Socialist Worker

What was it like to work deep under central London? Ride the Mail Rail at the Postal Museum

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2570

Tunnels at the Mail Rail at the Postal Museum in London

Tunnels at the Mail Rail at the Postal Museum in London

After more than 14 years hidden beneath the streets of central London, Mail Rail—Royal Mail’s underground electric railway—is open at the Postal Museum.

The chance to climb aboard a Mail Rail carriage and explore the narrow tunnels and disused stations is definitely the exhibition’s main attraction.

But what makes the trip most worthwhile is the impression of what work was like for the people who kept the post moving beneath the city streets.

At its peak around 220 people worked on Mail Rail, which ran 22 hours a day carrying some 4 million letters every day. The exhibition focuses on their labour.

There are testimonies from former workers, while interactive exhibits simulate some of their jobs.

The tracks and tunnels weren’t designed to carry passengers, so the carriages are pretty small.

People who have reduced mobility, are claustrophobic or are tall won’t be able to ride, although there is an alternative audio-video tour.

Tickets aren’t as expensive as some museums, but at £14.50 for an adult they’re not cheap either. That will get you in to the rest of the museum, which opened in July and is pretty fun too.

This is one of those hands-on museums with levers to pull, buttons to push and costumes to try on, which is no bad thing.

It’s not an in-depth history of the postal industry.

But there are enough facts, artefacts and quirky anecdotes to keep anyone interested—whether a postal anorak or just along for the ride.

Ride the Mail Rail, Postal Museum, Phoenix Place, London WC1X 0DA. Book at

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Tue 5 Sep 2017, 10:03 BST
Issue No. 2570
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