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Old June 4th, 2012, 11:51 AM   #1
Myrtonos
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MISC | Tramway track gauge discussion

Originally on railroad.net, then crossposted to railpage, now I'm raising the flag to a higher level, jumping through the next hoop.

One one hand there is this general belief against new build systems of any gauge other than standard (UIC gauge), yet there are three new build tramways in Bilbao (where the previous tramways were also metre gauge) and Valancina in Spain, and in Eskişehir, Turkey that are metre gauge, and the San Fancisco BART (a heavy metro) is built to the Indian gauge. On the other hand these is an equally strong belief against converting legacy systems to standard gauge even though several legacy systems in Europe, such as Stuttgart, Essen and Chemitz have converted to UIC gauge, Sophia started doing so in the late 1980s, but their gauge conversion programme stopped after their second UIC gauge line was completed.

Let's say a previous system in a given city was bulit to a gauge of N inches, and there are one or more other systems in the same country or area still using that gauge and showing no signs of converting to any other gauge. Then why not bulid your new system to that gauge? In that case I would say build the new system to the same gauge unless there is a legitimate reason to do otherwise, as counter-intuative as my thinking may seem. In Cicinatti, where the previous system was built to the same trolley gauge as the surviving systems in Pittsburgh, Philladelphia and New Orleans, there unfortunately is a legitimate reason to choose standard gauge because they have unfortunately selected the CAF urbos, which appears to be an off-the-shelf design, albeit a fixed bogie one, and the Skoda ForCity would have been a better choice. Choosing an "oddball" gauge can add to the cost if you choose an oddball gauge, but I don't know hom much it adds to the cost, this may vary according to the make and model you order, it's my understanding that Skoda is more open to customisation than Western manufacturers.

Last edited by Myrtonos; June 4th, 2012 at 12:34 PM. Reason: I now realise it's called UIC gauge here
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Old June 5th, 2012, 03:13 PM   #2
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Chemnitz did regauging in order to convert the tram to a tram-train system which uses both tram tracks and rail tracks. For obvious reasons, that's only possible if the tram uses the same gauge as the heavy rail system.
In Essen, convertion makes sense if you want to integrate tram lines in the regional "Stadtbahn" system (a mixture of tram and subway) which uses standard gauge in all subsystems (Essen, Gelsenkirchen, Bochum, Dortmund, etc.). Stuttgart did convertions when rebuilding the old tram network as a Stadtbahn. The latter two cities originally planned to eventually convert to fully underground systems but did give up that plans (like other German cities) - German undergrounds are all buildt in standard gauge and can therefore use rather standardized trains. Therefore, it make sense to regauge the trams to integrate them in the (never buildt) underground system.

The gauges used in other cities of the same countries aren't a relevant argument in such a decision at all. You will hardly connect tram systems. The exception are multi-centered metro areas such as the Ruhr, obviously.
More important are:
- which gauge does your city use?
- costs (not only of building the tracks, but especially costs of the trams itself. I suppose that given today's modular off-the-shelf products offered by international producers, gauges that are already widely used on international level (standard, metre, 900mm, etc.) are a lot cheaper than any special solutions, standard gauge probably being the cheapest one.
- space (curves!)
- the (future) possibility to integrate your tram network with your rail/subway network (see e.g. the systems of Karlsruhe, Heilbronn, Chemnitz, Mulhouse, Alicante,...). Sassari is a good example: the tram-train line uses 950mm gauge because that's the gauge of the existing rail system of Sardinia.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 04:00 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thun View Post
Chemnitz did regauging in order to convert the tram to a tram-train system which uses both tram tracks and rail tracks. For obvious reasons, that's only possible if the tram uses the same gauge as the heavy rail system.
Chemitz converted before the Karlsruhemodel existed, this happened in the 1950s.

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Originally Posted by thun View Post
The gauges used in other cities of the same countries aren't a relevant argument in such a decision at all. You will hardly connect tram systems. The exception are multi-centered metro areas such as the Ruhr, obviously.
More important are:
- which gauge does your city use?
- costs (not only of building the tracks, but especially costs of the trams itself. I suppose that given today's modular off-the-shelf products offered by international producers, gauges that are already widely used on international level (standard, metre, 900mm, etc.) are a lot cheaper than any special solutions, standard gauge probably being the cheapest one.
- space (curves!)
- the (future) possibility to integrate your tram network with your rail/subway network (see e.g. the systems of Karlsruhe, Heilbronn, Chemnitz, Mulhouse, Alicante,...). Sassari is a good example: the tram-train line uses 950mm gauge because that's the gauge of the existing rail system of Sardinia.
Buliding to the same gauge as other cities allows sharing joint venture orders and the fleet can be interchanged between system, it's more likely to be relevant if there is a physical connection.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 04:57 PM   #4
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@ Chemnitz: You're right. The reason is one I already mentioned before: Costs of vehicles: Regauging allowed to use standardized engines (we're talking about socialist industry/design principles here) in the trams. Otherwise, a special design would have been necessary (because the bogies would have been too narrow for the engines available) which was more expensive on the long run. Source: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stra%C3...r_Zeit_der_DDR

I think that it doesn't make sense to plan for joint venture orders as these would happen too rarely to be efficient. And they don't make sense if you can buy cheaper standardized trams any time when you need them instead of paying for the development of a special design (even if it would be possible to push down costs by a buyer joint venture) - it's just more flexible and therefore more economic.
Interchanging of trams hardly happen at all. There are very few systems which are actually connected in the whole world. And if they are, they most probably were planned for the same gauge/electrification anyway (see e.g. Stadtbahn Ruhr).
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Last edited by thun; June 5th, 2012 at 05:07 PM.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 05:13 PM   #5
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When Chemitz was using the 950mm gauge, their trams of that time already needed specially designed motors, so in that case, why did they choose that gauge in the first place? By lucky accident of the gauge change programme, they have been abe to get better low floor trams they they would if they had not changed gauges. Apparently the Skoda ForCity has been tested there.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 05:15 PM   #6
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and Valancina in Spain
where's that?
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Old June 5th, 2012, 05:17 PM   #7
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Have you seriously not heard of Valencina?
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Old June 5th, 2012, 08:32 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Myrtonos View Post
When Chemitz was using the 950mm gauge, their trams of that time already needed specially designed motors, so in that case, why did they choose that gauge in the first place?
Narrow gauge trams were much more common in early years. It's always a question of technological progress as well. In the early years, motors weren't placed in the bogies (because bogies weren't used), hence the problem that motivated the change of gauge in the fifties didn't exist back then.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 09:35 PM   #9
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Have you seriously not heard of Valencina?
I've heard of Valencia but not Valancina or Valencina or however you choose to spell the other city.
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Old June 6th, 2012, 03:45 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thun View Post
Narrow gauge trams were much more common in early years. It's always a question of technological progress as well. In the early years, motors weren't placed in the bogies (because bogies weren't used), hence the problem that motivated the change of gauge in the fifties didn't exist back then.
So where were motors placed?
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Old June 11th, 2012, 01:50 PM   #11
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Base price

Here are the base prices, for a number of European trams orders, it appears to be the same for Prague and Riga versions in spite of Riga using a track gauge wider then the Western standard and that all other Skoda low floor trams, as far as I know being standard gauge. So it seems that broad gague does not add that much to the cost.
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Old June 11th, 2012, 04:38 PM   #12
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Quote:
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So where were motors placed?
Apparently I was wrong about the motors (I'm no technical expert on that). However, it still remained a technical problem that the standardized motors of Skoda weren't designed to fit the old gauge of Chemnitz tram. Hence, the paradigm that standardization (of gauge) leads to less technical and consequently economical issues stands. On a global market, that means standardization on global level (in constrast to what you implied when opening the thread).
As pointed out, there are other factors for that decision and they of course can be of more importance.
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Old June 12th, 2012, 12:35 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Woonsocket54 View Post
I've heard of Valencia but not Valancina or Valencina or however you choose to spell the other city.
That's what he means
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Old June 12th, 2012, 06:06 AM   #14
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In Toronto, the older section of the streetcar network uses a legacy gauge of 1495 mm running primarily through the downtown plus one midtown line. The newer LRT lines running through the suburbs which are currently under construction will use standard gauge. The two networks do not physically interconnect with each other, so there's no need to worry about interoperability.

There was never any thought to regauging the legacy lines, one given the network length is almost 100 km, would involve a lot of work and money and would mean having to operate mixed gauge fleets while the work was going on since they can't convert everything all at once.

Secondly, aside from the gauge there are Toronto particularities such as turn radii and track gradients that would preclude most off-the-shelf models. The new fleet of streetcars for the legacy network are off-the-shelf from Bombardier, but will be reconfigured to handle the requirements of the network. All bidders must demonstrate that their vehicles can handle not only the weather, usage/wear and tear, but also the requirements of the various track segments across the network.

The LRT sections in the suburbs are being built to industry standards so there is next to no reconfiguring required if at all. These lines are also marketed as different from the downtown network, despite the claims of naysayers including the current mayor who inherited the project from the previous mayor.
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Old June 12th, 2012, 08:58 AM   #15
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Quote:
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In Toronto, the older section of the streetcar network uses a legacy gauge of 1495 mm running primarily through the downtown plus one midtown line. The newer LRT lines running through the suburbs which are currently under construction will use standard gauge. The two networks do not physically interconnect with each other, so there's no need to worry about interoperability.

There was never any thought to regauging the legacy lines, one given the network length is almost 100 km, would involve a lot of work and money and would mean having to operate mixed gauge fleets while the work was going on since they can't convert everything all at once.
The legacy gauge differs from standard by less than the width of the rail, and so a Stuttgarter style gauge conversion programme, which would require dual gauge track, is not feasible. Also, according to this blogpost, TTC gauge was considered and one of the reasons was wider aisles, it even explicity mentions that the extra cost of TTC gauge rolling stock would only be marginal, aisde from aisle width and bogie design, they are identical to standard gauge rolling stock. As the gauges only differ slightly, bogie design is the same apart from the space between the wheels.

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Secondly, aside from the gauge there are Toronto particularities such as turn radii and track gradients that would preclude most off-the-shelf models. The new fleet of streetcars for the legacy network are off-the-shelf from Bombardier, but will be reconfigured to handle the requirements of the network. All bidders must demonstrate that their vehicles can handle not only the weather, usage/wear and tear, but also the requirements of the various track segments across the network.

The LRT sections in the suburbs are being built to industry standards so there is next to no reconfiguring required if at all. These lines are also marketed as different from the downtown network, despite the claims of naysayers including the current mayor who inherited the project from the previous mayor.
I'm not a great believer in Industry standard vehicles. My thinking is engineer the tram to fit the track network, whether a new build or legacy system. It raises the question as to why not use high platform loading on the transit city light rail. In geniune light rail application, I prefer high floor rolling stock unless there is a legitimate reason for deciding against high level platforms.
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Old June 12th, 2012, 01:05 PM   #16
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urban space design and the fact that low-floor platforms can be used by buses, too are two important arguments. Just have a look at the problems high-floor Stadtbahnen of Germany create.
Apart from the fact that nowadays (again) low-floor trams are standardized products and high-floor trams would need to be costly special constructions rising costs unnecessarily and giving you less flexibility (requiring special platforms which cannot be used by other means of transport) and generally being more annoying for passengers.

If you're building a system from scratch why should you do some fancy design that would require much more expensive vehicles (and much more expensive vehicles once the original stock has to be replaced) when you can implement a tested standardized system for roughly the same money (maybe even less) which will have less costs of operation? You didn't bring up a single convincing argument for what you'd prefer so far.
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Old June 12th, 2012, 01:36 PM   #17
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Quote:
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urban space design and the fact that low-floor platforms can be used by buses, too are two important arguments. Just have a look at the problems high-floor Stadtbahnen of Germany create.
Apart from the fact that nowadays (again) low-floor trams are standardized products and high-floor trams would need to be costly special constructions rising costs unnecessarily and giving you less flexibility (requiring special platforms which cannot be used by other means of transport) and generally being more annoying for passengers.
But Bombardier still makes high floor stadtbahn cars, and new high floor LRVs have recently been added to the KCR light rail and how much did they cost. Standardised high floor trams have existed for genetrations, so it's not going to add that much. Many standardised low floor tram designs do have part high floor, so bogie design is the same as high floor LRVs, and much like those on trains. High floor platforms can be used by buses as is done in Curitiba and San Quito.
Stepless high floor vehicles have all the same adavntages as low floor ones, with no disadavntages apart from the space constraints on providing higher platforms. Advantages are the same as other high floor vehicles, such as simpler bogie design, especially on a narrow track gauge, relative to width. In street transit, there usually is a legitimate reason for deciding against high platforms, true, especially if there are stops in narrow streets. But if LRVs stop only at fixed stations, there would be no space constraints on providing high platforms.

Quote:
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If you're building a system from scratch why should you do some fancy design that would require much more expensive vehicles (and much more expensive vehicles once the original stock has to be replaced) when you can implement a tested standardized system for roughly the same money (maybe even less) which will have less costs of operation? You didn't bring up a single convincing argument for what you'd prefer so far.
Why is the BART built to the Indian gauge when the UIC gauge woud have offered more vendor choices at that time? Industry standard on street trams aren't that great anyway. Why do some fancy design that prescribes the use of a custom design. It's about geography, why are there legacy systems built in such a way as to require a custom design? It would be about geography.

Last edited by Myrtonos; June 12th, 2012 at 04:07 PM. Reason: accidentally posted unfinished
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Old June 12th, 2012, 09:10 PM   #18
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Quote:
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urban space design and the fact that low-floor platforms can be used by buses, too are two important arguments. Just have a look at the problems high-floor Stadtbahnen of Germany create.
Apart from the fact that nowadays (again) low-floor trams are standardized products and high-floor trams would need to be costly special constructions rising costs unnecessarily and giving you less flexibility (requiring special platforms which cannot be used by other means of transport) and generally being more annoying for passengers.
If you seriously think that low-floor vehicles were cheaper then you know very little about tram vehicles. It is way simpler and therefore cheaper to construct high-floor trams. And with numerous metro and pre-metro networks in Europe there will always be a sizeable market for this kind of vehicles. There is nothing special or costly about them, really.
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Old June 13th, 2012, 05:10 AM   #19
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Yes, you're right. And nor is there anything special or costly about metre or Soviet gauge rolling stock. The base price for both the Prague and Riga ForCity appears to be $3.7 million, in spite of Riga's wider gauge and that all other Skoda low floor trams, as far as I know are standard gauge. The only differences between the Prague and Riga versions are bogies, and the the Prague version has all wheels powered and the Riga version has four unpowered ones. As far as I know, standard and Soviet gauge bogies are the same apart from axle length. Unlike 950mm gauge rolling stock, broad gauge does not require specially designed motors, also those of the Skoda ForCity are on the outside. So like choosing the Pennsylvania trolley gauge (differes from the Soviet gauge by less than the width of the rail) would not add substatially to the cost. The only difference would be bogie design and, in case of low floor trams, aisle width.
In Cincinnati's case, I am not purely grouded in restoring what many believe should not have been torn up in the first place, that is part of it. It's also about other advantages of that gauge. If legacy systems don't change form, it makes sense to me that you keep the form the same wherever legacy systems do. In their case:

*They had the Pennsylvania trolley gauge previously.
*Three other systems still use this gauge and show no intention of changing gauge, evidence, but not proof, that they prefer their broad gauge, just as big European operators prefer, not just tollerate unidirectional running.
*A wider gauge than standard offers more space between the wheels, in case of low floor trams.

One of these reasons alone would not be a sole basis for selecting any particular gauge, but these three, to me is a case for building to an "oddball" gauge.

Last edited by Myrtonos; July 4th, 2012 at 06:19 AM. Reason: spelling correction
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Old June 14th, 2012, 02:31 PM   #20
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Quote:
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Why is the BART built to the Indian gauge when the UIC gauge woud have offered more vendor choices at that time?
I don't think that rolling stock procurement worked like that back in the 1960s. Rail operators now issue performance specifications and expect manufacturers to design trains to satisfy them, making their own decisions about how to meet the client's requirements. Each manufacturer bidding for a contract will use off the shelf parts where possible to keep costs down.

Up until the 1980s and 1990s (in Europe at least), operators were much more directly involved in design and engineering, and different companies would be contracted to supply different elements (e.g. one company for the body, one for the bogies, one for the motors and electrical system, etc.). For one company to be able to design and build everything is a relatively recent phenomenon. In any case, BART was intended to be more technologically advanced than any other subway, so even if it had adopted standard gauge the trains would have been designed from scratch, without existing off the shelf parts.
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