The Post Office Robot Railway

I have this rather old news footage of the infamous Post Office railway which ran under central London until it was shut down in 2003. I was inspired to dig it out as there is a short feature on the railway in the exhibition in the Building Centre at the moment.

The railway was opened in 1927 and ran east–west from Paddington Head District Sorting Office in the west to the Eastern Head District Sorting Office at Whitechapel in the east, a distance of 6.5 miles (10.5 km). It had eight stations, the largest of which was located underneath Mount Pleasant, but by 2003 only three stations remained in use because the sorting offices above the other stations had been relocated.

It is possibly worth noting though, that this was not the first post office railway to run in London, as a much earlier pneumatic railway ran from Euston station down to a sorting office in the city. The line was built by a private company, but the Post Office was reluctant to use it and it closed down in 1874. Some of the more modern electric railway actually intercepted with the older pneumatic lines.

The pneumatic railway tunnel was tiny compared to the electric railway – as it had only one line and also due to the nature of the design had to be a tight fit around the carriages.

There was a charity auction last year to visit behind the scenes of a Post Office sorting office, and included a visit to the station for the railway. I was willing to bet that most of the people bidding had little interest in the above ground part of the tour ;)

Alas, I had to drop out of the auction when the bidding passed £100 per person for the tour.

I think it would be wonderful to be able to open up parts of the tunnel on special days – and indeed, it might actually be possible to walk along the line as it is almost human height in the centre. At least we wouldn’t have to worry about trains killing the visitors on the tracks!

Enjoy the clip.

As a final note – the Post Office Archive (nr Farringdon) is hosting a talk on the mail rail on Tuesday 2nd December 2008. The event is free, but you do need to book in advance by sending an email to [email protected].

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3 Comments

  1. Thank you very much for sharing! It was such an interesting little railway. :)

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