Trivia: Gauge Conversion.

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61653 HTAFC

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Wasn't sure whether to put this here or in infrastructure, but plumped for here.

The history of the (old) GWR converting a large portion of the network from broad gauge to standard gauge over a weekend is well documented, but outside of that can anyone think of other railways (either closed, preserved, or still in commercial operation) which have undergone a change of gauge in the past?
The only ones that spring to mind are Clayton West (closed as standard gauge in 1983, reopened as 15" in 1991) and the Fairbourne Railway (originally 2' gauge, reduced to 15" in 1916; closed in 1940; reopened at 15" in 1947, further reduced to 12¼" in 1986).

Bonus points for lines that converted to a wider gauge, rather than reducing down as per the examples above.
 
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calopez

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Bonus points for lines that converted to a wider gauge, rather than reducing down as per the examples above.
If we're not restricted to the UK, then virtually the entire metre-gauge network of India has been, is being, or will be, converted to broad gauge...
 

Gloster

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Several Swedish (891 mm) and Norwegian (1067 mm) lines were broadened to standard gauge at various times. In Denmark the still open Frederikshavn-Skagen line and some (now closed) lines around Horsens were originally narrow. Parts of the Réseau Breton were also converted to standard. The Dublin & Kingstown was originally standard gauge.
 

etr221

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The Ravenglass and Eskdale was originally I think 3 feet gauge, and converted to 15 inch.

Quite a lot of early railways in the UK were not standard gauge, but converted fairly early (by c 1850?) - ones that come to mind are the Eastern Counties; the Dublin and Kingstown (originally 4'8.5"), and other early Irish railways; several in central Scotland.

In Canada a lot was built to colonial gauge (5'6" IIRC), in the USA substantial lengths to 5' or 6'. Some European countries started off as not standard - most notably the Netherlands initially had broad gauge, and some of the German states. A lot of the railways in the Russian borderlands have changed (both ways, sometimes for military reasons).

Australia used to be a hotch potch, much has changed so the country now has a standard gauge core system (including bits in both WA and SA from 3'6" to standard)

And if I checked all my reference books, I'd come up with a lot more round the world.
 

Irascible

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Devon_and_Cornwall_Junction_Light_Railway - converted from 3ft to std gauge ( and extended ).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Cornwall_Railway - std to mixed to std again.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Cornwall_Mineral_Railway - 3ft6in to std.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exeter_and_Crediton_Railway - the story of the Barnstaple line is a little crazy, part broad gauge, part broad gauge *and* standard ( on seperate lines! ) and eventually converted by the LSWR, not GWR. Strange oddities cropped up when the B&E LSWR met - Chard was served by both, one station with both gauges seperated - except a mixed gauge turntable.

I'm sure there's loads of mineral lines converted to std gauge. Does the WHR count for, um, "converting" Dinas-Caernavon?
 
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mailbyrail

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The Eastern Counties Railway started off as a 5 foot gauge line before eventually converting to standard gauge and then becoming part of the Great Eastern Railway
 

PeterC

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Wasn't sure whether to put this here or in infrastructure, but plumped for here.

The history of the (old) GWR converting a large portion of the network from broad gauge to standard gauge over a weekend is well documented, but outside of that can anyone think of other railways (either closed, preserved, or still in commercial operation) which have undergone a change of gauge in the past?
The only ones that spring to mind are Clayton West (closed as standard gauge in 1983, reopened as 15" in 1991) and the Fairbourne Railway (originally 2' gauge, reduced to 15" in 1916; closed in 1940; reopened at 15" in 1947, further reduced to 12¼" in 1986).

Bonus points for lines that converted to a wider gauge, rather than reducing down as per the examples above.
The Severn and Wye converted from 3ft 6 guage plateway to 7ft railway before converting again to standard guage
 

Calthrop

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Devon_and_Cornwall_Junction_Light_Railway - converted from 3ft to std gauge ( and extended ).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Cornwall_Railway - std to mixed to std again.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Cornwall_Mineral_Railway - 3ft6in to std.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exeter_and_Crediton_Railway - the story of the Barnstaple line is a little crazy, part broad gauge, part broad gauge *and* standard ( on seperate lines! ) and eventually converted by the LSWR, not GWR. Strange oddities cropped up when the B&E LSWR met - Chard was served by both, one station with both gauges seperated - except a mixed gauge turntable.

I'm sure there's loads of mineral lines converted to std gauge. Does the WHR count for, um, "convertimg" Dinas-Caernavon?

Another in (a different part of) Britain, where gauge widened rather than narrowed -- the Ffestiniog & Blaenau: Blaenau Ffestiniog to Llan Ffestiniog, three and a half miles. Opened 1868 on 1 ft. 11-and-a-half in. gauge (connecting with the Ffestiniog Railway); converted to standard gauge 1882 - 83, merging with the Bala & Ffestinog (later part of GWR)'s new standard-gauge line from Bala Junction.
 

mailbyrail

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Another was the 3 foot Torrington & Marland china clay line to Meeth which was converted to standard gauge by Colonel Stephens as part of his line from Torrington to Halwill Junction which opened in 1925. The track from Torrington to Meeth survived well into the 19070s serving the creamery at Meeth.
 
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The Dublin & Lucan widened twice (from 3' gauge steam tramway to 3'6" gauge electric tramway, then part of the 5'3" gauge Dublin United Tramways system); it was the only line in Ireland to widen its gauge after 5'3" became the Irish standard, and the only one to regauge twice. However, it's debatable whether it should be regarded as a railway or a tramway.

(The other Irish gauge changes I can recall off the top of my head are the Ulster (from 6'0") and Dublin & Kingstown (from standard) in process of standardisation on 5'3", and the Finn Valley, Londonderry & Lough Swilly and Cork, Blackrock & Passage, which all went from 5'3" to 3'.)
 

6Gman

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Holyhead Breakwater was, I think, 7' gauge originally.
 

Grecian 1998

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Not sure if this counts, but apparently when the GWR built the line from Dorchester to Weymouth to broad gauge in 1857, the LSWR were allowed to lay standard gauge tracks and run trains onto Weymouth in return for laying 8 miles of broad gauge track east of Dorchester amid the existing standard gauge line. Not quite sure how this worked in practice given the standard gauge line was already there and structures were built to this standard. The broad gauge ran out west of Wool on the Dorset heathland.

Not surprisingly the broad gauge was removed a few years later without a single train ever using it.
 

StephenHunter

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I forget which one of the three it is, but one of the Baltic republics switched from Russian gauge to standard gauge after independence in 1918, then switched back after the Soviet Union took the country back in 1944.
 

Calthrop

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I forget which one of the three it is, but one of the Baltic republics switched from Russian gauge to standard gauge after independence in 1918, then switched back after the Soviet Union took the country back in 1944.

Lithuania: had belonged to Tsarist Russia -- occupied for most of World War I by Germany, which for its war-waging convenience, altered Lithuania's rail lines from Russian 1520mm, to European standard gauge. Lithuania, independent after the war, chose to keep standard gauge: this making sense because as the southernmost of the three Baltic States, it had a goodly number of rail connections with standard-gauge Germany, and likewise-s/g Poland (though this latter was pretty much brought to nothing, by Lithuania and Poland falling out over ownership of the city of Vilnius, and spending all the 1920s and '30s in a total "cold war" situation -- mutual hostility to the max.

(During the Baltic States' 1920s / 30s independence: Latvia was mostly 1520 [or 1524]mm gauge; but some lines in the south-west of the country, linking with Lithuania's system, were s/g.)
 

Dr_Paul

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I read somewhere that the German occupation authorities in the Soviet Union in the Second World War converted the track gauge to 4' 8.5" so that they could supply the advancing Wehrmacht more easily. I suspect that the Soviet authorities took as much stock with them as they could when they retreated in 1941, so the Germans had to use their own stock. How much of the track the Germans re-gauged, whether it was limited to certain main lines of strategic use, I don't know. The Soviet authorities rebuilt the track to the Russian gauge after the Soviet forces drove the Wehrmacht back; whether this was as their troops advanced or after the war had ended, again I don't know.
 

Calthrop

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I understand that Russia, at the beginning of its railway age, chose its broad gauge (1520 / 1524mm = 5 feet) so as to make things more difficult for potential invaders from further west. It would rather seem -- re the above post, and many other indications concerning the World Wars -- to have made too little difference, to have been worth bothering with !
 

Gloster

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I understand that Russia, at the beginning of its railway age, chose its broad gauge (1520 / 1524mm = 5 feet) so as to make things more difficult for potential invaders from further west.
Another version is that it was intended to make it as difficult as possible for the general run of the Russian population to have any form of contact with foreigners. This attitude seem to have come from the very top, although no doubt those very close to the top were not so inconvenienced.
 

DelW

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I'm not sure whether they meet your criteria, but there are a number of other cases of narrow gauge or miniature railways built on disused standard gauge formations, as well as the South Tynedale line mentioned in post 15.

Ones that come to mind immediately:
Bure Valley (Norfolk)
Wells and Walsingham (Norfolk)
Lappa Valley (Cornwall)
Teifi Valley (Ceredigion)
and a tramway: Seaton Tramway (Devon)

and there are probably a few more.

However, I think that in all these cases, there was a period of disuse between removal of the standard gauge line and construction of the narrow gauge, so no "gauge conversion" as such.
 

Irascible

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Another was the 3 foot Torrington & Marland china clay line to Meeth which was converted to standard gauge by Colonel Stephens as part of his line from Torrington to Halwill Junction which opened in 1925. The track from Torrington to Meeth survived well into the 19070s serving the creamery at Meeth.

Yep, that's the N. Devon & Cornwall Jct - actually lasted into the 80s ( long enough to injure me! ), taking china clay from Meeth - the quarry is still there & has swallowed the line, but noone was willing to pay to upgrade facilities to use CDA wagons so it all goes by road now, and given how the roads are up there I'm sure the only people really happy about that are the accountants. The dairy was at Torrington & lasted into the 70s ( I vaguely remember something about fertiliser traffic too, but could be mistaken on that ).

The Ravenglass & Eskdale might be the only minature railway with a legit claim, it was dual gauge for a bit even after it became a minature railway.
 

Mcr Warrior

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The Ravenglass & Eskdale might be the only minature railway with a legit claim, it was dual gauge for a bit even after it became a minature railway.
La'al Ratty was originally 3ft gauge, before converting to 15 inch gauge in c. 1915.

The two and a half miles distance of standard gauge track that was subsequently laid on the section between the granite crushing plant at Murthwaite downhill to Ravenglass straddled the narrow gauge line and opened in c. 1929.

Anyone know when it was lifted?
 

RT4038

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The Ravenglass and Eskdale was originally I think 3 feet gauge, and converted to 15 inch.

Quite a lot of early railways in the UK were not standard gauge, but converted fairly early (by c 1850?) - ones that come to mind are the Eastern Counties; the Dublin and Kingstown (originally 4'8.5"), and other early Irish railways; several in central Scotland.

In Canada a lot was built to colonial gauge (5'6" IIRC), in the USA substantial lengths to 5' or 6'. Some European countries started off as not standard - most notably the Netherlands initially had broad gauge, and some of the German states. A lot of the railways in the Russian borderlands have changed (both ways, sometimes for military reasons).

Australia used to be a hotch potch, much has changed so the country now has a standard gauge core system (including bits in both WA and SA from 3'6" to standard)

And if I checked all my reference books, I'd come up with a lot more round the world.

In South Africa, the Kalbas Kraal-Hopefield, Fort Beaufort-Seymour and Upington-Kakamas branches were all built as 2' gauge and later converted to 3'6" .
In Namibia (then South West Africa (SWA)) the Windhoek-Walvis Bay, Usakos-Tsumeb lines and branches to Grootfontein and Outjo were all constructed 2' and converted to 3'6" [Strictly speaking, these SWA lines mostly had 3'6" lines built alongside and the 2' line then abandoned (to avoid interrupting traffic), rather than a gauge conversion on the same roadbed]

The Salisbury-Umtali-Beira line (Rhodesia/Mozambique) was similarly converted shortly after construction.
 

oldman

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As with the east Baltic countries mentioned above, there were changes further south with Russia's boundaries ebbing and flowing. For example, an American visitor wrote about what is now Moldova:

My first trip to Bessarabia, in 1919, fell in the midst of this process; the old Russian equipment was still in use; then a third rail was laid, so that normal gauge cars and engines could also use the lines; now, all is standard gauge, ...

... and after WW2 they changed it back again.

Sarajevo-Ploče (Bosnia-Croatia) was originally served by Bosnia's extensive narrow gauge network, though how much of the original trackbed was used for the modern railway is another question (I remember a tunnel wide enough for double track between Sarajevo and Mostar). There have been similar 'conversions' in other Balkan countries.
 

martinsh

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Not mentioend so far is the FC de Langreo in Spain. This runs from Gijon to the Langreo area. It was the only standard gauge line in Spain. Originally an independent company, it was absorbed by FEVE in 1973 and converted to metre gauge in 1983.

[ also renowned for have passenger service on an inclined plane, until that section was bypassed by a long tunnel in the 1960s ]
 

181

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The Soviet authorities rebuilt the track to the Russian gauge after the Soviet forces drove the Wehrmacht back; whether this was as their troops advanced or after the war had ended, again I don't know.

According to this page (which I found by Googling for confirmation of a memory of having read that Stalin travelled to the Potsdam conference in 1945 in his own train), a single track of the Russian gauge reached as far as Berlin in the very last days of the war, but the part outside the USSR was converted back to standard a few months later.

A lot of the railways in the Russian borderlands have changed (both ways, sometimes for military reasons).

As with the east Baltic countries mentioned above, there were changes further south with Russia's boundaries ebbing and flowing. For example, an American visitor wrote about what is now Moldova:


... and after WW2 they changed it back again.


Given the unfortunate 20th-century history of that part of the world, I suspect that some lines in eastern Europe had their gauge changed several times between 1914 and the late 1940s.


Sarajevo-Ploče (Bosnia-Croatia) was originally served by Bosnia's extensive narrow gauge network, though how much of the original trackbed was used for the modern railway is another question (I remember a tunnel wide enough for double track between Sarajevo and Mostar).

I think the current summit tunnel was built in the 1930s to reduce the amount of rack working on the narrow gauge line, but built to a size suitable for future use by standard gauge trains. I think quite a lot of the current route must have been built new, as the rack sections weren't reused and significant parts of the old line are submerged beneath reservoirs, but on one such stretch the reservoir predated the gauge conversion and narrow gauge trains ran along the new formation for a few years. South of Mostar, I remember a few places where the narrow gauge formation could be seen leaving and rejoining the current alignment, for example to go round a bluff that the line now tunnels through.

In the post-WW2 era some of the Polish narrow gauge lines had their gauge changed, in what I think may have been an attempt at standardization. For example the system of which the Środa-Zaniemyśl line* formed part was converted from metre gauge to 750 mm in the early 1950s.

*(which some people may have heard of because it remained steam-worked until the beginning of the 21st century).

and likewise-s/g Poland (though this latter was pretty much brought to nothing, by Lithuania and Poland falling out over ownership of the city of Vilnius, and spending all the 1920s and '30s in a total "cold war" situation -- mutual hostility to the max.

Apparently the border did reopen in 1938, although this didn't result from an outbreak of friendliness -- see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1938_Polish_ultimatum_to_Lithuania#Aftermath -- and obviously neither side had long to enjoy the ability to travel.
 

david_g

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Another example of gauge widening are the two remaining open sections of the Reseau Breton from Carhaix to Guingamp and from Guingamp to Paimpol. Originally metre gauge, Guingamp to Paimpol had been dual gauge since 1924 and standard gauge only from 1953; from Carhaix to Guingamp was converted from metre gauge to standard gauge when the other remaining parts of the Reseau Breton closed in 1967.
 
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