In 1825, the legendary Stockton and Darlington railway line opened in Teesside, England and 5 years later, the first regular passenger service in the world linking Canterbury to Whitstable in Kent was opened.
Gradually, as the train network increased, a sort of standardisation of track size was introduced, the gauge being set at four feet, eight and a half inches. But not for the Great Western Railway! They continued to use a much larger seven foot gauge. This had been the brainchild of Isambard Kingdom Brunel who believed that a wider gauge would enable the trains to be larger and faster whilst still being stable on the track. This caused a problem or three: a passenger might get on the train in the West Country but if they wanted to go further than London, they had to change trains at an added expense. This also applied to any goods being transported. Think of all the times that good trains had to be unloaded and moved across to other trains.....
Gradually, the track was changed with many of them having a third rail so that trains of both sizes could run on them. But it was today, 20th May back in 1892 that over 3,500 workers took up positions along the main line from Exeter to Falmouth in readiness to move one piece of track 2 feet 3 ½ inches closer to the other in the final piece of work. After the last train had run on that Friday, the men set to work over the weekend. By the Monday morning, over 171 miles of track had been converted.
Not a bad weekend’s work eh?