This breathless article from the August 8, 1889 issue of The Chatham Record predicts the passenger “bullet trains” that appeared nearly eighty years later.
Letters to be Carried Hundreds of Miles in an Hour.
A System Which May Revolutionize the Postal Service.
A Boston correspondent of the New Orleans Picayune says: Within a twelvemonth from the present date mail will be carried from Boston to New York City in sixty minutes. So say the capitalists who are making arrangements for the establishment of a transport line, on the so called “portelectric system, ” for the conveyance of letters and packages between the metropolis and the modern Athens. Even the least sanguine backer of the enterprise are confident that, if the expected public support is given to the scheme, not more than two years will be required at most for the establishment of the necessary plant in running order, to bring the two centers of population within an hour’s distance by post. The said plant will resemble, as to its most essential part, a little elevated railway, supported on a single line of tall iron uprights and stretching from the post office here to that on the island of Manhattan. Along the track on top runs a small car laden with mail freight, which at certain intervals during its transit is seen to go under queer-looking box-shaped arches. These box-like arrangements contain each one a coil of wire, passing beneath the rail below and around over the arch, so that the moving mail carriage runs, as it were, through a succession of coiled wire hoops. And these latter communicate the motive power to the vehicle. Such a hoop of magnetized coiled wire is called a “helix,” and possesses this peculiar property, that if a bar of iron or steel be placed with one end near the center of the coil, the bar will be drawn into that center. Place a number of similar coils in a row and start an electric current through them, then apply the bar to the first coil, and by cutting of and letting on the circuit at the proper intervals, so as to disengage the bar from the attraction of one coil in time to have it drawn on by the next, the bar may be made to move continuously through the hoops. In this way it is that the little mail car of magnetized steel is caused to pass along its rails through the successive coils of boxed-in wire, the latter being magnetized by a current from a dynamo, which the car itself shuts off and turns on automatically as it proceeds. The speed to be attained by the car in this manner is almost incalculable. As is recognized in mechanics, a constant propelling force is productive of nearly infinite velocity, obstructed only by the resistance of friction. In this system the only friction comes from the air and the slight contact of the car with the rails. Two hundred and fifty miles an hour is not thought to be an overestimate of the speed easily to be compassed by the portelectric post-dispatch. At the starting point the wire coils will have to be close together and on up-grade; but elsewhere, and especially on down grades, they may be few and far between, the motive power needed being slight. Six stations, placed at intervals between here and New York, will supply the requisite currents from dynamos.
Many experts think that the system is destined to revolutionize the postal service in this country. For instance, it is expected that instead of mails hours apart between Boston and New York, carriage will be sent over the tracks from either end of the line at five-minute intervals, thus rendering unnecessary the waiting for mails to close, and giving people in one city an opportunity to read their letters two hours after they are written in the other. Once prove the notion a success here and it will be quickly adopted everywhere. By applying it on a large scale, too, who knows that it may not serve for the transportation of passengers someday? At the rate of 250 miles an hour one could put a girdle around the earth in four days! Truly, it is a wonder century we live in.