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 ?

Sponsored advertisement

  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