Mail Rail: What is it like on the ‘secret’ Tube?

The mysterious underground world of London’s Mail Rail

Deep under the streets of the capital, a disused railway tunnel stretches for six miles. After being shut for a decade, there are now plans to reopen the London Post Office Railway – known to many as Mail Rail – as a tourist ride.

In a chilly central London railway depot, it feels as though Mail Rail’s workers suddenly upped and left and time has stood still since.

Thick dust has settled on discarded orange overalls, safety cones and an abandoned kettle and a musty smell lingers.

Hefty 1920s giant levered mechanical equipment sits idiosyncratically next to 1980s jumbo walkie-talkies, while industrial pipes and strips of peeling paint hang from the ceiling.

Loose cables wind up the walls alongside a 1989 safety bulletin notice, while an 1959 Ordnance Survey map of Holborn sits rolled up on a desk.

Locker doors have been left half open with used shower gel bottles and dirty towels hanging inside.

Mail Rail was approved by an Act of Parliament a century ago, and during its heyday its driverless trains carried 12 million postal items daily on the line stretching from East End’s Whitechapel to west London’s Paddington. But it was mothballed a decade ago.

You leave the depot and descend in a lift to the Mount Pleasant platform. You enter what feels a lot like a normal Tube platform, but the tunnels at each end are smaller, reducing to 7ft (2.1m) in diameter.

A tiny train sits on the track, one of 70 stored on the network, but this one has been specially adapted for passengers.

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Lots more story, history and many photos to see

 

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