Tuesday, March 31, 2015

the last of the drive-thru banking tubes?

The Drive-Thru has always fascinated me. How the act of getting out of your car becomes too much work. Having grown up in Australia, I mostly know drive-thrus from fast-food outlets (how can I forget the head-sets, beeping fryers and frantic burger orders of my high-school KFC job!). In the US however, drive-thrus are used for all manner of services: mail, coffee, pharmacies, and banks.

Until recently, many drive-thru banks used pneumatic tubes. When I read comments to online articles on pneumatic tubes, there are invariably a string of anecdotes and memories of bank drive-thru pneumatic tubes. According to a New Jersey website, we might be seeing the last of these banking tubes however. Their numbers are dwindling. The down-sizing is taking place in the context of down-sizing of banks more generally, as banking cultures change.

Not everyone likes to do their banking online or at an ATM however. For some, there is a reassurance in the personal transaction. And for others, there is just the fun of sending money into a vacuum.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

pneumatic news

Latest WIRED news from friend Brian (who could have done something similar himself (and may still do ;)): Elon Musk's hyperloop will start construction next year - stay tuned!

Image from Twitter.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

forgotten tubes

My brother in law has always been wonderful at finding pneumatic tube references in literature. He found another in the book he was reading recently, called Amnesia, by Australian writer Peter Carey:

"So it was, strolling across the Swanston Street bridge for the first time in forty years, I found myself swimming in the giddiness of time, knowing exactly where I was and having no idea at all. I chose to go to Henry Bucks by way of Flinders Street, in order that I might pass the embalmbed corpse of The Herald building (where I had once been so firmly edited). The bitter wind drove lolly papers past its shuttered doors. I sometimes dream of the Herald as it was so long ago: the marble and terrazzo, oak panels, the whistling thumping vacuum tubes above your head. There are always bizarre copy boys and copy girls with carbon-paper smudges on their cheeks. People come and go in pursuit of unimaginable business. Some walk directly to the banks of clunking lifts. Men in hats rush past the front desk and through a swinging door"  (p53)

As I currently stroll Melbourne's Swantston Street and Flinders Street I also find myself "swimming in the giddiness of time", drowning or floating in the unfamiliar known, the uknown familiars of a city I have lived on and off in over the last 10 or so years. On the train into the city, I look out at the old Herald building and imagine all those newspaper copies whirling through tubes many years ago.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Paddington line

Steam punkers and pneumatic tube afficionados are in for a treat with the most recent Paddington movie, which has a terrific pneumatic sequence at the Geographer's Guild in London, complete with computer-controlled dispatch, tube cam and lots of brass. Watch the footage here.

Thanks to Richard Tutton, and Tom and Emma for the heads-up on this!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Lapsed London history

I can highly recommend a new article on pneumatic tubes which has appeared recently on the slickly designed Lapsed Historian website. Written by a transportoholic and history lover known as Long Branch Mike, the article entitled Get Them on the Blower traces the history of postal pneumatic tubes in London. Rich in historical detail and imagery, the article is also filled with a physical sense of the materiality of the tubes in the 19th century, with stories of experiments in making them of leather, felt, vulcanised fibre, celluloid, alluminium, brass and finally plastic with felt or leather lining. There is a lot of new material for those already familiar with pneumatic tube systems and some novel links to other fascinating kinds of tubes such as speaking tubes (see below) and voice pipes.

Reader's interested in London's pneumatic tube transport systems may be interested in Ian Steadman's article in The New Statesman.

Speaking tubes image from Wikipedia. See also the following website for a comprehensive account of speaking tubes and voicepipes: http://www.douglas-self.com/MUSEUM/COMMS/voicepipe/voicepipe.htm