Vista Dome

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Why was the current rail dimensions chosen for trains above other dimensions?

Is there any evidence that suggests these are the best dimensions for rail cars or that there are any better dimensions? What would be the associated problems with a wider berth besides axle load?
Is there more at issue than tradition? For instance the change from the 7 foot to 4 foot spacing was this due strictly to manufacture or was there an issue with gravity, speed etc. High speed trains have a wider track spacing in japan does that mean that higher speeds are possible with a wider spacing and if so what is the maximum spacing if any?

Your question pertains to two pieces of railroad engineering- track gauge and loading gauge.
Track gauge is the width between the rails. "Standard" gauge is 4 feet 8 1/2 inches, or 1435mm. This was supposedly the distance between the wheels of ancient Roman chariots, which made ruts 4'8 1/2" wide which somewhere in the sands of time translated to railroad building in Britain, from where many early locomotives were exported,and has been the accepted standard (in the US) since the the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869. Different gauges have been used for different reasons; rail spacing narrower than 4' 8 1/2" is called narrow gauge and is used in areas where there is not enough room for standard gauge track roadbed or where cheap construction is needed (there is physically less to build). Narrow gauge trains tend to be unstable at high speed and have limited capacity because of the track width. Narrow gauge track in the US is typically 2 or 3 feet, with meter gauge being common in the former British Empire. Broad gauge, on the other hand, is track that is wider than standard gauge. Broad gauge allows for higher speed travel and higher capacities at increased cost. Broad gauge was not nearly as common as narrow gauge. Examples include the Great Western in Britain (7 foot gauge) and some pre-Civil War networks in the US (4' 10" to 6' gauge).
Loading gauges are the legal parameters governing the sie of equipment that can be used, axle loadings, etc. In densely populated areas, loading gauge is less than in sparsely populated areas due to low clearances often found in these ares. This explains why large equipment such as the Union Pacific GTELs, the DDA40X's, Vista-Dome cars and large steam locomotives never emerged in Europe; European loading gauges are much more restrictive than those in the US. This is also why AMTRAK does not operate Superliners on the Northeast Corridor; there are tunnel clearances that will not fit such large cars.

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