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Report - Mail Rail 2: Try Harder

Adders

living in a cold world
Regular User
#1
December 2016... Oops, it happened again.



This kinda follows on from my last write up on the place; click here to read that one. A couple years ago a few of us managed to get down and see just over half of the Mail Rail system under London, but with access short lived and Royal Mail not fucking about with security measures I didn't hold much hope of getting down to see the rest of it.



It's December 2016, and quite a few things have now changed topside. New Oxford Street sorting office is now a levelled pile of debris. The rumoured access that we all thought was being kept to the station also wiped out, with a shiny concrete cap in place over the shaft. Paddington sorting office has been taken over by a horde of Crossrail crews, using the tunnels to aid access to the new Bakerloo link passage they're constructing to link the Elizabeth and Bakerloo line platforms.





Mount Pleasant is in the middle of it's transition to being London's new hype museum. The Postal Museum & Archive opens this summer and you can go and look at stamps and shit, but also for a pretty penny take a 15 minute ride around the Mount Pleasant station and loop on a freshly kitted out Mail Rail loco.



They've butchered the platforms with new breezeblock walls, stripped out the rooms that remained and installed heavy duty gates in each of the tunnels leading out of the station.



This time I wanted to focus on the Western branch that I didn't see on my last encounter down here. The guys I was with understandably wanted to see the less-derp Eastern reaches, so we plodded off that way first, starting what would end up being a 10 mile hike through midget size tunnels.



I took this opportunity to poke around some of the areas of the stations I'd not had a chance to last time, snapping away at the old conveyor belt setups that would have brought the mail in from the above sorting office, maintenance rooms, sub stations and the like.





Thankfully the trains are all there, sitting in their sidings or spread out along the tunnels, gathering more dust. With the spare track lanes at Mount Pleasant station empty it's a shame they don't repaint a few of these and have them laid up on view to the tourists, give them a slightly less white-washed view of the platforms. Or, let me have one for the garden, please?



On a recent trip up north to adventure around an oil rig we ended up popping into the National Railway Museum on the way back down. Sitting proudly to one side is one of the 1930's green Mail Rail locos, No 809, with one of it's mail carriages. It seemed a shame not to have one of the red 1980's replacement stock sitting next to it as a comparison though, as despite it's reasonably modern age it's a unique example of small-gauge railway stock.



Once again our voyage through Mount Pleasant station was cut short by dangerously close noises echoing down from the sorting office above. With the cameras and PIR lights still pinging away on the platforms it was hard to remain calm here. The offices were littered with empty cups of tea and newspapers dated to that day so it was obvious how active the construction effort was. We decided not to hang about so popped off a few shots before sinking back into the darkness of the tunnels.



One feature I was particularly interested in seeing was the original tunnel that connected New Oxford Street and Wimpole Street sorting offices. Royal Mail deemed Wimpole & Bird Street sorting offices too small, so in the 1950's started building a larger replacement premises at Rathbone Place. This required the tunnel to be diverted to the new sorting office, with the station finally opening in 1965. The original tunnel had some of it's track lifted and was used for storage.



This western half of the network had a much more rugged feel to it, with more natural decay and general derelict atmosphere. The platforms at Rathbone Place are all but breeze-blocked up to separate it from the new development above, and Wimpole Street and Bird Street are in a terrible state since being closed in the 1960's. Not everything had been removed though, with some incredible signage and display systems left in situ, along with stacks of maintenance equipment and other forgotten crap.



The tunnels seemingly go on, and on, and on. The entire trip was about 9 hours, and despite feeling absolutely shattered when we reemerged at 8am I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. The loop around Mount Pleasant is weeks away from opening up as London's new hype tourist attraction, which will likely inspire every explorer and his dog to try and get down to the tunnels beyond the tour.



It'll be interesting to see what swag merchandise they have in the museum shop when it opens; bag myself a Mail Rail fridge magnet and matching pencil sharpener.





I couldn't really ever imagine it being a huge tourist draw, but with London Transport Museum running sold out tours to abandoned tube stations at £100 a pop, the short excursion down Mail Rail for £16 could actually work.



I'll likely get in on it one day. Filling a 15-seat Mail Rail train with other explorer compatriots would be utter jokes, and go towards scratching that itch before the next time we no doubt find ourselves brushing our shoulders along those narrow, dank tunnels. Wiping the calcium stalactites out of my hair and dashing along the platforms trying to dodge the PIR spotlights.





There's still so much tucked away down there, I don't think I'll ever feel done with it. It's slowly getting butchered and the future will only bring more woe to it as the city above tries to reclaim the space below. Crossrail may have filled half of Paddington's station with concrete and will no doubt smash away at it some more before the decade's out, but there's life in the old girl yet.



 

Ojay

Admin
Staff member
Admin
#4
Good to see again, and definitely one of the best underground systems that has been rinsed in the past decade for sure :thumb

As far as Paddington, you're partially right with mentioning "filled with concrete", but alas only as far as that shaft eventually being capped from the XR site, (the way in was a right faff anyway, apart from one time when a certain *door* was left unlocked) ;)

p1.jpg


p2.jpg


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And as for the Dags, I thought it was a blag until we managed to shake them off on a re-visit earlier this year ;)

p3.JPG


IMG_2425.JPG


Good effort to anyone getting a sniff of this place without parting with £16 for a loop around MP!
 

Adders

living in a cold world
Regular User
#5
My last flick is the eastbound platform at Paddington, they've leveled it off with concrete, can just make out the portal into the reversal loop at the end. There are other cracks elsewhere that have provided a means to get in, but they're becoming incredibly more short lived unfortunately.
 

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