Jet Postal 'Pneumo' System
...................(look at all that stuff the pneumos system need to operate in Rapture ....)
How a pneumo system works - basic mechanism is an object propelled by a stream of air in one direction in a pipe(line).
Unfortunately the actual item (letter or can of food) flying along thru a tube doesnt quite work in the real world. A capsule container that fits closely inside the line/pipe/tube is needed for the air flow to properly carry it the distance.
The tubes usually travel point to point, and a more complicated machine is needed to change between tubes to be able to 'route' to differing destination. To be 'automatic' a mechanism is required that can 'label' a shipment to guide the routing logic (where to send the shipment...). By shifting the airflow, the same tube can be used to move objects in both directions.
Within a short time of its functioning (Ryan Industries installed the Pneumo system in 1956), the Pneumo was integrated with the Rapture Mail Service. A combination system allows Manual delivery - mail sent to post office for routing and delivery at mailboxes by postman.
- Normal mailbox service - local deliveries - batches of mail sent to postman who makes hand delivery to local ordinary mailboxes. Mailman Bundles are commonly distributed via the Jet Postal (as are letters the Postman picks up).
Cost - the system was simple enough that the machinery required were not expensive and the maintenance was low. This allowed operating at a profit with reasonably low mailing charge. Additional charges are made for extended service.
Moving mail/small packages using the Pneumo was very convenient, so was used with great frequency, which brought several expansions of the system.
- A Coin slot for mailing charges (sending/receiving and optional service). The Pneumo Box wont open until you pay (helps prevent people using them as garbage cans).
- Mailing Tokens - standard 'letter' postage that the JetPostal system 'pneumo tubes' accept in their coin slot. Stamps are also accepted for 'manually' processed mail (mail sent to 'POST-OFFICE').
- A built-in weight scale adjusts mailing charges for each shipment (if over the standard 'letter' weight). System will 'reject' if load is overweight.
Cargo size limits - (maximum size - 14x14x20 and weight limit ~ 20 lb). There is a rejection/ejection mechanism for loads that exceed the limits (and dimensionally if the capsule door wont close.
Addressing system :
- Dial entry (like a telephone 6 digit) Postal Code (which includes all mailboxes in Rapture and all the Satellite sites/communities). The numbering system includes a letter abbreviations for areas of Rapture in which each tube/mailbox is located. A magnetic tag is programmed into the capsule which is used by the system to direct and route to the destination.
- Many units had a built-in phone 'intercomm' for a customer directory service - an operator would look up a person/place in a directory and apply the correct code for the transfer (this would require an additional charge).
- Dialing a 'Receive' code for a postbox - pneumo postboxes can be used for receiving mail as well as sending it (if the customer has paid for that service). Prearrangement would be made tro 'hold' mail so that it could be 'forwarded' on demand.
Auto Sorting of mail - small loads (like individual letters) are consolidated at Substations automatically for forwarding long distance
Auto-sorting PO Boxes - a bank of mailboxes that the Pneumo delivers to and sorts incoming mail into the correct mailbox slot. (Customer has to come to the PO BOX to pickup their mail).
Typical Pneumo Tube usage sequence :
- Press the MAILING button,
- Put in first coin, empty capsule arrives (if not already present),
- User opens door and fills compartment (capsule), an Indicator shows weight.
- User Closes door.
- User dials in the destination number (6-digits) or presses POSTOFFICE button for manual processing.
- The remaining Charge is shown and user puts in any balance of coins.
- User presses GO button and the mailing is jetting on its way.
- Local Office - a mechanical (automatic) instalation - a group of Pneumo Tube each send direct to their nearby 'Local Office'
--- -- Individual Pneumo Boxes are each connected by a single 2-way line into a Pneumo Local Office, where the more complicated routing system is shared between numerous 'tube' mailboxes in an area. From there, the address tag is read and the Local Office routes the capsule appropriately (to another Local Office or to a central Substation).
- Jet Postal Substation - manned Postal station that processes manual mail(sorting), and has PO Boxes and other functions requiring a human. Serves as hub for transfer tubes, centralized air compressors and additional auto-routing control and monitoring equipment. There is at least one Substation per 'Plaza' hub.
- Jet Postal Central - Administration, billing, directory service, and complaint department, overflow handling.
- Lost-n-Found Warehouse - periodically a magnetic tag fails and there is no return address on the shipment. Some very interesting and sometimes embarassing items have accumulated at the City's Jet Postal Lost-n-Found department.
As with so many other things, people dont realize of how complex/large the whole mechanism is required to make a communication service actually work. All they see is the Pneumo-box or the Mailboxes and/or a counter at a Post office.
- 'Pneumo Tube' Post boxes - the mailing machines the public deals with.
- Capsules - designed to efficiently travel thru the tubes without jamming/gumming and to protect the cargo while making the high speed transits (hitting 100mph for long ranged transfers). Capsules have a simple magnetic tag used for automatic routings.
- Piping - the 'lines' :
--- -- The sending end increases its air pressure and the receiving end introduces a vaccuum. The capsule's seals make a near airtight fit which allows the force of the air to efficiently move the capsule to the other end. A slow spin is induced on the capsule to prevent uneven wear of the seals.
--- -- Note the size of the 'line' tubes in the diagram - illustrates some of the 'stuff under the floors' that people dont realize about Raptures construction (or that of any modern city).
--- -- Line Pipe is a standard 1/2 inch thick steel tubing (long distance lines may use a stronger 1 inch thick steel - they may pass thru 'open ocean' with its crushing 280+ psi pressure).
--- -- The Pneumo line Pipes were made with removable liners (inside the permanent structural pipe), which could be easily extracted/replaced via accessible access points. This guaranteed a fully sealed and smooth passage and eliminated costly/difficult repairs for worn pipes.
--- -- 'Local' Lines run between the Pneumo 'Tube' machines to a Local Office. They are at most a few hundred feet long.
--- -- 'Transfer' Lines run between Local Office to Substations or direct routes to other Local Offices. They could be a thousand feet long and often ran in a large loop.
--- -- 'Trunk' Lines run long distance between Substations (generally one per 'Plaza' cluster) that can be miles apart. These require higher pressures (and had more pipe volume because of their length to handle). The capsules move through them at much higher speeds. For the longest trunks out to distant communities and industrial sites, repeater stations were used to push the mail capsules the required distance.
--- -- As a single line tube can only handle traffic in one direction at a time, heavy traffic routes have a line in each direction. Low-traffic lines can use a single tube in which the flow direction is reversed at need. (the two endpoints signal each other electricly as to which one wants to 'send').
- Compressors, Air & Vacuum pumps, Air Reservoirs - drive the capsules thru the lines/pipes by pressure differential. Air dryers to control moisture that can cause icing problems when large amounts of compressed air used. Vacuum Compensation chambers absorb the air impulse sent in along various 'lines' (more controlled valves and exhaust paths... tubes everywhere ...).
- Control :
--- -- Line pressure doors (sliding plates) that allow local airflow to precisely control a capsules movement into and out of the various machinery and queueing tubes.
--- -- LOTS of electrically controlled air valves (much of the machinery is pneumatically actuated and relay logic controlled).
--- -- LOTS of air pressure sensors and 'feeler' mechanical contacts to act as sensors for the system logic.
--- -- Communication lines between the various machines used to signal send/receive/status commands. The mechanisms were designed to use simple logic that did not require any fancy electronics and could if needed be controlled remotely by an operator. Audit tapes(paper) can record the address and movement signals of mail traffic.
--- -- Routing address system - Magnetic Readers and Writers used for the addressing logic (Magnetic Tags on the Capsules), routing control logic and mechanism
--- -- Auto-routers that make decisions for smart redundant pathing, load leveling, and failure adaption (manually programmed alternates). Alot was based on phone system logic.
- Sorting :
--- -- Sorting machines - addressed mail loads are dumped appropriately into sort bins, PO Boxes, forwarding Capsules.
--- -- Sorting bins - Manual (Capsule's mail get auto-dumped into a bin) or Automatic content sifted into PO Box)
--- -- Station PO Boxes (for customers who prefer a seperate destination for mail).
--- -- Holding Buffers - used for 'On-Request' deliveries (user dials their ID and a mailing held in the central buffers is sent to the mailbox/Pneumo Tube the customer is at). Similar to an 'indexing dry cleaning storage rack' that can cycle insert/retrieve from a continuous chain. Overflow could be handled by a central buffer located at the 'Central' office.
- 'Empty' pneumo capsules 'Ammunition' magazines (located at the Local Offices, Substations and Central site). 'Empty capsules were kept handy so busy customers do not have to wait for their shipment to be sent off. Automatic Logic keeps a supply of 'empties' local and sends for more before they get depleted.
- Ordinary mailboxes which mailings can be manually delivered to (and picked-up from).
- Pressure Seal for the Pneumo 'lines' at Bulkheads :
--- -- When a section of Rapture gets a pressure increase (major leak) it trips the automatic seals, and its bulkhead pressure seals close (passageways, ventilation, pneumo tubes all get closed off together -- electric power and water do not and some 'hardened' utility 'mains' have their own independant seals).
--- -- A small automatic door closes off the pneumo line pipes that pass thru the bulkhead (with the usual failsafe' double door mechanism that will seal even if a capsule blocks one of the doors). The 'simple' failsafe pressure seals are designed to require manual reopening once the problem is solved - closing/sealing reliably is the greatest concern.
- Isolation Valves - large pipe valves used to isolate line sections that have air leaks (and act as backups to Bulkhead seals). These can be remotely controlled.
- Substation components are modular allowing different combinations of equipment to meet the traffic and usage patterns of the location. Numbers of Trunk lines and area Local Offices varied as did the needs for Empty storage, On-Request Buffering, PO-Boxes, etc... Local Offices were more standardized, and if needed multiples were placed to handle larger numbers of Pneumo 'Tubes' deployed.
Redundancy on System Failure :
- A red light on the Pneumo Box would indicate that that Box was not operable.
- Busy areas had nearby Pneumo Boxes alternate between 2 (sometimes 3) different Local Offices, so that if there was a major failure, a nearby box was likely to still be working.
- Local Offices have more than one connected transfer line so that it can continue to operate if one is broken.
- Hand sorting can be done if an Auto-router is broken (and the auto-router is double redundant itself)
- Manual delivery via manned stations can be done if a local system is completely broken (fallback to the system used before Jet Postal was available).
- The system had automatic failure reporting to speed improve repair time and keep the system available to customers.
- Failing long distance Trunk lines often have a second or even third parallel line. Trunk Single-line failures can be routed around via other trunks to other destinations (a Substation has trunk lines running to multiple 'adjacent' hubs - never less than 3).
The pneumo lines can be used to circulate air in an emergency when the primary air ventilation system (and its backups) have failed. Several locations in the 'ruins' are currently (MMORPG time) getting all of their fresh air this way.
Security - The Pneumo 'Tube' machine can have an optional 'hidden' camera that could be used in 'problem' locations where the Jet Postal was being used for illegal activities or suffered continuing vandalism. Plans to install gun turrets were never seriously considered, though hack/tampering 'shock' boobytraps and alarms were often installed.
More than a few companies purchased Pneumo equiptment and ran their own in-house mailing system, which was convenient for transfering paperwork and small items within an office building or manufacturing company. Some private systems even had long-distance 'transfer' lines running between buidings and even to private residences. The Jet Postal company could be contracted to maintain the systems as an option.
A larger package-sized Pneumo system was being tested around the time of the start of the Civil War and was then never completed. The system would likely have only run between Substations due to the cost of laying down the much larger pipes the package-sized lines used. It was also thought that there would be too much competition from the existing Freight companies and the planned 'package-size' was too limiting.
Note - Pneumo Tube seen in the Smugglers Hideout in BS1 -- how much contraband was simply 'mailed' to the smuggler's customers ???.
Later Pneumo Tube machines had a built-in system to forward the collected coins/tokens on to Jet Postal Administration (and to be tallied with recorded shipments). This cut down the frequency (and expense) of manual servicing and removed some temptation for hacking/vandalism-theft.
McClendon Robotics was contracted by Ryan to see if they could make a mini Security FlyBot which could fold to fit in the standard 14x14x20 Pneumo Capsule. Being able to quickly deploy Security Bots from Pneumo Tubes located throughout the City would be very useful. It is not known what the project achieved, or if it was even feasible (it may have been decided to wait for the larger 'package' Pneumo system). Inability to carry a sufficiently large gun or flamethrower may have been the issue.
After 'the fall' of Rapture we probably should have seen alot of Pneumo Capsules being used as containers all over the city (handy size, close airtight, lightweight, strong, lots of them). I was never really sure what those half-leather covered 'crates' we found so many of were supposed to originally be for.
Was anybody else ever reminded of Daleks when you first saw the Pneumo Tubes ???