railroad gauges

United States

Some gauges in 1867:¹

Railroad States Gauge
Albany & Susquehanna NY 6′
Alabama & Florida AL 5′
Atlantic and Great Western NY, PA, O 6′
Belvidere & Delaware NJ, PA 4′10″
Bellefontaine OH, IN 4′10″
Central Ohio OH 4′10″
Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton OH 4′10″; 6′
(used 4 rails)
Cumberland Valley PA, MD 4′8″
Delaware & Hudson PA 4′3″
Delaware, Lackawanna & Western PA, NY, NJ 6′
Erie NY 6′
Galveston, Houston & Henderson TX 5′6″
Hackensack & New York NJ 6′
Houston & Texas Central TX 5′6″
Illinois Central IL 4′8½″
Kentucky Central KY 5′
Lackawanna & Bloomsberg PA 4′8½″; 6′
(used 3 rails)
Lake Erie & Louisville OH, IN 4′9¼″
Maine Central ME 5′6″
Portsmouth Branch OH 5′4″
North Missouri MO 5′6″
Northern Railroad of New Jersey NY, NJ 6′
Ohio & Mississippi O, IN, IL 6′
Pacific & Missouri MO, KS 5′6″
Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne & Chicago PA, OH, IN, IL 4′10″
Sandusky, Mansfield & Newark OH 4′9½″
Sycamore & Cortland IL 4′8″
Tyrone & Clearfield PA 4′5½″
Virginia & Tennessee VA, TN 5′
Wilton NH 4′7″

The act of 1862 that provided for the construction of the transcontinental railway gave the President the power to determine its gauge. After studying the matter (including an entire cabinet meeting), Lincoln issued a proclamation setting the gauge at 5 feet. This did not please the railroads with other gauges, and the matter was thrown back into Congress. In March of 1863 Congress passed a law setting the gauge of the transcontinental railroad at 4 feet 8½ inches. The usefulness of being able to transfer rolling stock to the transcontinental line gradually lead to standardization at its gauge.

1. Ashcroft's Railway Directory for 1867.
New York: J. Ashcroft, 1867.

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