Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Travelling By Tube (1)

 Journeys Under Pressure

Occasionally, in the early days of his working but pre-marital life, fbb would buy meat from Talbots at Broomhill in Sheffield. The butchers at the counter did not handle cash, but gave you a bag with an aggregated price label thereupon, which you took to a kiosk near the exit wherein sat a terrifying lady of "mature years" who took your money and dispensed change. Of course you could, in theory, walk out without paying, but her basilisk stare would, obviously, turn you to stone instantly.
When granny took the child which became fbb to see Aunt Aggie, they occasionally visited Kettering Road Co-op (Northampton) seen here in a later 1974 guise and now demolished.
Here the typical old krone (as she seemed to fbb) sat in a cage ...
... linked to sales points by a strange systems of wires, handles and pulleys. The salesperson, once again, did not take cash. The invoice and cash was placed in a little box, clipped into the "device" and twanged by the force of a spring across to the cage.
It was a wonder to behold and the little sprog could have watched it all happen for hours. Occasionally the spring did not spring sufficiently to twang the pottle all the way and the chief assistant to the assistant chief had to rush over and poke the offending mini-trolley with a tall pole. Such fun.

It was all much more sophisticated at the main Co-op Arcade in Abington Street.
Here the same remote cash handling procedure applied. There was still a little pottle but it had fluffy collars on each end.
It was poked into a mysterious hole in the wall ...
... and disappeared completely with a strange "ploof" sound. It would return in due course with change and the important little "divi" slip to indicate your share of the profits.
What fbb did not understand was that there was a vast network of tubes through which the pottle ran, sucked by a partial vacuum and propelled back by air pressure.
Similar systems had much larger "vehicles" which could, for example, carry letters and packets between post offices.
What fbb did not know was that modernised versions are still available and still used today - more for transferring larger amounts of cash from a till or sales point to a central banking/paying-in station. This 4 minute video is revealing.
New readers will be wondering where the Public Transport Experience begins to be experienced.

Wikipedia provides a potted history of systems using air pressure (suck or blow!) to transport passengers and fbb will summarise the timeline which begins, amazingly in 1799. Most of us will know of Brunel's failed "atmospheric" railway running from Exeter to Newton Abbot.

But the story begins nearly 60 years earlier.

1799 : George Medhurst
suggested that goods might be conveyed in tubes  and propelled by air.

1812 : George Medhurst
made further overtures suggesting that passengers could be similarly entubed.

1824 : Mr Vallance
A whole carriage propelled by air.
His demonstration system consisted of a 6-foot diameter cast iron tube with rails cast in to the lower part; the vehicle was the full size of the tube and bear skin was used to seal the annular space.

1835 : Henry Pinkus
A small pneumatic tube with a piston pulling a carriage. The tube was sealed by a rope.
He built a demonstration line alongside the Kensington Canal but was unable to interest investors, and his system failed when the rope stretched. However his concept, a small bore pipe with a resealable slot was the prototype for many successor systems.

1838 : Jacob and Joseph Samuda
A jointed cast iron pipe laid between the rails of a railway track; the pipe had a slot in the top. The leading vehicle in a train was a piston carriage, which carried a piston inserted in the tube. The slot was sealed from the atmosphere by a continuous leather flap that opened as the piston bracket passed by. A pumping station ahead of the train would pump air from the tube, and air pressure behind the piston would push it forward.

1844 : Kingstown to Dalkey
Kingstown is now Dun Laoghaire. The train used Samuda's system.
Vacuum power via a 15-inch (380 mm) pipe was used for the ascent to Dalkey, speeds of up to 40 mph being achieved, and the return journey was by means of gravity. The vacuum tube fell 560 yards short of the Dalkey station, and the train relied on momentum for the last stretch of the journey.

1846 : Dartmouth Arms to Croydon
Another Samuda system line. See the train with no locomotive and the opulent Dartmouth Arms (now Forest Hill) pumping station below.
The engine house at Dartmouth Arms was largely demolished in 1851 and an electricity sub-station was built on the site in 1928. Stone from the Croydon pumping station was reused in construction of the Surrey Street waterworks building, which still exists. According to one historian the use of the atmospheric system cost the railway £500,000 and was 'a sad fiasco'.

1847 : Pereire in Paris
The Pereire brothers were building a line from Paris (Gare St Lazare) to Saint Gemain en Laye (post 1860 picture below - atmospheric power abandoned) ...
... but the last bit of the route from Le Pecq on the banks of the Seine ...
... was deemed too hard for conventional steam locomotives of the day.

Pereire brothers were persuaded to adopt the Samuda system for an extension from Le Vesinet (map below - a k a Le Pecq) to St Germain itself, and construction started in 1845, with a wooden bridge crossing the Seine followed by a twenty-arch masonry viaduct and two tunnels under the castle.
The extension was opened on 15 April 1847; it was 1.5 km in length on a gradient of 1 in 28.

The modern Ligne A1 of Paris RER still follows the same route.
The terminus is top right; Le Pecq is bottom left.

The Pereire atmospheric line might be described as "short and sweet" Brunel's line, also dating from 1847, was projected to be much, much longer.

And, like fbb, you thought that Brunel's failed atmospheric railway in Devon was new and innovative. Brunel was using the Samuda system like the rest of them; and he was the last of a fairly long line of atmospheric experimenters - all doomed to an early failure.

We will revise Brunel later.

But there was a further twist in the tale of tube trains powered by air - and it emanated from George Medhurst's 1812 prognostication. Why not put passengers IN the pipe?

Caveat Emptor : fbb Conned Again?
It looked the part of EBay. fbb decided that he would like to add a "Neverwazz" Hornby Dublo 3-rail tank wagon to his collection. The epithet refers to the fact that no such wagon was even produced in the hallowed portals of the Binns Road Factory. It is a genuine fake!

The owner - the perpetrator - did explain that it was created using "home made decals" which fbb interpreted as home-printed stickies created on "transfer" paper stock. The colour certainly looked realistic ...
... if slightly pale - possibly the result of photographing in less than studio conditions.

But when he excitedly opened the box yesterday morning ...
... what a disappointment! PAPER sticky labels produced on a cheap ink-jet printer in the wrong colour and covering only part of the wagon. Poor quality was evident ...
... you can see the dots.

Now the old bloke knows it was cheap - but not that "cheap"!

Modern Hornby produces a Coca Cola wagon ...
... in a Coca Cola box.
It is an OFFICIAL fake!

 Next Tube Travelling blog : Wednesday 18th November 

1 comment:

  1. I think you mean crone, unless you're suggesting that the butcher took Scandinavian currency........