The Pneumatic Despatch Company

What was the Pneumatic Despatch Railway?

The Scottish engineer William Murdoch developed a system in the early 19th century which used compressed air to propel cylinders through a tube but it was only in 1859, twenty years after his death, that the Pneumatic Despatch Company was founded to build and operate a pneumatic railway for the General Post Office.


After trials at Battersea, in which wheeled capsules containing parcels, mailbags and even intrepid employees were sent hurtling through a specially constructed tunnel at speeds of up to 40 mph, the company built several lines between Euston and post offices in London. The system was only in operation for a few years and finally closed in 1874 when the GPO decided it wasn’t cost-effective.


Answered by: Nick Rennison