Report - Mail Rail, London 2011/2014

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kevin arnold

28DL Member
Regular User
Apr 22, 2009

It’s Mail Rail again and it's still awesome :D My first visit was 3 years ago, soon after the LCC guys cracked it, and a while ago I revisited with Bauhausgirl. I thought it may be a good idea to put together a report as I’ve been hoarding pictures from the first visit for years and now after the revisit I’ve got even more of them. The more I was working on this report the bigger it was getting and finally I ended up with more than 50 pictures. I know it's a lot and this report is a monster but on the other hand it's Mail Rail - a huge location that's difficult to document with just a dozen of pictures. Moreover 28DL hasn't got a full, end-to-end MR report yet, so I thought it makes sense to make a longer post.


I’m not going to bore you with a detailed history of the railway. Firstly, it can be found on Sub Brit and other websites. Secondly, it’s not that exciting to be honest, unless you’re a hard core train enthusiast. I read a whole book about it (The Post Office Railway London by Derek Bayliss) and I was dozing off in places. The railway opened in 1927 and closed in 2003.

Some interesting and dramatic events did take place over 76 years of its history but nowadays there is no trace of them or you have to look hard to find them. Unfinished tunnels were used to store treasures from many London museums during First World War with just a couple of Post Office workers roaming the corridors crammed with works of art.

Parts of stations were flooded during Second World War as a result of bombing. In 1958 a quarter mile deviation was constructed to the newly built Rathbone Place Sorting Office, rendering a stretch of tunnels obsolete. In 1965 two stations closed down, so for a while the railway had its own ghosts stations and disused tunnels while still operational.

In 1990 Bruce Willis visited Mail Rail and you can see a glimpse of it in Hudson Hawk, where it's portrayed as a private railway system under the Vatican.

At some point a charity event for kids was held in Mount Pleasant loop so when we first entered Mail Rail, eyes wide with amazement, we were greeted by children drawings on the walls.

Nowadays they're working on turning the loop and car depot into a tourist attraction. And the Oxford St tunnel into a secret mushroom garden, although this one is just a loose idea as you can imagine.


If you want more background and/or technical details I recommend this short youtube clip. It's pretty good.

As mentioned, the railway got mothballed in 2003.

In 2011 the LCC managed to crack it and we remember how big event that was. Not only because some of them sold the story to the media soon afterwards but because the place really is epic in itself and people had been dreaming of getting in for ages. Its uniqueness, its sheer size, its location (underground, hidden from view) and the difficulty of gaining access make it a very special place.

Around that same time myself and another London explorer were researching MR really hard and investigating different access options. I gathered a few hundred megabytes of plans of tunnels, stations and sorting offices. I’d like to think that we would have cracked the place by ourselves sooner or later but the hard facts are that we didn’t - we got in a while after the first LCC bust and got help with access from one of their main explorers. I enjoyed our visit immensely but at the back of my head I had this thought that it would have been even cooler if we’d found the way in ourselves.


Soon after that the famous train incident took place and things went quiet for almost 3 years. Then a surprise visit by Manchester crew occurred and it put a smile on my face. I got quite excited when I saw FB’s photos on here, they brought back memories of a great time I had in Mail Rail and made me want to see it again. On top of that BHG hadn’t seen it yet, so it was one more reason to return. We missed the boat as we were both abroad at the time but that was even better as we both wanted to crack the place by ourselves.

I dug out my plans of the railway and we got down to work, checking one option after another. It took us about a month although it wasn’t very intensive work, we’d just check this and that between other explores… We had a few misses, popped some lids that lead nowhere and got wet and dirty stooping through semi flooded vent corridors. Finally a crack was located and exploited. I’d like to say that it was all down to our mad skills and intelligence but to be honest we had a lot of luck too.


Paddington Sorting Office - western terminus of the railway. It's connected to mainline train platforms by a set of 100m conveyor belts which we could never locate.

I was surprised to see how much had changed since my last visit. The place is a huge time capsule so subconsciously I expected it to be the same as last time but it’s changed and for the worse unfortunately. Basically it looks like various works are in progress in a number of places across the network. The whole place feels much less abandoned than during the initial visits. It’s not that strange when you think about it, for at least a year plans have been circulating of reusing various parts of the network for other purposes. Paddington sorting office hosted a theatre for a few months, Rathbone Place is being rebuilt, Mount Pleasant workshop is slowly being turned into a tourist attraction, New Oxford platforms have signs informing of “new working hours” and equipment scattered around and Liverpool St and the tunnel leading to it are stuffed with various monitoring equipment.


Battery locomotive

We saw new sings pointing towards various “work sites” and lots of cut up cables stacked neatly on tracks. As well as hi vises, coffee cups, sandwich wrappers and tools scattered around. As a result we had to constantly stay on the ball and keep track of passing time as we really didn’t fancy bumping into workers… The main aim was to walk the railway from end to end and this we managed but I wish we had more time to check all the little nooks and crannies that I missed during the first visit.


A workers train with seats inside

Oh and also most of the tunnel lights were off and some of the stations had poorer lighting too compared to 3 years ago. The whole place is definitely darker nowadays.

As a result this report is a mixture of pics from first and second visit. I used new pictures where I could but most of the places simply looked better 3 years ago (or I just didn’t bother to take very similar pics this time round) so old pictures prevail.


Speaking of pictures... The first few that you've seen above were from Paddington Sorting Office which is a western terminus of the railway. Moving to the east we reach Western Parcels Office in Bird Street...




This station and the neighbouring one in Wimpole St were the first to become disused when a large new sorting office opened in Rathbone Place in 1965. As a result both of those stations are much more derelict than the rest of the railway. They're also much smaller and the track layout is more basic. As you can see the iron rings are exposed, that's what all stations looked like initially. The remaining stations were subsequently covered with those white Victoria line-like panels that you can see in the rest of pictures.





^ Western District Office in Wimpole St. Second of the early ghost stations. Just like Bird St, the platform is boarded off. Paint flakes cover the floor and there are no CCTV cameras (unlike the rest of stations). It was quiet and peaceful here. I thought how awesome it would have been to crack a Mail Rail ghost station while the system was still operational. Just to sit on the Wimpole St platform and watch the driverless trains whizz by.


For most of its length MR consists of a single 2.7m diameter tube with two tracks. Before stations tunnels split into two single track 2.1m tunnels, with some extra junctions leading into sidings and reversing loops.



Western District Office in Rathbone Place
. Built in 1965, the most modern of all the stations. They built it as a concrete box not as a tunnel hence vertical walls and flat ceiling. This picture is from the first visit, nowadays there is a long breeze block wall dividing off all lift shafts and mail chutes so the place looks pretty unimpressive. We also found a small passageway into a disused tunnel here. There is a pic on GE's website (Guerrillaexploring) if you're interested (I forgot to take a photo). I think it may have been an entrance to that stretch of tunnel that was taken out of use by the 1960 route alteration. I'm not really sure though and I didn't have time to investigate in properly on either of the visits. Another of Mail Rail's mysteries!


^ Approaching Western Central District Office in New Oxford Street. That's a recent picture. One of the first things I noticed on this visit was how all the trains were banded together. Previously they were dispersed all over the system, now there were a couple of places in tunnels (another one beyond Mt Pleasant) where all trains were stabled in very long lines.






^ New Oxford Street aka "the building where the rave party was". The place looked unpleasantly active on this visit. Even before we got here we saw signs in tunnel pointing towards "Musem St Station work site". Lots of tools scattered around. We considered borrowing a couple of Royal Mail hi vises, in case we stumbled upon workers further on but decided against it. They probably wouldn't have helped us anyway.


^An old friend. It's the yellow workers train from the beginning of the report. Three years ago it was sitting in Paddington now we found it in a tunnel near Mount Pleasant.


^Mount Pleasant Sorting Office. This used to be the heart of Mail Rail. The largest of the stations, located under the largest sorting office, it contained the main control room for the whole system.




Again, we didn't stay long. All lights were on and the place didn't feel disused at all. I was taking the above shot when I heard a banging noise coming from somewhere upstairs. We ran into a tunnel.


^ Mt Pleasant has a workshop as well where they were able to service the trains and take them in and out of the system using a crane and a hatch located in the grounds of the sorting office above (a well known spot to quite a few explorers). The workshop is a great place but it's being refurbished at the moment so we didn't risk visiting it. Google it if you're interested, there is a lot of great pictures on the web as they've been letting people in on permission visits.


Section of the tunnel just past Mt Pleasant. Right hand tunnel leads to the loop. As mentioned before there are kids drawings on the walls.



A floodgate. Another cool feature of the system. Derek Bayliss' book states that: "The are six steel bulkheads and watertight doors near Mount Pleasant and King Edward Building, installed 1943-45, which can be closed from the station to cut off a section of tunnel in the event of flooding."



kevin arnold

28DL Member
Regular User
Apr 22, 2009
Re: Mail Rail, London 2011/2014 (Pic Heavy)






^King Edward Building. One of the quieter stations. The platforms are boarded off, all shafts have been capped and the surface building has nothing to do with Royal Mail anymore.

Moving on...​

Liverpool St

There's a lot going on in this area nowadays. The tunnel leading up to the station is crammed with various monitoring equipment - cat's eyes on walls, rotating laser scanners, a couple of huge infra red cctv cameras. Tunnel walls have been propped up with t-bars welded in place horizontally, so trains cannot go beyond that point. All of this because of new Crossrail tunnels being dug in close proximity to MR one. All the surveying equipment gets checked regularly, we saw coffee cups and wrappers from the Cornish Pasty shop that's by the main entrance to the station hall. As well as a log book confirming that the last visit was 2 days ago.



The above is a recent picture. Note one of those white rotating scanners sitting the right hand track. Tunnel leading up to the station is full of them.​

We moved on quickly, so this time we didn't have a chance to see an interesting feature of this station which is a 100m long conveyor belt leading to mail chutes that can be accessed via hatches in the mainline platforms. They used this system to get mail bags on and off the mainline trains.



Eastern District Office. Eastern terminus of the railway! It was dead and quiet despite being situated under a live sorting office. 3 years ago things looked much more lively...



A VIP passenger train. Built for the 40th anniversary of Mail Rail. It had royal monograms on the side but I don't know whether any members of royalty ever travelled in it.






And that's Mail Rail.

On my first visit we spend 9 hours inside and walked about 17km of track. I was exhausted when we got out and thought I've had enough of Mail Rail for life. Three years later when I saw Fishbrain's report I knew I wanted to go back and I wanted BHG to see it too. I was itching to check all the nooks and crannies that we didn't have time to see the first time. Platform inverts, reversing loops, working shafts that may or may not have been backfilled, emergency exits and lift shafts... In the end I didn't manage to do any of that and this was the only slight disappointment of the second visit. Given the situation (evidence of works over half of the railway) we only had to time to walk from one end of the line to the other and get the hell out before any workers possibly showed up.

Apart from that it was great. I can confirm that three years after the LCC first cracked it, Mail Rail still rules. It's still dodgy and you still don't know what to expect and have to stay alert most of the time. It's still as elusive as ever, it has no tourist entrance, it takes hours of effort to get in and whatever access you find it will likely be short lived.

Finally, special thanks to BHG. It was a great adventure and I'm glad we did Mail Rail together! Seeing how happy and excited you were after we managed to crack it was the best prize of all :)


Oxygen Thief

Staff member
Oct 17, 2005
Re: Mail Rail, London 2011/2014 (Pic Heavy)

That is a better write up and pictures than the official book. I'm surprised at the scope of the explore, and also the amount of rolling stock down there.

soylent green

28DL Regular User
Regular User
Jan 6, 2013
Re: Mail Rail, London 2011/2014 (Pic Heavy)

Fantastic report Kev! Top draw write up and pics! More pls :)


off the wall
Regular User
Jan 12, 2011
Re: Mail Rail, London 2011/2014 (Pic Heavy)

absolutely brilliant read... and such great photos. A big well done to you both. :thumb


In Search of Lost Time
Regular User
Oct 23, 2012
Surrey / Litzmannstadt
Re: Mail Rail, London 2011/2014 (Pic Heavy)

I don't know what to write... keep reading and reading this amazing piece of work! And admiring your beautiful photographs! I'm not surprised now that it took you so long to put it together( can't even count how many times after I messaged you asking what are you up to I got the same reply - writing my Mail Rail report :) ) Yes, Mail Rail. A magical place. Yes it took us long to finally have it done. And it involved many of different, more and more crazy approaches, wearing masquerade masks was my favorite! So when I eventually put my foot on Mail Rail tracks I felt totally overwhelmed, an unforgettable feeling - a mixture of excitement, happiness and fear. yes fear.. I was so stressed at that point that I had to ask you to help me with my shoe laces I couldn't even do it myself... So embarrassing!
We spent countless hours down there and I loved every single minute of it. Moving from station to station, admiring tunnels, platforms and trains, even stopping for a snacks was worth every effort. And you are absolutely right - Mail Rail still rules, there is no way of underestimating this place. And our way out. Just like from the worst nightmares, it still makes me shiver, even when I think about it. I felt like holding my breath for hours, staying alert for so long that I couldn't even fall asleep when I finally got home.
Thank you for this absolutely amazing and magical trip to Mail Rail, and also for over a year of exploring together Ldn most hidden gems and cracking new places! Mail Rail was one of the best sites (still can't decide the best one haha) we managed to do...
And thank you for showing me how turning on exploring Ldn underground could be, I still come back home covered in black dust like I used to with you...

Some of my shots - most out of focus, I think I was shaking most of the time we spent there. Also I took quite a lot of you Kev, like some sort of paparazzi hahaha well for doing what you do, you certainly deserve one xoxo













The Green Giraffe
28DL Full Member
Jan 21, 2010
Re: Mail Rail, London 2011/2014 (Pic Heavy)

what a write up! cheers for sharing!


big in japan
Regular User
Feb 12, 2011
Re: Mail Rail, London 2011/2014 (Pic Heavy)

kev, you're on a different planet mate. Those photos stand head and shoulders over most of the few photos that have surfaced from down there.

Every time you meet another explorer from another country, they always ask about mail rail. Theres hardly anything else like it in the world and I think the fact that hardly anyone has made it down makes it that bit more special.


Huddersfield Tourist Information Board
Regular User
Jun 14, 2011
Re: Mail Rail, London 2011/2014 (Pic Heavy)

You can absolutely fuck right off. Too good. Plaudits for the unseen legwork involved.
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