I love pneumatic tubes. Always have. I’m talking about those clear tubes at the bank that carry your deposit from the drive-thru inside to the teller. You know what I’m talking about. You put your deposit in an envelope, then place it inside a plastic shuttle. After setting it back on the little tray, you hit the green button and off it goes. I never did figure out if it was sucked in by vacuum or pushed in by compressed air, but that doesn’t matter, the results are the same. And I’ve always wanted to just curl up in that little plastic shuttle to take a ride.
So when I came across what looked like a hyperbaric chamber in downtown Asheville, I did a double-take. There in broad daylight, on a Broadway sidewalk on Friday morning, July 8, was the contraption.
It takes four men to lift just one section of elevator “tubing” off the skid and set it upright in place. Each section weighs between 650 and 700 pounds.
While walking down Broadway Friday morning, July 8, I came across the contraption, sitting on the sidewalk. I walked around it and eyed it from every side, amusing myself by wondering how I could pick it up and carry it to Finkelstein’s Pawn. Before I could figure out where to get a handhold on it, a guy came up and introduced himself. He shook my hand and told me his name was Bill Brown, the owner of Carolina Home Lift here in Asheville. I asked him what the hyperbaric chamber was for and he laughed.
It’s not a hyperbaric chamber at all. It’s a full-size version of those pneumatic tubes that I’ve been fascinated by since I was a kid. But Brown’s was big enough to hold one adult (more or less). It’s a fancy new elevator being installed in the future home of Chocolate Gems. The elevator will take one, maybe two people from the artists’ studio in the basement to the ground floor, where Chocolate Gems will be, up to the third-floor private residence.
The elevator tube sets beneath the pre-cut hole through which the tubes will be stacked and the ‘capsule’ will move up and down by air pressure
Bill went on to tell me all about this contraption, the first of its kind for Asheville. It operates just like the pneumatic tubes at your local bank. A combination of air pressure and vacuum send the elevator — with one occupant or so, not weighing over 450 pounds — either up or down. In case of power failure, the system has a battery backup. And in case THAT fails, and the elevator is on the third floor, the cushion of air will allow the capsule to float back to the basement level.
I’m going to keep an eye on the installation — maybe one day they’ll let me get a ride.