A trial run through the pipe in New York in 1867

Atmospheric railway

An interesting idea of alternative propulsion for train sets comes from Victorian England. It was based on the use of high pressure of air in a tube laid between the rails. The 18th century precursor of the design of a tubular vehicle moving as a result of the difference in pressure in front of and behind it was Denis Papin from France. His research inspired English engineers who called such vehicles an atmospheric railway. In 1827 George Medhurst presented a vehicle moving inside a rectangular pipe with the dimensions 180 × 150 cm. A 131 kW pump exerted pressure of 1.0775 atmospheres on the vehicle wall, which enabled a speed of up to 50 mph (80 km/h). In 1838-1840 Jacob and Joseph Samuda and Samuel Clegg used pipe with a fissure open at the top inside of which was a piston propelling the vehicle. Pressure was generated by 80 kW pumps. Their idea was adopted on three railway lines: from Dublin to Kingston and Dalkey, from London to West Croydon and Epson and in South Devon.


On the other hand, in 1846 at Crystal Palace in London a test section of tubular railway moving inside a 600-metre long tunnel with the diameter of 180 centimetres was built. The vehicle propelled by a difference in pressure amounting to 0.18 atm could carry 35 people and travelled at 27 mph (43 km/h). The construction of atmospheric railways was abandoned for a number of reasons. First of all, they proved much more expensive that steam traction. Another drawback was their operation and unusually labour-consuming maintenance of the tube which, to remain well-sealed, required regular greasing with tallow.



The construction of the tunnel for atmospheric railway between Waterloo and Whitehall



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© Całość praw autorskich - Antoni Bochen, Filip Wiśniewski