Old Erie broad gauge

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Old Erie broad gauge

Postby D Alex » Mon Feb 19, 2018 5:20 pm

On a different thread where we were talking about the Portageville bridge, somebody postulated that it would be wider because it was originally made for the wider gauge. On another thread, somebody claimed that over-width loads were sent by the Erie because the right-of-way was wider, having been designed for the old 6' broad gauge.

After thinking about it, I doubt that either comment was true, unless Erie made their cars wider. The main reason for broad gauge was stability, which I would think meant that the cars were the same width, just with wider axles. Also, wouldn't the distance between the centers of each track be the same, just the outside rails were closer?

Does anybody have some good information about this?
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Re: Old Erie broad gauge

Postby ExCon90 » Tue Feb 20, 2018 4:59 pm

The main advantage of the former broad gauge in modern times was the number of shipments (often large machinery) that couldn't fit into a boxcar but had to be loaded on a flatcar and extended over the sides. Most railroads had a Clearance Bureau which had to review all proposed "high-and-wide" shipments to determine whether they would clear to the desired destination. The shipper would calculate the probable loaded dimensions as
x wide at y height above top of rail (ATR)
x' wide at y' ATR
x" wide at y" ATR
and so on.
The Clearance Bureau then had to get out the drawings of every tunnel or overhead bridge on any possible route to make sure the shipment could clear; after loading a car inspector would take the actual measurements to ensure they were the same. (A critically important part of the process was for the M/W Department to make sure they notified the Clearance Department if they raised track under a bridge.) The result might require the shipment to use Track 1 between A and B and Track 2 between B and C, and perhaps at certain points adjacent tracks must be clear of all traffic. On a busy railroad this greatly constrained the time period when the shipment could move at all. On the Erie, the wider clearances meant that many shipments that would be subject to such restrictions on other railroads could move without restrictions over the Erie, and consequently a lot faster. (At one time the PRR had a pair of scheduled freight trains, HW-1/HW-2, between Conway and Enola which were confined to the specific tracks required for many high-and-wide shipments--it ran one day a week.)
I don't know about the width of passenger cars and boxcars, but I've always assumed they were wider than standard.
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Re: Old Erie broad gauge

Postby D Alex » Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:18 pm

I'm not so sure. You know, the old Newfoundland narrow gauge used just standard cars from the mainland with narrow gauge axles. I believe Rio Grande did also (and would often pull them with a standard gauge locomotive over dual-gauge tracks). Plenty of Alco locomotives were sent to India with broad gauge spacing, but were identical in all dimensions outside of the axles and trucks. If somebody could definitively show me that Erie spaced their tracks further apart, then maybe I'd believe it. I DO know that when they re-gauged, many cars were re-axled, so it would seem that these cars were able to go on other roads; if they were wider, they wouldn't.

It is possible that the Erie right-of-way was wider, but I don't think that was related to the old broad-gauge days.
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Re: Old Erie broad gauge

Postby Windseeker1 » Tue Feb 20, 2018 10:17 pm

I am not motivated enough to find the source of the quote, it was either Hungefords “men of Erie” or Grants “EL: death of an American Railway“ that specifically stated the wide clearances were due to the original Erie (and Atlantic and Great Western) broad that’s. The outside rails or left where they were and the inside rail was moved so there is a larger space between the tracks.
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Re: Old Erie broad gauge

Postby D Alex » Wed Feb 21, 2018 5:39 pm

Yeah, I assume when they double-gauged tracks for the LVRR (and later when using standard-gauge equipment of their own), it's logical that the 3rd rail would've been towards the center, otherwise passing standard-gauge trains would've been too close. At least at first, I'd guess that the inner rails would've been removed when broad gauge was abandoned, but this would also have left the standard-gauge unit running just a bit closer on the outside to bridge trusses, abutments, roadside structures, etc. So, any space gained between the tracks would be lost on the outside.
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Re: Old Erie broad gauge

Postby s4ny » Sun Apr 15, 2018 11:21 am

I have looked at several pictures of Erie dual gauge track in Hornell and Cameron and other locations that were
not specified.

I think the 6' gauge locomotives and cars were wider than standard gauge rolling stock. Not the
full 15.5 inches, but somewhat wider. I believe some broad gauge cars and locos were refitted to standard gauge.

Photos of dual gauge track indicates that sometimes the extra rail was laid on closer to the outside
6' gauge rail and sometimes closer to the inside 6' gauge rail.
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Re: Old Erie broad gauge

Postby s4ny » Wed Oct 17, 2018 12:04 pm

Additional research: Poor's Manual states that the entire Erie line from Jersey City to Buffalo
had a 3rd rail in 1878.
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