Since narrow gauge railways are usually built with smaller radius curves and smaller structure gauges, they can be substantially cheaper to build, equip, and operate than standard gauge or broad gauge railways, particularly in mountainous terrain. The lower costs of narrow gauge railways mean they are often built to serve industries and communities where the traffic potential would not justify the costs of building a standard or broad gauge line. Narrow gauge railways also have specialized use in mines and other environments where a very small structure gauge makes a very small loading gauge necessary. On the other hand, standard gauge or broad gauge railways generally have a greater haulage capacity and allow greater speeds than narrow gauge systems.
Historically, many narrow gauge railways were built as part of specific industrial enterprises and were primarily industrial railways rather than general carriers. Some common uses for these industrial narrow gauge railways were mining, logging, construction, tunnelling, quarrying, and the conveying of agricultural products. Extensive narrow gauge networks were constructed in many parts of the world for these purposes. Significant sugarcane railways still operate in Cuba, Fiji, Java, the Philippines and in Queensland in Australia. Narrow gauge railway equipment remains in common use for the construction of tunnels.
The other significant reason for narrow gauge railways to be constructed was to take advantage of reduced construction costs in mountainous or difficult terrain, hence the national railway systems of countries such as Indonesia, Japan and New Zealand are primarily or solely narrow gauge. Trench railways of the World War I western front demonstrate a brief military application of this advantage. Non-industrial narrow gauge mountain railways are or were common in the Rocky Mountains of the USA and the Pacific Cordillera of Canada, in Mexico, Switzerland, the former Yugoslavia, Greece, India, and Costa Rica. Another country with a notable national railway built to narrow gauge is South Africa where the "Cape gauge" of is the most common gauge. In India, the narrow gauge system is slowly being converted to broad gauge, although some of India's most famous railways, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and Kalka-Shimla Railway are both narrow gauge. All metre gauge railways are being converted to broad gauge under the Unigauge project.
The earliest recorded railway is shown in the De re metallica of 1556, which shows a mine in the Czech Republic with a railway of approximately gauge. During the 16th century railways were mainly restricted to hand-pushed narrow gauge lines in mines throughout Europe. During the 17th century mine railways were extended to provide transportation above ground. These lines were industrial, connecting mines with nearby transportation points, usually canals or other waterways. These railways were usually built to the same narrow gauge as the mine railways they developed from.
There are many narrow gauge street tramways, particularly in Europe where gauge tramways are common. Narrow gauge allows tighter turning than gauge or gauge in restricted city streets. The tighter turning circle make balloon loops at the end of routes easier, which in turn allows the use of unidirectional trams with a driver's cab at one end only, and doors on one side, allowing more space for passengers.
Extensive narrow gauge railway systems served the front-line trenches of both sides in World War I. After the end of the war the surplus equipment from these created a small boom in narrow gauge railway building in Europe.
For temporary railroads that will be removed after short term use, such as for construction, the logging industry and the mining industry, a narrow gauge railroad is substantially cheaper and easier to install and remove. This use of railroads has almost vanished due to the capabilities of modern trucks.
In many countries narrow gauge railroads were built as "feeder" or "branch" lines to feed traffic to more important standard gauge railroads, due to their lower construction costs. The choice was often not between a narrow gauge railroad and a standard gauge one, but between a narrow gauge railroad and none at all.
One solution to the problem of transshipment is bogie exchange between cars. Another solution to this problem is the roll-block system. Although successfully deployed in some countries such as Germany and Austria, this technique came too late for the majority of narrow gauge lines. Transfer of containers is also an option.
The problem of interchangeability is less serious for regions that have a large system of narrow gauge lines, such as northern Spain, and does not exist in those countries in which the narrow gauge is the standard, such as New Zealand, South Africa and the Australian island state of Tasmania.
The problem of interchangeability is more serious in North America because a continent-wide system of freight car interchange developed. All the standard gauge railways in North America use the same standard couplings and air brakes, which means that freight cars can be freely interchanged between railways from Northern Canada to Southern Mexico. Railways who need more freight cars can simply borrow them from other railways during peak periods, while the railways who own the cars receive payments for them at rates set by common agreement. Peak demand, particularly for grain shipment, occurs in different parts of North America at different times, so freight cars are shuffled back and forth across the continent to wherever they are needed. Motive power can also be interchanged, which sometimes results in Mexican locomotives pulling Canadian freight cars and vice versa.
Narrow gauge railways could not participate in this system, which meant that they usually had to own several times as much rolling stock as equivalent standard gauge railways, and they did not receive any cash flow for surplus equipment during periods of low demand. All these problems also exist for railways with a broader gauge than (the local) standard, but such railways are generally less common. Since most narrow gauge railways were undercapitalized to begin with, this eventually resulted in nearly all North American narrow gauge railways either going bankrupt or being converted to standard gauge.
Another problem with narrow gauge railroads is that they lacked room to grow - their cheap construction was bought at the price of being engineered only for their initial traffic demands. While a standard or broad gauge railroad could more easily be upgraded to handle heavier, faster traffic, many narrow gauge railroads were impractical to improve. Speeds and loads hauled could not increase, so traffic density was significantly limited.
Narrow gauge railroads can be built to handle increased speed and loading, but at the price of removing most of the narrow gauge's cost advantage over standard or broad gauge.
Because of the reduced stability of narrower gauge, narrow gauge trains are not able to run at nearly the same high speeds as those networks with broader gauges unless the tracks are aligned with greater precision. However in Japan and Queensland, Australia, recent permanent way improvements have allowed trains on 1067 mm gauge tracks to run at 160 km/h (100 mph) and higher. Queensland Rail's tilt train is presently the fastest train in Australia, despite the gauge it runs on. Standard gauge or broad gauge trains can run at up to 320 km/h (200 mph); this is most evident in the case of the Japanese Shinkansen, a network of standard gauge lines built solely for high speed rail in a country where narrow gauge is the predominant standard.
It is possible to build standard and even broad gauge lines cheaply to light railway standards with short radii (tight curves) and steep grades, instead of building narrow gauge lines. The trains operate at lower speeds and with lower capacities. This allows through-routeing of rolling stock, and simplifies later upgrading.
There are many narrow gauges in use or formerly used between gauge and gauge. They fall into three broad categories:
Railways built on gauges between and are sometimes referred to as "medium-gauge" railways.
In those parts of the world where the railroads were built to British standards, this meant most commonly a gauge of or the "Cape gauge", while those built to American standards were normally . Railways built to European metric standards were most commonly of or "metre gauge" and gauge.
These larger narrow gauges are capable of hauling most traffic with little difficulty and are thus suitable for large-scale "common carrier" applications, although their ultimate speed and load limits are lower than for standard gauge. In many countries, gauges in this range are the local standard.
The next natural "grouping" of narrow gauge railroads covers the range from just below to just below , although the majority are between and . These lightweight lines can be built at a substantial cost saving over medium or standard gauge railways, but are generally restricted in their carrying capacity. The majority of these were built in mountainous areas and most were to carry mineral traffic from mines to ports or standard gauge railroads. Many were industrial lines rather than common carriers, though there were exceptions such as the extensive lines built in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the "Maine two footer" lines in New England. Trench railways of World War I produced the greatest concentration of two foot gauge railways observed to date. The most common metric gauges in this group are and .
Gauges below were rare, but did exist. In Britain, Sir Arthur Heywood developed gauge estate railways, while in France Decauville produced a range of industrial railways running on and tracks, most commonly in such restricted environments such as underground mine railways. A number of gauge railways were built in Britain to serve ammunition depots and other military facilities, particularly during the First World War.
Narrow gauge railways less than gauge are known as minimum gauge railways.
Some industrial narrow gauge railways can still be found in Belarus particularly associated with the peat extraction industry.
Several lines were built in the nineteenth century. The most notable lines are Obrataň-Jindřichův Hradec-Nová Bystřice and Třemešná ve Slezsku-Osoblaha, that are still in operation.
Other lines were notably shorter. The common gauges were and , with a few railways built with and gauges.
Narrow gauge tourist and heritage lines of and gauge still operate.
See also Narrow gauge railways in Saxony
The Peloponnese narrow gauge network length is about 914 km. Of this, gauge is used for 892 km. This is the network that connects major cities in the Peloponnese. The remaining 22 km form the Diakofton-Kalavryta rack railway, which uses gauge. The Peloponnese network has suffered various setbacks, ranging from the abandonment of entire lines (such as the Pyrgos-Katakolon railway) to inefficient management on part of the public Greek railway operator, OSE, which resulted in poor quality of services and rolling stock). Currently major restoration works are carried out, which have resulted in parts of the line having been closed. Additionally, the reactivation of certain lines that were closed down during the latter half of the 20th century is planned, mainly the Pyrgos-Katakolon line and in parts of western Greece (around Agrinion and Messologgi). Another small railway that uses narrow gauge is the Mt. Pelion railway, originally from Volos to Milies. Currently parts of the line are operational during the summer, mainly for excursions.
There was also a metre gauge network in Thessaly. This has now been replaced with single track standard gauge lines from Volos to Larissa and Palaiofarsalos to Kalampaka. However, the old narrow gauge tracks remain in place between Velestino and Palaiofarsalos via Aerino, so that occasional special excursion trains use them.
A metric line network existed in Attica, operated by Attica Railways and later by SPAP. The line ran from the center of Athens to Kifissia and Lavrion, serving the suburbs and towns of the region as well as Dionysos marble quarries and Lavrion mines. The line to Kifissia closed in 1938 and was reopened as standard gauge in the 1950s, operated by ISAP. The line to Lavrion closed in 1957 due to political pressures from the road transport lobby. Sections of the Lavrion line still survive and there are plans to reopen the southern part (Koropi-Lavrion) as an electrified standard gauge suburban line.
Development of open lignite mines for electricity production led to the construction of industrial railway networks in Ptolemais, Western Macedonia (industrial gauge, electrified) and Aliveri, Evoia Island (metric gauge). These networks are no longer active, as the lignite mines they served are exhausted.
The railway in Diakofto-Kalavryta and the in Volos-Milies (the current operational line is Lechonia-Milies, since the part Volos-Lechonia was abandoned) are heritage railroads. The network of Peloponnese, however, is a busy passenger line, although there are no longer freight trains. A major project has started to construct new lines in the busiest parts of Peloponnese and rebuild the century old tracks in the remaining. The branch lines from Asprohoma to Messini and from Pyrgos to Katakolo were re-openned for passenger services in September and April 2007 respectively and the Argos to Nafplio line is expected to follow, when services are reinstated on the Korinthos to Tripolis line in late 2008.
Apart from small heritage venues, the Irish narrow gauge today only survives in the bogs of the Midlands as part of Bord na Móna's extensive industrial network for transporting harvested peat to distribution centres or power plants.
See also: History of rail transport in Ireland
Narrow gauge railways in Italy are (or were) mainly build with gauge, with some gauge lines and with a few other gauges.
In Sardinia, a network of narrow gauge lines (950 mm) was built, to complement the standard-gauge main network which covered the main cities and ports. The lines were:
In Sicily, the Ferrovia Circumetnea (950 mm gauge) runs around the Mount Etna. Other narrow gauge lines (950 mm) operated, the most important of which was the Castelvetrano-Porto Empedocle, but are now closed.
In Bolzano-Bozen (Alto Adige/South Tyrol) there are two 1000 m gauge lines: the Rittnerbahn, or Ferrovia del Renon, a very nice rural tramway and the Laas-Lasa railway to marble cave, that use a funicular too. There are two touristic mines using 600 mm gauge trains.
In the past, there have also been , and lines. A recreational line 4.2 km long still operates in the Amusement-Recreation Park in Chorzów, Upper Silesia. A similar line, Kolejka Parkowa Maltanka, operates in Poznań. Some of Poland's narrow gauge railways are maintained by volunteers; one organization dedicated to preserving narrow gauge railways is the FPKW, the Polish Narrow Gauge Railways Foundation
Four passenger services are known to still be in operation.
The Tua Line runs north from Tua to Bragança and previously ran to Mirandela. This line is the least used and may close soon but was still operating in spring 2008. The line was closed temporarily on 10 April 2008 after a landslide which cause the derailment of a light inspection vehicle near Santa Luzia station, and it's unknown when the line will reopen.
Finally a line still runs from the Porto to Lisbon main line at Espinho to Sernada do Vouga and back to the same main line at Aveiro, Linha do Vale do Vouga. This line has a museum at Macinhata do Vouga whilst the main workshops are at Sernada do Vouga. This line may also shut at any time.
The only commercial narrow gauge railway left is the Roslagsbanan suburban railway in north-eastern Stockholm (891 mm gauge). A branch line, the Långängsbanan, was built and run for some years as an isolated standard gauge tramway in anticipation of a planned conversion of the main line to raise its capacity, but those plans came to naught and the branch was rebuilt to narrow gauge; it is now closed.
The longest other remaining narrow gauge railway is the 891 mm line between Åseda, Hultsfred and Västervik. 70 km between Hultsfred and Västervik is served by tourist trains in the summer, including 4 km of dual gauge track.
Sweden also had the unique 1093 mm gauge Köping-Uttersberg-Riddarhyttan Railway. Still other but lesser used gauges in the country were 802 mm, 1188 mm and 1217 mm.
Only a few of these lines survive as commercial common carriers. The great majority of the remaining narrow gauge lines operate purely as tourist attractions, and a number of new narrow gauge tourist lines have been built in recent years. The sole passenger-carrying exception is the Glasgow Subway, an underground metro line that operates on a gauge. The Talyllyn Railway holds the distinction of being the first railway in the world of any gauge to be run entirely by volunteers. In addition a few private industrial narrow gauge railways remain, mainly serving the coal and peat extraction industries.
Amongst the most well-known narrow gauge lines in Britain are the Ffestiniog - now the oldest independent railway company in the world - the Vale of Rheidol, and the Welshpool & Llanfair in Wales, and the Lynton & Barnstaple in England. Unique amongst British railways is the rack-and-pinion Snowdon Mountain Railway which climbs to just below the summit of Wales' highest peak.
The first public passenger carrying narrow gauge railways in North America were in Ontario, the Toronto Grey and Bruce Railway and the Toronto and Nipissing Railway, opening in the summer of 1871. The "Cape gauge" of was chosen on the recommendation of Carl Abraham Pihl, Chief Engineer of the Norwegian State Railways, who adopted this gauge in Norway in the early 1860’s. The objective of the Toronto Grey and Bruce Railway and the Toronto and Nipissing Railway was to open up the bush country north of Toronto to settlement and commerce. The chief Engineer of both railways was Edmund Wragge, a former pupil and associate of Sir Charles Fox. The Ontario lines were over 300 miles (480 km) in length, and both were built with the objective of connecting with a future Pacific railway. They attempted several innovations: the use of Clark’s six wheel radial axles for longer stock – a complete failure and never used; the use of four wheel boxcars for economy and flexibility – not entirely successful; the use of large Fairlie articulated 0-6-6-0 freight locomotives – found useful initially, but heavy on maintenance and not pursued further; and the early use of powerful Avonside Engine Company 4-6-0 and Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-8-0 locomotives for freight haulage – successful engines which remained in service with the Canadian Pacific Railway after gauge standardization. Initially very successful in stimulating trade, the two railways had difficulty carrying all the traffic offered in the early 1870’s. Then, after buying large numbers of new freight locomotives and cars, the traffic fell off during the depression of the mid 1870’s and was insufficient to support the capital invested. Like all smaller railways in central Canada in the early 1880’s they then became vulnerable in the battle for feeder routes and traffic between the Grand Trunk Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Toronto and Nipissing Railway was amalgamated into the Midland Railway of Canada in 1881 and made standard gauge as part of the Midland's plan to obtain direct access to Toronto; later the whole enterprise was absorbed by the Grand Trunk Railway. The Toronto Grey and Bruce Railway was first acquired by the Grand Trunk Railway which converted it to standard gauge in 1881, but then ceded control to the Canadian Pacific Railway. Much of the track has been abandoned. Twenty miles of the T&NR from Toronto to Stouffville carries GO Transit commuter trains and a further twelve miles (19 km) from Stouffville to Uxbridge is operated as a tourist line by the York Durham Heritage Railway. Twenty-six miles of the TG&BR from Toronto to Bolton carries CPR freight trains, and about three miles (5 km) from Melville Junction to Orangeville is operated by the Orangeville-Brampton Railway.
A narrow gauge railway serving coal mines in the Lethbridge area of Alberta was converted to standard gauge after its purchase by the Canadian Pacific; the same fate befell a number of narrow gauge mine railways built in southern British Columbia. The Prince Edward Island Railway was built 1871 but was slow to be converted to standard gauge, the conversion occurring in stages under the auspices of Canadian Government Railways after Prince Edward Island joined Canada in 1873. The last narrow gauge sections were not removed until 1920.
Construction on the Newfoundland Railway took place between 1881 and 1898. It became part of the Canadian National Railways (CNR) when Newfoundland became part of Canada in 1949. In 1987 Canada deregulated its railway industry and allowed railways to abandon money-losing lines. As a result, the railways lines on P.E.I. were abandoned by the CNR in 1989. The CNR lines in Newfoundland were abandoned in 1988 as the result of a political deal between the province and the federal government, which saw the province receive money for the upgrading the Trans Canada Highway in return for agreeing with the federal government that the CNR be allowed to abandon the lines. (The continuance of railway service in Newfoundland was part of the deal agreed when Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949.) Newfoundland also had two separate, privately owned narrow-gauge railways, one serving mines near Buchans, the other serving a paper mill in Grand Falls. Both are now closed
Various mining and industrial operations in eastern, central and western Canada have also operated narrow gauge railways. The only narrow gauge system still in operation in the country is the gauge White Pass and Yukon Route that reopened in 1988 to haul tourists from cruise ships docking at Skagway, Alaska through White Pass on the International Boundary to Bennett, British Columbia.
The Prince Edward Island Railway used Cape gauge from its opening in 1874 until it merged with the Canadian National Railways in 1918, the same time as a new ferry permitted interchange with North America's rail network. From 1918-1930 there was a mix of standard, dual and narrow gauge in the province until CNR's standardization was completed; standard gauge being maintained until abandonment in 1989.
The Newfoundland Railway was constructed to Cape gauge as well, beginning in the 1880s, and this gauge was maintained under CNR ownership post-1949 until abandonment in 1988, except for some Dual gauge|dual Cape/standard gauge track used at the ferry terminal to North America's rail network; standard gauge rolling stock was hauled in Newfoundland by changing out standard gauge trucks for Cape gauge trucks in Port aux Basques.
A number of narrow gauge mining and logging railways were built in the mountains and islands of British Columbia in the late 19th century, including the Kaslo and Slocan Railway, but all have since been either converted to standard gauge or abandoned.
The White Pass and Yukon Railroad which was completed in 1900 at the end of the Klondike gold rush is Canada's last remaining narrow gauge carrier. It no longer carries freight, but is the busiest tourist railroad in North America. Its tracks connect to no other railroad but do connect to the cruise ship docks at Skagway, Alaska, which provide it with most of its passengers.See also:
Various narrow gauge lines operated around Mexico City. A famous one operated in Morelos State. There were also dozens of private narrow gauge lines built to service the mining district.
The Yucatán Peninsula region of Mexico has a network of narrow gauge lines, established before the region was linked by rail to the rest of Mexico in the 1950s. Only the main line connecting Mérida to central Mexico has been widened to standard gauge.
In Maine, a network of gauge lines served the rural economy between the 1870s and 1940s. Across the US, industrial narrow gauge railways were used, perhaps the best known being the gauge logging lines of the western states of Oregon and California.
Today a few lines survive as heritage railways and tourist attractions. USG Corporation operates an industrial gauge line at Plaster City, California and narrow gauge railways are still used for some tunneling and mining work.
Costa Rican railways are gauge and mostly gauge.
El Salvador ran gauge steam trains into the 1970s. How much of this survived a civil war, earthquake and hurricane is unknown.
In Brazil, almost all the lines are gauge, with the exception of a few lines in the states of São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Mato Grosso. Vale (ex-CVRD) also has a line with 1.6 m gauge , from Carajás (PA) to São Luís (MA). A network of gauge lines once operated in Minas Gerais, centered around the city of São João del Rey. This network at one time had over 250 km of railway in operation, but only about 13 km remain in operation as a steam powered tourist railway (Estrada de Ferro Oeste de Minas). Other small narrow gauge lines include the Rio de Janeiro streetcar (Bonde Santa Tereza), with approximately 13 km of gauge, and a very short industial railway near Bertioga built to gauge. A number of industrial (a gauge Portland Cement line near São Paulo, for example) and agricultural (rubber plantations, sugar plantations, logging) railways also existed in Brazil in a number of narrow gauges, but few of those survive today.
Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka inherited a diversity of rail gauges, some of which was . Indian Railways has adopted Project unigauge, which seeks to systematically convert most of its narrower gauge railways to .
Many narrow gauge railways existed in China. Metre gauge railways were popular in China in several regions before 1949. The gauge Kunming-Hekou Railway (previously known as Sino-Vietnamese Railway) was built by French colonists between Vietnam and China. In Manchuria, lumber industries built narrow gauge railways into the forests, mostly of gauge.
In Hong Kong the Kowloon-Canton Railway was partially laid to and gauge during its construction and the Sha Tau Kok Railway was gauge for much of its existence. The famous Hong Kong Tramways are gauge.
Most of the current active railways in Indonesia use the Cape gauge .
There are some dual gauge lines which allow Shinkansen trains to travel on narrow gauge branches. Japan adopted as a standard narrow gauge for minor, forestry and industrial lines. However, most of these narrow gauge lines were abandoned and currently only four lines remain in operation.
Malaysia's oldest railway systems are solely gauge, a standard that has been adopted since the British colonial government laid down the first railway lines in 1885.
Keretapi Tanah Melayu, the main railway operator in Peninsular Malaysia, uses metre gauge for the main west and east coast intercity lines, as well as railway lines spanning Singapore, from the Johor-Singapore Causeway to the Tanjong Pagar railway station. Existing metre gauge lines are also used for KTM Komuter, the country's commuter rail service, which links Kuala Lumpur with neighbouring suburbs. However, standard gauge is used by the newer light rail operators in Kuala Lumpur city (Putra LRT, Star LRT) as well as the privately operated Express Rail Link to the airport.
There are also a number of industrial narrow gauge steam railways operating in the sugar cane industry. These are concentrated on the islands of Negros and Panay. The Visayas region is the main center for the sugar cane lines; some of the mills, such as La Carlotta Milling in Negros, run charter trains for tourists. Abandoned lines exists on the islands of Cebu, abandoned in the 1950s or 1960s, Mindanao, and Panay, closed in the 1990s. There are plans to restore the Panay Rail line which connects Roxas City with Iloilo.
Except for the high speed railway and the metro systems in Taipei and Kaohsiung, all of Taiwan's railway network is narrow gauge, built at . The isolated east coast railways that used gauge were converted to when the lines were linked to the west coast system.
A narrow gauge Alishan Forest Railway stretches 72 km and connects the city of Chiayi to the mountain resort of Alishan. The line serves mainly as a tourist attraction and offers breathtaking mountain views.
On September 7, 2006, Taiwanese government declared a plan to update to the standard gauge system. It's not the first time that this plan was proposed. In fact, some of the facilities have allowed for standard gauge conversion such as the underground tunnels constructed since the late 1980s. Many experts criticize the proposal as prohibitively expensive if not impossible as all locomotives, passenger and freight cars must be converted to standard gauge.
While the Northern Line was originally build as standard gauge, the line was regauged after 1919 and the State Railway of Thailand now operates entirely on gauge, including international through services to Malaysia. However, standard gauge is used by the Bangkok Skytrain and the Bangkok Metro.
Because Africa is divided into many countries, railways built by different governments tend not to link up with each other, each country's lines connecting its outlands with its own port. Incompatible gauges are therefore not obvious. For example, a link from Nigeria to Cameroon would join to .
The railways of South Africa and many other African countries, including Angola, Botswana, Congo, Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe, use gauge, sometimes referred to as Cape gauge. Kenya, Uganda and others use gauge lines. In Tanzania former East African Railways lines are metre gauge while the Tazara line is
During the First World War when Cameroon was a German possession, a network of gauge Feldbahn railways were built. These eventually extended to around 150 km of track serving rubber and palm oil plantations.
The gauge is now in use.
Morocco had from 1912 - 1935 one of the largest 600 mm gauge network in Africa with total length of more than 1700 kilometres. After the treaty of Algeciras where the representatives of Great Powers agreed not to build any standard gauge railway in Morocco until the standard gauge Tangier - Fez Railway being completed, the French begun to built military 600 mm gauge lines in their part of Morocco French Morocco.
Originally standard gauge, the railways of the then Cape Colony changed to narrow gauge , sometimes known as Cape gauge, for cost-cutting reasons. However, with the development of a strong economy, with heavy export coal and iron ore traffic, and electrification of most main lines, South Africa, like Queensland, operates several narrow gauge trains that outdo most standard gauge and all broad gauge trains. In fact, in 1989 the Sishen-Saldanha line set a world record by carrying the biggest train in history, 7.2 km long containing 660 wagons pulled by 15 locomotives and weighing 71,232 tonnes. However, the proposed Gautrain railway between Johannesburg and Pretoria will operate on standard gauge, and will thus not be capable of using any of the country's existing rail network.
Before 1901, each of the six British colonies was responsible for rail transport infrastructure. Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania constructed for narrow gauge railways. The other colonies built either standard gauge or broad gauge railways, maintaining only limited narrow gauge rail lines, except for South Australia, which built both narrow and broad gauge. As a result of this legacy, Australian railways are a mix of all three gauges.
In 1865, the Queensland Railways was the first mainline narrow gauge railway in the world . Its tracks would eventually extend to around 9000 km. Queensland Rail operates the QR Tilt Train, with a maximum speed of 165 km/h. This train currently holds the Australian Railway Speed Record of 210.7 km/h. Queensland also has extensive sugar cane tramways of gauge.
Following the success of the narrow gauge in Queensland, several narrow gauge lines were built in South East Australia. From the 1920s onwards several of these were converted to broad gauge.
Inspired by the success of the narrow gauge in Queensland, Western Australia adopted the same gauge. Until closure in 1958 Perth had the only narrow gauge tramway network of any considerable extent in mainland Australia.
The Northern Territory adopted narrow gauge when it was still part of South Australia, and a North-South transcontinental line was planned from Adelaide to Darwin in the 1870s. In the event this line was never completed, and due to flood damage and lack of traffic, the narrow gauge line was closed.
Four common carrier lines in Victoria were built to the narrow gauge standard, to serve local farming and forestry communities. Sections of two lines (Belgrave to Gembrook and Thomson to Walhalla) have been restored as tourist railways.
See also: Rail transport in New Zealand New Zealand adopted narrow gauge (cape gauge) due to the need to cross mountainous terrain in the country's interior. This terrain has necessitated a number of complicated engineering feats, notably the Raurimu Spiral. There are 1787 bridges and 150 tunnels in less than 4,000 km of track. Around 500 km of this track is electrified, on the North Island Main Trunk, between Palmerston North and Hamilton.
Much like Australia, there was initially no uniformity in track gauges in New Zealand. This was because the construction of railways was undertaken by the various provinces of New Zealand rather than the central government. The Canterbury Provincial Railways opened New Zealand's first railway in 1863 and used a broad gauge of , while Southland built the Bluff and Kingston Branches to , and short segments of railway were also constructed in the Auckland and Northland Regions. Eventually, under the public works schemes of Premier Julius Vogel, the railways of New Zealand were made to adhere to a gauge. The first gauge railway in New Zealand was the Dunedin and Port Chalmers Railway, which opened on 1 January 1873. Today, the network connects most major New Zealand cities, and is around 4,000 km in length.