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bureaucracy - 'off track'

Poster: Annejke@prodigy.com (MS MARTHA L WALLENHORST)

The following is something that fell on me recently (I do not even 
know where it comes from) and I thought it was cleaver, true and cute.
  It may not EXACTLY fit our form but I would like to sit at a table, 
have a mug and tell you this story.


The US Standard railroad gauge (the distance between rails) is 4 feet,
 8.5 inches.  That is an exceedingly odd number.  Why was that gauge 
used  Because that is the way they built them in England, and the US 
railroads were built by English expatriates.  Why did the English 
people build them like that?  Because the first rail lines were built 
by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and thats 
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 used for building 
wagons which used that wheel spacing.  OK.  Why did the wagons use 
that odd wheel spacing?  Well, if they tried to use any other spacing 
the wagons would break on some of the old, long distance roads, 
because that is the spacing of the old wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads?  The first long distance roads 
in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their 
legions.  The roads have been used ever since.  And the ruts?  The 
initial ruts, which everyone had to match for fear of destroying 
their wagons, were first made by Roman war chariots.  Since the 
chariots were for or by Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the 
matter of wheel spacing.

Thus we have the answer to the original question.  The US Standard 
railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches drives from the original 
specification for an Imperial Roman army war chariot.  Specifications 
and Bureaucracies will live forever.  So, the next time you are 
handed a specification and wonder what horses pi toot cam up with it,
 you may be exactly right.  Because the Imperial Roman war chariots 
were made to be just wide enough to accommodate the back-ends of two 
war horses.

I finished my tale and my mug and will now continue to sit in the 
corner in the dark.
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