The Pneumatic Despatch
Article found in The Illustrated London News magazine of 24 August 1861:
A company has been formed, under the title of the Pneumatic Despatch Company, for establishing in the metropolis lines of pneumatic tube for the speedy conveyance of letters and parcels. The chief feature of the invention consist in propelling a train of carriages through a tube by creation of a vacuum before them; the tube being, in fact, the cylinder, and the carriages the piston. A piece of ground adjoining the Victoria-bridge at Battersea, and belonging to the Vauxhall Waterworks Company and London and Brighton Company, has been selected for testing the project. Here upwards of a quarter of a mile of the tubing has been laid down; various irregular curves and gradients being introduces to show that hills and valleys would not prevent the effective working of the system. The apparatus certainly works well. With an exhaustion varying from 7 in. to 11 in. of water, or from 4 oz. to 6 oz. per square inch, the speed is about twenty-five miles an hour. The tube through which the despatch-trucks are drawn is not circular in form, but a section resembling that of an ordinary railway tunnel; the internal height being 2 ft. 4 in. The tube is of cast iron, in 9 ft. lengths, each weighing about a ton, and fitted into each other with an ordinary socket-joint, packed with lead. Within the tube, and at the top, and 1 in. high, answering the purpose of rails for the wheels of the despatch-trucks to run upon. The latter are made of a framing 7 or 8 ft. long inclosed in sheet iron, and having four flanged wheels, 20 in. in diameter each. The whole truck is so made that its external form, in cross section, conforms to that of the tube, although it does not fit closely, an intervening space of an inch or so being left around. Some light indiarubber flanges or rings are applied at each end of the truck, but even these do not actually fit the inner surface of the tube, a slight "windage" being left around the whole truck. There is, therefore, no friction beyond that of the wheels; and the leakage of air, under a pressure of four of five ounces per square inch, amounts a little. The air is exhausted, from near one end of the tube, by means of an exhausting apparatus, from which the air is discharged by centrifugal force. Some idea of this apparatus, which is very simple, may be formed by comparing it to an ordinary exhausting-fan. It is the intention of the company, now that they have obtained Parliamentary powers for opening the streets to lay down their tubes, to establish a line between St. Martin's-le-Grans and one of the district post-offices, and ultimately to extend their system throughout the metropolis, so as to connect the railway station and public offices.
Some successful experiments were made on Tuesday. One trip was made in sixty seconds, and a second in fifty-five seconds, the distance being a quarter of a mile. Two gentlemen occupied the carriages during the first trip. They lay on their backs, on mattresses, with horsecloths for covering, and appeared to be perfectly satisfied with their journey. It is calculated that the carriages will eventually move through the tubes at the rate of from thirty to forty miles an hour. The arrangements are in the hands of Mr. Latimer Clarke and Mr. Rimmell.
The author of this article and the artist of the drawings are unknown. Since it is published far more than 70 years ago, both are believed to be in the Public Domain.