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  1. #1
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus squirrel's Avatar
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    Mail Underground Rail, That Is Unmanned, Once Operated in London

    I know some of you hold a grudge against this newspaper called Daily Mail. I don't read it myself, but this report, brought to me in a local Chinese online forum, is too intriguing that I bet you cannot miss.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...ed-London.html

    Turns out a underground rail, serving the London public, had been operating since 1927 till the early of this century. This rail's cars were unmanned, electrified, and it could deliver at maximum 1.4B mails per year!! Very efficient system this is. What a shame the operation was terminated a decade ago since there has been lower cost alternative. But to me, I don't understand, a system manned by a staff as small as about 200 to deliver this huge quantity of mails, what system can really compete with it?

    And this is a system to overcome the notorious traffic congestion issue. I really want one to be installed in any of a city over here, say, Shanghai's post office definitely will benefit most from such a system.

    Some of my friends who happened to work in railway signal system commented that such as system is totally feasible even without overseeing of a digital system. Yes, nowadays, all unmanned rail systems all require digital systems to run, and it is reasonably to expect that digital system was not available to such a system back in 1920s, at least not for a civilian project. However, it is not a passenger transport system. Touch, wood, even if the trains colluded underground, it won't induce any human casualty.

    But make no mistake. In my own opinion, this is still a very very brilliant engineering project. What a shame this has now been reduced to a tourist site. But this is a very good sign to London, that says with brilliant also urban planning, traffic problem has largely been resolved to permit low cost of mail delivery on-time through road transport.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by squirrel View Post
    I know some of you hold a grudge against this newspaper called Daily Mail.
    There are good reasons for that. That doesn't mean every article's going to be awful; some, instead of being hate pieces, are just going to be a bit low-brow.

    As for the underground rail, yes, that's interesting stuff. Keep in mind, though, that it's pretty much bulk transport, and over short distances at that. After the mail moves from sorting office A to office B the majority of the work still has to be done.

    The article's pretty sparse as to the real meat of why it shut down; you can get more from the Wikipedia article. That the Daily Mail article is relatively shallow by comparison shouldn't be a surprise, I suppose. The short version is that not only was it more expensive to run than surface trucking, it was at least 3x as expensive. Which is almost certainly about maintenance expenses on specialized rail cars. Trucks by comparison are mass-produced, and the cost for parts is correspondingly less.

    If you were to plan such a system, you'd want to work out a way where it could use as much off-the-shelf equipment as possible, rather than machines purpose-built for it, and thus expensive to repair.

  3. #3
    So trucks with no tires that run on rails?

    Rail has always been a relatively stagnant system, which occasionally has huge leaps which are hailed momentarily, but issue is that it's not modular enough. A road, a car or even a bus is extremely modular, can be repurposed, broken down for parts easily enough and is pretty scalable. The fuel problem is the elephant in the room though, hopefully some Science smart Wizard trained business men are holding back/developing technology for when the dinosaur juice runs out.
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  4. #4
    Oh, on the Daily Mail? I used to read it for free as well as its free sister paper 'The Metro' and the Daily Mail is almost impossible to separate from parody sometimes, if you've ever heard of the concept of the 'Half hour of Hate' you can understand why it does so well. People love a little bit of controlled hate, like people love a little bit of controlled fear from horror films or a little bit of responsibility free power from AAA games..

    People are petty, DM are just filling a niche.
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  5. #5
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus karaquazian's Avatar
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    General rules of thumb
    1 if its in the mail, 90% of the story will be complete bollocks
    2 if its in the mail, stories are either a) selling fear or b) have some far right agenda behind them or c) in the majority of cases, both

    This story is a b). Expect some follow up article about how we could sack all those naughty striking train drivers.

  6. #6
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    Is this really (B) containing some hidden far-right agenda? It read more like a simplistic fluff piece. The sort of thing the National Enquirer might stuff in between a story about Bigfoot's love child with Jennifer Lopez and a photo spread of celebrities that have gained an average of 300 pounds.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heliocentric View Post
    Rail has always been a relatively stagnant system, which occasionally has huge leaps which are hailed momentarily, but issue is that it's not modular enough.
    In the larger world, though, rail is extremely modular. Each car is a module. You can mix and match them however you like. When they're going the same way, you can connect them and pull them together, and when they need to split up to go to different destinations, you can do that too.

    Need more pulling power? Add another locomotive, no need to build a bigger engine. That's a meaningful chunk of why diesel-electric completely supplanted steam, that multiple d-e's can operate well together, and steam locomotives can't. Not the initial reason of course, that was about fuel costs and the water supply problem, and there's also the torque curve of electric motors, which is pretty much flat and handles standing starts well. Even so there was an attempt to bring back steam in the 50's in some parts of the world with new, more fuel efficient designs, but the need for single, large powerful drivers instead of multiple locomotives proved to be a huge problem due to starting slippage.

  8. #8
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Zephro's Avatar
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    I have a Daily Mail blocker install, but is this news? It's been common knowledge for ages hasn't it? Or have they discovered some royal mail paedo ring or something because some of the letters had pediatrician written on them?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zephro View Post
    I have a Daily Mail blocker install, but is this news? It's been common knowledge for ages hasn't it?
    It's news if you're not a UK citizen. I had no idea that London had such a thing. The miniature trains are neat, in a pneumatic-tube sort of way.

    Also, possibly if you're a regular reader of the Daily Mail. I just sort of assume that they're underinformed.

  10. #10
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus L_No's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gus_Smedstad View Post
    It's news if you're not a UK citizen. I had no idea that London had such a thing. The miniature trains are neat, in a pneumatic-tube sort of way.
    Was news for me too. Thanks for linking it, I love reading about underground structures like these. I hope they will open it to tourists in the future, that would be a definite must-see when I'm in London again.
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  11. #11
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Zephro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by L_No View Post
    Was news for me too. Thanks for linking it, I love reading about underground structures like these. I hope they will open it to tourists in the future, that would be a definite must-see when I'm in London again.
    That is actually going to be a thing. http://londonist.com/2014/03/mail-ra...ls-to-visitors

    When the Mount Pleasant sorting office is converted into the Royal Mail museum next year, they've put seats in the trains so people can have a go. Also lots of good pubs around Mount Pleasant, though the fact Boris sold off lots of the land for luxury idiot flats is still a somewhat bitter pill.

  12. #12
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus L_No's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zephro View Post
    That is actually going to be a thing. http://londonist.com/2014/03/mail-ra...ls-to-visitors

    When the Mount Pleasant sorting office is converted into the Royal Mail museum next year, they've put seats in the trains so people can have a go. Also lots of good pubs around Mount Pleasant, though the fact Boris sold off lots of the land for luxury idiot flats is still a somewhat bitter pill.
    Nice, thanks for the link! I'll keep this in mind.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fumarole View Post
    Never go full Wulf.

  13. #13
    Moderator alms's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heliocentric View Post
    A road, a car or even a bus is extremely modular, can be repurposed, broken down for parts easily enough and is pretty scalable. The fuel problem is the elephant in the room though, hopefully some Science smart Wizard trained business men are holding back/developing technology for when the dinosaur juice runs out.
    Good luck finding any non-trivial replacement part for a (n even only relatively) modern car that hasn't had to be designed for that model and often build date (in some cases you must also match the original manufacturer, whenever different parts are used on the same model in the same year because of volume or stuff)

    Cars and buses are also slow, dangerous, expensive and inefficient, and if you can read while travelling on one without feeling queasy then it's proof you're actually an Ancient One and I'm not going to talk to you anymore.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gus_Smedstad View Post
    In the larger world, though, rail is extremely modular. Each car is a module. You can mix and match them however you like. When they're going the same way, you can connect them and pull them together, and when they need to split up to go to different destinations, you can do that too.
    Hm, if you look at passenger trains, especially more or less recent ones, you may find them to be not always as modular as old-fashioned ones and freight trains.
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  14. #14
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Zephro's Avatar
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    When the rail underground worked at a profit it wasn't simply because of vans, the traffic jams in London kind of preclude vans being more efficient. There used to be mail collections in London like 12 times a day with delivery times of an hour within London, so the underground was used to shift mail between offices at one side of the city to the other extremely fast. The volume for that has dropped off massively and these days one or two collections a day is the norm. So the volume isn't there to sustain it as offices just send emails, or before that faxes.

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