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a decade, the abandoned stations and tracks have stood in silence; only empty mail trolleys creaking from the drafts, outdated telephones sitting on abandoned control desks, trains mid-track and frozen in time.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 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.
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!
UPDATE: The Mail Rail is back in Business!
You can now journey back in time on a specially made train through the original tunnels and station platforms under Mount Pleasant. Take a ride on Mail Rail and experience 15 minutes of immersive underground exploration on the miniature mail trains.
Be sure to book in advance.