The coolest train arrived in London. It’s underground and for over 75 years it carried letters in its 6.5 miles tunnel loops from Liverpool Street to Paddington. It has been part of the world’s first social network and a vital artery in Britain’s historic communications. It’s part of the newly refurbished Postal Museum London which opened its doors September 2017. It’s the Mail Rail.
I can hardly describe the enthusiasm of my cheeky monkeys or the smile on my face for the 15/20 minutes ride. I have been based in the City for over 10 years never suspected what used to go on right underneath our feet. For years it’s been driverless and used just for letters; now with new carriages, there was our chance to squeeze in and ride it.
Historically about 4 million letters used to be carried down the tunnels every single day and Mail staff worked hard/ 22 hours around the clock on sorting, packing, unpacking. The journey through the tunnels and deserted stations is fascinating – movies and clips around the stations describe the works, the habits, the process and the hours. One is transported into a parallel underground world, forgotten and buried deep inside the city – there’s a train graveyard, lots of tracks, loops and channels, forgotten offices and obsolete office equipment. And even more intriguingly, during the First World War the tunnels were use to store and protect art from National Portrait and Tate Galleries.
Even the most feral kids (aka mine coming down with a cold) loved the journey. After the ride, there are few interactive areas at the Mail Rail Exhibition that they loved: sorting mail in wobbly surroundings, controling the lines, playing in the original trains.
The dedicated tots play area – Sorted runs 45 minutes sessions that can be booked separately: uniforms, sparcel sorting, letters stamping, driving a van and delivering post around to mention just some highlights.
The Postal Museum Exhibition next door is also cool – our children favourite activity was sending correspondence flying through the galleries in the vacuum tubes.
The temporary exhibition up to February 25th is also great. Writing home has been a lifeline to people all over the globe : soldiers at war, men in exile, survivor of human trafficking, a nurse chasing a dream.Funnily enough for us also very topical, having seen NO with Gael Garcia Bernal on Amazon Prime just the evening before: a powerful extract of Chile history and a lot to reflect on PR, advertising & media (all sorts of prizes from Cannes 6 years ago but somehow we only saw it just the other day – a great movie BTW).
Postal Museum London and the Mail Rail make a perfect day out to be paired with further train observing at Kings Cross – our kids love lunches by the Eurostar and Renaissance hotel’s Booking Bar. Lots of excitement and great memories including our recent Paris trip. British Museum and Coram Fields are also next door and so is Canal Museum – a perfect day out weather regardless.
Delighted to have the Postal Museum and the Mail Rail back in town!
Disclosure: Many thanks to the Postal Museum for the invite. Opinions, photos & cheeky kids above my own.