An idea reborn

So who knew?

That Elon Musk’s idea of pneumatic mass transit (see previous post on July 25) had a predecessor – in 1870 – in the New York City subway system!

Check out this fascinating New York Times story that details the saga of Alfred Ely Beach, who in 1870 “unveiled the city’s first subway, running through a pneumatic tunnel under Broadway from Warren Street to Murray Street. For three years, a giant fan blew thousands of passengers at the stately pace of 10 miles per hour in an elegant car, richly upholstered and illuminated by a zirconia light for 25 cents a ride.”

“Mr. Beach invented a ‘tunneling shield’ that allowed excavation to be done with minimal disruption at street level. Workers carted off the earth dug out of the tunnel at night to avoid detection, according to The Times.”

It lasted only three years but the technology was used in 1897 to connect 22 post offices around the city with a 27 mile system of pneumatic tubes. And others in the 20th century have followed up on the idea of pneumatic travel.

So what’s new is actually old, but who knew?



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