New Postal Museum to tell the story of underground Mail Rail with an exhibition and a subterranean ride on the rails
Located deep beneath the streets of the capital, lies London’s secret 100-year-old Post Office railway, an underground workhorse that kept people across the world connected by transporting billions of letters, parcels and postcards safely through the city and onto their final destination across the country and around the globe.
This once secret and hidden network will open its doors and workings to the public in July 2017 when the new Postal Museum opens in Clerkenwell.
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The museum itself contains five interactive zones, leading visitors through five centuries of world-class curiosities and providing a different view on a number of the world’s most significant historical events.
Once visitors have taken in the museum, situated in Clerkenwell on Phoenix Place, their ticket will then grant them access to a subterranean world that – until now – remained hidden from the general public.
Located next door to the new £26 million development, Mail Rail is a one-mile loop through the disused miniature stalactite-filled tunnels of what was the world’s first driverless, electric railway.
The tunnels, which run for 6.5 miles deep under London, accommodating the narrow gauge, driverless underground railway were so hidden from the public they were used to protect the Rosetta Stone during the First World War.
Work began on the tunnels in 1915 with only a hiatus because of a labour shortage due the First World war and they opened to deliver the Christmas [parcel post in 1927 and the full weight of the mail in 1928.
Until their closure in 2003 they criss-crossed the tube lines and linked six sorting offices with the mainline stations at Liverpool Street and Paddington. At its peak, the service operated for 22 hours a day, employing over 220 staff and carrying more than four million letters silently below ground every day.
Today Mail Rail employs just three engineers who keep the subterranean network of tunnels and a previously-busy car depot frozen in time from its last day in service, in good repair.
When the new museum opens a special exhibition featuring a blend of interactive exhibits, oral histories and new technologies will tell the story of the people behind the railway and the technology behind it – but you will also be able to journey back in time on a specially made train through the original tunnels and station platforms under Mount Pleasant.
The 15 minute ride will stop at platforms of the original Mount Pleasant station, where an audio visual display will take riders back in time, giving an insight into how the network kept post coursing through London for up to 22 hours a day.
A precise July opening date will be revealed in May 2017, and frequent updates will be posted to the museum’s website: postalmuseum.org
Updates will also be made via The Postal Museum’s newsletter. Sign up at postalmuseum.org/newsletter
The Postal Museum
Opening in early 2017, our new museum in Clerkenwell, London, will reveal stories from five centuries of Britain’s remarkable, and often curious, social and communications history through the eyes of one of its most iconic services.