So many standards

Alana posted the old story about how the US standard railroad width of 4 feet 8½ inches is derived from the Roman chariot’s width. It’s a fun story about how government specs live forever. Go read it and then come back for my Paul Harvey impersonation.

While it’s true that the modern standard gauge in the US matches the British gauge, it wasn’t always obvious that that would be the case. For quite a while the 5-foot gauge was popular, especially in the South. In various parts of the country, gauges varied from 2½ all the way up to 6 feet. It wasn’t until the end of the Civil War and the need for the reconstruction of the South that it became obvious that a standard gauge was needed. Even then, although most of the North was using 4′8½″, the need for many railroads in the South to interconnect with the Pennsylvania Railroad led to moving the entirety of the South to the Pennsy standard of 4′9″. It wasn’t until years later that the popularity of the current standard gauge won out. Now you know.

You can read much more about this in the article “The Days They Changed the Gauge” from the August 1966 Ties magazine. The article tells the story of the dramatic change over of an estimated 11,500 miles of track to the 4-foot 9-inch gauge in just two days of May 1886.

As an aside, I find it surprising to myself that this is the first post by Alana that I have commented on. Perhaps I’ll just say that I’m still thinking about her post on ritual and Seraphim’s comments about it. So true.

Kentucky’s abandoned railroad lines

I’m thrilled to announce that there is now a website for the Kentucky Abandoned Railroad Corridor Inventory. Packed with beautiful pictures, clear and accurate maps, and abandoned line descriptions, the site is a joy to read. Especially enjoyable are the highlighted lines. Having driven past some of them, and having enjoyed similar trails in Ohio and Michigan, I can visualize how wonderful they would be converted to bike trails. You can also get the full report in PDF format.

The abandonment inventory is a great tool for rails to trails organizations. Of the roughly 1,200 miles of abandoned lines available in Kentucky, only about 15 miles have been converted for trail use. This means Kentucky ranks 47th in the states in terms of rail-to-trail conversions. Only Delaware, Alaska, and Hawaii have fewer miles. I hope that this inventory will help others see the possibilities and that we will soon be able to celebrate many more rail-trails in Kentucky.

Christ was always on safari doing good

Church historian Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan was recently featured on the National Public Radio (NPR) program “Speaking of Faith” to talk about the publication of his latest work, Credo: Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition. The five-volume collection Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition, of which Credo serves as the introductory volume is already being hailed as surpassing all other works of its kind. Many expect that it will be considered the standard resource because it supercedes Philip Schaff’s Creeds of Christendom collection first published in 1870.

The website for Pelikan’s collection has fascinating information, including sample chapters and creeds. I was tickled by the wording of the featured Masai Creed and at the same time struck that its unique phrases are true. When Christianity is properly inculturated, all other cultures gain and see the truth in a new light.

Lotus Notes may save the Web

Ray Ozzie, creator of Lotus Notes, writes about how Notes may save the browser from Eolas patent lawsuits. Eolas recently sued Microsoft over the use of plugins in the browser. Notes was doing essentially the same thing years before. Indeed, Ozzie writes that Notes people didn’t see much difference between the Web and what Notes could do:

In 1993 or thereabouts, we saw the emergence of TCP/IP, HTML, HTTP, Mosaic and the Web. From our perspective, all of these were simplistic emulations of a tiny subset of what we’d been doing in Notes for years. TCP/IP instead of Netbeui or IPX/SPX, HTML instead of CD records, HTTP instead of the Notes client/server protocols, httpd instead of a Notes server. And we were many years ahead in other ways: embedded compound objects, security, composition of documents as opposed to just “browsing” them, and a sophisticated development environment. I am quite embarassed to say that we frankly didn’t “get” what was so innovative about this newfangled “Web” thing, given the capabilities of what had already been built.

Blog backlog

I’ve either been too busy or too tired to write recently. (I wonder if anyone noticed.) Taking a break from work was good. Taking a break from blogging is also good, except that now I have many things I want to write about. Stay tuned…

At least I blog more frequently than mpt (What’s up? We miss you, mpt.)