London’s Mail Rail
Perhaps it’s a sign of ageing but I seem to becoming more interested in planes, trains and BBC2 documentaries – happily they sometimes coincide. Such was the case last week when I was catching up on a few episodes of “Great British Railway Journeys” on iPlayer. In this particular episode presenter Michael Portillo was privileged enough to descend underground for a visit to the now disused London Mail Rail. I have always been fascinated by underground networks and this is no exception.
It’s been out of service since 2003 and was closed as it was apparently loosing the Post Office over £1 million pounds a day. It’s hard to believe that pneumatic powered driverless trains were sending mail across London since the 1930’s. Paddington to Whitechapel took around 14 minutes non-stop, I doubt above ground transit is so quick.
Here are some stats about the network as taken from mailrail.co.uk:
- Designed solely for movement of letters and parcels
- Operated 19 hours a day, 286 days a year
- 23 Miles (37 Kilometres) of 2 foot gauge track
- 70 feet (21 meters) below the streets of London
- Fully automated, computer controlled trains
- Carried the Capitals mails for over 75 years
- Once served 9 stations, including 2 mainline stations
- Once carried around 4 million letters every day
- Paddington to Whitechapel, with all stops, in 26 minutes
If you can hear past the pan pipes and “intereting” score this nine minute promotional video by the Royal Mail will tell you more about the history of the network.
Much like Open House provided us with the opportunity to see into buildings we would otherwise never see I hope that Royal Mail one day allow a guided tour or two of this fascinating underground system.