THE RAILWAY GAUGES.
In the Legislative Assembly on Thursday night the Hon. Commissioner of Railways laid upon the table a dispatch from the agent-general in reference to the communication which had been sent home to him, requesting him to make inquiry as to the comparative merits of the broad and narrow gauge systems of railway, and authorising him to expend what sums were necessary to obtain trustworthy information in suoh countries as afforded adequate experience in regard to it, and especially in Norway, Russia, Canada, India, and Great Britain. The agent-general acknowledged the prompt and valuable assistance he had received from Capt. Tyler, Government inspector-general of railways in England, and forwarded a report by that gentleman, in which he recommended the maintenance of the present gauge of existing lines in Victoria, except for the Gipps Land line, which he considered an isolated case. A report was also forwarded on the subject by the agent-general, from Mr. Pihl, the Government engineer-in-chief of Norwegian railways, in whioh that gentleman advocated the adoption of the 3ft. 6in. gauge in this colony. There was further a report from Mr. T. E. Harrison, engineer of the North-Eastern railway, and one of the vice-presidents of the Institution of Civil Engineers, in which that gentleman disapproved of the break of gauge, and advocated the maintenance of the 5ft. 3in. gauge, on account of the extent of the existing lines here and the large expenditure already incurred, as well as the very small saving which he considered would be achieved by making use of the narrow gauge instead of the broad one. Mr. Childers stated in his despatch that he had sought information from other authentic sources and expected to be in a position to forward additional reports, by the following mail. Subjoined are extracts from the report of Captain Tyler, the reports of Mr. Pihl, and Mr. T. E. Harrison being held over for insertion on another day :--
On the question of safety, there is in the case of small traffic nothing to choose between one gauge and another, provided only certain conditions are adhered to. The centre of gravity of engines, carriages, and other vehicles should be reduced in height as the gauge is lowered. The speed should be reduced in proportion to the gauge in inches ; for instance, a maximum running speed of 60 miles an hour for a 5ft. gauge will correspond to a maximum of 36 miles an hour for a 3ft. gauge.
The diameter of the wheels will be reduced as the gauge, height of centre of gravity, and speed are diminished. But when the traffic is very heavy, it is advantageous to reduce the
length or frequency of the trains by the employment of a wider gauge ; and this point leads to the question of economical working. There are advocates on both sides who maintain that the
broad or the narrow gauge are most cheaply worked. But this question depends partly upon construction as regards curves and gradients, and partly on the amount and description of traffic to be conveyed ; and partly also on the peculiarities of a country.
A very broad gauge with heavy rails and extravagent works with the heaviest engines and the largest vehicles for a line of minimum traffic, is as wasteful as to employ an elephant to draw a wheelbarrow or to carry a carpet bag, on the one hand, whilst a very narrow gauge for a heavy important traffic would on the other hand be like employing a donkey-cart to carry a harvest of hay. The heaviest and most powerful locomotive engine only requires two men to work it, and the smallest locomotive engine cannot well
be worked with less.
Heavy trains and full loads can always be more economically worked than the converse, and permanent way expenses decrease in maintainance not according to width of the gauge, but in proportion as the rails, sleepers, and ballast are fitted to sustain without injury, deterioration, or failure, the loads which pass
Questions of gauge have not hitherto been very happily considered in theory or applied in practice, and the wrong gauges have been established too frequently in the wrong places. Not to go further from home, it might have been better to have had a 4ft. 8½in. gauge in Ireland and 5ft. 3in. gauge in England, than 4ft. 8½in. gauge in England and 5ft. 3in. gauge in Ireland. The 4ft. 8½in. gauge was found at an early date in the history of railways to afford insufficient space for the machinery under the locomotive engines as they were constructed in England, and serious difficulties were experienced in this respect. But at present the
heaviest traffic in the world is conducted, and almost the highest speeds are employed, on the 4ft. 8½in. gauge. Where goods in bulk have to be carried in great quantities, and where the class of goods conveyed is such as to take up much space in the proportion to weight, a wider gauge may be advantageous ; and where the traffic is light and of a different character, while economy of construction may be effected by the employment of sharp curves, and the avoidance of heavy works in the way of tunnels, cuttings, embankments, and bridges, a narrow gauge may be preferable. But these and other circumstances have not had their full weight attached to them in the laying down of the gauges to be employed. The Irish gauge of 5ft. 3in. was in fact a compromise between 4ft 8½in., which was considered too narrow, and the 7ft. of the Great Western, which was considered too broad ; and while the 4ft. 8½in. gauge, under the guidance of English narrow gauge engineers spread over a large part of the Continent of Europe, a wider gauge was in certain countries considered necessary. A gauge of 5ft. 6in. was adopted in Canada and India ; of 5ft. 3in. in Victoria and South Australia ; of 3ft. 6in. in Norway and Queensland. In the United States of America, while the most common gauge was 4ft. 8½in., gauges of 4ft. 10in., 5ft., and 6ft. were also employed ; and these are now being further complicated with narrower gauges. "Compromise wheels" with broader tread have in some cases been employed by way of running through on gauges where the difference was small. The Peninsula of Upper Canada, between Lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario, forms a direct route between Chicago and the New England States ; and the Canadian railways, through that peninsula (and through other parts of Canada) have been carrying for many years, but in competition with four other railway systems, and in summer with the finest water navigation in the world, the vast and increasing traffic of the Great West. The disadvantage, for this bulky and competition traffic, of break of gauge betweon the 5ft. 6in. of the Canadian Railway, and the 4ft. 8½in. on the American Railways at either end of them, was found to be so great that the Great Western Company of Canada some years since contracted their gauge to 4ft. 8½in., and they now run through on that gauge from Chicago and other
centres of traffic in the west to New York and other great ports on the Atlantic coast. The Grand Trunk of Canada, having a total length of 1,377 miles, was for some time unwilling to bear the expense or to incur the inconvenience (having reference to the remainder of its system) of such a change, and endeavoured to overcome the difficulty in other ways.
They first brought into use 500, and after a couple of years' experience, 500 more "adjustable gauge cars"- that is to say, cars of which the gauge of the wheels might be changed, and which might run equally well on the 4ft. 8½in. and the 5ft. 6in. gauges. The arrangement adopted of causing the wheels to slide backwards and forwards on the axles, and securing them in either position, was a simple one, and it has been brought to a great degree of perfection. The principal difficulty attending their employment was to insure the attention in all cases of the men employed in properly securing the fastenings during the worst of the winter weather. It is not now intended further to employ these cars in the same way, but it is proposed to fix the wheels on the axles, and to adopt an expedient which, in fact, I took occasion to recommend after an inspection of the railways in North America in 1867. The whole of the American rolling stock being constructed on the bogie principle, it becomes a comparatively simple operation to change the wheels and axles of the passenger cars and freight cars. It is only necessary to lift the bodies of the cars in order to substitute under them a set of broad-gauge bogie trucks for a set of narrow-gauge bogie trucks, and vice versa. This operation is now being constantly performed at Buffalo, for changing the cars between the 4ft. 8½in. of the Great Western and the 6ft. gauge of the Erie Railway Company ; and arrangements are being made for similar facilities on the Grand Trunk of Canada, at an expense of about £1,000 sterling for each changing station. To avoid delay and ensure a proper supply of trucks of the proper gauge at the required points, a surplus stock of about 15 per cent, of extra bogie trucks is necessary. But at the same time the directors of the Grand Trunk Company, in order to place themselves in the best position for carrying through traffic with the American system between the Great Western and the Atlantic seaboard and Detroit Sarnia and the International bridge now under construction across the Niagara River, near
Buffalo, are about to expend a sum of £5000 for contracting their gauge for 115 miles, between Stratford and Fort Erie, opposite to Buffalo, and a further sum of £83,000 for laying down a third rail to accomodate both gauges for a distance of 80½ miles between Sarnia and
I have thought that a slight sketch of what is thus occurring in Canada might be interesting whilst the question of gauge and break of gauge were being so warmly discussed in Victoria ; and I may, perhaps, add a few words usefully on the subject of the narrow gauge in Canada. There are now three gauges running into the Toronto Station, which is being remodelled the more conveniently to receive them- the 5ft. 6in., the 4ft. 8½in., and 3ft. 6in. gauge, and an opportunity is thus afforded of seeing them as they cannot be seen anywhere else, all on one single track. All the inconveniences of break of gauge are here, therefore, exhibited in an extreme degree ; and I had an excellent opportunity during a visit to that place last autumn of observing them, and of comparing the working of the 3ft. 6in. with the 4ft. 8½in., and the 5ft. 6in. gauges. The general remarks to which my observations led were, that the complications and inconveniences which were inconsiderable
in the case of a very small traffic increased materially or not according to the amount and description of traffic to be dealt with, and that breaks of gauge which had been so seriously felt in England were quite justifiable in many cases in which a new country had to be opened out, a very little money could be found for making a railway, or the traffic could never be great. The more changing of passengers, or of cattle after a long journey, or of certain classes of goods or mineral traffic, from vehicle or from one gauge to another, is not very costly or inconvenient where the proper facilities exist. But there are certain classes of goods and merchandise which suffer materially in the operation of transhipment. No general rule can possibly be laid down either as to the gauge to be employed or as to the relative disadvantages of break of gauge, but each country and each case ought obviously to be considered on its own merits. There was one argument against the narrow gauge in Canada which would not apply in Victoria, and that was the difficulty of working through heavy snowdrifts, and in other respects encountering the severities of a Canadian winter. The traffic in the central district of the Grand Trunk, between Montreal and Toronto, is very heavy, no engines being sent off with through freight trains unless fully loaded, and no cars with other than full loads ; and there being as many as 48 such trains to be crossed or passed in a day between those towns, it would be out of the question to attempt to carry it, especially on a single line, on the
The freight cars on that gauge, whilst weighing about half the deadweight, hardly accommodated half the cubical contents of those on the broader gauge, and there was no saving of deadweight as compared with line load on the 3ft. 6in., as against the 5ft. 6in. gauge, whilst the actual expenses for servants were greater in proportion to the work done. On the other hand, the narrow gauge lines in Canada have no doubt been cheaply constructed, and they will assist with a smaller capital outlay in developing the district through which they run, and be of great service to the country. A broader gauge would no doubt in such cases have entailed considerably greater expense, say £600 or £800 a mile, in construction, and greater cost in working for the small traffic conveyed. As regards the comparative cost of construction of the two gauges in Victoria, there are only partial means of knowing the elements that have been taken into consideration ; but there is one point which appears to me hardly to have been fairly put. It has often been argued in this country and elsewhere that light railways on the same gauge might as well be constructed as light railways on a narrow gauge, and the same sort of argument has apparently found favour at Melbourne. But this has never appeared to me to be a legitimate argument. It would be unwise to make extensions, for instance, of the 5ft. 3in. gauge lines in Australia, with rails so light as it is proposed to employ on the 3ft. 6in. gauge, because the great advantage of extending on the same gauge would be the employment of the same engines and vehicles in the extensions as in the existing lines ; and it being always economical to work with full train loads, engines at least as heavy would be required, if indeed they would not be heavier, on the extension than on the existing lines, on account of the steeper gradients which it proposed to employ in order to cheapen
It would seem, therefore, that a considerable addition for extra weight of rails ought to be made to the estimates for extension lines on the
same gauge, to make the comparison a fair one and that £500 a mile would be a moderate figure at which to place the difference between the broad and narrow gauge systems.-- Argus.