Retrofuturist Flashback: English Channel Monorail


From Wells' 'The War in the Air,' 1918. SSPL/Getty Images

Here we see an illustration from English science fiction pioneer H.G. Wells' 1908 novel "The War in the Air." The work is best remembered today for its prophetic predictions regarding air warfare and the coming world war, but it also features this vision of a monorail spanning the English Channel between Britain and France. This was 86 years before the Channel Tunnel or Chunnel opened in 1994, enabling ground transport between the UK and mainland Europe.

But of course the idea of channel tunnel dates back to at least the early 1800s, and a channel-spanning suspension bridge proposal was submitted to Margret Thatcher's government in 1981, five years before work began on the Chunnel.


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.