[FoRK] The World Is Not Flat

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Wed Jan 20 14:08:33 PST 2010

Ken Ganshirt @ Yahoo wrote:
> --- On Wed, 1/20/10, Stephen Williams <sdw at lig.net> wrote:
>> Aaron Burt wrote:
>>> ...
>>> I still believe there is a significant opportunity for someone with the
>>> right knowlege and contacts in the rail networks to offer fractional-
>>> container shipping to compete with LTL shipping at the slow/cheap end of
>>> the market. 
>> What are probably needed are technologies to make loading
>> and offloading fast, automated, and nearly free energy
>> wise.  For instance, imagine a train / trucking
>> transfer point where the train never stops or even slows
>> down much.  
> I seen that stuff in the Westerns when I was a kid back in the 50's. Train would just blow through town and grab the sack of outbound mail off a pole and toss out the inbound one without slowing down at all. It never did catch on. Maybe it was a little ahead of its time?  ;-)
>         ...ken...
Apparently it was used in the UK for a long time. 
After a manual catch and drop start, it was in use from 1838 until 
1971.  I suppose that qualifies as catching on there.

An even more interesting example was the Skyhook:

> Modeled after the way British trains picked up mailbags from the side 
> of the track, Fulton designed a method for airplanes to pick up people 
> on the ground without ever landing.
> The Skyhook was in operation for until 1996 and even with its risky 
> nature only one fatality was ever reported. However, with advances in 
> helicopter ranges and the ability for mid air-refuels, the Skyhook 
> became obsolete. Skyhook did have it's place in popular culture, 
> appearing in several movies including the James bond flick, 
> Thunderball, and the more recent film, The Dark Knight. Robert E. 
> Fulton Jr. died in 2004 at the age of 95.

Or even from space:
> The first successful mission use of mid-air recovery was on 1960-08-19 
> when a C-119 recovered film from the Corona mission code-named 
> Discoverer 14. This was the first successful recovery of film from an 
> orbiting satellite and the first aerial recovery of an object 
> returning from Earth orbit.[1]

There's some good material about it in the Hiller Aviation Museum in San 
Carlos, CA.

However, none of that is continuous motion based, which is what I was 
suggesting: the platform should be moving at the same speed as the train 
so that the cargo on the car is stationary to the load/unload dock and 
mechanism.  "Continuous motion" is a term of art in manufacturing 
systems: everything keeps moving smoothly rather than start/stop stations.


More information about the FoRK mailing list