5 Ft 3 in Gauge Railways
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5 Ft 3 in Gauge Railways

Railways with track gauge of are broad-gauge railways, currently in use in Australia, Brazil and Ireland.


600 BCE
The Diolkos (?) across the Isthmus of Corinth in Greece - a grooved paved trackway - was constructed with an average gauge of .[1]
The Grand Duchy of Baden State Railway was constructed to gauge, converted to in 1854-1855.
The Board of Trade of the United Kingdom recommended the use of in Ireland, after investigating a dispute caused by diverse gauges in Ireland.
The Regulating the Gauge of Railways Act 1846 made this gauge mandatory throughout all of Ireland.[2]
The Swiss Northern Railway was opened, converted to standard gauge in 1854.
The first Australian line was opened, the Melbourne and Hobson's Bay Railway Company.
The first Brazilian railway was opened, the Companhia de Estrada de Ferro Dom Pedro II.
The Canterbury Provincial Railways in New Zealand was built in until gauge conversion to in 1876


  • In Ireland and the United Kingdom this gauge is known as Irish gauge.[3][4] (Irish: leithead Éireannach)[5] In Ireland it is also common to hear it referred to as standard gauge, in contrast to the various 3 ft gauge railways of the island.
  • In Australia, where the states of Victoria and South Australia have this gauge (not exclusively), it is known as broad gauge.[]
  • In Brazil this gauge is mainly known as broad gauge (Portuguese: bitola larga), but it is also less known as Irish gauge (Portuguese: bitola irlandesa).


Country/territory Railway

States of South Australia, Victoria (Victorian broad gauge), New South Wales (a few lines built by, and connected to, the Victorian rail system) and Tasmania, Australia (one line, Deloraine to Launceston, opened in 1871, partly converted to dual gauge, and then converted to in 1888). The 125 km (77.7 mi) long Oaklands railway line, which runs into New South Wales from Victoria, was converted to standard gauge in 2009. The project was relatively easy because the line has wooden sleepers. 200 km (124.3 mi) of the North East line, Victoria was converted to standard gauge in 2008-2011, meaning a double track standard gauge line was created between Seymour and Albury. The current network is 4,017 km or 2,496 mi, 10% of the total Australian rail network.


Lines connecting the states of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Minas Gerais; E.F.Carajás in Pará and Maranhão states, and Ferronorte in Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul states. Used in older Metro systems. Although the metre gauge network is almost 5 times longer,[6] Irish gauge is considered the standard by ABNT.[7] The current network is 4,057 km or 2,521 mi, 15% of the total Brazilian network.

Germany Grand Duchy of Baden State Railway 1840-1855[8]
Switzerland Swiss Northern Railway between 1847 and 1854, converted to .

Irish broad gauge. The current network is 2,400 km or 1,491 mi.[9]

New Zealand Canterbury Provincial Railways from 1863; all routes converted to by 1876
United Kingdom

Northern Ireland Railways - entire network, currently 330 km or 205 mi.

Similar gauges

The Pennsylvania trolley gauges of and are similar to Irish gauge, but incompatible. There is also gauge, which is similar as well. See: Track gauge in Ireland.


One of the supposed advantages of the broader Irish gauge, compared to , is that the greater space between the wheels allows for bigger cylinders. In practice, Ireland does not have any heavily-loaded or steeply-graded lines that would require especially powerful locomotives. The most powerful steam locomotives on systems of this gauge were:

By comparison a non-articulated standard gauge locomotive in the same country was:

See also


  1. ^ Lewis, M. J. T. (2001), "Railways in the Greek and Roman world", in Guy, A.; Rees, J. (eds.), Early Railways. A Selection of Papers from the First International Early Railways Conference (PDF), pp. 8-19 (10-15), archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-03-12
  2. ^ "ODDS AND ENDS". Colonial Times. Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia. 24 March 1846. p. 4. Retrieved 2012.
  3. ^ "Dublin's Strangest Tales". google.nl.
  4. ^ Mike W. Harry. "Cast Into the Unknown". google.nl. p. 30.
  5. ^ "Pota Focal - leithead". Pota Focal. Retrieved 2018.
  6. ^ Rail_transport_in_Brazil
  7. ^ Newer Metro systems use standard gauge.
  8. ^ Rieger, Bernhard (2006-04-23). "Breitspurbahn". Retrieved .
  9. ^ "Infrastructure". Irish Rail.

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