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Pneumatic Dispatch Railway

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Site ID :- GTL00059
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Address :- below ground, London, Greater London
Grid Reference :- TQ 293 833
Grid Co-ordinates :- Easting 529300 m, Northing 183300 m
Lat & Long (WGS84) :- 51.533807 , -0.137224
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Administrative Area :- Camden
Pre 1974 County :- Greater London Council
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Contributor :- GLIAS Database - 2 June 2018
Contributors Society :- Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society
Copyright :- cc-by-nc-sa 4.0 © GLIAS Database

Record Status :- Incomplete
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Description and History
3.25 miles; Eversholt St-Euston Station-Tottenham Court Rd-St Giles' High St-Holborn-St Martin's-le-Grand. Devised by T W Rammell, constructed 1863-9, this underground railway carried letters and parcels in pneumatically-propelled vehicles between Euston and GPO HQ. Commercially unsuccessful, operation ceased 1874. Cast-iron and brick tunnel 4 ft 6 ins across. Parts destroyed, parts used as electricity or telephone ducts. Half a vehicle at Museum of London.

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Previous Comments:-

I think this entry confuses two distinct concerns of different track gauges - of which the Post Office used only the 1863 3 ft gauge 600 yard installation between Eversholt Street and Euston. The 3 ft 8.5 ins 1.5 mile railway from Euston to St. Martin Le Grand seems to have been built speculatively, not used by the Post Office, and abandoned in or about 1874 - see Peter Johnson's (1995) book Mail by Rail (Ian Allan) PAUL W. SOWAN / SUBTERRANEA BRITANNICA 31/12/2002 - Paul Sowan
--- the following annotation is from Bob Rust, GLIAS :
When the Post Office became interested in the [pneumatic] system, the company built a tunnel from Euston station (TQ 2959 8265) north about 1/2 mile to the PO's North-West District Office (Crowndale Road TQ 2927 8336) , reusing the tube segments from the Battersea demonstration. This entered service in 1863 and was used until the financial crisis of 1866.
A second line more than 2 miles long was built, south and east from Euston to the General Post Office near St. Paul's. This used a tunnel 4 feet wide, containing track of gauge 3 feet 8.5 inches; The end-to-end time was 9 minutes. The Pneumatic Dispatch Railway, as it became known, operated until 1874, but at this point the Post Office decided that the time saving (4 minutes) wasn't worth the cost, not to mention the risk of a vehicle becoming stuck in the tube. It was quickly abandoned.
The tunnel was later interrupted in places by Underground construction, but the surviving segments saw some use as utility conduits. However, gas tended to leak into them; and one day in 1928, a workman apparently used a match to see where to plug in a fan to blow the gas out, and instead blew it “up”, over a half-mile length of tunnel.
In the 1920s, when electricity was available, London got a new driverless train system with similar sized tunnels to the PDR's:the "Post Office tube" Railway, later renamed MailRail. Such systems were also built in Switzerland, which was first, and Germany. MailRail operated until 2003, but was then closed for cost reasons and because most mail sorting had moved to locations it did not reach.
Thanks to Atmospheric and Pneumatic Railways by Mark Brader - Robert Mason - 6 June 2022 - Robert Mason - 6 June 2022

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