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Pneumatic Tube Systems - Cash Desks

Cash offices frequently dealt both with cash and credit transactions which required approval or "sanction". These might be done in different sections and it was convenient if the carrier could be sent automatically to the right area. One method was "magnetic separation" - one type of carrier would be magnetic and the other non-magnetic. The "pre-selector system" was more sophisticated - sanction carriers could be directed to the clerk who dealt with that alphabetical section of the accounts (before the days of computerised accounting!). A number of modern service desks were installed in Britain when stores were rebuilt after the second world war.

Desks were often designed so that they could be operated by more staff during peak hours and fewer staff in quieter periods.

An interesting picture of the life of a tube-room cashier is given in Anderson. Lilian Gilbreth and others conducted time and motion studies on the operation of tube rooms.

"First floor cash desk serving 40 departments on three floors" from an advertisement in the Drapers Record, 15 September 1900, p.674. The terminals are of the "chute" type.

Cash office on the first floor of Birmingham Co-op in 1916. It served twenty-two stations. The sending and receiving tubes appear to be next to each other.

Cash office at Porte & Markle jewellers, Winnipeg. Manitoba Morning Free Press, 22 Jul. 1910, p.11


A gravity desk serving about 16 stations in a British Co-op shop. The flowers are perhaps specially for the photograph!

Cash desk at Kennards, Croydon. 1920s?

Gravity desk: carriers arrive down the tubes on the left and slide down to the centre of the desk. The smiling clerk is inserting a carrier into one of the bank of return tubes. There are ten stations. Another clerk could work from the nearer side. Lamson brochure, 1952. See also the gravity desk at Jacksons, Reading.

A larger desk serving about 40 stations. Again the discharge tubes are on the left but the carriers drop onto a horizontal conveyor belt. Lamson brochure, 1952. See also the belt desk at Allders, Croydon.

A Lamson magnetic separator. As the incoming tubes arrive at the Service Type Desk, the separator picks off all the charge carriers and whisks them automatically to the charge authorizers through a high speed tube line. Advertisement in Chain Store Age, June 1949, p. 134