around a 10% advantage for a given train size. Of course, in the Pilbara individual wagons are loaded to 140 tonnes gross, around a 30% advantage.

Even with AC traction motors, 1067 gauge locomotives are limited in tractive effort compared to those on standard gauge, even those limited to 134 tonnes like the LDP/TT/GWA can haul significantly more than a 4100/ACN.

It doesn't matter who was wrong in 1854. The solution is pretty clear now. Let's just untangle the mess in a logical manner, trying to get good value for the dollars spent.

V/Line will have to face up to running more standard gauge services.

It might be worth while converting the RFR line to Ballarat via Bacchus Marsh and Ballarat-Ararat giving more direct routes to both freight and passenger services.

Peter
  kitchgp Chief Commissioner

A different  assessment of FitzRoy. From the Australian National University’s Australian Dictionary of Biography website:

“……..The Victorians reduced their (Ed: miner’s licence) fee first and New South Wales had to follow. FitzRoy was not greatly to blame for this, but he was clearly indifferent to imperial orders when in 1853-54 he missed the last official chance of avoiding the break-of-gauge problem of the New South Wales and Victorian railways. Preoccupation with New South Wales, where he was greatly interested in railway construction and helped the Sydney Railway Co. to obtain loans, clouded his judgment. He ignored the warnings sent to him about the gauge problem by both Gladstone and Grey. In other intercolonial matters, such as tariff policy and sea and postal communications, he displayed neither the energy nor the sense of responsibility that Grey had hoped for in a governor-general. After Grey left the Colonial Office FitzRoy had no encouragement to be an effective governor-general. ………………………”
http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/fitzroy-sir-charles-augustus-2049


…………New Zealand is another good case study - and an example of how a gauge muddle can be resolved after the fact.
LancedDendrite

An opportunity missed by Denison, FitzRoy’s successor and in office in 1857 when Engineer-in-Chief John Whitton made his recommendation for NSW to change to BG. From the ANU website:
“……….. Denison was invariably addressed as governor-general. Apart from his lapse on uniform railway gauge, he took an active and informed interest in many matters of intercolonial concern……….”
http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/denison-sir-william-thomas-3394



By the bye, if hadn’t been for the resistance of the above-mentioned John Whitton, large parts of NSW would have been NG, as recommended by a parliamentary select committee in 1870. That would have meant two breaks-of-gauge between Melbourne and Sydney (Melb – BG – Albury – NG – Goulburn??? – SG – Sydney).

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