I love trains. Perhaps that’s the traveller in me, or maybe I’m fascinated by the engineering. I used to live in London but had been blissfully unaware of the underground Mail Train that charged through tunnels while I slept. The Mail Train has opened to the public and a visit is a great way to see another side to England’s capital.
The Mail Train is located across the road from the main postal sorting office at Mount Pleasant in Central London. There’s a museum too but to ride the train, reservations are essential. At the entrance to the museum a living wall with post boxes is a really striking and effective display.
This new attraction in London is split into two sections. The museum gives an overview of postal history in Britain with displays including mail ships, the stage coaches, and post bikes used in World War One. In today’s world when we look for tweets and social media the tradition of sending a letter has almost been forgotten. But here, the stages in getting a letter from one place to another over the years is nicely displayed.
The highlight of a visit to Mail Rail is the train itself. A small tube like vehicle that once carried sacks of mail has been re-engineered to carry visitors on an underground journey and a hidden part of London. At one time 4 million letters were moved daily on this train. Today curious visitors are its passengers.
I was told to sit in the middle of the seat and not to touch the sides as it would cause the train to stop. The journey is partly narrated by an ex worker who describes what it was like to work when the trains delivered mail. The train rattled downhill into the darkness, stopping at a platform where sacks of mail would have been loaded. During 1943 the sorting office at Mount Pleasant was bombed. The mail train was running the next day in an extraordinary feat of resilience. This network went all over central London with tunnels leading off the track to Liverpool Street and others. I was fascinated at this part of London and how it operated.
Further exhibits were outside and include a working model of the night train with sorting office which is guaranteed to make anyone susceptible to travel sickness nauseous.
This was a really interesting interactive museum and somewhere to go if you think you have seen the main sights of London. And if like me you love trains- it’s a must!