General, Research, Technology

What is the railway gauge in Russia and why is it different abroad

Have you ever wondered whatdistance between two rails? Most people will answer that of course not. Just think, some distance there. The train is moving and okay. But it is precisely the width of the railway track that determines not only whether a train can pass, but even the country's security in wartime. Railway gauge at different times had different meanings and in some countries it even changed to become more universal, but just imagine what is needed for this. At the very least, it is necessary to change all the rails in the country, at the same time stopping railway traffic. Few people can afford such a luxury when transportation markets are estimated at huge sums. And the iron used for the rails is not simple, but almost gold. At a minimum, it must be very durable, and ideally also meet other requirements, because everything is very strict on railway transport. So what's wrong with the track?

The railway has its own romance.


  • 1 What is railway track gauge
  • 2 Railroad gauge in Russia
  • 3 Why do different countries have different railway track
  • 4 Is the gauge of the railway important
  • 5 Can there be two types of railway tracks in the country
  • 6 Widest railroad
  • 7 How trains travel to other countries

What is Railroad Gauge

In fact, “track gauge” is just a simplified name for a more complex term ”distance between the inner edges of the rail heads”. It is somehow not accepted to say that, and it even smacks of some kind of technophilia, so such an indicator is usually simply called the track gauge.

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But the existence of a detailed definitionuseful for a general understanding of what it is all about. This is really the distance between the tops of the rail. That is, this is the place with which the side ridge of the wheel contacts.

The problem of the world railway communicationis that very many countries have different track gauges. Therefore, engineers have a difficult task to solve. They must understand how to quickly and safely change the bogies under the wagons, or even change the track gauge at all, without resorting to such difficult decisions. New trains are already able to do this, but with old ones you have to work with the old-fashioned method.

The rail gauge looks like this and is measured with this tool.

Railway gauge in Russia

Originally railway track gauge in Russia(later in the USSR), and at the same time in Finland and Mongolia, was 1524 mm or 5 English feet. In the second half of the last century, from about 1970 to 1990, the track changed slightly and was 1520 mm... This seemingly insignificant changeit took in order to make the stability of the movement of heavy freight trains. This was especially important against the background of the growth of the rolling stock speeds.

All countries that were part of the USSR are stilluse the then standard track gauge, and in other countries, for example, in Finland, the track is still the former 1524 mm. Even subway cars have the same track. Some roads in Russia and other former USSR countries also still have 1524 mm gauge. This is mainly found on some slop paths or branches laid to the enterprises. It makes no sense to change them, and trains almost never run on them.

Metro train rails in all countries of the former USSR also have a track1520 mm. The same applies to trams, but there are already exceptions, and in some cities you can find narrow-gauge trams. For example, in Kaliningrad, Pyatigorsk, Zhitomir, Vinnitsa, Evpatoria and some other cities, trams run on rails with a track gauge of one meter.

All due to the fact that 4 mm is not such a difference,which requires re-equipment of carriage bogies. True, at the initial stage, new sections led to accelerated wear of the ridge and rolling surface of the wheelsets of the cars. Later, when the standard was introduced everywhere, the problem gradually disappeared. Although many experts, technicians, railroad workers and repairmen argued that the connection between gauge change and increased wear is far-fetched.

When the road is worn out, it needs to be repaired, but this is not due to a change in track.

The track gauge of 1524 meters was first usedduring the construction of the Nikolaev railway. The railroad workers, to whom I once belonged, even have a bike that Nicholas I was offered to make a road with a gauge of one and a half meters (for even counting), to which he replied something like “well… with him”. As a result, another 24 mm was added. Of course, this is all a joke, because 1524 mm is exactly five English feet, which is a nice round number. On the other hand, the Nikolaevskaya road became the first double-track road in Russia, linking Moscow and St. Petersburg.

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Now it's called October railway, and the strong-willed decision of its creators is sheset the standard for centuries to come. Prior to this, the very first railway in Russia, called Tsarskoye Selo, had a track gauge of 1829 mm. This, by the way, is six English feet - another round number.

Why different countries have different railway tracks

It is partly a myth and partly true thatdifferent railroad gauges in different countries are needed so that enemy troops, in the event of an invasion, cannot quickly seize the routes and transfer their troops inland. Moreover, almost at the dawn of the formation of railways, the horse was inferior to the steam locomotive in moving goods over long distances.

According to one version, the choice in Europe and somein other countries, the 1435 mm gauge is due to the fact that this value corresponds to the gauge of the standard cart in the Roman Empire. But this version is not very common. Much more often they say that when railways were born in Europe, they were already being built in the United States at full speed and the Europeans just spied on how to do it.

In fact, it was rather pleasantaddition and, for example, during the construction of the Nikolaev railway, this was not taken into account. Moreover, in Europe at that time there was no single standard at all and different countries made their own versions of the track gauge. Later, a single width was fixed, which is used almost everywhere, except for Finland, the Baltic States and the CIS countries - 1435 mm. The same width is used in the USA, China, Korea and even Australia.

Examples of railway track gauges in Europe

Is railway gauge important

Railway gauge is important in a country. She is always selected not "from the ceiling", but taking into account all the features. For example, somewhere you need it often cut through the rocks and wide trains can be a real headache, but somewhere they carry large loads and the track should ensure the stability of the train. The wider it is, the more stable the composition will be.

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However, the great advantage of the Russianthere is no track over the European one. The difference of 85 mm (1520 versus 1435 mm) does not give a significant increase in stability. Although in Russia the cars are much larger than European ones. There is also the concept of railway gauge, here we have made a bet on taking everything away at once. This is not surprising at such and such distances.

The railway gauge has its own GOST.

Proof that track gauge is not alwaysconnected with the dimensions of the train is that the European gauge is adopted in China, but the dimensions of the train there are very close to ours. This applies to both width and height.

Value railway gauge also cannot be changed so easily, because under itall tunnels, platforms and other infrastructure are sharpened. Moreover, when the Ministry of Defense orders the development of some kind of equipment, among other things, it is indicated that it must fit into the railway gauge. This makes it easier to toss. What is the technique, even the famous BelAZ trucks are dismantled into parts so that they can be delivered by rail.

Can there be two types of railway tracks in the country?

Can! It has already been said above that trams in some cities use a narrower gauge. The same applies to the extractive industry. For example, such roads (track width 750 mm) used on the roads on which peat and timber are transported. True, now their number is rapidly decreasing and they are "altered" to a standard track or abandoned.

But such roads are much easier to build andcontain. They also allow you to make a smaller turning radius. This has its advantages, but in a world where everything is striving for unification, there is less and less space for them.

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Another area of ​​use for roads with width750 mm are children's railways, which can be found in different cities of our country. On them, schoolchildren practice their skills in managing trains and the subtleties of movement in order to try the profession and understand if they want to connect their lives with the railway.

Children run everything on the children's railway. Under adult supervision, of course.

The widest railway

If we talk about the widest railway, thenwe can say that it is not. Of course, there is a track gauge of 1,676 mm, which is found in India, Pakistan, Chile, Argentina, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, but there was a real king-road project. But it was hatched in Nazi Germany and did not imply peaceful construction for commercial purposes.

It was originally supposed to connect Japan and India with Europe using such a road. Naturally, through the territory of the USSR. The project that got the name "Breitspurbahn”, Assumed a track width of exactly three meters. The road was supposed to become very fast and carry huge loads over long distances. The project was not destined to come true and no one else approached the implementation of such decisions as seriously as the leadership and engineers of the Third Reich.

How trains travel to other countries

Passenger and cargo traffic has become ourdays are the norm, except for the last six months, when the coronavirus took us home. I myself crossed the border by train and saw the process when trains are being prepared for travel on the railway of another country.

This is how the change of wheelsets looks like.

It so happened that I was driving a modernhigh-speed train from Moscow to Berlin (Germany). In my case, it happened as quickly and simply as possible. The train only slowed down to slow enough and at that moment magic was happening under the squad - the width of the wheelsets changed on the fly.

Most docking stations are located onborder of Ukraine (track 1520 mm) with Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania (track 1435 mm). There are about 15 such nodes, and all due to the fact that Ukraine borders on a large number of countries, each of which has its own message, and the track is different.

Older lineups cannot boast of suchpossibilities and you have to change the carts under them. To do this, the cars are raised, some bogies are rolled out from under them, and others are installed in the required number in their place. The procedure is much longer than in the first case. At the same time, idle time at the border is not only discomfort for passengers, but also a waste of money for the operating company. As a result, even the re-equipment of the checkpoint with the installation of equipment for changing the width of the wheelsets pays off very quickly. The trains themselves are also very profitable, both for passengers and for the carrier.

There are also cases of a universal track when the trainno need to travel long across the country. To do this, simply fit two sets of rails. At the same time, they do not fit side by side, but as if mixed. That is, if you look at them from above and count from left to right, then the first and third rails are intended for some trains, and the second and fourth for others. So there is no need to prepare the ground for laying an additional track and it turns out to make a universal track on a budget. And trains benefit from not standing at the border.

This is how the wheelsets look monumental. Each weighs more than a ton.

You can, of course, also reload goods at the border from one train to another. This method is used, but it is very time consuming.

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Taking into account the growth of freight traffic and relatively low cost use of railways, they will continue toto strengthen its role as a mass delivery vehicle for passengers and goods. The plane is expensive, the ship does not get everywhere, and each car needs its own tractor and driver. The train clings to one locomotive with one crew of drivers and travels across the country almost 24 hours a day. Crews change at stations, ensuring a smooth process.

It so happened that the track is different everywhere, but ways to get around it have already been found, so the railway will not lose its attractiveness and romantic image.