The Mail Rail once transported letters and parcels from Paddington Station to as far as the Tower of London. When it closed in 2003 after more than 75 years’ service the Post Office were stuck with what to do with it. Ideas varied from converting it to a subterranean cycle lane to creating an extensive mushroom farm. But then they thought: why not open it to the public?
London’s newest attraction opened in 3 years ago and has already proved popular. Discovering a part of hidden London is always exciting and this journey under the streets of London is no exception. You travel about 1.6km along the tracks, at no great speed but enough for younger visitors to be excited.
In tiny carriages with room for only one or two passengers we trundled along, stopping at several points along the way, where the history of the line is revealed in colourful and amusing high-tech displays. But not everything is ultra-modern - look out for stalactites!
The commentary is supplied by two former workers, who lend an air of authenticity and provide many an anecdote. At one point all the lights went out, which might unsettle those of a nervous disposition, but it added to the thrill of the ride and illustrated how important back-up power was.
Once you disembark from the carriages do make time to learn more about how the Mail Rail worked. Look out for the displays of items employees left - it’s as though they’ve just popped out for a cigarette. Then if dressing up is your thing - and it definitely was for a certain City Guide - then don a brown coat and cloth cap and start sorting out the letters. Why should children get all the fun?
Mail Rail is open everyday from 10am to 5pm. Visit postalmuseum.org for more information.