Mail Rail

Museums, History
4 out of 5 stars
(8user reviews)
British Postal Museum
British Postal Museum

Time Out says

Take a ride on the Mail Rail, a spine-tingling and super-geeky journey into London's secret history.

One hundred years ago, the Post Office built a secret railway under central London. Stretching six-and-a-half miles from Paddington to Whitechapel and linking post offices across the city, the driverless electric line carried up to four million letters a day. But in 2003, after 75 years of service, this wonder of engineering was shut down. The postmen left and the tunnels fell silent.

Now the Mail Rail is back in service – but this time it won’t carry letters. Instead, two battery-powered trains will take passengers through the tunnels for the first time as the Mail Rail reopens as part of the brand new Postal Museum.

Opening this week by Mount Pleasant sorting office in Clerkenwell, the museum charts 500 years of the pioneering British postal service. It’s got original Penny Black stamps, pneumatic tubes, a superb-looking kids’ play area called Sorted! and a nifty five-wheeled post bike that wouldn’t look out of place on the streets of Shoreditch.

But the main event is across the street under Mount Pleasant itself. This is the old Mail Rail engineering depot, and it’s where you can hop on board for a 15-minute journey that’s deeper than the tube. You’ll learn what it took to make London’s post arrive on time, hear about the men who spent their lives down here, and see the roof of the interwar tunnel passing inches above your head.

The only catch is you’ll have to wait until September, when trains start running – but you can book right now to be one of the first passengers. Having taken a ride for a sneak preview last month (and trekked down on foot too), I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a tantalising glimpse of the awesome work that went on down here, and of the miles of tunnel stretching away on either side, still silent and shut: maybe London’s last real secret. James Manning

VIDEO: What’s it like to ride the Mail Rail?

Book and find out more here

Posted:

Details

Users say (8)

4 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

4.1 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|8
2 people listening

If you generally have a taste for history, London history and just generally like small cramped spaces, then this exhibit is for you. I was sceptical at first but thoroughly enjoyed (as I’m sure children will too) the train journey through the underground. They curaters have done there best to keep the displays interactive with games and other thought provoking activities. If it’s a rainy day and you’re looking for something to do in London, I suggest heading along.

Tastemaker

I was originally quite skeptical about riding the Mail Rail at the postal museum. I had half expected it to be a glorified tube ride on a Sunday afternoon! I was definitely wrong! The Postal Museum have designed a creative and interactive way to experience the Mail Rail, I wouldn't want to give too much away, but it's not just a train ride! One thing I would warn people about is the size, if you suffer badly from claustrophobia, you may find the size of the carriages a bit too tight. The rest of the museum was lots of fun, even for a couple of adults, we sent messages around the museum, tried our hand a sorting post and dressed up in multiple outfits! I would highly recommend this underdog of a museum, especially with kids, it would provide hours of entertainment for them.


This is a really interesting and alternative day out, we came on a Saturday in June and it was surprisingly quiet, with no queues for the mail rail. The journey was fun, if a little cramped and we were told loads about the history of the mail rail and the postal service, with projections on the walls and voiceover in the cart. I equally enjoyed the postal Museum, seeing old post boxes and learning about how mail operated during the war. I would say if you are bringing children, it would be more interesting for 10 years and up.


I wasn't really sure what to expect with this but went along with a friend, the train itself is quite good but I didn't realise it would be over as quickly as it was. It certainly isn't for anyone who doesn't like small spaces, this is a given with the tunnels but the train itself they sit 2 to a seat and there really isn't the room. My friend and I were hanging off the edges of our seats and were told to try not to lean on the sides as this would stop the train... this wasn't easy to do given the lack of space. If you are tall, I'd say forget it, I'm not sure you would fit and I don't remember reading this anywhere when we booked but I could have just missed it! There is an exhibition after the ride but most of the interactive things were not actually working properly. Overall the train is quite interesting but it is definitely expensive for what you get. 

Tastemaker

As a nerd and lover of all things underground in London (save for Canary Wharf for some reason)-- this ticked all the boxes really. The train moved slowly so you could enjoy the 'view' but not so slowly that you felt like you were going to never get off. Its all in all about 10-15 minutes long and I think that's long enough. That being said I do kinda wish they took you to another major depot (like Liverpool Street) and then back again, although to be fair I don't know what the state of the lines are there. Very fascinating and well worth it!


I will also say for those who could not stand to be in one of the little rail cars, they have a video of the train in action (with the same voiceovers and everything) so you don't have to feel left out!


The rest of the area is also very interesting, learning about maintenance of the mail rail, sorting and using the trains to move post around (this almost blew my mind). 


An excellent exhibition space with all kinds of interactive play to help you understand the history of Royal Mail; Extremely well explained and interesting to all ages.  It's the train that most people come for however.  The tiny train "compartments" which used to carry mail, now barely seat 2 small people and the height of the "roof" is a problem for some taller people.  But the 15 minute ride itself is well thought out and enjoyable - and extremely popular.  Fully booked till the end of January!


Abandoned, forgotten, and now back to life. Mail Rail ride on a tiny train which used to deliver mail across London. The new museum is opened at the Mount Pleasant Royal Mail distribution centre, not far from the King's Cross. The new Postal Museum has 2 separate parts and they are across the road from each other. 

One is a museum about the Post Office.There is nothing special there apart from the Royal Mail uniform such as red coats and hats which you can put on to take pictures. The museum looks more like an extension of the souvenir shop. If you are there, take time to have a cup of coffee in their cafe. 

They serve the most amazing coffee even though they are a bit slow with the service – perhaps they are just picking up coffee beans. The actual underground mail system fascinating. They have tiny trains, which were used to carry the post under London. The carriages are covered by dome-like glass roofs-doors and you taking you into very narrow and low tunnels. It is a bit creepy in the underground and feels claustrophobic at places. The train stops in a few places inside the tunnels where you see projected some interesting film clips about the underground mail system. Very well done.

 Then there are great interactive displays explaining what it was like 'back in the day'. You can even have a go as a worker in the sorting office. You have a chance to dress up in a beige trench and a worker cap and then play against someone sorting mail in a specific allocated time. Good fun for all ages! 


I was super excited to check out the mail rail. I'm a bit of a nerd for all things underground and tunnel based so this was a must do. The attraction which has only just opened to the public has been put together really well. You have to book a slot for your train trip and what I learnt is that you should turn up fairly early as a queue does exist. Always worth noting that there are 2 buildings at this attraction: the Postal museum and the Mail Rail. If you're getting a ticket for the mail rail then you by default get in to the postal museum also. You can just book for the museum though if trains aren't your thing. My one gripe is that my booking slot was for 1615 and do we turned up at 1600 on,y to be told that we should head straight over to the mail rail building to join the queue and that we wouldn't have time to look at the postal museum exhibition as it would shut at 1700. I really think this should have been made clearer on the tickets as I assumed I couldn't get in to the postal museum building until 1615 but apparently I could have spent all day there. Sigh.

But I did see and journey on the mail rail and it was an insanely cute train and a really well set out ride. The ride takes about 15 minutes and stops every now and then to show you sites or to let you watch video installations along the journey. There is an audio narration throughout.

The train itself is tin so if you're taller than 5'8 then prep to be a tad uncomfortable whilst on the train. It's on,y 15 minutes though so it's worth a bit of a crook in your neck.

After the train trip there is a short exhibition with a good amount of interactive opportunities.

All in all it looks good and you get a train trip. WIN!