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Conversion (list) · Bogie exchange · Variable gauge
In South America, Argentina and Chile use 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) track gauge, as well as 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) or metre gauge.
Brazil uses 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) (known as "Irish gauge", most common for passenger services and a few corridors in the Southeast) and 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) (known as "narrow gauge" or "metre gauge", most common for cargo services). Exceptions are the Estrada de Ferro do Amapá north of the Amazon River, which has 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)gauge, and the Lines 4 and 5 of São Paulo Metro, which also use standard gauge.
Argentina (partly), Venezuela, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Peru use standard gauge. In the past a few lines in Northern Chile also had standard gauge, as the only international railway between Arica (Chile) and Tacna (Peru), slightly more than 60 km, uses standard gauge. The El Cerrejón Coal Railway in Colombia is also 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in).
There are and were also some lines using different narrow gauges; see the "narrow gauge" section in this list.
Transport in Chile is mostly by road. The far south of the country is not directly connected to central Chile by road, and water transport also plays a part there. The railways were historically important in Chile, but now play a relatively small part in the country's transport system. Because of the country's geography and long distances between major cities, aviation is also important.
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.
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 Europe. 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 and on some heritage British lines, where it is still defined in U.S. customary units as exactly "four feet eight and one half inches".
Transport in Bolivia is mostly by road. The railways were historically important in Bolivia, but now play a relatively small part in the country's transport system. Because of the country's geography, aviation is also important.
In rail transport, track gauge or track gage is the spacing of the rails on a railway track and is measured between the inner faces of the load-bearing rails.
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".
With railways, a break of gauge occurs where a line of one gauge meets a line of a different gauge: specifically a different track 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.
The Trans-Andean railways provide rail transport over the Andes. Several are either planned, built, defunct, or waiting to be restored. They are listed here in order from north to south.
Empresa de los Ferrocarriles del Estado (EFE) is the national railway of Chile.
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.
The Ferrocarril de Antofagasta a Bolivia is a private railway operating in the northern provinces of Chile. It is notable in that it was one of the earliest railways built to 2 ft 6 in narrow gauge, with a route that climbed from sea level to over 4,500 m (14,764 ft), while handling goods traffic totaling near 2 million tons per annum. It proved that a railway with such a narrow gauge could do the work of a standard gauge railway, and influenced the construction of other railways such as the Estrada de Ferro Oeste de Minas. It was later converted to 1,000 mmmetre gauge, and still operates today.
The rail network in Queensland, Australia, was the first in the world to adopt 1,067 mm narrow gauge for a main line, and now the second largest narrow gauge network in the world, consists of:
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.
The Bolivian rail network has had a peculiar development throughout its history; owing to losses of land, prestige and credit rating due to the failure of the War of the Pacific, railway development came late to Bolivia. The demand for mineral wealth and communication to the inland city of La Paz, encouraged foreign investors, mainly British, to construct railways. However, into this mix came the experience of railway building in adjacent Peru, whereby overbuilding of standard gauge line across the high Andes meant that Peru went bankrupt.
5 ft 6 in / 1,676 mm, a broad gauge, is the track gauge used in India, Pakistan, western Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Argentina, Chile, and on BART in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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. The Indian gauge, 5 ft 6 in, is 8 mm wider.
In Hong Kong, the three ex-KCR lines and the Light Rail service use 1,435 mmstandard gauge.
Historically, Italy had two unusual dominant track gauges which were legally defined depending on the terrain encountered. The gauge of 1,445 mm was used for the national Italian rail network and was very similar to the 1,435 mm standard gauge commonly used elsewhere in the world.
Europe inherited a diversity of rail gauges. Extensive narrow-gauge railway networks exist in Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Eastern Europe.
Metre and 3 ft gauge lines are found in South America. Some of the 1,000 mm gauge lines cross international borders, though not as efficiently as they might.
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