A while back, a reader e-mailed me about a Hyperloop article I had written. He said the article reminded him of an experimental railway system—called an “atmospheric railway”—that was constructed in London in the 1840s. The system essentially connected a train to a piston which lived inside a semi-sealed tube placed along the length of the track, between the track’s two rails. A pumping station at the end of the train’s route pumped air out of the tube while air was allowed into the tube at the other end. This created an atmospheric pressure differential in front of and behind the piston that moved the piston—and the train connected to it—down the rails.
I was intrigued. Running trains through tubes using unconventional methods of propulsion is hardly an idea unique to the Hyperloop, but the handful of atmospheric railway systems built in the mid-19th century prove that humans have been trying to manipulate contained atmospheres for transportation purposes for centuries.
from Before the 760mph Hyperloop dream, there was the atmospheric railway