Did you know that we could all be zipping around the city today in mini hyperloops? This was the early concept for the New York subway.
A Giant Vacuum Tube
The Interborough Rapid Transit subway (IRT), which broke ground in 1900, was not the first attempt at transit tunneling in New York City. Several other groups attempted to build tunnel lines with varying degrees of success.
In the 1870s, NYC briefly experimented with underground pneumatic transport. The underground tubes were similar to what you might find at a drive-through bank today. A prototype of the tube was even built along Broadway that curious New Yorkers could try out for themselves.
The Beach tunnel was constructed in only 58 days, starting under Warren Street and Broadway, directly across from City Hall. The station was under the south sidewalk of Warren Street just west of the Broadway corner. The subway opened to the public on February 26, 1870. Gratings in the sidewalk on Warren Street indicate some vault or ventilation areas are down there today.
More recently, entrepreneur Elon Musk, put forward the Hyperloop, a conceptual high-speed transportation system, incorporating reduced-pressure tubes. The outline of the original Hyperloop concept was made public by the release of a preliminary design document in August 2013, which included a notional route running from the Los Angeles region to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Watch the video below to go a bit deeper into the history of pneumatic tubes in the country–including their use in communications and medicine.