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Industrial History Online

Post Office Railway

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Site ID :- GTL02564
Key Words :- mail rail
Linked Sites :-
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Address :- London, Greater London
Grid Reference :- TQ 265 813
Grid Co-ordinates :- Easting 526500 m, Northing 181300 m
Lat & Long (WGS84) :- 51.516468 , -0.178288
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Site Location :- Eastern District Postal Sorting Office to Paddington Station
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Parish or Township :-
Administrative Area :-
Pre 1974 County :- Greater London Council
Site Status :- Site extant - Protected status unknown
Site Condition :-
Site Era :-
Site Dates :- -
Visit By :- -

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
Reviewed By :- -


Description and History
Narrow gauge (2 ft) double track electrically operated underground railway for conveyance of letters and parcels between Post Office installations at (from west to east) Paddington Station, Western Parcel Office, Western District Office, Mount Pleasant, King Edward Building, Liverpool Street Station and the Eastern District Office - 6.5 route miles (10.4 kilometres.) First proposed 1909 - authorised by Act of Parliament 1913 - tunnelling commenced in 1914 but the tunnels were used for the safe storage of museums and art gallery treasures until 1919 - railway services commenced in 1927 with full services brought into use in 1928. There are underground railway workshops at Mount Pleasant, and reversing loops at Paddington, Western District Office, Mount Pleasant and other stations eastwards, and a reversing spiral at King Edward Street. All currently operating intermediate stations have passing loops. The running tunnels have an internal diameter of 9 feet - station tunnels are from 90 to 313 feet long. It is a 440 volt DC system. There are reserve battery-operated locomotives for emergency or maintenance use. The Western Parcels Office and Old Western District Office Stations closed in 1965, being replaced by the New Western District Office opened (on a new bypass running tunnel) that year; part of the original running tunnel was abandoned. Subsequently, the West Central District, King Edward Building, and Liverpool Street Stations have also closed. At all the closed stations there is now access only at track level, surface buildings having been sold. Disused or damaged rolling stock is stored in the disused (bypassed) tunnel. The Post Office had, from 1863, used a 2 ft gauge pneumatic underground railway (qv) between the Northern District Sorting Office at Eversholt Street and Euston Station, from 1863, but declined to use another of wider gauge (3 ft 8.5 ins) constructed between Euston Station and Holborn and St. Martin's Le Grand 1865 - 69. At the start of 2003 only the Paddington, New Western District, Mount Pleasant, and Eastern District (Whitechapel) Stations remain open (Whitechapel scheduled to close in March 2003.) The Post Office Railway and its Pneumatic Despatch Company predecessor is described in detail, with plans and photographs, in the book by Derek Bayliss.

Although authorised in 1913 and commenced by the start of WWI the completed tunnels were used for wartime storage of museum objects until 1919. Contracts were let for completion of electrical and signalling installations in 1924. The first of £1m worth of 34 new trains went into service in 1981.

System closed fully in May 2003, part reopened as part of the Post Office Museum in 2017.

Further Reading and References
Postal Museum opens
http://www.glias.org.uk/news/291news.html#J

Mail Rail — The Post Office London Railway
http://www.glias.org.uk/news/206news.html#C

Mail Rail faces closure
http://www.glias.org.uk/news/204news.html#O

The Postal Museum
https://www.postalmuseum.org/

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