Mechanics of the Future (Feb, 1936)

Mechanics of the Future

• SCENES on this page, taken from the recent G-B (Gaumont-British) feature film, “Transatlantic Tunnel,” represent a high degree of ingenuity in forecasting the inventions of the next quarter century, as will be seen.

This is scientific and mechanical fiction, not science and mechanics; the film tells a story, without endeavoring to demonstrate its possibility mathematically. The Transatlantic Tunnel, from England to the Azores, to Bermuda, to New York, is proposed to link the Old World and the New. As foreshadowed in one of our past issues, the future high-speed tunnel is to have cars operating in vacuum.

Scene showing the approach of the Transatlantic Tunnel at the British end: observe the autogyros, as well as cars.

Above, the tunnel, with its boring head—the “Radium Drill”— which is to advance two feet a minute. This melts the rock, a part of which is used to reenforce the sides. Left, one of the numerous television scenes of the film, which represents a time long after television has turned the corner and become a routine of daily life.

One of the air locks is shown above. In the story, romance and adventure are paramount, the mechanical details but the setting against which they are seen. The engineer in charge closes the doors against entombed men, including his own son, when the tunnel encounters an unforeseen disaster from a submarine volcano. An interesting advance showing of the picture was presented, with a tunnel in New York as its theatre.

In the distance may be seen the setting of the tunnel-mouth buildings, pictured above. Foreground, technicians at work on the film.

A motion picture must be worked out in someone’s mind before it can be acted before the camera. This is particularly true when it deals with events in the past or in the future; so that scenery and scenes must be created that have no existence at the present time. One of the designer’s sketches of the interior of the tunnel, to be compared with the actual photograph at the upper right, showing the set built from it. Another sketch, (center) was not used; the conception of the tunnel having been evidently altered in working out the course of the action.

Construction headquarters as it is presented, with the instrument boards communicating with all parts of the work.

  1. tratclif says: December 2, 201012:19 pm

    I’d just run across this film in an iPod/iPad app that streams public-domain movies. I’ll have to sit down and watch it, although the first few minutes weren’t promising in terms of acting and writing. It looks like an early version of “but the effects were good.”

    The iPhone app is “MovieVault” for anyone interested.

  2. Charlene says: December 2, 201012:31 pm

    Thank you for the app recommendation, tratclif!

    Off to enjoy “Attack of the Giant Leeches”…

  3. Kosher Ham says: December 2, 201012:35 pm

    To the Azores? A trans-Atlantic tunnel between the U.S. and Europe should follow a great circle route to cut transit time.

  4. Charlene says: December 2, 201012:52 pm

    KH, a great circle route is the shortest distance but doesn’t allow for a midpoint stop in case of emergency.

    Then again, they could be as geographically challenged as the guy I was talking to yesterday who thought that New York and London were at about the same latitude.

  5. jayessell says: December 2, 20108:38 pm

    I’ve seen the movie online.
    I’ve also seen something on TV describing how it could actually be built.
    As soon as artificial diamond is a common building material it becomes practical.
    You’ll need several million tons of it.
    Would going over the north pole avoid the deep portions of the ocean?
    Could the ‘tunnels’ be 300 feet below sea level if they were held in place?

  6. Firebrand38 says: December 2, 20109:10 pm

    And now you all can watch it too…

  7. Daniel Rutter says: December 2, 201011:34 pm

    The Channel Tunnel is 50.5 kilometres in length, and the first serious proposals to build it arose about 140 years before the tunnel was finally completed.

    Logically, therefore, a 5000km transatlantic tunnel, which first became a (somewhat) serious engineering proposed in the 1960s, can reasonably be expected to open for traffic somewhere around the year 15,800 AD.

  8. Stephen says: December 3, 20106:21 am

    I wonder if Harry Harrison saw this film before writing “A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!”?

  9. Anton says: December 3, 20107:26 am

    Firbrand38, Thanks for the instant link to the showing of the completed film: and to Charlie and the previous commentators as well.

  10. jayessell says: December 3, 201010:51 am

    Re #5:
    Sorry… of course I meant BILLIONS of tons of artificial diamond or
    something like it.

  11. Kosher Ham says: December 4, 201012:28 pm

    A great circle route would have its midpoint at Greenland.

  12. Jari says: December 4, 20101:56 pm

    After playing with the shortest tunnel system would be something like Newfoundland-Azores-Madeira-Canaries/Lisbon/Morocco (My copy-pasting of airport codes started to fail after FNC of Madeira…). Longest tunnel section between St.Johns and Santa Cruz would be over 1200 miles long… Also as America and Europe are drifting apart about 2 cm per year, you’ll need some kind of sliding section and volcanic shield in the Mid-Atlantic drift.

  13. Jari says: December 4, 20102:13 pm

    And Kosher Ham is also correct, should have tried first this instead: http://www.earthbrowser… Another good route would be Labrador-Greenland-Iceland-Faroe-Shetland-Orkney or Bergen etc.

  14. jayessell says: December 4, 20104:31 pm

    The oceans are in the way.
    How about south through Africa, through Antartica, and north through South America?

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