Another Hidden London Oddity Is Exposed To The Light

London

London_Post_Office_Railway

It seems for each part of hidden London we lose a new one is exposed. First New Scotland Yard’s Crime Museum was finally unveiled (I attended a terrific police lecture there this week) and now the mysterious Mount Pleasant train will be seen by Londoners.

The Mail Line opened in 1927 and was the first driverless electric railway in the world. Trains ran every 5 minutes at peak times along a 22 mile network, moving post from King’s Cross to Paddington, and between other sorting offices.

It closed in 2003 because most of the overland sorting offices had been sold off. But now it is to be opened to the public, who can ride a short section of the line between the museum and the east and westbound platforms deep under the giant Mount Pleasant sorting office, once one of the largest in the world, while audiovisual displays explain its history.

Under the title of the Postal Museum it will include material from half a century of mail, from 1516, when Henry VIII established the job of Master of the Posts, and will feature the earliest pillar box as well as sheets of priceless Penny Black stamps.

In what sounds like the quirkiest part, there’ll be a section on the Post Office cats. They once had their own wage slips and pension schemes, and had been officially employed after a complaint in 1868 that the headquarters was overrun with mice. Tibs was the most famous PO mouser.

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5 comments on “Another Hidden London Oddity Is Exposed To The Light”

  1. jan says:

    You know it seems absolutely crazy that they shut the railway at a time when traffic speeds in London couldn’t quite keep up with walking pace. Maybe the real reason was this line which ran from Mount Pleasant all the way across to Paddington taking in the P>O>Tower on the way was going to get in the way of the Crossrail project.
    Where the big post office depot in Marylebone was situated just north of Oxford street was a base for the Crossrail builders last time i was in town. Perhaps the line is being very much enlarged!

  2. Rh says:

    It no longer runs where the mail needs to go, very little now being carried by train and none from major stations…

  3. snowy says:

    For anybody that wants to delve much deeper:

    http://www.subbrit.org.uk/sb-sites/sites/p/post_office_railway/index.shtml

    [The original system was pneumatic, it worked like the pods still used to shoot cash from tills up to a central office.]

  4. Helen Martin says:

    You really do want to go to Snowy’s recommended site and go to the further information button at the bottom of each page. It goes on for several pages with photos of tracks, tunnels and cars as well as routing diagrams. Wonderful for anyone interested in schematics. What amazes me is the number of cars found in the tunnel filler when they were going back in after closures. Is it just cheaper and quicker to abandon equipment rather than try to sell it off? I love these ‘secret railway’ type stories.

  5. Wayne Mook says:

    I do love the underground items as well, and thanks for the link on the site snowy. As Helen says it worth going deeper in the link to find more. It’s a good site.

    Wayne.

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