'Balaklava', GWR broad gauge locomotive, 1892.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Photograph of two men standing beside a Great Western Railway (GWR) locomotive. Narrow gauge rails are shown within the broad gauge rails. When building the Great Western Railway in the 1830s, Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859) opted for a broad gauge of 7 foot rather than the 4 foot 8 1/2 inch gauge used on most other railways in the country. Brunel believed that higher speeds would be posible with the broader gauge. As the railway network grew, gauge compatability increasingly became an isue, as pasengers and goods had to change trains at points where lines of different gauges intersected. Eventually, in 1892, the last 177 miles of broad gauge track on the GWR were converted to narrow gauge, the whole task being accomplished in a remarkable two days.