Loading gauge

From Academic Kids

A loading gauge is the envelope or contoured shape within which all railway vehicles, engines, coaches, and trucks must fit. It is dictated by the size of tunnels, height of bridges and shape and height of platforms. It varies between different countries and may also vary on different lines within a country. For example, metro trains might have smaller loading gauge than conventional railway to allow smaller tunnels. In that case metro trains may run on conventional tracks, but not vice versa.

In more recent times, the term loading gauge has fallen out of use among railway professionals, since it is a purely static concept and ignores other factors affecting clearance. Instead, the terms dynamic envelope or kinematic envelope are used. Factors such as suspension travel, overhang on curves (at both ends and middle), lateral motion on the track, etc. are just as important as the vehicle's static profile. All these factors must be considered in determining whether the moving rail vehicle will fit within allowed clearances.

Strictly speaking:

  • loading gauge is maximum size of rolling stock.
  • structure gauge is minimum size of bridges and tunnels.
  • There has to be some separation between the above two.
  • The structure gauge is smaller than the loading gauge.

Loading gauges of the world

The loading gauge differs around the world. The smallest standard gauge loading gauge is that of the London Underground's deep lines; early Victorian engineers only had the technical and financial capabilty to build small bore deep tunnels. The largest loading gauge is that of the Channel Tunnel between Great Britain and France.

The loading gauge on the main lines of Great Britain, where rail transport started, is quite small as early engineers had little understanding of the future requirements for larger trains while facing huge technical challenges building railways in this period. Elsewhere in Europe, lines tend to conform to the slightly larger Berne gauge and loading gauges in the United States tend to be larger still. The Russian loading gauge is also large.

British loading gauge is 9' wide by 11' high on the sides, rising to a 13'6" centre. Below platform level (the lower 3'6") the vehicle can be no wider than 8'8". Some lines, particularly the Hastings line had even narrower loading gauges. By contrast the european loading gauge is usually 10'2" wide by 10'8" rising to 13'8" in the centre. The even larger American loading gauge is 15' high and 10'6" wide.

Not all railways were built to the standard loading gauges. Many narrow gauge railways also have a very small loading gauge in order to keep construction costs low. The choice of loading gauge represented a significant engineering decision to trade construction and maintenance costs against train size (and thus capacity), and also led to some unusual solutions to problems including the Fairlie locomotives.

Template:Rail-stubde:Lichtraumprofil fr:Gabarit ferroviaire nl:Omgrenzingsprofiel pl:Skrajnia kolejowa


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools