Here's an article from Wayne's Maverick Spirit archive that people really need to observe, even today!
Does the statement: "We've always done it that way" ring any bells?
Change is something we resist at every opportunity. The consequences of not changing something can effect lives hundreds of years in the future. You might say... but it's unbelievable but true!
Did you know the size of the booster rockets on the Space Shuttle were decided by a bureaucrat in the time of the Roman Empire and nobody was game to change the measurement since??
How is that possible... let me share a story with you.
The US standard railway gauge - distance between the rails - is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number.
Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in Britain, and British expatriates built the US railways.
Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railway tramways, and that's the gauge they used.
Why did "they" use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.
OK. Why did the wagons have that particular wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long-distance roads in Britain, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.
So who built these old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first long-distance roads in Britain for their legions. The roads have been used ever since.
So, why 4 feet 8.5 inches wide? That's because the Imperial Roman war chariots specification was to make them wide enough to accommodate the back ends of TWO warhorses. And that hasn't changed on over a thousand years.
The booster rockets for the space shuttle were built in Utah and sent by train to Florida. The original design called for larger rockets but they had to go through a RAILWAY tunnel. The tunnel was just slightly wider than the railway track, and you know that track is wide enough to accommodate the back ends of TWO ROMAN warhorses.
So, for all it's high tech wizardry, the width of space shuttles booster rockets was determined over 1000 years ago, and has never been changed since because "that's how we do it around here!"
- Wayne Mansfield