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"it slowly dawned on me that the landscape of science is maybe what interests people a great deal in science fiction."
- Gregory Benford

Sub-Atlantic Tube  
  A tunnel under the ocean; the shortest distance between the two points.  

The first successful underwater tunnel was the Thames tunnel, completed in 1843, between between Rotherhithe and Wapping in London. It was 35 feet wide and 1,300 feet long.

The Chunnel between Britain and France, a 31 mile tunnel, is probably the closest thing to what Gernsbeck described. It was completed in 1994.

"We had the honor of being the first passengers to arrive by means of the new Subatlantic Tube," said James...

"...the tube runs in a straight line between New York and Brest, France. If it were to run straight along the bottom of the ocean the distance between the two points would be from 3600 to 3700 miles due to the curvature of the earth. For this reason the tube was pushed straight through the earth, thereby making the distance only 3470 miles..."


(Sub-Atlantic Tunnel from 'Ralph 124c 41 +' by Hugo Gernsback)

"...the greatest trouble ... our engineers experienced near the middle of the tube; this point is 450 miles nearer the center of the earth and the heat became very marked. It was necessary to install large liquid-air plants at several points in the tube to reduce the heat... "There are no wheels to the tube car and it is propelled by magnetism only. At each three hundred feet is stationed a powerful tubular electromagnet, about thirty feet long, through which the tube car passes... "As the car is held suspended entirely by magnetism, there is practically no friction whatever, as there are no wheels or rails."

From Ralph 124c 41 +, by Hugo Gernsback.
Published by Modern Electrics in 1911
Additional resources -

The car itself has the features of a Dewar flask (used in Thermos bottles); there is vacuum between two solid walls, which tends to keep heat transfer to a minimum. However, it does not appear that Gernsback figured out the best feature of this kind of arrangement; you could actually do this without any motive power at all, since the tube car would "fall" into the tunnel, dropping 450 miles, and then gradually "bounce" back up to the surface. There would be some loss due to air friction, but otherwise you would get the trip for free, from an energy standpoint.

For a discussion of this option, as well as the brachistochrone problem (a straight line tunnel isn't the most efficient), see gravity-assisted subway from Larry Niven's 1976 novel A World Out Of Time.

Compare to the single vehicle tunnel from Foundation (1951) by Isaac Asimov, the pneumatic tube station from Exiles of the Moon (1931) by Schachner and Zagat, the submarine tube from An Express of the Future (1895) by Jules Verne, the vacutubes from Double Star (1956) by Robert Heinlein and the public tubes from The Houses of Iszm (1954) by Jack Vance.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Ralph 124c 41 +
  More Ideas and Technology by Hugo Gernsback
  Tech news articles related to Ralph 124c 41 +
  Tech news articles related to works by Hugo Gernsback

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