'Break of gauge', Gloucester, June 1846.
3 0 c m
actual image size: 32cm x 22cm

'Break of gauge', Gloucester, June 1846.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


'De Break of Gauge'. Dutch print making fun of the railway gauge system operating in Britain in the mid 19th century. The rails of George Stephenson's (1781-1848) first public railway constructed in 1825 were set 4 feet 8 inches apart. However, Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1803-1859), in his construction of the Great Western Railway, set them just over 7 feet apart. The result was the 'Battle of the Gauges', where pasengers had to change between the two systems between Birmingham and Bristol: a comic version of the chaos that ensued is depicted here. Pasengers and luggage are being transferred from broad gauge to narrow gauge carriages at Gloucester station, on their way to Birmingham.

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