Changing to Automatic Track Gauge Changeover

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A part of the automatic track gauge changeover system SUW 2000.

Different railway gauges remain as enduring obstacles.

Narrowing or widening the tracks, as happened so often during the uneasy times of war and reconstruction, is an extremely costly exercise. Transloading is an expensive and time-consuming option as well. A new and perhaps final solution to the problem has come in the form of automatic axle gauge-changing devices mounted on locomotives and wagons.

In Europe, several types of automatic track gauge changeover systems (ATGCS) have been developed, including the Spanish Talgo-RD, the Swiss CAF-BRAVA, the German DBAG-Rafil, and the Polish SUW 2000. The latter is being adopted on some lines that connect Poland with Lithuania and Ukraine, which retained the broad gauge lines from the Soviet Union.

The SUW 2000 was successfully tested on the line from Warsaw to Moscow. It requires very little addition to the existing track and the only inconvenience it causes is that the train has to slow down to around 40 km/hour during the changeover.

As with railway gauges 150 years earlier, none of the ATGC systems has been chosen as a European standard, nor is it likely to.

How to cite this page


Slawomir Lotysz, 'Changing to Automatic Track Gauge Changeover', Inventing Europe,


  1. Puffert, Douglas J. Tracks across Continents, Paths through History: The Economic Dynamics of Standardization in Railway Gauge. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.
  2. Suwalski, Ryszard. "SUW 2000 - polski zestaw kołowy o zmiennym rozstawie kół do wagonów osobowych i towarowych.” Technika Transportu Szynowego 5, no. 5 (1998): 19-24.

About this tour


The railway gauge: 89mm to Europe

The "standard" railway gauge of 1435 mm, originally promoted by the British engineer George Stephenson, is used throughout much of the world, but not everywhere in Europe. In the middle of the nineteenth century, rails spaced eighty-nine millimeters further apart became the standard for the Russian empire, and later the Soviet Union. Over the years, crossing the boundary between these two standards caused many technical problems, especially when the borders of nations changed. Those eighty-nine millimeter gauges became a clear measure of political, and military, control.

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The challenge of different railway gauges

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