OF ROMAN CHARIOTS AND SPACE SHUTTLES
There are some very interesting comments from your reader in your June issue lead letter, regarding any thoughts of changing South Africa’s rail gauge.
Just to sidetrack a little (pun intended). a little interesting history about railway gauges, which many of your readers may not be aware of.
George Stephenson built the first public transport steam locomotive, followed several years later by his son Robert, and his world famous “Rocket”, thus introducing the rail gauge of 4 foot 8½ inches. This gauge is the standard throughout Britain and many parts of the world to this day.
Of course, many years previously, coal mines in the north-east of England were using various steam-driven transporting contraptions on various gauge tracks. I have deliberately omitted mention of the numerous other experimental transport systems at the time.
Stephenson was doing his thing in the north-east; an engineer named Isambard Brunel (to many, and to me, the finest engineer of all time) was busy in the south of the country with a rail gauge of 7 feet. It took a Royal Commission at the time to adjudicate which gauge should be the British Standard. Stephenson’s was selected on the basis that there had been considerably more track laid, this despite the fact that Brunel’s gauge produced a lower centre of gravity of locomotive and carriage, resulting in superior stability, higher speeds and better all-round efficiency.
As an interesting historical footnote, the original mining railways followed the gauge of underground timber tracks for pit ponies to transport coal wagons to the surface, and generally followed from the network of rutted roads for horse-drawn carriages. This very rough standardisation of gauge was to eliminate unnecessary damage to carts, axles and stagecoaches that travelled the roads of England, thus keeping them on track. This standardisation had followed the paths of the previous invasion forces of the Roman Empire, and its many horse-drawn chariots.
How did the Romans arrive at their chariot gauge? Well, rather naturally, it was the decreed and adopted standard wheel centres to accommodate two warhorse backsides.
More recently, the space shuttle booster rockets are transported from their Utah factory to their launching site on a rail network, through several tunnels that have the clearances of the original railway gauge of 4 foot 8½ inches. So, it seems, that solid rocket booster sizes were restricted by the previously adopted “Roman War Horse Backside Gauge”! IAN J GILMOUR CAPE TOWN
A new toaster? Come off it, I have seen them all.
A new toaster, recently patented though not on the market yet, holds the promise to become one of the most popular patents ever to leave the shores of Africa. With an outside appearance very much the same as a conventional toaster’s, the inside differs in the sense that the heating plates are rectangular-shaped, with a loose and removable inner section that is similarly shaped. This results in two slices of bread toasted together on three sides – a cavity between them and an opening on one side.
Unlike with conventional toasters, fresh vegetables – think tomatoes, onions, lettuce – can now be added after the toasting process. With three sides toasted together, it is very much gravy- or sauce-friendly. Help yourself to the maximum, because once inside, it stays inside. Before filling, the insides of the bread can be used for any spread; it all adds up to the taste of freshness.
Any meat leftovers, which are normally not very tasty, can now be transferred into a meal fit for a king. Freshly made filling options are unlimited, and hampered by your imagination only. Be it breakfast, lunch or supper time, this new cavity toaster is sheer enjoyment. You don’t dish up, you dish in.
Needless to say, this will lead the way to a new and exciting “cavity burger”. (Just be patient, it is coming your way.)
I have spent quite some time on developing the toaster and was able to make it more user-friendly. After having conducted an independent search, nothing similar could be found. As far as legal protection is concerned I am covered well into next year. Funds will be available before the expiry date for final filing in a few countries, including the USA. Marketing is now my main aim. ALBERT STANFORD BUFFELSPOORT, NW