POSTAL MUSEUM AND MAIL RAIL

Imagine a network of tunnels looping around Liverpool Street and Paddington covering six and half miles under London, just to carry letters.  No need to imagine because for seventy five years there was such a network.  Now it has just opened to the public at London’s at Postal Museum Mail Rail.

Postal Museum Mail Rail

Four million letters used to be carried down these tunnels every single day, 220 staff worked for twenty two hours a day shuttling the mail around the six sorting offices on the network.  The trains are tiny and not designed to carry people, all those letters and parcels hurtled along the dark tunnels without the benefit of a driver.  Now new tiny trains to carry people have been designed, you embark on a 20 minute ride pausing at a couple of those sorting offices to watch films about Mail Rail.

Postal Museum Mail Rail

Once you’ve finished your train ride head up to ground level and explore the rest of the Postal Museum.  What started as a way of efficiently organising the troop movements of Henry VIII’s army became the very first social network.  Think of all those Jane Austen heroines writing letters and getting replies back on the same day, not as swift as What’s App but still pretty good.  There are all manner of post boxes, special bicycles and pistols to deter highwaymen on display.

Postal Museum Mail Rail

In time the Royal Mail came to include the telephone system.  This telephone box with Button A and Button B took me straight back to primary school.  We were walked to the village phone box and it was explained to us how to make a call in an emergency.  You had to put your money in first, dial and if someone answered press button A.  At the end of call you pressed button B to get back any unspent money.  I never had to make an emergency call but children would often press button B on the off chance of retrieving forgotten money.

Mail Rail Postal Museum

Here is something that even the youngest readers will recognise.  The plaster cast of the Queen’s head used on British stamps.  It is one of the most reproduced art works in the world and was made by Arnold Machin.  The first stamps to use it went on sale in 1967.  Who know’s as email, What’s App and the like gain in popularity maybe stamps will go the way of button A and button B telephone boxes.

POSTAL MUSEUM MAIL RAIL NEED TO KNOW

  • Phoenix Place, Clerkenwell, London WC1X 0DA
  • Open daily 10am – 5pm
  • Admission: Postal Museum only, Adults £11, children free
  • Postal Museum and Mail Rail, Adults £16, children £8

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21 Comments

  1. September 7, 2017 / 6:17 am

    My friend was talking about this on Monday, I will have to send her your blog. You never know what’s going on right underneath your feet 🙂

  2. September 7, 2017 / 12:17 pm

    fascinating!

  3. September 12, 2017 / 7:59 am

    Wow! I used to work for the postal services in Norway, during the summer breaks when I was a college student 🙂

    • September 12, 2017 / 8:48 am

      Cool summer holiday job

  4. September 12, 2017 / 8:26 am

    How cool is this?!! I’m definitely bringing my boys to see this museum over the Christmas holidays! You always find the best activities! #citytripping

  5. September 12, 2017 / 9:52 am

    This is SO awesome!! I literally just saw a blip about this underground mail system on CNN the other day! Would be fun to do this! #CityTripping

    • September 12, 2017 / 11:03 am

      It is amazing, I just had a huge grin on my face for the whole train ride

    • September 12, 2017 / 8:04 pm

      Make sure you book first!

  6. September 12, 2017 / 3:58 pm

    Ahhh I really want to do this! Need to actually get it sorted out, I’ve been saying this for AGES! #citytripping

    • September 12, 2017 / 4:21 pm

      You do, it is brilliant

  7. September 12, 2017 / 8:33 pm

    I’ve just been reading a Famous Five book to my son which (as they all are) is filled with tunnels and passageways. He would LOVE this Museum, I can’t wait to take him! #citytripping

    • September 12, 2017 / 9:17 pm

      I used to love the Famous Five

  8. September 12, 2017 / 11:05 pm

    What a fascinating place to visit. I need to go! I think my daughter and I would find it mind-boggling. I do hope letters don’t die out. You can’t beat receiving a handwritten card or letter in the post (although doesn’t happen very often these days)! Thanks for linking #citytripping

  9. pigeonpairandme
    September 13, 2017 / 12:18 pm

    I’m glad they’ve created a museum to honour the letter. It’s a bit of a dying breed! I need to go along to this place soon. #citytripping

    • September 13, 2017 / 12:19 pm

      It will soon be half term!

  10. September 14, 2017 / 9:51 am

    This is absolutely on our list of things to do soon! It sounds so interesting and right up our street, especially me, as a history buff. We almost went just before the kids were back to school, but didn’t quite manage it – next holidays……
    #citytripping

  11. September 16, 2017 / 7:25 am

    What a fantastic place. This is firmly on our places to visit this Autumn list.

  12. September 22, 2017 / 4:55 pm

    Looks like so much fun. I do love my instant email but there is something much more romantic about these little trains zipping around underground. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles and PS – great to finally meet you in person last night

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