https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1266006/royal-mail-post-office-london-underground-mail-rail-museum-world-war-1-sptRoyal Mail exposed: Inside post service’s underground railway network hidden below LondonROYAL MAIL has an underground railway network below London that it used for 76 years to transport post around the capital, but not many people know about it.
By CALLUM HOARE
PUBLISHED: 10:30, Tue, Apr 7, 2020 | UPDATED: 10:38, Tue, Apr 7, 2020
The Post Office Railway, also known as Mail Rail, is a two-foot driverless underground railway built by the Post Office with assistance from the Underground Electric Railways Company of London, to transport mail between sorting offices. Inspired by the Chicago Tunnel Company, a plan in 1911 evolved to build a 6-and-a-half mile-long network from Paddington to Whitechapel serving the main sorting offices along the route as road traffic congestion was causing unacceptable delays.
Work was suspended until 1924, but by February 1927, the first section, between Paddington and the West Central District Office, was made available for training. By 1958, eight stations had been build, creating a network below London that was used until 2003, before it was later turned into a museum just three years ago.
Visiting before its grand opening, author Geoff Marshall revealed in a video: “This is Mail Rail, a six-and-a-half mile railway that runs between Paddington and Whitechapel that opened in 1927 and ran for 76 years until being closed in 2003.
“It has eight stations, the largest of which is at Mount Pleasant, which is the area that people are able to come and see.
Chris Taft head of collections gave us an overview of the system.”
The clip, which was shared on YouTube channel Londonist Ltd, spoke to Mr Taft about the history of the lines.
He said: “Starting at one end, Paddington Station, this linked with the mainland railway station, next you had the western central district office, then Mount Pleasant, where we are now.
“Mount Pleasant is the biggest and most complex station on the network, because it links in also with the car depot.
“Then you have the King Edward building, which was formally the London chief postal office, then Liverpool Street Station and finally the eastern district office which is in Whitechapel.
“We’ve got this train unit that was created for carrying people onto the railway, you get inside the VIP cart and you’ll be pulled by the original 1926 bachelor motive that is still used for maintenance purposes.”
Mr Marshall gained access to one of the original carts used to move mail around, and took a journey around the tracks.
He said: “You travel around the loop with Mount Pleasant station, leaving one platform and passing back through the adjacent platform, before returning to where you started.
“The journey around Mount Pleasant takes around eight minutes.
“We then speak to the man who’s worked for the Royal Mail for 27 years and whose job it is to maintain the railway.”
Engineer Ray Middlesworth said the railway is a well-kept secret, but believes people should learn about its rich history.
He said: “The most common misconception when you tell people what you do is they think you work on the London Underground.
“People don’t know that Royal Mail had its own underground railway and it takes a little while to get used to the idea of that.
“If you intend to take ownership of it, then it becomes your own personal system, even though it’s the Royal Mail’s you do take care of it.
“It’s got a lot of history and people’s lives wrapped up in it, so it’s nice to see something continue going on from its path.”
In its first year of operation (2017–2018), the trains performed 9,000 trips totalling 6,213 miles, with the railway and museum hosting over 198,000 visitors.
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