Sunday, 13 September 2009

Atmospheric history

While clearing some bookmarks, I found Beach Pneumatic: Alfred Beach’s Pneumatic Subway and the beginnings of rapid transit in New York. This is an assiduously researched study of the early days of New York's subway and rail system, with a particular focus on Beach's concept of running the system by air pressure. Brunel's atmospheric railway (as in the above painting by Nicholas Condy) gets a mention in the chapter on precursors.

Brennan's site is very worth exploring if you like railway / architectural history and subterranea: see also Abandoned Stations, Beach Train, and Dunderberg Spiral Railway.

In the same territory, check out - Capsule pipelines: an old technology still going strong. An SF reference that springs to mind: the scene in Harry Harrison's Bill, the Galactic Hero where the hero, who has fallen in with a band of outlaws in the depths of the planet-city Helior, is helping them steal food from such a pipeline.

Two blows did it; the top part of the severed pipe bent out of alignment with the bottom and from the opening began to pour an endless stream of linked green frankfurters. Litvok grabbed the end of the chain and threw it over Bill's shoulder then began to coil loops of the things over his shoulders and arms higher and higher. They reached the level of Bill's eyes and he could read the white lettering stamped all over their grass-green forms. CHLORA-FILLIES, they read, and THERE'S SUNSHINE IN EVERY LINK! and THE EQUINE WURST OF DISTINCTION and TRY OUR DOBBIN-BURGERS NEXT TIME!

"Enough..." Bill groaned, staggering under the weight. Litvok snapped the chain and began twining them over his own shoulders when the flow of shiny green forms suddenly ceased. He pulled the last links from the pipe and pushed out the door.

"The alarm went, they're onto us. Get out fast before the cops get here!" He whistled shrilly and the lookouts came running to join them. They fled, Bill stumbling under the weight.

- Ray

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