London’s Subterranean Secret: The Forgotten Mail Train

By

9th Nov, 2012

As a former Londoner, born & raised, who thought she knew everything there was to know about the city, finding out that there’s been a secret Royal Mail underground  train line beneath our feet for over 85 years was just a little bit shocking. A reader sent me a tip this morning about a group of urban explorers who had managed to infiltrate this notoriously hard-to-reach underworld. The Royal Mail’s underground ‘mini’ railway was used to take letters (and possibly workers) along the tracks to different station/sorting offices stretching from Paddington to Whitechapel. In 2002, it had become an uneconomical service, losing an estimated £1.2M a day, and quietly shut down.

For almost a decade, the abandoned stations and tracks have stood in silence; only empty mail trolleys creaking from the drafts, outdated telephones sitting on abandoned control desks, trains mid-track and frozen in time.

To the thrill-seeking explorers of Silent UK, the Rail Mail was “London’s final unconquered Grail”. With most remaining access points covered in concrete or tucked away in secured live postal depots, “it is without a doubt the Mail Rail sits at the throne of London exploration, laughing maniacally at the puny adventurers unable to even stare it in the eyes without bursting into flames. There is, and will never be anything like it again, its uniqueness forever unrivalled,” recalls the anonymous author at Silent UK. I suppose every city needs its secrets.

Relive about this extraordinary adventure into the London underworld with Silent UK detailing the full story behind the Mail Rail, how they infiltrated it and what they found. Hats off to the team for taking such a risk. Full article and MORE photographs HERE!

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE MAIL RAIL??

Despite sitting as ghost stations and tunnels for almost a decade now, in October last month it was quietly revealed that an architectural firm’s plans for an underground mushroom garden north of Oxford Street have been shortlisted in a civic bid to find out-of-the-box ideas for bringing life back to abandoned industrial infrastructure.

Similar to the idea of the High Line, where derelict railways were successfully converted into urban parks in Paris and New York, architects of the Camden-based firm Fletcher Priest are hoping their linear subterranean fungal garden will soon become a reality.

Seemingly still trying to keep the existence of the old Mail Rail quiet, The Mayor of London, in conjuction with the Landscape Institute and Garden Museum, are still keeping plans rather hush-hush. My guess is they don’t want to encourage unchaperoned exploration of what is potentially a hazardous abandoned tunnel system.

But architect Nick Worley at Fletcher Priest says the dark, damp, environment of the abandoned tunnels is perfect for sporing toadstools, puffballs and edible mushrooms.

“The idea was to have a linear park with a restaurant at either end serving dishes made from produce grown in the park,” says Worley. “Mushrooms were a natural fit.”

Is London ready to reveal one of it’s greatest secrets?

via Westend Extra

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This photograph comes from Flickr user Richard Pope who seems to have infiltrated the Mail Rail in 2006. He seems to have stumbled upon an old passenger cart in the abandoned mini railway, showing that mail wasn’t the only thing traveling through those tunnels! My guess is this gem was probably removed before Silent UK’s expedition last year. Hopefully it’s safely stored away and we’ll one day see it in a museum.
 

Thanks to Silent UK and Richard Pope for being such bad-ass explorers!

Also special thanks to my reader who sent me this incredible tip, and thanks to all readers that often send me the interesting things they come across for my bed time reading!

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MORE GHOSTLY RAILWAYS STUFF THIS WAY:

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