Tram curiosities

12 Feb

When driving the Christchurch trams I was often asked if it was propelled by a motor? I pointed out that the intruding pulsating clatter was from a compressor providing air to operate the brakes. I added the tramcar was powered by electric motors with electricity, a 600V Direct Current supply, from the overhead wire.
Another curiosity was the track the tram ran on. It is Stephenson Standard Gauge – an odd measurement of 1435 mm, or 4 ft. 8 1/2 in. (in imperial measurements). The rail gauge measurement is the distance between the inside edges of the rails. George Stephenson’s first railway- Stockton to Darlington of 1821 was a 4 ft 8 in. gauge (1422 mm), likely determined by the length of axles that would fit a Blacksmith’s forge. When the Manchester to Liverpool railway (the world’s first public passenger railway) was being constructed soon afterwards, Stephenson widened the track gauge by half an inch to enable rigid carriage wheels to more easily negotiate curves. Stephenson Standard is the most commonly-used gauge used by tramways worldwide (including the Auckland Dockline tram), and also for railway track. Exceptions are the tramways of Swiss cities Geneva, Zurich and Bern, typically utilising the metre gauge -also used for Swiss mountain railways. New Zealand railways run on a 3 ft 6 in. (1067 mm) track gauge known as Anglo Cape.

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