Lots of Corner readers are sending me the Snopes “debunking” of the story about railroad gauges and the Space Shuttle. I’m a big fan of the wisdom of crowds/hive mind thesis, but you gotta know when to just relax and enjoy a good story.
Besides, if you follow the Snopes link, you’ll find that the debunking isn’t really a debunking of the relationship at all, just a quibbling with its details. It appears to be true that standard chariot and wagon widths translated into standard English rail widths, because the first railroads used horse-drawn vehicles and the path of least resistance was to repurpose wagons.
As for the fact that America finally adopted the English standard because the Union defeated the Confederacy in the Late Unpleasantness, you’ll have to pardon some of us with particular namesakes if we choose not to dwell on such things at merry times of the year.