5 ft 3 in gauge railways

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Railways with track gauge of 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) are broad gauge railways, currently in use in Australia, Brazil and Ireland.

Track gauge spacing of the rails on a railway track

In rail transport, track gauge is the spacing of the rails on a railway track and is measured between the inner faces of the load-bearing rails.

Rail gauge in Australia

Rail gauges in Australia display significant variations, which has presented an extremely difficult problem for rail transport on the Australian continent for over 150 years. As of 2014, there is 11,801 kilometres (7,333 mi) of narrow-gauge railways, 17,381 kilometres (10,800 mi) of standard gauge railways and 3,221 kilometres (2,001 mi) of broad gauge railways.

Track gauge in Ireland

The track gauge adopted by the mainline railways in Ireland is 5 ft 3 in. This unusual track gauge is otherwise found only in Australia, in the states of Victoria, southern New South Wales and South Australia, as well as in Brazil.


600 BCE
The Diolkos (Δίολκος) across the Isthmus of Corinth in Greece – a grooved paved trackway – was constructed with an average gauge of 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm). [1]
The Grand Duchy of Baden State Railway was constructed to 5 ft 3 in gauge, converted to 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge in 1854–1855.
The Board of Trade of the United Kingdom recommended the use of 5 ft 3 in in Ireland, after investigating a dispute caused by diverse gauges in Ireland.
The Regulating the Gauge of Railways Act 1846 made this gauge mandatory throughout all of Ireland. [2]
The Swiss Northern Railway was opened, converted to standard gauge in 1854.
The first Australian 5 ft 3 in line was opened, the Melbourne and Hobson's Bay Railway Company.
The first Brazilian 5 ft 3 in railway was opened, the Companhia de Estrada de Ferro Dom Pedro II.
The Canterbury Provincial Railways in New Zealand was built in 5 ft 3 in until gauge conversion to 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) in 1876


Irish language Goidelic (Gaelic) language spoken in Ireland and by Irish people

Irish is a Goidelic (Gaelic) language originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is spoken as a first language in substantial areas of counties Galway, Kerry, Cork and Donegal, smaller areas of Waterford, Mayo and Meath, and a few other locations, and as a second language by a larger group of non-habitual speakers across the country.

3 ft gauge railways

Three foot gauge railways have a track gauge of 3 ft or 1 yard. This gauge is a narrow gauge and is generally found throughout North, Central, and South America. In Ireland, many secondary and industrial lines were built to 3 ft gauge, and it is the dominant gauge on the Isle of Man, where it is known as the Manx Standard Gauge. Modern 3 ft gauge railways are most commonly found in isolated mountainous areas, on small islands, or in large-scale amusement parks and theme parks. This gauge is also popular in model railroading, and model prototypes of these railways have been made by several model train brands around the world, such as Accucraft Trains (US), Aristo-Craft Trains (US), Bachmann Industries, Delton Locomotive Works (US), LGB (Germany), and PIKO (Germany).

Portuguese language Romance language that originated in Portugal

Portuguese is a Western Romance language originating in the Iberian Peninsula. It is the sole official language of Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, and São Tomé and Príncipe. It also has co-official language status in East Timor, Equatorial Guinea and Macau in China. As the result of expansion during colonial times, a cultural presence of Portuguese and Portuguese creole speakers are also found in Goa, Daman and Diu in India; in Batticaloa on the east coast of Sri Lanka; in the Indonesian island of Flores; in the Malacca state of Malaysia; and the ABC islands in the Caribbean where Papiamento is spoken, while Cape Verdean Creole is the most widely spoken Portuguese-based Creole. A Portuguese-speaking person or nation may be referred to as "Lusophone" in both English and Portuguese.



States of South Australia, Victoria (Victorian broad gauge), New South Wales (a few lines built by, and connected to, the Victorian rail system) and Tasmania, Australia (one line, Deloraine to Launceston, opened in 1871, partly converted to dual gauge, and then converted to 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) in 1888). The 125 km (77.7 mi) long Oaklands railway line, which runs into New South Wales from Victoria, was converted to standard gauge in 2009. The project was relatively easy because the line has wooden sleepers. 200 km (124.3 mi) of the North East line, Victoria was converted to standard gauge in 2008–2011, meaning a double track standard gauge line was created between Seymour and Albury. The current network is 4,017 km or 2,496 mi, 10% of the total Australian rail network.


Lines connecting the states of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Minas Gerais; E.F.Carajás in Pará and Maranhão states, and Ferronorte in Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul states. Used in older Metro systems. Although the metre gauge network is almost 5 times longer, [8] Irish gauge is considered the standard by ABNT. [9] The current network is 4,057 km or 2,521 mi, 15% of the total Brazilian network.

Germany Grand Duchy of Baden State Railway 1840–1855 [10]
Switzerland Swiss Northern Railway between 1847 and 1854, converted to 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge .

Irish broad gauge. The current network is 2,400 km or 1,491 mi. [11]

New Zealand Canterbury Provincial Railways from 1863; all routes converted to 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) by 1876
United Kingdom

Northern Ireland Railways – entire network, currently 330 km or 205 mi.

Similar gauges

The Pennsylvania trolley gauges of 5 ft 2 12 in (1,588 mm) and 5 ft 2 14 in (1,581 mm) are similar to Irish gauge, but incompatible. There is also 5 ft 2 in (1,575 mm) gauge, which is similar as well. See: Track gauge in Ireland.


One of the supposed advantages of the broader 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) Irish gauge, compared to 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge , is that the greater space between the wheels allows for bigger cylinders. In practice, Ireland does not have any heavily-loaded or steeply-graded lines that would require especially powerful locomotives. The most powerful steam locomotives on systems of this gauge were:

GSR Class 800 class of 3 Irish 4-6-0 locomotives

The Great Southern Railways Class 800 steam locomotives were built principally for express passenger work on the Dublin to Cork main line of that company. These locomotives were designed under the supervision of E. C. Bredin with his Chief Draughtsman, H. J. A. Beaumont, preparing the drawings. They were the largest and most powerful engines ever to run in Ireland by quite a large margin, and the only three express passenger locomotives to be built in an independent Ireland.

As used in mechanical engineering, the term tractive force can either refer to the total traction a vehicle exerts on a surface, or the amount of the total traction that is parallel to the direction of motion.

Victoria (Australia) State in Australia

Victoria is a state in south-eastern Australia. Victoria is Australia's smallest mainland state and its second-most populous state overall, thus making it the most densely populated state overall. Most of its population lives concentrated in the area surrounding Port Phillip Bay, which includes the metropolitan area of its state capital and largest city, Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city. Geographically the smallest state on the Australian mainland, Victoria is bordered by Bass Strait and Tasmania to the south, New South Wales to the north, the Tasman Sea to the east, and South Australia to the west.

By comparison a non-articulated standard gauge locomotive in the same country was:

New South Wales D57 class locomotive class of 25 Australian 4-8-2 locomotives

The D57 class was a class of 4-8-2 steam locomotives built by Clyde Engineering for the New South Wales Government Railways in Australia. The tenders were built by Mort's Dock.

Grade (slope) tangent of the angle of a surface to the horizontal

The grade of a physical feature, landform or constructed line refers to the tangent of the angle of that surface to the horizontal. It is a special case of the slope, where zero indicates horizontality. A larger number indicates higher or steeper degree of "tilt". Often slope is calculated as a ratio of "rise" to "run", or as a fraction in which run is the horizontal distance and rise is the vertical distance.

See also

Related Research Articles

Narrow-gauge railway railway with a gauge (distance between rails) less than that of a standard gauge railway

A narrow-gauge railway is a railway with a track gauge narrower than standard 1,435 mm. Most narrow-gauge railways are between 600 mm and 1,067 mm.

Standard-gauge railway rail track gauge – international standard gauge (4′ 8½″)

A standard-gauge railway is a railway with a track gauge of 1,435 mm. The standard gauge is also called Stephenson gauge after George Stephenson, International gauge, UIC gauge, uniform gauge, normal gauge and European gauge in the EU and Russia. It is the most widely used railway track gauge across the world, with approximately 55% of the lines in the world using it. All high-speed rail lines use standard gauge except those in Russia, Finland, Portugal and Uzbekistan. The distance between the inside edges of the rails is defined to be 1435 mm except in the United States, where it is still defined in U.S. customary units as exactly "four feet eight and one half inches".

Broad-gauge railway rail track gauge wider than standard gauge (1435 mm, 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)

A broad-gauge railway is a railway with a track gauge broader than the 1,435 mm standard-gauge railways.

Dual gauge line of track for trains of two separate track gauges

A dual gauge railway is a track that allows the passage of trains of two different track gauges. It is sometimes called a "mixed gauge" track. A dual gauge track consists of three rails. There will be two vital rails, one for each gauge close together and a third rail, a "common" rail further away. Sometimes, four rails are required using two outer and two inner rails to create the dual gauge. Dual gauge is not to be confused with a "third rail" or "check or guard rails".

Break of gauge effects created when rail tracks of differing gauges meet

With railways, a break of gauge occurs where a line of one gauge meets a line of a different gauge. Trains and rolling stock cannot run through without some form of conversion between gauges, and freight and passengers must otherwise be transshipped. A break of gauge adds delays, cost, and inconvenience.

3 ft 6 in gauge railways railways with tracks 1067 mm (3′ 6″) apart

Railways with a track gauge of 3 ft 6 in / 1,067 mm were first constructed as horse-drawn wagonways. From the mid-nineteenth century, the 3 ft 6 in gauge became widespread in the British Empire, and was adopted as a standard in Japan and Taiwan.

ScaleSeven (S7) is a set of finescale model railway standards for 1:43.5 using true-to-prototype track and wheel standards. It is principally used to model British standard gauge, Irish Broad Gauge, or Great Western broad gauge.

5 ft and 1520 mm gauge railways railway gauge

Railways with a railway track gauge of 5 ft were first constructed in the United Kingdom and the United States. This gauge is also commonly called Russian gauge because this gauge was later chosen as the common track gauge for the Russian Empire and its neighbouring countries. The gauge was redefined by Soviet Railways to be 1,520 mm.

Decauville French automobile and light railway manufacturer

Decauville was a manufacturing company which was founded by Paul Decauville (1846–1922), a French pioneer in industrial railways. Decauville's major innovation was the use of ready-made sections of light, narrow gauge track fastened to steel sleepers; this track was portable and could be disassembled and transported very easily. The first Decauville railway used 400 mm gauge; Decauville later refined his invention and switched to 500 mm and 600 mm gauge.

Rail transport in Australia involves a number of narrow-gauge railways. In some states they formed the core statewide network, but in the others they were either a few government branch lines, or privately owned and operated branch lines, often for mining, logging or industrial use.

Bogie exchange

Bogie exchange is a system for operating railway wagons on two or more gauges to overcome difference in the track gauge. To perform a bogie exchange, a car is converted from one gauge to another by removing the bogies or trucks, and installing a new bogie with differently spaced wheels. It is generally limited to wagons and carriages, though diesel locomotives can be exchanged if enough time is available.

Track gauge conversion

Gauge conversion is the change of one railway track gauge to another. This may be required if loads are too heavy for the existing track gauge or if rail cars are of a broader gauge than the existing track gauge. Gauge conversion may become less important as time passes due to the development of variable gauge systems, also called Automatic Track Gauge Changeover Systems.

Iberian-gauge railways rail gauge used in Spain and Portugal

Iberian-gauge railways is the name given to the railways using track gauge of 1,668 mm, most extensively used by the railways of Spain and Portugal. This is the second-widest gauge in regular use anywhere in the world.

Track gauge in South America

In South America, Argentina and Chile use 1,676 mm track gauge, as well as 1,000 mm or metre gauge.

Track gauge in Europe

Most railways in Europe use the standard gauge of 1,435 mm. Some countries use broad gauge, of which there are three types. Narrow gauges are also in use.

Railway Regulation (Gauge) Act 1846

The Railway Regulation (Gauge) Act was enacted by the United Kingdom Parliament on 18 August 1846. It mandated standard gauges of 4 ft 8 12 in for Great Britain, and 5 ft 3 in for Ireland. The 7 ft gauge, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel when engineering the Great Western Railway, was limited to the south west of England and Wales. The law stated that these railways "shall be constructed on the Gauge of Seven Feet". This isolation ultimately marked the end for Brunel's 7 ft broad gauge system.

Francis Webb Sheilds was a civil engineer on the Sydney Railway Company during its construction but before its opening.


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  7. Transfer of gauge, a useful railway invention Sunday Times (Perth, WA) Sunday 8 June 1902 Supplement, page 1
  8. Rail_transport_in_Brazil
  9. Newer Metro systems use 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge.
  10. Rieger, Bernhard (2006-04-23). "Breitspurbahn" . Retrieved 2007-11-29.
  11. "Infrastructure". Irish Rail.