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British Industrial History

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Post Office Tube Railway

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An underground railway line developed by the GPO to speed mail between the main sorting offices in London and reduce surface traffic.

The line ran from Paddington to Whitechapel, a distance of 6.5 miles. Stations were at the Paddington District Post Office, Western District Parcel Post Office, Western District Post Office, Western Central District Post Office, Mount Pleasant Post Office, King Edward Building Post Office, Eastern District Post Office, as well as Paddington and Broad Street/Liverpool Street mainline railway stations. Further extensions were envisaged to the north but never undertaken.

1913 Approval was given by Parliament for the scheme.

1914 The main tunnelling work by Messrs Mowlem and Co began in October 1914[1]; the design of the scheme was by Mr H. H. Dalrymple Hay; the tunnels contained 2 tracks, of 2ft gauge.

1916 Digging of the tunnels had been completed.

Completion post-war was delayed by budget restrictions and the high cost of the equipment. Orders for the equipment were finally placed in 1924.

1927 The line was opened although the full service was only achieved in 1928[2]. The trains were electric, driven by motors collecting current at 440v drawn from a conductor rail mounted between the tracks, with automatic control of the trains so a driver was not needed, the first example in the world of this being done on a commercial line. Lifts and conveying appliances were supplied by Spencer (Melksham) Ltd. Contractors for the trains were English Electric Co. A test track was built at Woolwich. Stabling for the trains was at the Mount Pleasant Office.

At its peak, the service operated for 22 hours a day, employed more than 220 staff and carried more than four million letters every day.

2003 The line closed, mainly because most of the above ground sorting offices had been sold off, but a maintenance team of three kept the tunnels dry and safe.

2017 A section of the line was re-opened to the public by The Postal Museum

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Jun 30, 1916
  2. The Times Feb 09, 1928
  • Exhibition at the Postal Museum [1]
  • The Engineer 1924/10/10.