Gauge conversion

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In rail transportation, gauge conversion is the process of converting a railway from one rail gauge to another, through the alteration of the railway tracks. An alternative to gauge conversion is dual gauge track, or gauge conversion of the rail vehicles themselves.

Ideally railways should all be built to the same gauge, since a wide range of gauges from narrow to broad are of similar value in carrying heavy loads at low cost, while small differences of gauge create tremendous break-of-gauge costs and inconvenience.

Rail vehicles

Gauge conversion of coaches and wagons involves the replacement of the wheelsets or entire bogies, such as happened when the gauge of the Great Western Railway was abandoned in May 1892. Where vehicles regularly work to and fro across a permanent change of gauge, for example between the system in France and the in Spain, stations are equipped with special bogie exchange equipment. Some vehicles nowadays are fitted with variable gauge axles which do not require any exchange of the wheelsets, but still require special equipment. This temporary alteration to allow through working is generally referred to as "gauge change".

Steam locomotives are difficult to convert unless this is already allowed for in the design, such as in some East African Railways Garratts, and in steam locomotives built for Victoria after 1930s. In the event, few have been so converted, but one such is Victorian Railways R class R766.

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