Site Records

SiteName: Post Office Railway (MailRail)

Between Paddington & Whitechapel

Sub Brit site visit 15th March 2003

[Source: Nick Catford]

The recommendations were however approved and a bill was put before parliament on 15th August 1913. An experimental length of line was built the following year and in 1915 Mowlems were given a 15 month contract to build the new line. All the running tunnels were completed towards the end of 1917 but the contractors were ordered to suspend work on the stations because of problems with labour and materials during the war. With the danger of Zeppelin air raids the completed tunnels were considered a suitable place for the storage of art treasurers and in January 1918 much of the collection from the Tate Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and the Public Record Office were stored in the station tunnel at King Edward building. The King's pictures and the Wallace collection were stored in the tunnel at Paddington Station.

Photo:VBiew of the tunnels from the eastern end of Mount Pleasant Platform
Photo from Mailrail Web Site

Work on the line resumed in 1920 and tests on the first completed section between Paddington and West Central District Office began on 24th January 1927 with the first scheduled parcel service between Paddington and Mount Pleasant running on 3rd of December. The final section between Liverpool Street and the Eastern District Office received its first traffic on 2nd January 1928 and the first letter traffic was carried by the railway on 13th February 1929. The main line runs in a single tube, 9 feet in diameter, diverging at each station into two parallel tunnels, 7 feet in diameter, widening out at the stations to 25 feet. For most of it's length the line runs at 70 feet below ground with a 1 in 20 rise and fall at each station which helps to slow the trains down as they approach a station and aids acceleration away from a station.

Photo:Battery Locomotive at Mount Pleasant
Photo by Nick Catford

By the 1st March 1928 the line had achieved its intended maximum capacity. There were initial teething problems both with the track and the rolling stock but these were eventually ironed out and by 1932 a regular reliable service was achieved.

Installation of the electrical systems
Photo from Royal Mail
With the threat of war in the late 1930's it was decided to use the stations as staff shelters and these were brought into use in 1939 with hinged bunks that lowered onto the platforms and track. The stations were last used as an air raid shelter in 1944 but the dormitories remained in use until September 1945. The use of the stations as night shelters meant there was a reduction in the running hours on the line with the railway closing between 11pm and 7 am.

The railway itself suffered little damage during the war; the most serious incident being on 18th June 1943 when a direct hit destroyed the parcel block at Mount Pleasant and flooded the station.

Photo:1980's Greenbat Locomotive at Mount Pleasant
Photo by Nick Catford


Further information and pictures about this site continues here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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