A Subway Through the Sahara (Sep, 1929)

I think they might be missing a few issues here…

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A Subway Through the Sahara

A tunnel railway beneath the shifting Sahara desert sands of northern Africa, covering the thousand miles between Morocco and Timbuktu, is proposed by a French engineer as a solution of desert travel.

COINCIDENT with the project of a tunnel under the English channel to connect France and England, a French engineer, Paul Remy, has conceived the idea of a 125-mile subway through the Sahara desert in northern Africa. The route of the railway would cover the 1000 miles between Morocco and Timbuktu, but all except 125 miles of this distance can be built on stretches of rocky and barren land which offer no obstacles to a surface railway. The 125-mile stretch of country known as the Shifting Sands in the heart of the Sahara, is filled with sand dunes which blow up overnight to tremendous heights, only to disappear on their endless march where the hot winds bore through them and urge them onward. Surface rails, of course, would be impossible in this land where mountains of wind-blown sand would cover them overnight.

For this reason Remy’s tunnel project seems the only practicable idea yet advanced for speeding up desert travel. As proposed, the tunnel would be a huge metal tube supported on a skeleton viaduct of cross-ties and piles sunk into the sand.

It would be a simple task to construct pipe lines through the shell of the tube so that water, gas, electric cables and telephone lines could be run through them. Power for the trains would naturally be electric, since it would be impossible to use coal or oil-burning locomotives because of the ventilation problems involved.

In time the desert sands would submerge the tunnel entirely, insulating it from the intense heat so that travel would be far more comfortable inside the tunnel than upon the surface. Were it not for the fact that there is no water available, it would be possible to plant grasses in the sands and anchor them with plant growth so that they could not shift overnight. As it is, however, the tunnel seems to be the only possible means of bridging the heart of the desert.

Fantastic as such a scheme sounds at first, and high as would be the initial cost, no other entirely satisfactory method of rapidly crossing the shifting sand area has been offered. For both economic and military reasons France is determined to build a railway across the Sahara. Some means of rapid transport of troops in case of a national emergency, is very desirable.

  1. Stannous says: July 7, 20064:02 pm

    Like whether to use tokens or coins?

  2. Anon says: June 8, 20117:38 pm

    This would be entirely practical. Very, very expensive, but completely practical. Use the same technology used for submerged tubes on river crossings.

    125 miles would have some difficult ventilation problems, but it could be force-ventilated from either end, or a few deeply anchored ventilation towers could be built in the middle.

    However, the politics is entirely different now, and there’s no demand for military or trade transport across that part of the Sahara, so it will never happen.

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