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Is Japanese 1067mm “narrow gauge”?


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Bit of a philosophical question, is Japanese 1067mm “narrow gauge?”

 

On the one hand, it is narrow gauge, because it’s narrower than standard gauge.

 

On the other hand, the type of rail operations in Japan are closer to standard gauge heavy rail in other countries than the kind of slower, light rail operations typical of what’s often considered narrow gauge.

 

What do you think?

 

 

Edited by disturbman
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In terms of a strict definition, it is narrow gauge, but it is a loaded term IMO, for especially among parochial N. American enthusiasts(think "Tweetsie" or D&RGW operations in southwestern Colo.) It implies small scale, predominantly rural, restricted loading gauge, and frankly archaic/quaint (and by association, inferior vis a vis "Standard" gauge) operations.  As everyone here knows, 1067mm gauge operations in Japan in the main are heavy rail, with the most intense passenger workings in the world, and a loading gauge larger than the UK and quite close to the European, excepting height.  I much prefer the term "Cape Gauge" (S. Africa also has heavy mainline rail operations), or just use the dimensions as done above. Narrow gauge should refer to anything 1000mm and under.

Edited by bikkuri bahn
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1067mm and narrow guage are the same thing.  Lets not try to over think it.  However, they are English language terms, so may not be used or translated the same depending on region.

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Standard gauge is 1435 mm. Below is narrow and above is broard. Basically, it's the way Wikipedia presents it and I'm aligned with their statement. 

 

 

For some reasons, this segmentation can be discussed but basically, Cap gauge (1067mm) is a narrow gauge despite the rolling stock is very close to the standard gauge's rolling stock due to technical progress (piloted dampers, tilting trains, etc ...). Anyway the overall performances of the rolling stock decreases as the gauge becomes more and more narrow (iso-technologically speaking). 

 

JM

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On 12/24/2021 at 5:44 PM, JR East said:

Anyway the overall performances of the rolling stock decreases as the gauge becomes more and more narrow

Just out of curiosity, why? In other words, what are the factors influencing the choice of the gauge? I can imagine that a wider gauge could increase the (lateral) stability of the train. 

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Anyway the overall performances of the rolling stock decreases as the gauge becomes more and more narrow (iso-technologically speaking). 

Yes, taken in isolation.  But it must be said that things like operating practices/philosophy, trackwork, station layouts and the like may actually have more influence on overall performance that's relevant to the riding public. I read somewhere (sorry I don't have the source), that JR intercity limited express operations actually have better point to point times than the average European IC service, due largely to better average speeds, and likely a result specifically of high station approach speeds (specific platforms for specific trains and no spaghetti trackwork) and lower station dwell times.  Some may already know that the Netherlands Prorail used Japanese practices as a benchmark to improve infrastructure and service efficiency.  As a side note, 1067mm rolling stock is stable up to 160km/h, which is more than adequate for most passenger services in the world that people use daily (i.e. not for leisure or occasional long distance business travel).  

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TokyoImperialPalace

 

For me the term "narrow gauge" refers to the size of the rails. A narrow gauge could easily be a high density underground tram (Glasgow Subway and in terms of the loading gauge the deep-level tube trains on the London Underground) that has heavier and more frequent traffic than a standard gauge light railway (airport movers etc...) 

 

It reminds me of the folly that India is persuing by building its high speed railway in standard gauge based on loan requirements and the interests of multinational competitors. It's going to cause unnecessary problems with integration and passenger flows and point-to-point travel will involve too much hardship for the typical passenger.

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On 12/26/2021 at 3:45 AM, Madsing said:

Just out of curiosity, why? In other words, what are the factors influencing the choice of the gauge? I can imagine that a wider gauge could increase the (lateral) stability of the train. 

 

Working as IT project Manager contractor several years ago, I was very interested in knowing that - for a high speed train - the cost of the rolling stock represents 20% in average of the total investment and less than 17% of the overall costs. 

 

A narrowest gauge is cheaper esp. because of the cost of infrastructure (and the capability to have tighter curves as weel that allow eg in montains to lower the cost of earthworks). To make a comparison, when in France the network was of various gauges and very extended (19th century) the difference of cost for 1km of tracks was

  • 1 to 2 between metric and standard
  • 1 to 3 between Decauville (60cm) and standard

 

Moreover, as usually the trains are slower, the material wear decreases dramatically. The faster you go, the material wear increases. 

 

Initially, the lateral stability was deeply affected by narrowest gauge. This remains true, but less due to the technology.

 

Choice of the gauge is also a matter of countries. When a gauge is chosen, it's very difficult to change unless you make a hard cut because the renewal of the rolling stock is made stepwise. Thus, you've always new and old rolling stocks at the same time. 

 

Not choosing the same gauge can also be a strategical approach such as Russia / former Soviet Union. By choosing a non standard gauge, you prohibit the use of if in case of war. 

 

JM

 

 

Edited by JR East
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Here in Australia, 3'6" (1067mm) is the most common gauge in use (we also have sizeable networks of 2', 2'6", 4'8½", and 5'3" in various places), as such 3'6" is often referred to as either 'medium gauge', or 'southern standard gauge' due to it being so common in the southern hemisphere. Thus 3'6" (1067mm) is considered the 'standard gauge', while 4'8½" is considered 'broad gauge' in comparison (and is sometimes referred to as 'northern standard gauge').
The idea that 4'8½" (1435mm) is The One True Standard Gauge seems to be mostly a European/American thing, where it is the standard track gauge. But this is not the same for every country.

I'd imagine that in Japan, 1067mm gauge is also considered 'standard gauge' as it is the standard track gauge for the country.

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  • disturbman changed the title to Is Japanese 1067mm “narrow gauge”?
7 minutes ago, Tick said:

.../...
The idea that 4'8½" (1435mm) is The One True Standard Gauge seems to be mostly a European/American thing, where it is the standard track gauge. But this is not the same for every country.

I'd imagine that in Japan, 1067mm gauge is also considered 'standard gauge' as it is the standard track gauge for the country.

 

This question is a bit like standard diameter for copper tubes. It's in millmeters in 'metric' countries whereas  it's in inches in non-metric countries despite the MKSA System

 

Wikipedia general opinion is 'Standard gauge' equal to 4'8½". It can be an endless discusssion like a 'normal consumption of alcohol'.

 

JM

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marknewton
44 minutes ago, Tick said:

we also have sizeable networks of 2', 2'6", 4'8½", and 5'3"


Apart from one line at Puffing Billy and the other at Walhalla, where is there a "sizeable network" of 2'6" lines here?

 

Cheers,

 

Mark.

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15 minutes ago, marknewton said:


Apart from one line at Puffing Billy and the other at Walhalla, where is there a "sizeable network" of 2'6" lines here?

 

Cheers,

 

Mark.

Yeah, fair enough. There was a couple of hundred kilometres of it at one point, but there's only a fraction of that as preserved lines now.

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6 hours ago, Tick said:

Here in Australia, 3'6" (1067mm) is the most common gauge in use

You sure? Queensland use it in excess. And Perth suburban. But whom else uses it as a majority?

Edited by katoftw
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TokyoImperialPalace
On 12/27/2021 at 9:17 PM, JR East said:

 

Working as IT project Manager contractor several years ago, I was very interested in knowing that - for a high speed train - the cost of the rolling stock represents 20% in average of the total investment and less than 17% of the overall costs. 

 

A narrowest gauge is cheaper esp. because of the cost of infrastructure (and the capability to have tighter curves as weel that allow eg in montains to lower the cost of earthworks). To make a comparison, when in France the network was of various gauges and very extended (19th century) the difference of cost for 1km of tracks was

  • 1 to 2 between metric and standard
  • 1 to 3 between Decauville (60cm) and standard

 

Moreover, as usually the trains are slower, the material wear decreases dramatically. The faster you go, the material wear increases. 

 

Initially, the lateral stability was deeply affected by narrowest gauge. This remains true, but less due to the technology.

 

Choice of the gauge is also a matter of countries. When a gauge is chosen, it's very difficult to change unless you make a hard cut because the renewal of the rolling stock is made stepwise. Thus, you've always new and old rolling stocks at the same time. 

 

Not choosing the same gauge can also be a strategical approach such as Russia / former Soviet Union. By choosing a non standard gauge, you prohibit the use of if in case of war. 

 

JM

 

 

 

Do you have any understanding of the extra costs involved in making a broad gauge high speed railway, in terms of the possible need for larger turning radiuses and/or wider loading gauges and center space between the tracks?

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marknewton
On 1/7/2022 at 12:12 AM, Tick said:

Here in Australia, 3'6" (1067mm) is the most common gauge in use


I wasn't convinced that was the case, so I referred to the BITRE statistical reports archived at work. The most recent document I could easily get access too was for 2018/19. It gives a figure of 15625km for 1600mm/broad gauge, 14814km for 1435mm/standard gauge, and 4225km for narrow/1067mm gauge. I can't say that in all my years in the industry I've ever heard of 1067mm gauge being referred to as "southern standard gauge", either. Maybe it's a Queensland thing?

 

All the best,

 

Mark.

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15 hours ago, TokyoImperialPalace said:

 

Do you have any understanding of the extra costs involved in making a broad gauge high speed railway, in terms of the possible need for larger turning radiuses and/or wider loading gauges and center space between the tracks?

 

I may have that cost study somewhere in my cellar but I've no clue where (it make a long long time....).

 

First of all, when you're creating a new high speed train line, the cost breakdown between Infrastructures & rolling stock is roughly  80% / 20%. It remains stable from the beginning on in France (+/- 5%) when the first TGV service  was opened (1981).  

 

Then the faster a train goes, the more maintenance of tracks and rolling stocks increases (this is absolutely not linear, it's more exponential). One other factor is energy consumption of course. This is the reason why, despite the French TGV is 'technically' able to run in commercial mode around 360-380 km/h without additional risks etc ... it remains limited to 320 km/h max. Same probably for the Tōhoku-Shinkansen. The service profitability and rolling stock's availability are really deeply affected by the increase of speed. 

 

Third reason for broader gauge is the capability to have a double-decks rolling stock. The higher the car is, the less stable it is (taking my example, I prefer sitting at the 1st floor than the 2nd floor in a French TGV, even knowning that the dampers are computers-controlled).I let you imagine double-decker on a metric gauge at high speed (double-deckers' cap gauge exist in Japan eg JR 215 Series, but not in high speed trains).

 

About the center space between the tracks, it's not a matter of narrow / broad gauges. It's pure physics depending on speed & spacing. In the French subway, as the metro are not running that fast, the spacing is minimized to allow small radius. For the French TGV, the spacing was calculated to allow 2 TGVs to cross without exploding side windows in 1981 with quite small windows (i don't remember the pressure, but it's brutal and quite huge) ... then the next generation have seen wider windows with the same track spaces but there was a lot of R&D to increase the size of side windows without jeopardizing the safety. 

 

JM 

 

 

Edited by JR East
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On 1/10/2022 at 12:55 AM, marknewton said:


I can't say that in all my years in the industry I've ever heard of 1067mm gauge being referred to as "southern standard gauge", either. Maybe it's a Queensland thing?

 

All the best,

 

Mark.

We call it narrow gauge in Queensland. Never heard that other term either.

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