Iberian gauge

Iberian gauge is the name given to the track gauge (distance between the two rails of a track) most extensively used by the railways of Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

: namely .

As finally established in 1955, the Iberian gauge is a compromise between the similar, but slightly different, gauges adopted as respective national standards in Spain and Portugal in the mid-19th century. The main railway networks of Spain were initially constructed to a gauge of six Castilian feet. Those of Portugal were instead built to a and later railways to a gauge of five Portuguese feet – close enough to allow interoperability with Spanish railways.

Causes for the difference from international standard gauge

A commonly cited reason for the adoption of this gauge, broader than what emerged as the international standard
Standard gauge
The standard gauge is a widely-used track gauge . Approximately 60% of the world's existing railway lines are built to this gauge...

, is that it was intended to obstruct a repetition by rail of French invasion
Peninsular War
The Peninsular War was a war between France and the allied powers of Spain, the United Kingdom, and Portugal for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when French and Spanish armies crossed Spain and invaded Portugal in 1807. Then, in 1808, France turned on its...

 attempts. This idea is possible, but the January 19, 1845 governmental decree does not state any reason about, simply the gauge itself. It is known that the government entrusted such decision to a committee, whose main work was made by civil engineers Juan Subercase and Calixto Santa Cruz, both good civil engineers but with little experience in railroads. Their judgement (exactly because of their profession and lack of experience in railroads) was that the Spanish orography
Orography is the study of the formation and relief of mountains, and can more broadly include hills, and any part of a region's elevated terrain...

 being so different (compared the English and the French orographies), a wider gauge would make more powerful locomotives to be possible (larger boilers but particularly larger fireboxes) on lines that had to be constructed through mountainous terrain). This was obviously a miscalculation for many other Spanish terrains, it resulted in narrower gauges in the most mountainous areas, since Iberian gauge works in such terrains were not affordable. One example of this is the gauge FEVE
FEVE is a state-owned Spanish railway company, which operates most of Spain's of metre gauge railway.-History:...


Adoption of the international gauge in Spain and Portugal

Since the beginning of the 1990s new high-speed passenger lines in Spain have been built to the international standard gauge of , to allow these lines to link to the European high-speed network. Although the 22 km from Tardienta
Tardienta is a municipality located in Huesca Province, Aragon, Spain. According to the 2004 census , the municipality has a population of 1,072 inhabitants.It is located on the Madrid–Barcelona high-speed rail line....

 to Huesca
Huesca is a city in north-eastern Spain, within the autonomous community of Aragon. It is also the capital of the Spanish province of the same name and the comarca of Hoya de Huesca....

 (part of a branch from the Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

 to Barcelona
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and the capital of Catalonia, with a population of 1,621,537 within its administrative limits on a land area of...

 high-speed line) has been reconstructed as mixed Iberic and standard
Dual gauge
A dual-gauge or mixed-gauge railway has railway track that allows trains of different gauges to use the same track. Generally, a dual-gauge railway consists of three rails, rather than the standard two rails. The two outer rails give the wider gauge, while one of the outer rails and the inner rail...

 gauge, in general the interface between the two gauges in Spain is dealt with by means of gauge-changing installations, which can adjust the gauge
Variable gauge axles
A variable gauge system allows railway vehicles in a train to travel across a break of gauge caused by two railway networks with differing track gauges....

 of appropriately designed wheelsets
Wheelset (railroad)
A wheelset is the wheel-axle assembly of a railroad car. The frame assembly beneath each end of a car, railcar or locomotive that holds the wheelsets is called the bogie...

 on the move.

Plans exist to convert more of the Iberian-gauge network in Spain and Portugal to standard gauge, an indication of which is the use, on several stretches of recently relaid broad-gauge track, of concrete sleepers pre-drilled with additional bolt holes allowing for repositioning of one rail to adjust the track to international gauge or the narrowing of the gauge by moving both rails closer together maintaining the perfect alignment of the loading gauge.

See also

  • History of rail transport in Portugal
    History of rail transport in Portugal
    The history of rail transport in Portugal dates from 28 October 1856, when Portugal's first railway line was opened between Lisbon and Carregado: the Companhia dos Caminhos de Ferro Portugueses....

  • History of rail transport in Spain
    History of rail transport in Spain
    Rail transport in Spain operates on four rail gauges and services are operated by a variety of private and public operators. The total route length in 2008 was 15,288 km :...

  • Rail transport in Portugal
    Rail transport in Portugal
    Several companies provide rail transport in Portugal.* Comboios de Portugal* Fertagus* Lisbon Metro* Porto Metro* Metro Transportes do Sul‎ Portugal is a member of the International Union of Railways...

  • Rail transport in Spain
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