Exploring the Mail Rail in London

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Many people do not know that hidden beneath the London streets is a subway that used to carry only mails. This is the Post Office Railway or the Mail Rail and was an automatic electric rail that was made to speed up the Royal Mail delivery system in London, by bypassing the congested streets and traffic of the city.

History of the Mail Rail

Early in the 20th Century, the Royal Mail official started looking for a way to speed up the mail delivery system. The subterranean freight train system of Chicago inspired them. After more than a decade of careful planning and work, the Post Office Railway was opened in 1927. At its best time, the delivery system conveyed 4 million pieces of mail down a stretch of 6.5 miles of underground tracks. The speeds of the trains were about forty miles per hour and had terminations at Whitechapel and Paddington.

The stations of the delivery system are closer to the surface than the underground tunnels that were dug at seventy feet below the surface. Having the stations closer to the surface allowed workers to bring the mails to the surface easily. In addition, the incline helped to have gravity powered braking and propulsion. The mail delivery system reached its maximum volume around the 20th Century and shuttled about four million pieces per day. The volume of mails decreased with time and the rail was rarely used.

The Mail Rail Now

In 2003, the railroad was closed and abandoned. Most of the entry points to the rail were sealed off, and the Mail Rail was thought inaccessible by many. However, some groups forced their way into the tunnels and captured images of the place to reveal an empty but intact world. They gained entry via mail sorting offices and in their images, most of the rail equipments appeared in proper working order, sitting idle.

The site has been turned into a Postal Museum now, and was opened to public in July 2017. The museum offers a twenty-minute ride on miniature trains that are specially made for the museum. The museum is open every day from 10:00 am to 05:00 pm. The tickets include entry to the museum, the Mail Rail exhibitions, and the temporary exhibitions at the site.