London’s new underground railway attraction is one step closer to the finish line, after the Mail Rail trains made their first journeys through the tunnels in early December.
It is the first time in four decades that trains have been lowered into the tunnels through the original engineering shaft at Mount Pleasant, and run on the perfectly-preserved time capsule of a network.
The two bespoke trains were lowered into the tunnels, 70 feet under London, on October 24 (RAIL 815), following their arrival from manufacturer Severn Lamb.
Since its closure in 2003, the railway (which runs from Whitechapel in East London to Paddington in the west) has been maintained by three Mail Rail engineers - they have looked after the narrow tunnels, which are just seven feet wide in some areas and containing stalactites.
It was initially planned that the new Postal Museum, incorporating a ride through the Mail Rail tunnels, would open in spring 2017. However, the Museum is now saying “mid-2017”, with no specific launch date announced as yet.
The Post Office Railway transported mail 6½ miles across London for 76 years, from December 5 1927 to May 31 2003. It was the world’s first driverless, electrified railway and the only purpose-built underground mail transit system in the world, transporting four million letters during a 22-hour operational day at its peak.
Since its closure more than 13 years ago, the line has remained dormant with no clear future. The hope is that the new Postal Museum’s rides in the tunnels will provide an inspiring way to teach visitors about not just the importance of the railway itself in its day, but the part it played in the history of communication.