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I've designed a world where dinosaurs have lived with humans since the advent of civilization. One thing that is key to the story is that they travel by rail a lot, mostly because that is one of the safer ways of traveling in this dangerous world. I have the gauge set to 20 ft to be able to transport hadrosaurs, smaller sauropods and therapods, and similar dinosaurs. I want to know more about the specifics of the railway because this will affect what both sides can use to transport in this race against summoning demons. The time frame is 1880s technology, but transportation technology has been accelerated due to the pressures placed by living with dinosaurs. If I could have help determining the size of train-related stuff, it would be greatly appreciated. If there is a more appropriate place for this please let me know.

Specific question: the length of each kind of different wheel arrangement. I want to be able to make military ones as it is taking place during the Civil War.

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  • $\begingroup$ What is the specific question you are asking? As it is now this is going to be closed for being to vague. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Dec 30, 2023 at 16:00
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    $\begingroup$ (1) Nobody has any idea how to make locomotives and rolling stock for a railway with such an enormous gauge, because nobody has ever even thought about it. Design them however you want; just try to think about the things would work in curves. (2) I don't understand what you believe is the difference between civilian and military trains. No country has ever had a special set of military trains stashed around somewhere for use in war. They always used plain ordinary civilian locomotives and wagons. (Are thinking of those spectacular armored trains carrying cannon?) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 30, 2023 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ I am think of armored trains, like the ones the Ottomans and the Russians had/have $\endgroup$
    – Sage Grant
    Dec 30, 2023 at 19:43

2 Answers 2

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The selection of rail gauge has only a little to do with the loads that are carried by the train, and more to do with factors such as budget, desired speed and the space available to build the track. The broader the gauge, the more expensive and the more space required. Broader gauges cannot turn as sharply as narrower gauges.

You may also be confusing rail gauge with loading gauge. Loading gauge is the space required for the rolling stock on a railway, which is typically larger than the rail gauge.

However, a hadrosaur might be up to 26' in length, but they would not be anywhere near this width. They would likely fit quite nicely in a carriage on a standard-gauge railway, though there would likely be only one or two per carriage.

So, I believe that most of the dinosaurs that you might want to load onto your railway would fit quite well on modern standard to wide gauge railways with a gauge of no more than two metres. You certainly wouldn't need - or want - a 20' rail gauge.

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    $\begingroup$ The movement of heavy cargo that shifts position while traveling would be a good reason to use a wider gauge. Perhaps the dinosaurs are not manageable when their movements are constrained by tight cages, etc. and drugging them for the duration of the trip is also unworkable. It's not the same as shipping typical bulk cargo. $\endgroup$ Dec 31, 2023 at 5:20
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    $\begingroup$ @GaryWalker Put 'em in a well car or a low-deck wagon: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Class_U_special_wagon The lower centre of gravity will keep them from falling out or tipping over. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Dec 31, 2023 at 5:28
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    $\begingroup$ Drop 2 4 ton lizards that can move 3 meters away from the centerline (remember constraining them being bad), and the mass of the car itself being 15 tons, and the gravity torque of the lizards exceeds that of the car keeping it on the track (US rail gauge 1.435m) Personally, I would probably start with a 4:1 safety margin in such situations, and then test to see if I need a larger margin. You can compensate with more massive well cars (they make 30 ton versions), a wider gauge, or a combination. 3 meters of movement may be too restrictive, I'm not a dinosaur wrangler. OP liked wide gauge. $\endgroup$ Dec 31, 2023 at 6:34
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    $\begingroup$ the length of the dinosaur does not really matter, the length between the dinosaurs legs matters, unless you are are trying to have a roofed car. none of the dinosaurs you mention have a (for lack of a better term) "foot" base larger than elephants which we move by train just fine. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Dec 31, 2023 at 14:31
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    $\begingroup$ You might not want to allow such heavy and dangerous cargo move around. If the dinosaur somehow gets an idea that it can escape its entrapment by pouncing on the walls, it can do so much more effectively if there is room. It's probably much safer if its movement is constrained as much as possible. $\endgroup$ Jan 5 at 0:16
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Parallel Tracks


History provides you answer with the Schwerer Gustav, an extremely large railway siege cannon used in WWII.

enter image description here


As you can see, it runs along parallel tracks. The total width of the tracks is probably in the neighbourhood of twenty feet. It was pulled by ordinary locomotives. The cannon weighed a little over 1300 tons, so I think you could happily transport numerous extra large chickens on your super broad gauge railway!


Another example of a super-broad gauge railway can be found in this SPACE.SE query. The Soviet "Grasshopper".


(Picture: Old Machine Press)

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    $\begingroup$ That's about 1250 tons more than the biggest dinosaur... $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Dec 31, 2023 at 7:32
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    $\begingroup$ It was mounted on purpose-built tracks, just like it is often done with large cranes at a constructio site. It was transported disassembled, on 25 ordinary railway wagons. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 31, 2023 at 8:19
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP --- Obviously in the OP's world, they'll build entire networks of purpose-built tracks. The idea here isn't to shoot down ideas like a huge railway just because humans didn't do it in the real world you know. The idea is show how it can be done. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jan 1 at 3:23
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    $\begingroup$ Another example: the Soviet transporter/erector for the N-1 lunar rocket space.stackexchange.com/a/40876/6944 $\endgroup$ Jan 3 at 21:25

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