Monday, July 14, 2008

A Secret Mail Delivery System Just BEGGING to Be Used





Over the years, I have worked in several old New York office buildings that possessed the same curious feature: On each floor, one would find a small, oddly-shaped box that read "MAIL." These weren't ordinary letter boxes, that much was certain. Each was linked to a metal or clear plastic tube that stretched from ceiling to floor. The mail was supposed to GO somewhere--but where? And how?

A little detective work led me to the answer. The boxes were the remains of a super-cool and mostly forgotten means of mail delivery: The pneumatic tube system.

Few people know that more than 27 miles of pneumatic tubes lie underneath Manhattan. The system, which is well over a hundred years old, was built at a time when New York's streets were even more filthy and congested than they are today. Aboveground mail delivery was difficult and time consuming, so the pneumatic tube system was built to deliver mail underground to post offices throughout New York City.




Shot by air pressure, cylindrical canisters filled with mail (such as the one shown above) would whiz through the tubes at up to 35 miles an hour, arriving at their destinations within minutes. At one point roughly 1/3 of all the mail sent or received in the city was sent via the underground system. In fact, it was so successful that many office buildings adopted pneumatic tubes for their own internal mail.

Okay, okay. That's all really interesting (yawn), right? But here's the thing. The system is STILL DOWN THERE. What would it take to put it back into service? And what purposes (good or evil) might it serve? It seems to me that a secret means of delivering information or objects throughout New York could come in handy. If I could only think of how . . .

Read more about pneumatic tubes in New York (and around the world) here.

PS: Happy Bastille Day!

24 Comments:

Blogger Quarguana said...

That is seriously cool. The most interesting thing in wisconsin are the museums and the sheer amount of cows. The capital isn't even the biggest city.

9:28 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

SO COOL. How come it is not still being used?? What a waste...

9:43 PM  
Blogger Jin Ai said...

Awesome.
That has got to be one of the coolest inventions ever.
How does it work? I mean, how does it know where to stop? Do they all go to the same place?

10:05 PM  
Anonymous Hazel said...

There's one like that in the playroom at the science center in Annapolis. I visited once when I was little and I sent scribbles to Nellie all day and never let the other kids use it. *evil grin*

4:23 AM  
Anonymous Hazel said...

HELP! Muslim Irregular's blog has disappeared. Has it really been deleted, or is it because I denied them a cookie? I am sad!
Now that I think about it, MI hasn't been commenting for a while, has she?

4:39 AM  
Blogger Random Irregular said...

Whoa/Awesome/Cool.

I've seen omething like that in supermarkets, where the extra money from the register is send up in a tube like that. I've always thought to remember to research about it but alwyas forget. Are there any of these things elsewhere in the world? And in supermarkets? O_o

4:57 AM  
Anonymous nellie said...

YES!! I love those things.

6:52 AM  
Anonymous Rose said...

Super. I wonder what someone could use it for now?

12:08 PM  
Anonymous ScarletDevil said...

"We're going behind schedule."
"See this? That's an efficient mail system. I demand we build that in our base."

That's so awesome...
We must not use it for good or evil, but to create mystery itself...

12:10 PM  
Blogger Ariana said...

That sounds a lot like the pneumatic subway you posted about a few years ago. That would be so cool to use! Once when I visited Chicago the hotel we were in had something like that...
Maybe it was the same type of mail system...

12:58 PM  
Blogger Ariana said...

I read more of the article that was linked to the post and it said Chicago did have pneumatic mail systems! So that floor to ceiling mail slot tubes were a pneumatic mail system!

Awesome!

1:09 PM  
Blogger Jin Ai said...

On my blog, the newest posts go to the bottom. Where do I change this in the settings?

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Rhapsody said...

Instead of having Kiki Strike bringing tunnels back to being explored we can have the secret mail back to being used!


Secret messages how amazing is that!

6:01 PM  
Blogger liltomboyblue11;) said...

Hazel: The exact same thing has happened to me... I noticed that too, and, ironically enough, I was going to post ruffly the same thing.... anyone know anything?

Also, they use that at banks. It sends the check (and some times the lollipop :P) down the tube to the person in the car... it's pretty cool. I had no idea about the mail thing though...

8:19 PM  
Anonymous Patsee said...

It's like the little canisters in which they put your money to get it to the teller at the bank drive-through!!! Except 47 x 10-to-the-nine-hundred-fifth-power times cooler. And a heck of a lot longer.

8:50 PM  
Blogger Jin Ai said...

Huh?? What bank drive thrus?
Am I being astonishingly ignorant as usual, or is this something you don't get in the city?

11:44 PM  
Blogger Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City said...

Jin Ai: In places where people actually own cars (i.e.: not here), banks have drive-thrus like restaurants, and they often use pneumatic systems so you can put your checks in a canister and send them to a teller inside. I always loved those when I was a kid.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Jin Ai said...

LOL that sounds cool. People think of the strangest (but coolest) things....

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Patsee said...

I thought everyone had bank drive-throughs.... 0.o Odd. Maybe the city isn't all it's cracked up to be.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patsee: I thought so to. Ignorance is bliss, except when you want to know something, then it's annoying.

8:18 PM  
Blogger Jin Ai said...

Don't worry, Patsee. To compensate, we have banks squeezed in between every two shops. You can't walk two blocks without running into a sign announcing the arrival of some new bank...*shudder*

8:53 PM  
Blogger Persephone said...

You could use it to send secret formulas or evil plans to your accomplices all over New York, and use it to take over the world! MWAHAHAAA! >:)

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Max said...

reminds me of those things at the bank... why the heck isn't it being used????????????

6:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i wonder what would happen if someone sent a letter through one of those... and where it would end up

8:30 PM  

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