Gauge Problems

The Ocean at Halifax
The Ocean at Halifax

Two pictures taken by Colin Churcher of the Ocean at Halifax, NS., in September 2009 showing gauge differences between British and Canadian equipment.

Travelling with VIA to and from Halifax recently on the British Renaissance cars provided a reminder that although the track gauge in the UK and Canada is the same the clearance gauge or envelope is significantly different.  However, the clearance gauge in the UK was not always the same as I once found out to my cost.

At Reading the former Great Western Railway main line to Bristol was joined by a non-GWR branch line from Basingstoke.  The GWR was originally built to the wide track gauge of 7 feet and 1/4 inch,  This was changed to standard gauge by 1892.  However, the GWR also used a wider clearance gauge and this was retained even though the track gauge was changed.  The GWR took advantage of this by building wider equipment such as passenger and baggage cars.  This practise continued until nationalization in 1948 when all equipment was built to the narrower envelope.

At Reading I was always short of baggage cars, particularly for Basingstoke.  There was one working where I could send a car out to Basingstoke and get it back quickly so it could be used for a later working.  One day I sent out an old GWR baggage car on this working.  It came back after a rather irate phone call from Basingstoke.  One side of the car had been swept clean by a bridge on the way out and the other side was cleaned off on the way back.  It was a bit difficult to get the doors open without any door handles but when we did we found a complete set of hardware, door handles, grab irons, ladders and a step piled up on the floor.

There is a happy ending to this story in that I never received a “Please explain” memo.  Wally, the carriage and Wagon Examiner” managed to put everything back on again and even sent off a blast to his boss about other stations sending us cars with defective safety appliances! Needless to say I owed him.

Ottawa Valley Associated Railroaders, The Interchange November 2009.

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