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What Was Scientific American Reporting About in 1870? Pneumatic Transit!

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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In 1870, construction of the first underground railway started and ended with Ely Beach Pneumatic Transit (check out this awesome post by Jennifer Ouellette at Cocktail Party Physics for greater explanation of the topic). Construction was undertaken in secret, under the guise of creating postal tunnels. The tube railway ran for only one block underneath Broadway Avenue from Warren to Murray streets, and the ornate station and train car were unrivaled in sophistication. Twenty two people could ride at a time, and all of them would take the short trip in both directions, as the terminus was a dead end. The endeavor was meant to give people a glimpse of what an underground pneumatic rail system could be like.

Abby Digital has come up with a spectacular animation that brings the pneumatic transit system to life. The smooth transitions, beautiful music and trance-like graphics give you a real taste of what it was like to ride on this historical train. Prepare to be transported to 1870 and don’t miss the classic headline from Scientific American at :30.

Carin Bondar About the Author: Carin Bondar is a biologist, writer and film-maker with a PhD in population ecology from the University of British Columbia. Find Dr. Bondar online at, on twitter @drbondar or on her facebook page: Dr. Carin Bondar – Biologist With a Twist. Follow on Twitter @drbondar.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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