Pneumatic Tubes

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Pneumatic Mail in Europe

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1884 Paris's Pneumatic Tubes

The Tubes Pneumatique of Paris date as far back as 1867. The first tubes connected the Bourse and the Grand Hotel beginning what would become an enormous system several hundred miles in tubes (Scientific American 1884). Like the system used in America, the tube is filled with compressed air in a partial vacuum. Instead of using air pumps or any engines, the Parisian system worked using power from the city's reservoir. Originally there were three large connected iron plated vessels that could hold 1,200 gallons each. The first vessel was filled with water, which was pushed into the other two vessels, which were filled with air. The air becomes compressed and once a valve was opened the air escaped rushing with force into the tubes (London Engineer).

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Prague's central office featuring historical working pneumatic post system

The height of pneumatic post in Paris was in the 1930's where a letter, which the French called a "pneu" could get anywhere in the city in less than two hours. 240 miles of tubing created the net like system that laid just underneath Paris, carrying letter at an average speed of 40 m.p.h. After World War II the system was expanded and modernized but eventually began to decline and the Parisian pneumatic postal system ended in 1984 (Vincour).

The Prague pneumatic post was completed in 1899 with 60 kilometers that could transport letter, documents, and small parcel at 30 m.p.h. Prague's pneumatic post is the only working historical model left in the world. Today not much has changed except the number of parcel sent which use to number in the millions each year and now has dwindled into thousands every month. The post employs fifteen people altogether¬– nine workers and six dispatchers. Incoming parcels are indicated by a blinking red light and outgoing parcels by a green light. Every parcel must make a stop on Jindrisska street as the network is star shaped (Drake). Pneumatic postal networks are so much like highways, it is no wonder the word 'pneu' is also the French word for car tire.


"The Pneumatic Telegraph Lines of Paris." Scientific American (1845-1908); Dec13, 1884: Vol.LI, No. 24; APS Online pg. 395

London Engineer. "The Pneumatic Dispatch Tube in Paris." New York Observer and Chronicle (1833-1912); May 16, 1867; 45, 20; APS Online pg. 157.

Vinocur, John. "Paris Pneumatique is Now a Dead Letter." The New York Times, March 31, 1984, Saturday, Late City Final Edition, Section 1; Page 29, Column 2; Style Desk, 723 words.

Drake, James. "A Relic That Hasn't Gone Down the Tubes." Business Week, October 8, 2001, Business Week International Editions; Letter From Prague; Number 3752; Pg. 4, 1435 words.