Monday, 16 May 2005

London's Mail Rail

Did you know that up until recently mail travelled in tunnels underneath London? Well, I didn't know. Apparently, in 1913 digging started for an underground railway, specifically for the Post Office. The work finished in 1927 and in December of that year the first mail-ridden trains started to run underground. The whole purpose of this sustem was to reduce the number of mail vans in London streets and in that respect it did not fail.

The journey started at Paddington, then stopped under a street near Selfridges, then further down Ofxord street, past High Holborn, Bloomsbury, stopping at the biggest Post Office depot in London, Mount Pleasant, under the remains of the Roman wall, past St. Pauls' Cathedral, Liverpool Street station, finally arriving at a post office in Whitechapel Road.. The underground mail tunnel was tiny, only 9 feet in diameter. Bagfuls of mail would be sent down shafts from sorting offices, leading to the Mail Rail platforms. Then the bags were loaded onto the trains, which did not have drivers as they were fully automatic. Like the tube trains, they ran on electricity and the stations were slightly higher so when trains approached they slowed down and when they started off again they sped up rapidly. Indeed, the trains were like toy trains as they were tiny, measuring no more than 28 feet. They could carry half a ton of letters at the speed of 40 miles per hour, thus trasporting letters from one side of London to another in only 30 minutes.

By 2003 Royal Mail were complaining that keeping up the mail rail cost four times more than transporting the letters with vans, therefore in May of the same year the miniature railway was shut down. They decided to put the mail rail up for sale at the price of £15 million. There were ideas of it being used to transport expensive wines or jewellery and other valuables...
I have searched the web but not found anything on who actually bought the mail rail, if indeed a buyer was found. If you know anything about this please do let me know...

Info about the mail rail can be found on the sites below:

http://www.mailrail.co.uk/

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,4484-689952,00.html

2 comments:

Dave Heasman said...

I thought that they were going to cannibalise the tunnels - expand and enlarge 'em - to make it part of the Crossrail link?

Alterior said...

Really? What a pity...
Where did you hear that?