Train speed weirdness

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PaTrainFan

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The conversion of units between metric and imperial measurements is difficult. Too hard, evidently, for the masses to deal with. But what they don't get is, the metric system on its own is so easy. It's ridiculous this country never got there.
 

joelkfla

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Or, to turn it into something mental arithmetic-ish, divide by eight, then multiply the result by five.
That exceeds my mental capacity. To get a rough conversion, I just multiply by .6 -- i.e., round up to the nearest 10, drop the last digit, and multiply by 6. Or, especially if it's over 100, cut it in half, and add 1/10th of the original value (plus a skosh).

Even better -- use the handy dandy speed conversion function of the Windows Calculator.
 
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John Santos

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There are three and a half countries that are not Metric today. They are [drum-roll] Myanmar, Liberia and the USA, and the half is UK.

Due to globalization of industry, the original excuse for not going Metric has mostly disappeared, and those that were being saved by not doing so more or less all use Metric tooling now. There is really not much that the US and even UK can do that will change anything in the rest of the world as far as this goes. Yeah, like in Iraq they might drag along a few more "coalition of the willing" with heavy hitters like Palau and Kiribati and such. :D

For the US, and UK it is typical behavior of the top dog honchos when they are not quite at the top anymore. A combination of denial and rear guard action while retreating. 🤷‍♂️
You seem to be assuming the US will somehow WIN if it can convince other countries to switch back to our random mishmash of units. The US has no interest in convincing other countries to switch. Not switching to metric is pure inertia. We are used to the current system and there is no benefit to our daily lives to switch.
Abstract things like drug doses, nutritional content labels, and other scientific and industrial measures changed decades ago. Distances in inches, feet and miles are easy for most Americans to visualize and we could change if we have to, but we don't have to. Things like 2x4's and concrete blocks (8x8x16 inches) are the size they are, and it is good. Sure it is easier to figure out how many 20mm bolts laid end-to-end would make a kilometer than it is to figure out how many 3/4" bolts would make a mile, but, outside a 3rd grade math class, who cares?
 

jis

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You seem to be assuming the US will somehow WIN if it can convince other countries to switch back to our random mishmash of units.
Nah. That was just rhetorical flourish to raise someones ire ;) Seems it hit the mark.
Things like 2x4's and concrete blocks (8x8x16 inches) are the size they are, and it is good.
Considering that 2x4s are not really 2x4 anyway, who cares? :D
 

MARC Rider

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In the book Measuring America by Andro Linklater, the author points out that some Imperial/Us Customary units are more convenient for everyday activities than their metric equivalents. In routine day-to-day transactions people prefer to have units that provide roughly whole-number quantities. He points out than in Europe, meat is sold in the 500 gram "pfund"/"livre," etc., coal and lumber in Germany is sold by 50 kg "Zentner" or "hundredweight," and Swedish and German plumbers use "Zoll" or "inches." (and they aren't even based on any known metric unit.)

Another thing he points out is that converting to metric in the US would be really messy, as every plot of land in the US has been surveyed in feet/rods/chains/acres, etc. Apparently the surveyor's chain, based on multiples of 4 (instead of the multiples of 10 used in the metric system.) is very versatile for measuring and subdividing land (the better to buy and sell it), an activity that Americans seems to have a near mystical attachment. I'm not sure how the Canadians, Brits, Australians, etc. handle it, but I suspect that even if we went metric tomorrow, land deeds would still have to be measured by traditional means for a long time to come.
 
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mcropod

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In the book Measuring America by Andro Linklater, the author points out that some Imperial/Us Customary units are more convenient for everyday activities than their metric equivalents. In routine day-to-day transactions people prefer to have units that provide roughly whole-number quantities. He points out than in Europe, meat is sold in the 500 gram "pfund"/"livre," etc., coal and lumber in Germany is sold by 50 kg "Zentner" or "hundredweight," and Swedish and German plumbers use "Zoll" or "inches." (and they aren't even based on any known metric unit.)

Another thing he points out is that converting to metric in the US would be really messy, as every plot of land in the US has been surveyed in feet/rods/chains/acres, etc. Apparently the surveyor's chain, based on multiples of 4 (instead of the multiples of 10 used in the metric system.) is very versatile for measuring and subdividing land (the better to buy and sell it), an activity that Americans seems to have a near mystical attachment. I'm not sure how the Canadians, Brits, Australians, etc. handle it, but I suspect that even if we went metric tomorrow, land deeds would still have to be measured by traditional means for a long time to come.
My land size - effectively just a house plot - is measured in square metres. My neighbouring farms are measured in hectares. Internal house size is also in square metres. A previous standard measure of internal house size in Oz was just called 'squares' - a big family house in the 1970s was twenty squares and over.

There's a period of transition, but eventually, the change-over is complete and assimilated in peoples' minds. Oddly enough though, people still use squares for house size commonly.
 

mcropod

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Umm as someone born in and who lived in the UK for several years I would disagree with mcropod's analysis. Brexit has more to do with dissatisfaction with rule by an unelected bureaucracy in Brussels and various arbitrary rulings such as fishing rights that go against the interests of Britain. No doubt there are those nostalgic for the 19th century past but I suspect that is a small minority. In actual fact most of British life has gone metric with the notable exception of speed limits on the highways.

Personally I remember the push to go metric in the 1970s and how working in a research lab we had to now write all our papers using the metric system. That effort stalled - for a while we had road signs with both miles and km, now those have disappeared except for a few places such as near the Canadian border. Seems a lot of things like packaging have already converted e.g. the soda bottle example, but road speed limits seem to be the biggest holdout.
I'm an Oz citizen and resident of Scottish birth. I am aware Brexit is not my fight, and I know there were and remain many threads in the issue. It's been handled poorly, and I'd be embarrassed and ashamed if that level of incompetence was shown by any of my governments here - thankfully, as poor as they are, they've not struck that subterranean level here yet. I sympathise with all those who thought Brexit was a sensible solution to complex problems - it was always clear it would not be.

My beef is likely founded on my Scottish anti-English connection, but also my Oz 'Fair go' principles. I'm against English Imperialism within the UK as well as without, and even from 20,000 kms away I could see the hopeless double-standards of English political influence brought to bear against Scotland Independence - 'Don't leave the UK because that'll mean you'll have to leave the EU - if you wanna stay in the EU, you'll have to stay in the UK', only for the English electorate subsequently to take Scotland out of the EU against the Scottish electorate's clearly expressed majority vote to remain.

I'm looking forward to the day in the near future when I can swap my now non-EU UK passport for a Scottish EU one, and breeze across Yurpeen borders as I was once able to do :)

And both Scottish me and Oz me have a natural distaste for Hooray Henrys.
 

MARC Rider

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My land size - effectively just a house plot - is measured in square metres. My neighbouring farms are measured in hectares. Internal house size is also in square metres. A previous standard measure of internal house size in Oz was just called 'squares' - a big family house in the 1970s was twenty squares and over.

There's a period of transition, but eventually, the change-over is complete and assimilated in peoples' minds. Oddly enough though, people still use squares for house size commonly.
The thing with the US is not so much the actual areas as the legal description of the original survey of the plots. Nearly all of the US west of the original 13 states was surveyed in a rectangular grid six miles by six miles, which was subdivided into 1 square mile square "sections." All of the land titles and surveys are referenced to the original surveys, all done with rods and chains. Even if one switches to metric surveys (which I suppose they've done in Australia, Canada, etc.), these have to be consistent with the original surveys, or there could be some ambiguities that could cause legal troubles. Even in the original eastern States, the land surveys were made with traditional rods and chains using the traditional measurement units. I think I could go to the title office downtown and trace the ownership of the plot of land my house sits on back to Charles I's land grant to Lord Baltimore, and I'm sure all the survey descriptions are in the traditional units.
 

WWW

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Chuckle snort ! ! !
When Prince Charles becomes King will the foot measurements change ?
 

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"Only 3 1/2 countries" still on customary units seems quite a significant undercount. There are indeed only 3 that use them for almost everything --- but I suspect there are more than we can count on our fingers that are only half-metric.

Canada had good intentions of going fully metric, and got as far as requiring weathermen to quit giving temperatures in Fahrenheit and requring gasoline to be sold by the liter -- but never did quite go all the way, and has, in my experience as an outside visitor, been retreating for some time, presumably due to cross-border corruption. There is considerable selling of food per pound (16-ounce pounds, not 500g Pfunde), reporting heights in feet and inches, and so on. Ironically, as the generation that grew up with Imperial units died, the generation that grew up with metric has been learning to live half their lives Imperial again...

Returning us somewhat to railroad-related content... you may wish to ponder why Canada's highways had new kilometre-posts erected alongside them, but the railroads didn't. CN and CP both measure distance in miles and post speed limits in MPH.
 

neroden

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You mean 1-1/2 X 3-1/2's.

2X4
No, I mean 38 mm x 89 mm :cool: -- standard lumber size in metric countries, exactly the same as the US "2x4" (which as you note is not actually 2 inches by 4 inches) and called "2x4"s too

 

Ziv

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MARC, I don't know nearly enough about this stuff, but it was the background for a lot of my family history. My Grandfather homesteaded a piece of land in the northern part of Montana using a system originating in the Land Ordinance of 1785 in which all of the land west of Appalachians and east of the Mississippi was in theory drawn up into 6 mile wide and 6 mile long townships. Each township, in turn, was divided up into 36 one mile square sections, like a chessboard albeit one that is 6x6 not 8x8. Each 1 mile square section contains 640 acres. (An acre is approximately the size of an American football field.) One interesting bit of this law is that 1 (or 2) section(s) in every township was reserved for the support of schools in that township. Later on the law was adapted to encourage homesteading in semi-arid lands west of the Mississippi by enlarging the homestead size from 160 acres to 320 acres, which is when my Grandfather decided in 1912 to homestead in Northern Montana. Ranching or farming on a farm that is just 320 acres is pretty much impossible due to the low productivity of the semi-arid land in anything but optimal rainfall years. The homesteaded lands did in fact get a decent amount of rain from 1910 until the 1930's, but then the rains ended and the dust bowl days arrived. My Grandfather was foreclosed on by the County in 1934, but the Clerk told him to stay on the land, as he did all the foreclosed on farmers, because no-one else wanted the dry as dust land. And eventually the rains returned and my Grandfather was able to pay off his outstanding tax bill to the county and buy a few of the abandoned half section (320 acre) farms/homesteads around his land. He remained on his land until both he and my Grandmother passed away in the late 1980's. One of my earliest memories is of him taking me to the Spring pasture where we stood next to the teepee rings left by the Assiniboine Indians after they were driven onto the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in the late 19th Century. His view of Indians was complicated, to put it lightly.
Another cool aspect of this is when you are flying over the interior states, you can generally see the outline of the sections by following the network of roads. Once you are used to the dimensions you can easily see just how far one mile is because the roads delineate the boundaries quite visibly.
Sorry about the thread jack...

The thing with the US is not so much the actual areas as the legal description of the original survey of the plots. Nearly all of the US west of the original 13 states was surveyed in a rectangular grid six miles by six miles, which was subdivided into 1 square mile square "sections." All of the land titles and surveys are referenced to the original surveys, all done with rods and chains. Even if one switches to metric surveys (which I suppose they've done in Australia, Canada, etc.), these have to be consistent with the original surveys, or there could be some ambiguities that could cause legal troubles. Even in the original eastern States, the land surveys were made with traditional rods and chains using the traditional measurement units. I think I could go to the title office downtown and trace the ownership of the plot of land my house sits on back to Charles I's land grant to Lord Baltimore, and I'm sure all the survey descriptions are in the traditional units.
 

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More metric weirdness:

It was noted upthread that in the USA we often sell liquor in 750 mL bottles. Even at the duty free store right at the border.

But if you cross the Canadian border you are allowed to bring.... 1140 mL of liquor with you.

Why 1.14 liters, about 38.5 US fluid ounces? One Imperial quart! The units were converted at metrication, but the allowed amount hasn't been updated.
 

zephyr17

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More metric weirdness:

It was noted upthread that in the USA we often sell liquor in 750 mL bottles. Even at the duty free store right at the border.

But if you cross the Canadian border you are allowed to bring.... 1140 mL of liquor with you.

Why 1.14 liters, about 38.5 US fluid ounces? One Imperial quart! The units were converted at metrication, but the allowed amount hasn't been updated.
Well, when I bring liquor into Canada, which I did regularly for train trips and ski trips because BC liquor taxes are even higher than highest-in-the-nation Washington, I bring in a liter. Guess I could squeeze in a two, but not three, 50 ml airline minis on top of the liter and remain in my personal exemption.

Public service announcement: If you are bringing in liquor, you are supposed to declare it even if they don't ask about it.
 

mcropod

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Worth noting that even metric Europe uses "2x4s", which are defined in metric terms.
Colloquially, so do we metrics in Oz, but they're called four-be-twos instead. I dunno why it is that you USAish people constantly put things around the wrong way, but you can add timber-yard building goods to the long list: driving on the wrong side of the road, having your electrical switches turn on by turning up rather than down, and confusing everyone by calling your main course an entree, as well as telling me to turn up on the tenth of May when you want me there on the fifth of October!
 

joelkfla

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Colloquially, so do we metrics in Oz, but they're called four-be-twos instead. I dunno why it is that you USAish people constantly put things around the wrong way, but you can add timber-yard building goods to the long list: driving on the wrong side of the road, having your electrical switches turn on by turning up rather than down, and confusing everyone by calling your main course an entree, as well as telling me to turn up on the tenth of May when you want me there on the fifth of October!
Maybe it all has to do with you guys being on the wrong side of the equator, and the Coriolis effect running backwards. ;)
 

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How about mentioning spelling? How come "er" at the end of a word is spelled "re" in most of the British world and still calling it "er"? Then there are all the extra "u"s that somehow did not stick with those rebellious colonists: gauge versus gage, for example, although we do use it both ways in track.

I have noticed many metric countries fall back to either "imperial" or their own former system for many common usages. There is a Chinese foot that is different from and longer an English foot, and has 10 inches, but I do not know what the subdivisions are called. There are land deeds in Texas that go back to their original dimensions given in pre metric Spanish units. Remember 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea? Old dimensions never die. The original concept in the metric system was to do away with 7 day weeks and 24 hour days and go to 10 day cycles, and something different for subdivisions, 20 hour and 100 minute time cycles, or something like that. Then you have all the "soft" conversions. for example in many places if you buy a 25 mm diameter pipe you get an AWWA 1 inch water pipe, which is not exactly one inch, anyway, International shipping containers are 40 feet regardless of what dimension is quoted. And on and on.

I spent 17 years living mostly under metric system, and learned to think in it to a great extent, some with near automatic mental conversions, and some unconverted. I never bothered trying to convert kilometers per liter to miles per gallon, for example, particularly since most of my kilometers were done on a scooter.

By the way, converting rail between pounds per yard and kilograms per meter is frequently done wrong. It is for all practical purpose almost exactly two to one. Remember, one kilogram is 2.2046 pounds and at 25.4 mm per inch, a meter is 39.37 inches = 1.0936 yards, so the ratio is 2.016 to go from kg/m to lb/yd. Divide to go the opposite direction. (A 136 lb rail is not 136.000 pounds per yard, and a 60 kg rail is not 60.000 kg per meter exactly. By the way there is a European 60 kg/m rail, a Japanese 60 kg/m rail, a Chinese 60 kg/m rail, all slightly different in shape and dimensions and precise weight.
 
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mcropod

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How about mentioning spelling? How come "er" at the end of a word is spelled "re" in most of the British world and still calling it "er"? Then there are all the extra "u"s that somehow did not stick with those rebellious colonists: gauge versus gage, for example, although we do use it both ways in track.

I have noticed many metric countries fall back to either "imperial" or their own former system for many common usages. There is a Chinese foot that is different from and longer an English foot, and has 10 inches, but I do not know what the subdivisions are called. There are land deeds in Texas that go back to their original dimensions given in pre metric Spanish units. Remember 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea? Old dimensions never die. The original concept in the metric system was to do away with 7 day weeks and 24 hour days and go to 10 day cycles, and something different for subdivisions, 20 hour and 100 minute time cycles, or something like that. Then you have all the "soft" conversions. for example in many places if you buy a 25 mm diameter pipe you get an AWWA 1 inch water pipe, which is not exactly one inch, anyway, International shipping containers are 40 feet regardless of what dimension is quoted. And on and on.

I spent 17 years living mostly under metric system, and learned to think in it to a great extent, some with near automatic mental conversions, and some unconverted. I never bothered trying to convert kilometers per liter to miles per gallon, for example, particularly since most of my kilometers were done on a scooter.

(snip)
Fuel consumption is done differently in metric - rather than being expressed as distance unit travelled by given quantity unit of fuel (mpg) where the higher the number, the more economic the travel; it's done as quantity unit of fuel per distance unit travelled (litres per 100kms) where the lower the number, the more economic the travel. It's also an easier number to calculate as you rarely need to divide the number of litres by a double-digit figure. My full tank will get me close to 800kms, for example.
 

AmtrakMaineiac

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How about mentioning spelling? How come "er" at the end of a word is spelled "re" in most of the British world and still calling it "er"? Then there are all the extra "u"s that somehow did not stick with those rebellious colonists: gauge versus gage, for example, although we do use it both ways in track.
Even better, the days when Britain and some of the Commonwealth countries were still using Pounds, Shillings and Pence. I remember going over to the UK in 1971 shortly after they had converted and my grandmother would helpfully convert prices back to the old system for me "30p that's 6 shillings in the old money" because that is what she had grown up with.
 
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