Track Gauge

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Summary: Many track gauges are in use worldwide. Many have been converted to Standard Gauge to allow interchange, but a number of Broad and Narrow gauges still exist.

Track guages compared.

This is a list of typical track gauges in use by prototype railroads internationally. Some are no longer in use, but they had a direct influence on the clearances.

Gauge has no relation to scale in model railroading. H0 scale track has the gauge equal to standard gauge, and is proportionate to the models. It is also used for 00 and On30 Scale models, representing narrow gauge trackage. While H0 scale track at 16.5 mm is 1/87 in scale, 00 is 1/76 scale, so its track should be 18.9 mm in gauge, which effectively means the 00 vehicles are running on narrow gauge track. Tinplate and toy train O scale models also have track which is not proportional: Effectively they use a broad gauge track.

Track Gauges

Track Gauges in use Worldwide
Inches mm
72 1830 Originally used by the Erie Railroad and some other short lines. Converted to Standard Gauge in 1882.
66 1668 Used by some transit systems, as well as the principle gauge in Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina and India. This was also known as Provincial Gauge in the Province of Canada until conversion to Standard Gauge.
63 1600 Found in Australia, Brazil and Ireland.
60 1524 USSR and its former states, also some railroads in the US South. After the US Civil War they converted to standard gauge in 1887.
58.875 1495 Toronto Gauge, used by streetcars in Toronto, Ontario to keep standard gauge trains off their tracks. Interurban railways in the region also used this gauge.
56.5 1435 Standard Gauge. Originally from Great Britain, also used in Western Europe. There are many urban legends surrounding this gauge, but the truth is: This was a typical gauge used by mines, and since most equipment was originally built to haul coal or ore out of a mineshaft, it was spread by the manufacturers of this type of equipment. Also called Stephenson Gauge.
42 1067 The Newfoundland Railway used this gauge, as well the Prince Edward Island Rwy. Canadian Government Railways took over the PEIR in 1873, successor Canadian National converted it to standard gauge in 1930. NFLD successor Canadian National maintained the railway as narrow gauge until abandonment in 1988. Also called the Cape Gauge, used in some British Colonies.
39.375 1000 Metre Gauge: Used in Europe, as well as former French, Germand and British colonies. This is the gauge LGB is based around.
36 914 Used in the US, Central and South America. (In model railroading, the suffix n3 is used.)
30 762 Also referred to as 80 or 75 cm gauge, 30" gauge is found around the world. (Denoted by the n30 suffix, such as On30.)
24 610 Found in the US (Maine), Wales, and other locations for mining or logging operations.
15 380 Used by the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch in Britain to demonstrate it as the smallest practical gauge for commercial service. Many amusement park railroads in the US are build around this gauge as well.

As a rule, any gauge greater than Standard Gauge is called Broad Gauge, and those less then 56.5" are called Narrow Gauge.

Further Reading

Wikipedia has a number of articles regarding track gauges: