Why are trams not narrow gauge?

Discussion in 'Other Public Transport' started by willmow, 5 Oct 2018.

  1. willmow

    willmow Member

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    I frequently travel on Swiss mountain trains (1-metre gauge). They're wide, comfy and able to negotiate tight radii. Why is this gauge not used for trams?
     
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  3. CatfordCat

    CatfordCat Member

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    there are and have been quite a few metre gauge tram networks out there - (list on wikipedia here)

    metre gauge wasn't really a thing in the UK, but there were a number of systems on 3 ft 6 gauge - Birmingham was the largest, but there were quite a few others.
     
  4. AndrewE

    AndrewE Established Member

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    By coincidence I rode the metre-gauge trams in Elblag last week. Some very battered old 1980s vehicles through to up-to-date stuff as well, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trams_in_Elbląg. CatfordCat's Wikipedia page shows that there are more survivors than I had realised.
     
  5. Tim R-T-C

    Tim R-T-C Established Member

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    I guess simply standardisation. Easier to get parts and stock if your tram system is the same as everyone elses.

    Plus the ability to run onto heavy rail networks, which is finally happening in Rotherham now.
     
  6. jopsuk

    jopsuk Veteran Member

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    Whilst I'd guess that ultimately narrow gauge does allow tighter turns, I'd have thought that spacing between axles in the bogie and the length of cars between bogie centres is much more of an influence on minimum corner radii. And I'd suspect that more than a few tramways at one time had some limited conveyance of freight wagons from the mainline, at least at their extremities.

    From what I can find the rolling stock of the Rhätische Bahn and the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn, which together make up the main metre gauge network, is ~2.65m wide, the same width as most tram stock in the UK at least (and a little narrow than mainline British stock, which is generally 2.7-2.8m wide)
     
    Last edited: 6 Oct 2018
  7. AndrewE

    AndrewE Established Member

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    I believe that is why Glasgow and Huddersfield had the strange gauge of just under 1435 mm, so that freight wagons could use the rails, but running with their flanges in the grooves.
     
  8. CatfordCat

    CatfordCat Member

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    yes - selection of pictures of Glasgow here
     
  9. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    Although a narrow gauge reduces the problems with wheel-rail interaction on tighter curves, on the sort of really tight curve where this makes much difference the greater overturning risk on narrow gauge may become an issue. The tightest curves on any tramway are far too tight to allow rolling contact with any sensible wheel conicity, so they just have to accept that one wheel is going to be sliding on the rail and there will be heavy rail wear in this location as well as heavy wheel wear if the tramway has a lot of tight curves. The effect of gauge on this situation is probably marginal.

    Although it obviously wasn't a concern when the tramways were built, a 100% low floor tram is more difficult on narrow gauge because the wheels are under the seats and the aisle needs to pass between them.
     
  10. John Webb

    John Webb Established Member

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    Have any trams ever been built with independent wheels each side to allow low floors more easily by removing the axles?
     
  11. AndrewE

    AndrewE Established Member

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    I have read that some systems ran water along the grooves of tram rails in some locations to lubricate them, presumably just 1 side, to ease the noise - & presumably wear too.
     
  12. theageofthetra

    theageofthetra Established Member

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    Could it also be that the earliest tram cars were at the infancy of electric traction and it was easier to fit an axle hung motor on a standard gauge axle with the technology of the time?
     
  13. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    Yes, many of the early low floor tram designs had independent wheels and some still do. Even so the wheel, motor and associated suspension gubbins takes up quite a bit of room so has to be boxed in under seats. Independent wheels also lose the self-centering effect which isn't relevant to cornering on tight curves but is at higher speeds on larger radii.
     
  14. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    That may be so, although Volk's railway wasn't standard gauge! I would guess it's largely a question of knowing standard gauge works and is about right for the size of vehicle needed, so there's no good reason to do anything different. But in practice high-capacity tramways have been built at a range of gauges between metre and slightly wider than standard.
     
  15. WatcherZero

    WatcherZero Established Member

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    Nowadays what they tend to do in 100% low floor trams is have the majority of the bogie under the floor purely consisting of a structural U frame, all the gubbins are on the extreme edges surrounding the wheels. So floor height is actually below the height of the bogie edges and your walking through the centre of the bogie.

    This Russian bogie is a good example.

    https://www.metro-report.com/uploads/pics/tn_uvz-r1-tram-bogie-impression.jpg

    Or this CAD model.

    https://d2t1xqejof9utc.cloudfront.net/screenshots/pics/aed489ab46e2a00320cfb8b68da5ec9b/large.JPG
     
    Last edited: 9 Oct 2018
  16. Bedpan

    Bedpan Member

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    Trams on the Seaton Tramway run on 2ft 9in gauge track, but I suppose that they are not really referring to what the OP was referring to as they are just a scaled down version of standard gauge.
     
  17. AndrewE

    AndrewE Established Member

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    ...which may be why they are second in the list for extant narrow-gauge tramways in the link in post #2.
     
  18. Bedpan

    Bedpan Member

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    I thought that post 2 inferred that the list (which I didn't look at) was a list of Metre Gauge tramways and Seaton is 838mm!
     
  19. randyrippley

    randyrippley Established Member

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    The Isle of Man had no problems fitting motors on their narrow gauge trucks
     
  20. randyrippley

    randyrippley Established Member

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    did the Railway Regulation (Gauge) Act 1846 apply to trams?
     
  21. AndrewE

    AndrewE Established Member

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    It shows about 20 less-than-metre gauge tramways (mostly historical,) maybe 170 metre gauge (lots abandoned or converted to standard gauge) and 170 standard gauge (also lots abandoned) and about 130 broader.
    If you don't look at the links people give us you will miss out on lots of interesting snippets - as well as other sources of info.
     
    Last edited: 14 Oct 2018 at 19:21
  22. Fireless

    Fireless Member

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    There have been and, outside of the UK, still are plenty of examples of narrow gauge tram systems with metre gauge being quite popular.

    The german Rhein-Neckar network racks up about a total 300 km of metre gauge spanning three cities and their surroundings.
     
  23. AndrewE

    AndrewE Established Member

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    as the link in post 2 shows us..
    Now that isn't immediately obvious from scanning the list. Thanks. From a quick look at the network map it looks as though they join up too...
     

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